This week my company asked me how I will be “celebrating and contributing to Earth Day”, and it got me thinking.. I hadn’t had any special plans for the day, I intended to spend it like any Saturday; skiing in the Rockies, and making each decision with forethought to how it will affect the planet long-term. Just another day, really.
Though, perhaps with the latter, I am an anomaly, but I really hope not. Yes, it’s 2018, so anyone with a good conscious would call themselves an environmentalist. We all care about the planet and want to protect it.
But what do you do for the planet?
I’m happy to hear that you are an avid recycler, always turn off lights when you leave a room, reduce your independant vehicle use, have installed energy efficient bulbs, and of course, turn the tap off while you brush your teeth (seriously though, I don’t get this cliche … did anybody ever really leave the tap running that whole time?! I certainly didn’t, growing up in drought-stricken Australia from ages 4 – 18!).
Let’s be real though, climate change is happening, it was happening when I was 4, and it’s happening today, faster than this planet has ever seen. And while our governments continue to do little about the issue, it’s time to take change into our own hands. Because truly, there’s a lot you can do, and not do, to change your impact on the planet. And when we all make these strives, well, that collectively can really make a change for the better.
So below I wrote a list of things I think anyone can try this year, to reduce their impact. I challenge you to take on a new one each week, for the next year. And we’ll all come back next Earth Day, with less garbage sent to landfill, less plastic in the ocean, and less guilt on our conscious.
- Learn to refuse free things you don’t need. Like free pens- they usually stop working within a week anyway.
- Quit using plastic straws. Straws live longer than you do! Ask for no straw when you make your drink order, every time! I even carry a metal straw with me, but it’s easy to go without if you’re physically capable of drinking out of a cup.
- Get a reusable coffee mug, and use it.
- Stop buying plastic water bottles. Carry a reusable bottle. You’ll save money, I promise.
- Bring reusable bags for your grocery shop. Every time. Let it become part of your shopping routine, including returning the bags to your car or by the front door once your groceries are unpacked.
- Choose products that come in recyclable materials, like glass and paper, over plastics. Plastic is not truly recyclable, it’s quality grade is decreased in the process. Glass and mental are the best options.
- Bring reusable cutlery with you.
- Stop using any single-use plastics.
- Reduce food waste by creating a meal plan or using a food rescue. Find out if your community has a food rescue program, if it doesn’t you could start your own, or give dumpster diving a try; you’ll be amazed at what our grocery stores throw into landfill!
- Eat less meat. Watch Cowspiracy if you need convincing.
- Buy local products, and local produce. Get along to your local farmer’s market, you’ll be surprised what you can buy locally.
- Eat in-season produce or choose organic. It freshest, and tastes best!
- Consider growing your own food. Herbs are a great place to start.
- Stop putting food waste into landfill. Food waste is a natural part of the food cycle. When food waste is put into landfill without the oxygen to compost naturally, it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas much more harmful than carbon dioxide. Find out if you community has a food collection program, like Banff does. If it doesn’t, you could campaign to start one.
- Start your own compost. We have a vermicompost (worms) in our laundry room. It’s great because it produces great fertilizer for growing plants and food! Research the different types of compost and find the one right for you.
- Buy pantry items from the bulk aisle with your own container. Find a store, or multiple with the bulk items you use. Bring a mason jar, for example, and have the service desk weight it first for the tare (container weight cashier will remove from final weight). Food without the packaging will save you time and money, not to mention the reduction of waste.
- Cook a plant based meal. I LOVE Minimalist Baker for easy and delicious recipes for everything!
- Read Zero Waste Home by Beu Johnson. And reread it, and memorise it. TLDR; sticking to the 5 R’s is key to zero waste; Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.
- Become a minimalist. Living with less really can really be more fulfilling.
- Get rid of things you don’t need. Don’t throw them out! Rehome them, or donate.
- Only buy what you need.
- Borrow what you can. Borrow specific tools or appliances from neighbours or find a local tool library!
- Buy second hand. Get in that thrift/op shop, or on your local Facebook Buy and Sell group. They’re entertaining at the least.
