Guest spot: “SWAG (Stuff We All Get)” by Dr Kelly Kandra

On the COP21 bus this morning, Jonathan and I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Kelly Kandra, an Associate Professor of Psychology from Benedictine University, Illinois, USA. When she’s not busy being an academic, Kelly is a writer and she kindly offered to share a guest blog piece with us. Kelly has been at COP21 since the start and here she shares her initial impression…


SWAG: Stuff We All Get

Will a water bottle make me happy? What about another reusable grocery bag, a notebook, or a pen that writes in four different ink colors? These items, and possibly more, are available *FREE* to those of us attending COP-21, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, over these next two weeks and I have to marvel at the irony of the situation. Here we all are, trying to work together to reduce, reuse, and recycle, yet somehow there’s more, more, more for us to take.

In my opinion, this abundance of stuff is a bigger part of the problem. Yes, we need to emphasize sustainable and renewable energy sources and move away from our reliance on fossil fuels, but those are big picture changes, ones that you and I as an average citizen cannot take direct responsibility for. Of course, we can contact our representatives and try to have our voices heard and I highly recommend we do just that.

But let us also take a moment and first reflect on why we live in a society where there must be a gift for our participation. In a few months when my notebook is filled with notes and reminders, my pen has run out of ink, my water bottle is cracked and leaking, and my reusable grocery bag has fallen apart because I reused it once too often, where will these items go? To a landfill? To a desk drawer where I will shove them for now and say to myself, I’ll deal with these later and then I’ll throw them out in a year from now? I have done that before and, frankly, I’m tired of it and I don’t want to do it again.

So for today I choose to be mindful of what I am consuming and I say, “no thank you,” to this stuff. I am in Paris, the city of lights, getting to meet hundreds of new people, celebrating the advances we have made so far in our conservation efforts, and calling for action in areas where we are losing the battle on climate change. That, is gift enough for me.


Kelly L. Kandra, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL, USA
Follow Kelly on twitter: @KellyKandra