By Sarah Ventre
This year the city of Tempe decided to celebrate Earth Day in a new way. The city wanted to celebrate Earth Day in style and they did so by holding a 5K race around a man-made lake in the middle of the desert in which participants were asked to dress up in a manner that encourages Earth-friendly behavior. Think running recycled cans.
What is so wrong with having an Earth Day event such as this one you may ask? Well, to be in this costume contest you’d have to make or buy a costume. This means that you’d have to utilize some kind of material that you likely didn’t already have. On top of this, not only is there a lake at Tempe Beach Park, but that lake is surrounded by picturesque grass. Grass. In a desert. This requires lots of water to grow, and for urban and suburban dwellers, only aesthetic value.
The Earth Day 5K had a wide range of corporate sponsorship including Jamba Juice, Whole Foods, Sweet Tomatoes, and the brand new Centerpoint Condominiums. While none of them sold anything they did not hesitate to give things away. Towards the end of the race, it was not uncommon to see people walking around with reusable tote bags from Whole Foods filled to the brim with plastic bottles of water, sports drinks and their brand new Earth Day T-Shirts. Jamba Juice gave away samples of one of their newest mango-based concoction in tiny styrofoam cups.
What would’ve been the most environmentally friendly way for these people to spend their Earth Day, is for them not to drive, not to buy Earth friendly T-Shirts, not to shop at huge corporations, not to buy or own as many things, not to drink from Styrofoam containers, not to buy bottled water, and certainly not to spend their time and money making an earthy costume.
By the sheer nature of the creation of Earth Day, we recognize that people aren’t being Earth friendly all year. Living a “sustainable lifestyle” does not mean wearing a T-Shirt that says, “Green is sexy.” It doesn’t mean watering your lawn and buying organic products. How many people who identify themselves as environmentalists use a farmer’s market?
No one is saying not to be environmentally conscious, but the entire environmental movement is centered on consumerism. Books tell you where to shop, and which cleaning products to buy. People need to feel good about what they’re doing, rather than making their lives slightly less comfortable and middle class for the sake of a bigger cause.
For the definitive word on the environmental movement see Phoenix New Times Special Report: Green Fatigue