- Use a bike to get around. If you don’t own one you don’t have to, find somewhere to borrow one.
- Limit your shower time. Use a timer; less than 5 minutes, or work your way down to 3 minutes.
- Get outdoors and enjoy nature (responsibly)! Plan a camping trip, take a hike, or have a picnic. Take a moment to appreciate the environments we’re working to protect.
- Stop buying and accepting all plastics. Including styrofoam. It’s time to stop contributing to landfill! Everything else should be recycled or composted.
- Bring a container with you to restaurants to take home your leftovers. Save food waste AND single use containers.
- Green your social streams. Follow pages like Global Citizen, 1 Million Women and Life Without Plastic, to put some of that time you spend endlessly scrolling to good use, with educational and inspirational content to your newsfeeds.
- Maintain your things, and repair things when they break. Owning quality products, made of metal and wood, rather than plastic makes, makes it easier to fix things when they break.
- Use public transport. Use the time you’re not in the driver’s seat to read, or just clear your mind and do nothing for once!
- Simplify your beauty routine. Despite what beauty companies will tell you, you’re already beautiful, do you really need four creams to maintain that?
- Find alternatives to bathroom products without the packaging, or make it yourself! Google knows all the answers.
- Buy recycled paper toilet paper, without the plastic packaging. Do you really need bleached paper if it’s going to be going straight down the toilet?
- Start using a compostable toothbrush. There’s plenty of great products online, but look to buy locally first!
- Stop eating seafood. With current rates of fishing, it’s predicted there will be no fish in the ocean by 2048.
- Share your progress with your friends. You should be proud of how far you’ve come.
- Plant bee-friendly plants and flowers. Or build a ‘bee hotel’ or bath.
- Don’t use pesticides. Find natural alternatives.
- Stop using store bought products to clean your home. Vinegar and bi carb soda will clean most things, everything else google will know how to.
- Quit buying clothing made of synthetic fabrics. And favour buying all your clothes second hand.
- Educate yourself. On climate change, on issues facing your community and country, on your government’s policies and positions, and on the ways climate change is already affecting and displacing people around the world. On whatever matters to you.
- Talk to your friends about how easy it is to live with less impact, show them how they can do the same. Challenge them to try 52 Weeks for Earth!
- Reduce your heating and cooling by a couple degrees. Put a sweater on before you put the heat on. A few degrees can really reduce your impact
- Avoid use and purchase of paper and cardboards. Save the trees, buy packaging-free.
- Get involved in issues facing your community or volunteer your time. Whether it’s protecting an ecosystem from development, or just doing a community litter pick- if you can’t find one, organise one!
- Commit to a vegetarian or plant based diet. If you didn’t do it earlier and still need a reason for this one, watch Cowspiracy.
- Become accepting to refugees. Climate change refugees are going to become one of the biggest issues to face our society in the future as hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods is at risk due to climate change.
- Carbon offset. Use a carbon calculator to discover your footprint you need to offset. On the brightside, by this point your offset price will be less!
- Write your local politician or senator. Whether it’s about a particular policy or issue, or just to tell them that the environment is an issue you and your community care about, and they should too.
- Install a solar panel, or other renewable energy source. It’s cheaper than ever, and will save you money!
- Celebrate Earth Day by coming up with some more ideas to add to this list! Change doesn’t have to stop this week, should we make it 104 Weeks for Earth?
My hope with this list is that you can adopt a new sustainable lifestyle practice each week. Remember, this isn’t a strict list, you may already be doing some of these, or they don’t apply to you, or you’d like to change the order. If one week doesn’t suit you, I encourage to find your own challenge for that week. You don’t have to do everything, but you do have to do something!
If you’re taking on the challenge I want to hear about it! Comment below, use the hashtag #52WeeksforEarth to share your progress, and follow 52 Weeks for Earth on Facebook. My hope is to extend on each challenge each week, and find a community to share in progress, solutions and ideas!
I know it can be easier to imagine the end of the world, rather than the accretion of incremental, imperceptible changes that form a new one. But I truly believe we have that power in our hands, based on how you choose to live your life.