Abuja, Nigeria: Friday, April 27th was my birthday. I turned 26. As semi-customary, I had to arrange a get-together with friends. This birthday was quite a personal milestone for me as it was my first birthday without being a student or working a 9-5 job.
First, I had everyone meet-up and share rides to the cinema. Ordinarily, everyone was supposed to come from their offices in different cars. However, I created a small group on WhatsApp and had everyone share their location so they could hitch rides with other people close to them. Afterwards, we proceeded to my house for drinks. Where we would have driven at least six to seven cars with only one or two persons inside, we went to the house in four cars with four people in each car. It is important to note here that it is not unusual for Nigerians to hitch and share rides. However, this is often out of necessity. What is unusual is to make people forgo their own cars to share with others out of the need for the “white man’s concepts” of climate change and carbon footprints.
At the house, the cake and drinks were laid out. There were alcoholic beverages and wines. According to the dictates of pop culture, those drinks were to be consumed with colorful disposable plastic cups. I say colorful because as an unwritten rule, the preferred colour of choice is red mirroring that used by celebrities in music videos. Instead of these cups, I opted for low-cost reusable glass cups. This is because after the party, rather than throw them away, we would continue to use them (perhaps for the next few years since I do not have any kids to break them).
Also, instead of plastic water bottles, I filled the water dispenser in the house. In that way, people could drink as much water as they wanted while not littering plastic bottles.
For the food, we had ordered small snacks and pastries. I had taken a good count of the number of expected friends and ordered strictly based on the number. This was because I knew that anything that was not eaten at the party would most likely have to be thrown out the next morning. Despite my planning, there was still some leftovers. Since I was going to pack some cake for everyone, I suggested that I pack in some of the leftover snacks and pastries in addition to the cake. I was surprised at how people welcomed this idea. Everyone wanted some.
This was when I took my next eco-friendly step which I am particularly proud of. I packed the pastries in small bags that I had made from old magazines and newspapers. This was in lieu of the ubiquitous nylon bags that would have been the normal thing to use. The packing was well accepted and people described it as “cute” and “different”. All in all, the birthday went great for me.
This article is not to celebrate my giant sustainability and eco-friendly steps, no. I do not need to be a scientist to know that in the big picture of things, using four cars for a trip instead of seven does not make a lot of difference. Neither does forgoing a dozen plastic cups.
What I celebrate, however, is the mental shift that has occurred. It is this mental shift which has made it possible for me to even be aware of the need for sustainability. A couple of years ago, the thought would not have even come up. What I celebrate is the realization that if we each take up the initiative for sustainability, other people will follow.
As I start my new year, I start it with increased awareness and a raised consciousness of my place in the world around me. With this increased awareness comes the knowledge of my responsibility in making it a better place and preserving it for my children (who I know will one day break all my glass cups).
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