The Amazon Rainforest is burning at an alarming rate. Greenland is drastically melting. The temperatures in the Arctic are hitting all-time highs, as well as throughout the rest of the world. And deforestation is wiping out trees, ecosystems, plant and animal life at speeds of insurmountable consequence.
So what can you do about it? Sometimes, it feels like not much. When the literal weight of the world feels like it’s collapsing and caving in, it’s normal to feel like any small actions of a single individual are just drops in the ocean. But as my favorite book, Cloud Atlas, would summarize:
…yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?
Taking part in being the agent of change is, first and forest, a choice. This brings me to the first simple action anyone can take to help the environment:
1. Decide to help and change
This may seem like a common sense tactic, but it’s actually pretty valid! It’s very easy to let the catastrophes of the world crush your inspiration and willingness to step up to the plate, which is why pushing past that overwhelm is key in looking at ways that you actually can make a difference. Deciding to make adjustments and changes in your own life is the first step forward, because this leads to inspiring that same change in others. Our efforts sometimes may truly seem like tiny drops in a limitless ocean, but if everyone came together with change in their heart, those drops can make waves.
2. Say goodbye to plastic
…or at least as much of it as you can. It can be hard to completely remove yourself from any kind of plastic. After all, the packaging we’re surrounded with on the daily in a consumer world is still slowly inching toward removing unnecessary plastic use. However, you can still do something! Purchase totes or grocery bags that you can reuse any time you go shopping. Keep them in your car, in your drawer, on your desk at work. This way, you won’t be caught off guard by the lady at Walgreen’s who still bags your juice in a plastic bag.
This also goes for those small bags you see at the grocery store for produce. Guess what? Produce doesn’t need a bag. Your tomatoes, avocados, peaches, and lemons are just fine chilling in a tote bag. They don’t need their own separate bag, and certainly not a disposable plastic one that you’re going to throw out as soon as you get home. If you are dead-set on these, however, check out these bags that will change the way you grocery shop!
And lastly, let’s talk about straws and stirrers. Many restaurants and businesses have done away with straws. Yay! They’re singe-use, severely disposable, and serve no need that you can’t do by simply putting your lips on the cup. Opt for paper straws or metal ones that you can buy here. Stirrers for coffee and tea fall under the same straw category. Opt for metal stirrers, or use your straw and kill two birds with one stone! Certain gas stations still use the small, red, plastic stirrers that are thrown out on a ridiculously large-scale basis every day. These end up in landfills, which end up in oceans, which end up in turtles.
3. Let water bottles be a thing of the past
There’s no need for it anymore! Long gone are the days where we shell out money every week at the store, buying 24-packs of water bottles. Or are they? (looking at you, mom!) Do yourself and the environment a favor, and purchase a refillable water bottle. Drink. Refill. Repeat. There’s nothing to throw out, there’s no money wasted on bottles, and there’s no contribution to plastic pollution.
4. If you can, compost
I live in an apartment, and I cook in the world’s tiniest kitchen. Composting has changed the way I look at trash, and the food that I discard. Knowing that the food that ends up in my compost will eventually return to the soil in the garden makes me appreciate the cyclical nature that we can all embrace — toss, compost, reuse, and watch it grow! Composting is the practice of tossing out your food scraps into a container, the contents of which will eventually decompose and be ready for use in gardening and planting. Because I live in a small space and have no land or garden of my own, I use the Bokashi method. I also gift my compost to farmer friends, or anyone with a garden who wants organic compost material. If you do have a garden of your own, composting is even easier! Set up a container outside, and use it in your soil before planting.
5. Air dry your laundry
Laundry dryers are one of the most “energy-thirsty” appliances that we have. If you don’t have an Energy Star-type of dryer that is more environmentally friendly, you could opt to air dry your laundry, instead. Hang up your knickers on the clothes line, or spread it around your apartment on a dryer rack. It’s free. It’s simple. It gets the job done.
