Allow me to acknowledge we all have different comfort levels and definitions of "necessity," and that by arguing that the following items which are commonplace in our society are largely pointless, I am not trying to imply that you are me (how unfortunate for you) and have the same psychological and physical thresholds.
Rather, I am trying to start a conversation, beginning with what I know that I don't need, and why, and hoping you'll consider your own list. Also I'm trying to make you think, and laugh.
Without further ado, in honor of Earth Day, and in increasingly improbable order, here's a list of gizmos I have learned to live without, and what I use to replace them.
Tissue (Kleenex®): They're scratchy, too thin (don't your fingers get goopy when you use them?), and despite best efforts to used recycled components, ecologically unstable. Alternative: handkerchief.
Plastic grocery bags: Have you heard about Trash Island? Twice the size of Texas? Portland's doing just fine without these mindless conveniences. Alternative: canvas bags, and instead of supermarkets, farmers' markets!
Soda: I love this image of a struggling campaign in India. Our sisters and brothers in the developing world, and our children with increasing rates of diabetes and ADHD, know the truth better than we do--that we can learn to go without this luxury. In the meantime, know that an eighth grade classmate of mine left a baby tooth of hers in a glass of Coca-Cola for two weeks. By the end of the two weeks, PRESTO! No baby tooth. The tooth fairy must have gone corn-syrup diving. Alternative: for sugar and caffeine purposes, fresh fruit juice and fair trade coffee. Mixed together, of course.
Hair Dryers: The one thing I am vain about is my hair (and maybe the size and origin of my earrings). Beyond the obvious environmental laughability, these contraptions are amusing because they're more accurately called hair fryers. Alternative: sleep in.
Diamond Rings: I used to dream that the right man would semi-prostrate himself before me and present me with a rainbow rock. Then I watched Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou and did my own digging and discovered that most diamonds (and precious minerals in general) are mined by child slaves amid toxic fumes. Not to fear! Some of my recently-married friends have made both my day and serious fashion statements by foregoing the bloody bling. Alternative: a diamondless wedding (yep, I'm a cheap long-term date), or fairly-sourced diamonds and minerals.
Bottled Water: Do your own research (you could start here), but I've found that not only is it quite disastrous to the planet (and thus disastrous to our survival in the long-run), it's not better for personal health. Alternative: perpetual thirst. Just kidding, reusable bottle.
Gymnasiums: Machines were invented to reduce personal energy expenditures. And now we're plugging machines in to facilitate this process? Alternatives: bikes, jogs, dancing, and new gyms where workouts power the building.
Televisions: Phones and computers, however ecologically and socially questionable, I can understand. But when did we fall asleep to pumping conflict minerals and fossil fuels into our nation's preferred at-rest activity? My alternatives: books, music, dance, the outdoors, and if you must, the internet. What are your alternatives?
Showers: During Lent, I confined myself to Alternative: baths and bucket-showers. Not only did they slow me down and calm me, they were remarkably easily to integrate into my daily routine. And in a world where a 2-minute daily shower is more than the average human being has access to in a month (more info here), such a compromise seems more than fair.
Clothes Dryers: Those of us who live in places that are warm, dry or windy during any part of the year have even less of an excuse. Alternative: Buy a wooden drying rack. Money and planet saved simultaneously. Just make sure the neighbors don't see your mom's bloomers parading on the breeze, or she'll smack you (you live and learn).
Flushing Toilets: Really? All this press about water shortages and we're using clean drinking water to send our feces on a lazy river ride? Alternative: revenge on your neighborhood enemies' front lawns, or here's a better one.
Other cool things to check out:
A cheaper, healthier, more sustainable alternative to pads and tampons (sorry, fellas, the next one will be less invasive to you)
The King of Sustainability in Hollywood
Why I Own A Dumb Phone: 7 Frightening Statistics about Cell Phones
I'm doubting this list will inspire you to yank out your porcelain throne and dig a hole under it. But perhaps you could turn off the computer for a bit and take a walk in the breeze. Now that I've spent an undisclosed number of hours staring at this screen, I think I'll do just that. Enjoy your Earth today. It's thanks to Her you're alive.