1. Pay attention to what you are buying. I understand that we all have a budget, but in today’s world, you also have OPTIONS. Find a happy medium for house-hold goods, and if nothing else, make an effort to purchase goods and clothing that are made in sustainable ways, from companies who are mindful of what they produce and how. Buy paper products made from recycled goods, etc.. Research what kind of things you buy from where and if there are better alternatives that are close in price. It DOES matter. Your choices matter and directly impact the market for these goods. There are even environmentally friendly companies for beer. New Belgium Brewery out of Fort Collins, CO is consistently on the lists of best companies for the environment. Keep these companies afloat AND become a more mindful consumer.
2. Recycle. If you don’t recycle, COME ON. It’s 2014. Don’t blame it on your building or your house or your town. Find a recycling center, get some bins or re-use boxes and RECYCLE everything that you possibly can. There is no excuse not to.
3. Be mindful of what you throw away. Can it be donated? Can it be saved? Recycled? Composted? The dumpster should be the last resort. So much of what we use can be reused, and not just thrown away. Find out what you can do with all of the things you usually throw out to ensure that you are not wasting things that can be saved. Waste doesn’t magically disappear when you throw it out.
4. Become a vegetarian. I know this seems extreme, but it isn’t as hard as you might think. Vegetarians have far fewer health problems than meat-eaters, and live longer lives. Vegetarian athletes have been proven to out-perform their meat-eating competitors, and most of the nutrients our bodies need can be found in their most efficient forms in their non-meat sources. How much pollution and waste is created because of meat farming and production? The short answer: A LOT. And in case you need another reason, most meat production is extremely inhumane. Research ‘ag-gag’ laws if you need convincing. A vegetarian diet is healthier for you, the planet, and kinder to animals that meat production has disconnected you from. Fake meat products are more delicious than ever now, too. I know there are many people who cannot or won’t become vegetarians, but it is worth considering. Even eating less meat will help reduce demand.
5. Volunteer. Give your time, or at least some of your cash to worthy causes. Help clean up areas where you live, walk dogs at your local shelter, or raise some dollars to give to a worthy cause. There are people out there fighting for the planet and its animals. Help them out!
6. Give meaningful gifts. The next time you don’t know what to give someone you love for a gift, consider making a donation in their name. Symbolically adopt their favorite animal for them from WWF, or donate a heifer to a hungry family. If your loved one already has it all, don’t create need for more materials to be produced, and ultimately for something that gets produced to take up space in a landfill.
7. Go paperless. With the fluidity and ease of emails today, there is no need for any of our bills or mail to be in paper form. Most companies are pretty good about rewarding their clients or customers who go paperless, or at least providing the option to go paperless. It’s less piles of paper to have to recycle!
8. Adopt an animal. It’s heartbreaking that there are still people out there buying puppies and kittens, when there are THOUSANDS of dogs and cats who get euthanized daily because they are homeless. Save a life. You will feel the reward paid back to you a thousand fold and give some loving animal a home. *Don’t forget to get that pet spayed or neutered, too!*
9. Get mad. All it takes is a little research to find out the horrifying truths about how little is being done about climate change, pollution, waste, and bad practices. Pick a cause to be mad about, and do something. It’s your planet, too, and nothing will help more than individuals caring about what is going on. Turning a blind eye to species who are becoming extinct, environments being destroyed, and destructive practices staying in place will not fix it; it will expedite the trip to those terrifying and heartbreaking ends. DO something!
10. Get reusable bags for the grocery store. This one is easy. Most grocery stores have them for sale near check out for $1, and lots of events give them out for free. In the UK and Europe, grocery customers are charged for plastic bag use, or not permitted to use them at all. Get reusable bags. Use them.
11. Carpool. This is a no-brainer. Why waste gasoline and create more pollution than necessary? The ride is better with other people anyways.
12. Don’t waste water. Don’t you know it’s better for your hair the less you wash it? Don’t run the dishwasher with nothing in it. Don’t flush the toilet unnecessarily. There are people on the planet with no water to drink, yet we waste water at an alarming rate. Call me a hippy, but if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. Don’t waste gallons of fresh water unnecessarily.
13. Donate money to charities. Can’t adopt an animal because of where you live? Websites like Petfinder, ASPCA, and WWF let you sponsor animals and causes with monetary donations. OR find your local shelter or organization and donate what you can. Think of all the dumb stuff you spend money on (or least I know I do) and realize that $15 will really help someone else.
14. Ride a bike. Get exercise AND pollute less. If you can walk or ride your bike to work, it’s a win-win. Your actions DO matter. And don’t forget a helmet.
15. Be a leader. People around you, people you work with, and your friends will see you changing aspects of your lifestyle to be more mindful of what we are doing to the planet. Take responsibility for being a citizen of the Earth, and don’t expect “others” to make changes. We all need to do our part and make INFINITELY better decisions, and if this is you, know that you will make a difference to the people in your life. It isn’t easy, it isn’t cheap, and it can be time-consuming to figure out what the best choices actually are, but it’s worth it. Just because other people don’t care doesn’t mean we should just throw our hands up. Lead by example.
16. Donate your used clothing and furniture. Why throw something away that someone else might want? You never know what just might fit someone else’s bill, especially if they’re in need.
17. Don’t have children if you don’t want them. The Earth is overpopulated as it is, and there are so many children who need homes. We continue to reproduce, even when we aren’t sure if we want to be parents. Old ways of thinking need to fall away completely in order to stop pressuring people to have kids if that isn’t what they want. If only the people who truly wanted to be parents had kids, there would be a lot fewer human beings in bad situations.
18. Stop making excuses. Don’t expect the rest of the world to make good choices to make up for yours. YOU MATTER. What you buy and consume matters, and it directly affects the rest of the world. Don’t expect all the ‘hippies’ to eat organic and locally, or even worse, don’t just decide it’s not worth trying. It IS. Even if you don’t care about the people of the planet (we’ve done this to ourselves), at least make an effort for the animals. THEY DESERVE BETTER! The animals of this planet do not deserve to go extinct because of OUR poor choices and lack of caring.
19. Buy locally grown produce & groceries. In buying food from people in your area, you are not only supporting them, but you are cutting demand for large companies that probably produce a great deal of waste. Go to farmers markets, shop locally, and know where your food comes from. This solves so many problems. Simply buying ‘organic’ doesn’t always necessarily guarantee quality or environmentally friendly production.
20. Teach young people the importance of treating our environment with care and that we CAN make a difference. In fact, we HAVE to make a difference and QUICKLY. If we don’t teach our children that what we do DIRECTLY affects the planet, things will never change. Everything we do matters, and if we don’t STOP the practices that past generations have put in place, our planet truly is doomed. Wyoming, where I live, is particularly awful when it comes to educating children about what gas and coal industries are doing and will continue to do to the environment, but we are not powerless. Children learn from those around them. Inspire them to help us and make them part of the rescue efforts. The mind of a child is a beautiful thing, and sometimes they come up with solutions and feel greater conviction to stop injustice than adults.
No one person can change the world, but together, if we all choose changes to make and causes to fight for, we can change many things. The planet needs immediate help, and your everyday actions matter. We can’t all be perfect, but we can all be conscious global citizens. Lead the way wherever you are, and take responsibility for your impact on this one place that we have to live. Make it a place that future generations will be able to live in, too.