You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and it’s up to you to decide what difference you want to make
– Jane Goodall
In light of recent events, and the fragile and threatened state of our beautiful planet, I have been increasingly aware of the impact of individuals on the environment.
Did you know: every piece of plastic you have ever used, is still around, and is sitting somewhere on our planet. Perhaps in a rubbish dump, or perhaps in the ocean or a forest.
We see creatures working together all over the animal kingdom: ants building their nests, fish swimming in synchronised schools to escape predators, and birds flying in migration flocks around the world. Bees product only one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifetime, yet their coordinated efforts pollination millions of flowers and give the world many of our foods, crops and materials.
We also know that the sum of many human actions is causing huge problems for our planet: animal agriculture, fossil fuel burning, fast fashion, pollution, deforestation. But what about the sum of many small positive actions? Each of us lives on this planet, and makes an impact every day. It is up to each of us to take personal responsibility for our actions, and use our power as a consumer to decrease the impact we are having. It’s easier than it sounds!
So here is a list of things you can do, one or a few, every single day, to make your footprint a bit more positive. I challenge you to pick 2 and do them every day for a week, and then add 2 more the week after!
Plastic and pollution
- Use a KeepCup or a reusable coffee cup. Many people don’t realise that disposable coffee cups and their lids are not recyclable.
- Instead of cling film, use reusable containers for storing your lunch or leftovers
- Use reusable cloth bags at the supermarket instead of plastic ones
- Think about what you put down the drain… soaps, harsh chemicals, bleaches, microbeads, and plastics often end up in the ocean in some form or another (http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/16829/20150925/ocean-pollution-8-trillion-microbeads-day-alone.htm) By using biodegradable and more natural products, you cause less trouble at the other end
- Where possible, avoid beauty products that are packaged in plastic, like soaps and shampoos. We know bar soap exists, but did you know you can get shampoo in a bar too? Two brands that are available around the world are LUSH and ETHIQUE – their products are not tested on animals, don’t come in plastic, don’t use harsh chemicals, and both companies donate to environmental and wildlife protection organisations. The shampoo bars I use are from ETHIQUE and make my hair the best it has ever felt – 10/10 recommend and I always take them travelling with me to save space!
- Reusing, recycling, repurposing. Sweden has recently pledged to pay it’s citizens to fix their broken possessions instead of rushing out to replace them and throwing them away. Think about the different ways you could reuse things, there are plenty of articles online! http://www.boredpanda.com/creative-reuse-upcycling-repurposing-ideas/
- Fast fashion is a growing problem, as shown in the recent documentary The True Cost http://truecostmovie.com/ More and more low-quality clothes get worn once and then end up in a landfill. By dying, cutting, sewing and getting creative, you can turn old clothes into almost anything!
- Op shopping is an amazing way to give old clothes a second life, and is cheaper and more exciting than shopping and buying new!
- Car emissions are one of the leading causes of air pollution. If you can, walk or cycle to work, use public transport, or otherwise organize with colleagues or friends to carpool, and help get more cars off the road.
- Use your money and power as a consumer – the supermarket is one of the biggest places you can make a difference. Buy smarter and more sustainably by choosing products with the least amount of plastic packaging, buying organic and cruelty-free, and reading the ingredients on what you buy
- Think about the environmental footprint of what you eat. Many people love tuna, but the amount of by-catch (especially dolphins) is huge. Also many of the sweet, cheap treats contain palm oil, which is one of the leading causes for deforestation in Asia and the loss of habitat for orangutans, tigers and many other species.
- Getting fresh produce from your local farmers market is cheaper, better for the environment, and helps support local businesses – just make sure to remember your reusable bags!
- And for your food waste? Why not start up a compost bin! Worms can help turn old food scraps into amazing soil to be used in your garden.
- One of the biggest changes you can make that benefits the planet is making more sustainable and ethical food choices, which is why more people are turning to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Animal agriculture is the largest contributor to carbon emissions, pollution, deforestation and environmental degradation, and is a result of the consumption of meat and animal products. For more information, check out the critically acclaimed documentaries Earthlings, Cowspiracy and Forks over knives. For more information, and statistics on just how much of an impact animal agriculture and going vegan has, click here
- Bees do a lot for us! http://greendustriesblog.com/greendustries/2012/04/12/bees-and-survival-of-the-human-race/ Help them out by planting bee-friendly plants in your garden, and help out a tired bee with a spoon of sugar water.
- Adopt don’t shop. Thousands of animals are homeless and abandoned in shelters every year, where they are often euthanized. By adopting from your local shelter, you are saving a life! Not only that, but you are not supporting cruel puppy mills, where many of the pet shop puppies come from.
- Volunteer your time to local restoration projects, sanctuaries, conservation programs, beach clean ups, and gardening plots.
- Don’t support events that harm the environment or the planet. Horse/dog racing, car racing, circuses and zoos… By not giving your money and time to events like these, you are using your power as a consumer and sending the message that these events are wrong.
- Spread the message! Encourage your friends, family and workplaces to get involved with any of the ideas mentioned above, and educate them about why making small changes day to day is so important.
- When travelling, make sure that you only participate in ethical tourism activities. Riding elephants, holding/patting wild animals and many exotic overseas zoos make money off exploiting and hurting animals that belong in the wild (http://linkis.com/co.za/ZkI4r). Make sure you do your research, and a good rule of thumb when travelling is: Would I be able to touch/pat/interact with this animal in the wild? If not, then something bad/cruel has most likely happened to this animals in order for you to do that now.
Each day, in almost every way, each of us have an impact on the planet. From what we eat, to what we do, to what we buy. Make your impact more of a positive one, and the sum of many small things can have a huge impact.