Happy Earth Day!!! It’s that time of year again, the one day of the year where most of the population thinks about what impact it has on the earth and what it can do to make less of an impact. Unfortunately, as is the case with most “holidays” dedicated to awareness, this is also the only day out of 365 that most people will think about it, and that’s kind of a bummer.
It you’re not a tree-hugger or roll your eyes at climate change, hold on. This post might still be for you. Whether you know that the human race is doomed in the next generation unless we colonize Mars – as renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has predicted – or you think things are just fine the way they are, there’s no denying that a quick drive down the road or look around the local park can be disappointing. Trash. Everywhere.
If you haven’t noticed, I encourage you to look for it the next chance you get. It’s there. And it’s not really the norm around the world – although it is most definitely the norm in the United States. There are worse places. We’ve all seen the pictures that look like people are actually living in literal landfills, but there are also countries where there is no litter whatsoever (been to a couple and they are BEAUTIFUL). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could walk around the local park or even down a city sidewalk and not wonder if someone just dumped their waste baskets right onto the ground?
There is an old Native American proverb that I absolutely love: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” And isn’t that the truth? Now, I know Facebook has me pegged as a liberal (I’m not that upset about it), but I like to think that I try to look at every issue from as many sides as possible. That being said, I like to err on the side of caution. Maybe the earth will be uninhabitable by the time I have grandbabies, maybe it won’t…but, what if? Even if it takes a little longer, what about my grandbabies’ grandbabies?
It bothers me to think that I’m contributing to a less sustainable home for future generations. There’s no way around it, the earth is our home. It is the place where we build our places and pretending it’s only a resource for our harvesting is dangerous thought. Without it, there is no more human race. This is where I have settled in the debate.
So, if you are like me, or even if you are starting to wonder what kind of world you’re leaving your children and their children, today (Earth Day) is the day to begin thinking about what you can do to either lessen your impact in degrading their home or help make it better.
In terms of what you can do, it can feel overwhelming when you think about everything that’s WRONG with the earth. So, instead of focusing on that, let’s talk about what you can do to make it RIGHT. It may seem so small as to be negligible, but I assure you, it’s not. It takes every human being on the planet to make the mess, but bit by bit, with every person doing small things, it can be cleaned up. And the best way to start is to START SMALL. So, here’s a list of 8 things you can do to start small to make a positive impact.
- Just say no. Say no to straws, plastic cup lids, and plastic cutlery. Think about when you get a glass of water at home. You don’t need a straw or a lid. If you’re not worried about spilling a drink in your car, skip those things when you get fast food. If you’re eating or drinking in a restaurant, skip them. The same goes with plastic cutlery. If you don’t really need it, don’t use it (sure, there may be more dishes to do, but what’s five minutes of scrubbing forks compared to tossing dozens of pieces of plastic into a landfill?). Plastic takes over 200 years to decompose and it is a major hazard to all living things on the planet. Even if you only do this a handful of times, it still makes a small difference (and that’s what we need…a difference).
- Nix the plastic grocery bags. Reusable shopping bags not only keep plastic bags out of the trash, they usually hold more and are less likely to rip when you’re toting those 2 liters. Who has time to run back into the store to buy MORE because their bag ripped and the soda sprayed everywhere when it hit the ground? (Not this chick). It can take a little longer to bag your groceries, which was stressful for me in the beginning because I’m a busy lady, but now that I’ve been doing it for awhile, I’m a pro and it takes less time in the long run to load three cloth bags into the car than 3 dozen plastic bags. Now, maybe this isn’t for you, but did you know that most places provide recycling bins in the entrance of their stores for used plastic bags? If you do choose to use them (or simply have to because you forgot your reusable ones), save them and the next time you go grocery shopping, simply take them with you and stuff them into the bin on your way in. It’s another small step that does make a difference.
- Skip the plastic bottles. Instead, opt for water bottles or cups you can refill and use over and over. This one is pretty straight-forward. Less one-time-use bottles used, less one-time-use bottles in the ground. Small, simple, and easy.
- Race the clock. Ok, sometimes you just need a good soak in the tub or some time in the shower to cry about the suckiness of life (been there). But, in general, you don’t need a half hour to wash your hair. Conserving water is something that, if you were raised in the 80s and 90s, was one of the major tips in conservation. So here’s a challenge: how quickly can you shower? You may be surprised by how much time you’ve thought you needed to wash your hair and how much time it actually takes when you’ve got less time to do it in (Everyone’s slept through their alarm at least once and had less than 10 minutes to get ready for work.). And while you’re at it, why not brush your teeth in the shower? Can you shave even 5 minutes off your daily hygiene routine? Seems small, but it isn’t.
