Change your Habits: Change the World
I never said it was going to be easy.
I am worried about the environment, like really really worried, you probably should be too, but that's not what I am here to talk about. I am here to tell you about some small and large changes you can make in your life to do something about it. A lot of the things listed here are kinda hard to do, I get that, but I am not here to make it easy for you. You might want to hear that everything is going to be okay. It's not. So, make all of the excuses you want, but at the end of the day, or the end of your life, or the end of your children's lives this earth will be less habitable than it is right now. Therefore, I present you with an incomplete list of some very easy and some very hard things to do you lessen your impact on this planet we call home.
Reduce your Paper consumption
The first step in changing any part of your consumption is noticing what comes into and goes out of your life. Take a couple of days to make a mental note every time you dispose of a piece of paper (and whether you recycle it or not).
- Get a reusable coffee cup and use it as much as possible.
- Stop buying paper books, switch to e-books (but also see my point about electronics, so keep buying paper books, but plant two trees for every one you buy? I dunno).
- Do you need a receipt for that? NO!
- I bet your bank offers paperless statements. Sign up for them. Today.
- Speaking of paperless statements, you can get paperless bills from your cell phone provider, gas and electric and your internet and cable provider.
- Switch to cloth napkins at home: pretty straightforward, but you can reduce your paper napkin and paper towel waste by switching completely to cloth napkins and towels. The key is to just stop buying the paper ones and force yourself to use cloth ones.
This one is tough. There is a reason that your electronics aren't made in the U.S.A. and it's not because labor is cheaper (okay not just because). The United States has (had???) the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate how much damage manufacturers can do to the planet when making a thing. Many other countries, like China, for example have no such regulations. It's hard for me to get preachy about electronics because I am a sucker for a new iPhone every two years. However, I am doing my best in other departments like continuing to repair my camera and using a monitor that is nearing 10 (!) years old and I don't have a TV. I guess what you can do here is try to make them last twice as long as they are "supposed to" and definitely take your old electronics to recycling centers. Anyway, I have a lot of feelings about this, but no real actions except for buy less than what you need. Every time I want a new gadget I think about this lake in China that is being mined to make our cool shit.
Buh Bye Plastic Bags
I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, but you have to stop getting plastic grocery bags.
*cough cough* If for some reason you don't already own a plethora of totes, I sell some cute ones in my shop!
Change your beauty products
Yeah those. This one is really tough to start, but not that hard to stick with. Beauty brands have picked up on the fact that people are becoming environmentally conscious, so they are making more and more products with fewer harmful chemicals.
Here's the cool thing about choosing better beauty products, they are better for your health and for the planet's. Win-win. I'm in a rush here, so I will give you a short list of ingredients to avoid, but there is a really amazing website called Skin Deep that can tell you so much more about nearly every major product on the market. Do your own research.
Ingredients to avoid:
- Triclosan and triclocarban
- Retinyl palmitate
- Retinyl acetate
- Retinoic acid
- Retinyl palmitate
If you want to keep it simple and go real hippie-like you can exclusively use Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap and wash your hair with Apple Cider Vinegar.
No more coffee filters
My very least favorite thing to clean is a french press. Something about scraping the old coffee grounds into the compost bin really annoys me. But I do it, almost daily, because I know it's better than using a coffee brewing method that requires a filter. If you are really passionate about your chemex or pour-over, consider a reusable coffee filter.
Some ideas for when you are in the mood to spend money
I will admit that I use shopping as form of therapy, but am making a real effort to change my relationship with physical things. I know the happiness I get from shopping is fleeting, so here's a short list of some ways to spend money without accumulating physical things:
- Get a massage or acupuncture
- Get a haircut (but no more dyes, those are killing the earth)
- Take yourself out to a really fancy meal
- Or at least out to fancy cocktails
- Get a gym membership or upgrade your current one
- Spend an hour at the farmer's market choosing the perfect meal
- Find a shoe repair shop and get one old favorite pair fixed.
- Take a train ride to a nearby city for a day.
- Take an art class or workshop.
Look at where your clothes come from
This is so much more than an environmental issue. The fashion industry starts at the cotton farms, goes to manufacturers (usually outside of the US, exploiting workers), then add shipping (fossil fuel) and again low-wage workers in the U.S. to staff the retail stores or shipping warehouses.
The only truly safe bet when purchasing clothes is to buy used. I know, I know, it's not for everyone, but I am not here to give you an easy way out.
You could also try to get your friends together for regular clothing swaps if you are not that into thrift stores.
Lastly, there are companies that are doing better, the clothes tend to be more expensive, but that is because they are paying workers fair wages and buying more sustainable fabrics. The good news is these are usually great investments and can last you a long time.
Yes, I am also aware that I make products out of new materials and sell them to people. Nobody is perfect.
Stop assuming that because you donate your clothes to Goodwill or Salvation Army that you are off the hook
Nope! Most of those clothes end up getting shipped (fossil fuel) to Haiti and sold by the ton. From there they either end up in landfills or with a small number of people who are trying to do something productive with your garbage.
This deserves so much more than a paragraph or two but I am going to try to keep it simple. You could become a vegetarian, but nah I am not going to do that so I can't really tell you to.
You can stop eating beef and drinking milk. The largest impact we can have right now is to reduce the total number of cows being raised here. Cows emit so much methane into the atmosphere.
If you really want to eat beef (I do) do it very rarely and buy pasture-raised, grass fed beef. While you are at it, buy only grass fed butter and seriously stop drinking milk. That shit is not good for you after childhood.
Other things you probably already know (buy maybe not) are to buy local produce. Like, go to the farmer's market or a local farm.
Back to the point on paper, if you stop eating processed food you will throw away (recycle) less packaging. That's a plus. Oh and processed foods are no good for you anyway.
Negative consequences of the above
So what if all of sudden everyone in America stopped eating beef?
Well, a bunch of ranchers would be out of a job. Then some truck drivers would be out of jobs and then grocery stores would start to lose money and lay off workers and then those workers might foreclose on their homes and I could go on forever. Here's the thing, this all has to happen gradually. Our economy is built on consumption and it would wholly collapse if the whole country (or world) boycotted a specific item. The good news is, that's never going to happen. At best, I am hoping to convince one to three people to change their habits.
Okay okay I stopped buying electronics, but now I can't work.
Yeah, I know I may sound a little crazy telling you to maybe not upgrade your laptop, but something's got to give. You have to decide what is most important to you and focus on those things. If you need a computer to do your work, then get the computer, but get the one that will last three instead of two years. You catch my drift? There is always a compromise, as long as you aren't doing nothing, that's fine by me.