I remember when, newly in the US, a Nigerian friend offered to get me running shoes, but then insisted that I accompany her to the thrift store to pick it up. In my mind I was like, wait o, you mean thrift store, as in, okirika? Secondhand shoes, bend down select? The irritation was clearly on my face, especially as it seemed like the poverty mentality, I was desperate to escape had followed me into the US. #Sigh.
As this friend and I got closer, I realised that money was not this girl’s problem, and it wasn’t stinginess—she was just one of those Americans who personalize their politics and find simple ways to push the movement. Through her, I came to learn more about sustainable fashion and climate change. This is not to say that I was unaware, but it seemed so bogus and outside the scope of my direct influence that I mentally filed as one of those things global leaders would eventually tackle.
However, there are many little changes you can make in your day-to-day life to contribute to a healthier environment. These changes are so easy and simple, you can do them, talk about it and become a change advocate. Also, you will go to bed at night knowing you are contributing something meaningful.
Okay, I’m not asking you to shop in Yaba, please, thrifting in Nigeria is an abrogation of human rights. What you can do instead is wear your clothes a little longer, or when you are done with them, give them out (the gently used ones o). The idea is to sustain the life cycle of these fabrics as long as possible and reduce the carbon emission that comes from disposing them. You can also host a cloth exchange party with your friends just to spice things up.
Ditch the plastics
Get one of those cute stylish bottles and drink your water from a dispenser. Everyday Ragolis is not a sign of hygiene, it just means you are not thinking past consumption and down to disposal. Try to minimize your use of plastic containers at home too. You obviously won’t stop the production of plastic but at least you know you are making a pinch of a difference.
Stop wasting paper
That is how my analog Nigerian life almost put me in trouble. In the very first class I taught, one student walked up to me to explain that he would not be turning in his essays in paper format. He wanted to know what alternatives I had for students who were being eco- conscious. Hmm, American children will disgrace you if you are not careful. Anyway, after several semesters, I see reason and I respect their choices even though grading and giving feedback is easier for me on hardcopy. It wasn’t asking me for anything out of the ordinary, just that I become more adaptable.
When you have the opportunity, walk
This is tough in Lagos sha. In the absence of efficient transport systems, it means there are more cars on the road emitting fumes into the environment. You can make a small dent of difference by choosing to walk or carpool, at least one day of the week.
Finally, hold your favourite brands accountable
Talk to your small business owner friends, ask them about their choice of packaging and if they have considered alternatives that may be a little more expensive. Speak to them about recycling, I’m pretty sure there’s a way to get money from selling plastic bottles, even though sadly, the waste recycle industry in Nigeria is not nearly as competitive as it should be.
That’s it o, just a small gentle reminder that you can make a difference even from your very demanding life.