- Go Vegan! Or….not. I know that’s a major turn-off for most people. So, let’s slow down and start small. Lots of research has shown just how detrimental the meat and dairy industries are to the earth (not to mention our bodies in some cases). Clear-cutting of the rainforests to make room for grazing, excessive methane gas, acid run-off, salmonella and e. coli., horrible treatment of animals. YIKES! Maybe that’s enough to turn you, but maybe not. Here’s the thing. I’ve tried going both vegan and vegetarian at different points in my life, but couldn’t sustain it. I think for most of us who’ve been raised on a non-vegan diet, it’s really hard to break from it without a lot of willpower and support at home, neither of which I have. So, are you doomed to contribute to the death of the rainforest? Nah. You could simply try to substitute a few meals a week. Instead of having meat with every meal, why not opt for a salad, vegetable soup, or a baked potato? Or, you could try some international cuisine practices. In a lot of Asian countries, meat is used more as a flavoring than a main ingredient. You could try using less meat. Maybe shred a single chicken breast into your family’s meal, or shave some beef into it rather than cooking several pounds at a time.
- TURN OFF THAT LIGHT!!!! As a kid, I was so confused by this one. A family member maintained that turning lights on and off wasted more electricity than simply leaving them on if you’re going to be in the house. Luckily, the Myth Busters took this on and found that only by flipping a light switch on and off every third of a second wastes more electricity than leaving them on! So, if you’re leaving the house, shut off those lights. If you’re leaving the room, shut off those lights. And if it’s sunny outside, just open the curtains and skip the switch altogether. Just don’t forget your other electronics: the TVs and the DVD players and the other things that hum continually in the background. Even setting your computer to go into sleep mode or shut down after a certain amount of time helps save electricity. It’s the small things that really add up.
- Here’s another – slightly bigger – thing you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint: make actual footprints. If you’re heading somewhere within walking distance, don’t drive, walk. Or, if you can park your car and run all your errands on foot, try that. You’ll get some fresh air, take in the scenery, and get some exercise all at the same time! This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of us drive because it’s just more convenient (Well, some of us live in the boonies where the closest major grocery store is more than 20 miles away!). You may find that walking instead of driving is more enjoyable and it’s definitely a small thing that can impact everyone in a big way.
- Get out of the house! There’s one thing that a lot of experts agree on. If you love something – if it means something to you – you take care of it. This may seem like the most ridiculous way you could help save the planet, but it’s not (though, definitely the easiest). Go hiking. Go to a local park or a state park. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Do some gardening. Or, simply go outside and relax for a bit. Remember the parts about your childhood that made you love going outside: the warm sun, the smell of flowers in spring and fresh-cut grass, a cool breeze, a bonfire with friends, birds singing, the changing of the seasons, watching clouds. If you can retrain yourself to enjoy the world around you, you’ll begin to notice how much it means to you. Whatever you do, don’t forget to bring your kids, nieces and nephews, cousins, hell, offer to take the kid down the block to the park so his mom can have 15 minutes to herself. Remember, it’s their future you’re trying to secure, so they have a stake in it, too. Help them learn to love and appreciate nature the way you did as a kid and they’ll grow up caring, too.
(GJ helping plant fruit trees for Earth Day 2017)
None of these things will save the earth tomorrow. None of them will fix all the major problems we keep hearing about. But, if everyone starts to care just a little bit more, if everyone starts making small adjustments, the negative impacts we have on our planet will slow. The number of things we could do right now to stop climate change and deforestation and pollution is intimidating. Asking people to make all the changes necessary to bring the problem to a halt right now is absolutely ludicrous. Not only is it just not practical for everyone, it would mean a total and complete lifestyle change on every level. It’s just not feasible. BUT…asking people to make just a few small changes isn’t. And the opportunity to take your newfound enthusiasm for environmental activism to the next level just grows from there. So, if you can’t switch to all-solar electric everything and live off the land tomorrow in an effort to save the planet, maybe start with a few of these.
What are a few other small things you can think of or already do that could help extend your Earth Day past 24 hours a year? Please share them below. And don’t forget to subscribe for updates on more posts from Fully and Well.
And just for some Earth Day funsies, here’s a catchy blast from my past!!!