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I think one of the difficult thing with how the world exists right now is that we're asked to care about, like, everything. I cannot care about everything and I SHOULD NOT care about everything, because if I do care about everything, I will care incorrectly about a lot of things. Instead, get this, different people need to care about different things deeply, rather than a lot of people caring about things on only a surface level.

Like, everyone caring a little bit about ocean plastic has caused the problem of people focusing on straws when we should be focusing international fishing regulations, decreasing international poverty, and supporting waste management infrastructure in other countries.

Not saying any of this is easy...but I am saying DO NOT PUT MY SHOEBOX IN A COTTON BAG.

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Good Morning, John.

This week I saw a tweet from The New York Times being shouted about on twitter. It states:

"An organic cotton  tote need to be used 20,000 times to offset the overall impact of production, according to a 2018 study. That equates to daily use for 54 years."

Having seen people shout about this, I quote tweeted the article and said I didn't know why people were upset. Would they rather not know at all?

And some people were like "Yeah, I kind of would rather not know at all." And I get this, but I'd like to make the case that we kind of have two options . We can either not care, which, like, I get it. Or we have to pay attention and care based on reality.

The fact that a cotton tote bag might have a larger environmental impact than 50,000 plastic bags-- it seems like a piece of information I should have access to. Is it entirely accurate? Maybe, because I think that this study was based on like a really big, heavy cotton tote that had like, really thick cotton. And a tote that has less cotton, it's going to have less impact, though it also will also maybe have a less long lifespan.

This stuff if complicated, but it is important to know that just because something is made out of cotton or organic cotton, doesn't make it good for the environment. It's resouce-intensive to grow crops. If we think cotton is always good because it's all natural or whatever, we start putting everything in cotton bags and we start using cotton like it's disposable. This has happened to me! I've gotten shoes, and they gave them to me in a box, inside a cotton bag. There was already a box!
Extra packaging can convey a sense of like, high quality, of care for the customer, and of eco-friendliness that all have nothing to do with the product or reality.

So yeah, this is a think that I think people should know. We did a sci-show about this, actually. But the basics, if you want to know what you should do, there are reusable totes that have a lot less impact on the environment than cotton, particularly like, the really strong vinyl ones. They're like the fabric that a tent is made of and those are the best option UNLESS, if you already have a tote, the totes you have are the greenest option-- they're already in your home. Or you can go to a secondhand shop or a thrift store where there will be probably bags there that you can buy that were otherwise destined for a landfill.

So that's the answer to that question. But the broader, more interesting question is like, "where do I draw the line between the stuff that I care about and the stuff that I don't?" And for me, I draw the line at the stuff that, like, I'm caring about. It's clear that if you are sort of upset by this article, you probably have some cotton totes. Like that's the reason that you-- like that's the visceral reason that we got defensive, right? Like, I have a bunch. And we got those because we cared or because they were swag at a conference.

My point is, a lot of people don't have the space to care about this stuff, and I totally understand that, but if we cared enough to, like, imagine that a cotton tote was eco-friendly, then we should change out mind when presented evidence to the contrary. If we're going to care, we have to orient our care based on reality.

Now is that easy? No, no, it's complicated. It also involves understanding that lots of things aren't really about me, or you, or us. Which, I get it, it is a kind of un-American idea; we think everything is about us. But, like, ocean plastic is a great example here.  Like, people think I need to use a reusable bag because of ocean plastic. Like, my bag might end up in the ocean. And no, like, you should use a reusable bag because just making things to throw them away is a bad idea. Like, there are better ways to do it. But ocean plastic is like, 50% fishing equipment. And almost all of the rest of it comes from places that don't have good, robust waste management systems like we do in the U.S. And thinking that, like, a reusable tote is a fix for that problem ignores the fact that the fix for that problem is international. It involves a lot of people who we do not have direct control over. It's a bit of a bummer, but it's really a really good thing to know.

And these things in general aren't that hard to find out; they just require us to look at how we're sort of feeling vaguely about the vibe of a thing, passed that into a little bit of reality like "are we being sold an idea because somebody's trying to sell us something, or is it actually going to have a positive impact?" Is some of what we find there going to be a little complicated? Yeah, but, like, simplicity is almost always a lie, so, seems right to me.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.