6. Shop local
We preach this all the time, but do we actually practice it? Buying local produce and items of any nature, really, not only help that local business; it also pulls us out of being the cog in the machine that facilitates rampant importing and exporting of certain foods. Even though import/export is a vital key in a healthy economic system, it also puts more pressure on countries who are supplying said foods — especially if obtaining that food in that country is causing environmental havoc on that land. So, seek out local businesses who sell honey, who grow their own fruits and vegetables, and who are farmers or mom & pop shops sadly losing to big businesses. Farmer’s markets are still a thing, and I promise your food will never taste better, and you’ll feel good about where it came from.
7. Take a good look at your diet
Not everyone is vegan. Not everyone is vegetarian. This post is not to solicit your feedback or conversion to either. What it is, however, is an invitation to look at your diet and the staple foods that you eat every day. Chances are that meat and dairy are prevalent on your plate; and unless you’re butchering your chicken or beef yourself, and milking your cows, you probably don’t know where that meat and cheese is coming from (unless you do, of course).
In order to meet the high demand for meat, land has to be cleared for grazing. Cue the plethora of dead trees. We’ve all seen the news about rampant abuse on dairy farms, which won’t get better unless people cut off the demand. Lastly (but not really), methane gas is one of the leading greenhouse gas emissions that are damaging our ozone layer, and in turn, our planet. What does this have to do with our diet? Cows fart. That’s a fact. On average, they release between 70–120 kg of methane per year. Thousands of acres are cleared every year for cow grazing to meet the demands of dairy and beef consumption.
Now I’m not saying that you should cut meat and dairy cold-turkey (but if you do, more power to you). Reducing your consumption, and therefore demand on agriculture, is a healthy step forward — both for yourself and the planet! Utilize the Part-Time Vegetarian option: pick a few days in the week where you’ll prepare and eat totally meatless dishes. Not only is this healthy for you physically, but it also inspires you to try foods that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
8. Donate to organizations fighting climate change
Familiarize yourself with organizations who are fighting the good fight. Donate to their cause, if you’re able; but don’t overlook the power of simply sharing their message and their mission. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Amazon Watch — protecting the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous people
Rainforest Concern — sponsor an acre of land to protect the Amazon
World Wildlife (WWF) — animal and land preservation and conservation
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust — Elephant rescue and rehabilitation center
ASPCA — animal rescue and rehabilitation; find your local chapter!
The Ocean Clean Up — https://theoceancleanup.com/
9. Spread awareness and education
Apart from donating and doing your part, spreading awareness and education is a huge help to the many organizations fighting climate change. Social media steps in here as a solid support and driver of good, since we share so much online. Why not share about what really matters? Use your online platform for inspiration (even if it’s just sharing this article), and educate your friends, family, and colleagues on what’s happening around the world. More importantly, come together and brainstorm ideas on ways you can all be a part of the solution. If you feel like your actions are not significantly impactful enough to make a difference, scroll back up and read #1 again.
Most people aren’t aware that they have choices in how they can make lifestyle changes to better the environment. They also may not know the dire circumstances that we’re in as a species! That kind of lethargy from lack of education is what creates a human race who is so passive in the literal fire in which we’re standing. Time to put that fire out, and it begins with a commitment to change, and education to know how.
10. Be mindfully picky with your travel
As someone who travels a lot, I make it a priority to stay mindful when choosing travel destinations — namely the accommodations where I want to spend my money. Many resorts, hotels, and casinos have taken a great stride forward in how they can be stewards of environmental protection. While this may seem like the case in some Las Vegas hot-spots, for example, it’s still an ongoing and Herculean effort in other parts of the world — “being ecologically sustainable wasn’t the original intent of authorities,” writes Sandra Mullen for BestOnlineCasinoSites.com.
Nevertheless, choosing where you travel to and in what capacity that destination is making eco-friendly choices is entirely in your control. After all, what you support with your money says a lot about your values, and what you see as important. Choosing hotels, resorts, and adventures that put forth avid effort to be environmentally conscious is just one example of how being picky can be rewarding for both yourself and this planet we call Home.
Last but not least, try out my personal strategy that I’ve used in my travels: each time you fly or drive to a new place, donate. Whether you’re traveling locally or adventuring internationally, donate to a local cause, family, effort, school, church, etc. Our carbon footprint when we travel is immense, and this world owes us nothing in return. We, however, owe it everything.
To check out my list of travels and where you can donate today, click here.
Onwards and upwards, Earth protectors!