April is upon us and soon,Earth Day and Arbor Day will follow. We must look beyond these two days to show our appreciation of the Earth: Every day should be Earth Day! One of the many ways we can help protect the environment is to take control of our consumption. It is actually our rampant consumption that is harming the Earth. From the endless amounts of stuff we buy and throw away to our reliance on single-use convenience plastic to the constant need to upgrade to the latest device, it is time to take a step back and reflect on how our personal actions the other days of the year is helping or endangering the Earth.
With that, I want to highlight a few projects that will help change the way you think about consumption. I always encourage my readers over at The Do Something Project to take on projects for themselves as a way to learn and take on habits. Last month, we covered ways to practice a more minimalist approach to the closet. This month is all about being kinder to the planet.
By now you’ve probably seen the many news reports and startling statistics about plastic pollution. Sadly, our reliance on plastic is destroying our bodies, animal and marine life, and destroying the earth. This year, the Earth Day Network is running a campaign for a World Without Plastic Pollution. It’s using Earth Day 2018 to elevate the issue of plastic pollution to a global audience.
I encourage you to pledge and commit to reducing the use of plastic in your life. No, it’s not easy, but small changes multiplied by millions of people will make an impact. Take the #PlasticFreeChallenge and challenge yourself to skip the plastic and find a more eco-friendly alternative. This can be as simple as bringing your own reusable water bottle everywhere you go, asking for “no straw” in your drinks and bringing your reusable bags when grocery shopping. Doing a challenge like this is an eye opening experience. While we may not be able to do away with plastic completely, it’s important to take on new habits so that the next Earth Day is one that has less plastic pollution. Head to My Plastic Free Life for ways to reduce plastic and of course check #plasticfreechallenge across your social media platforms to find ideas on plastic alternatives and for a community of helpful individuals.
Switch to a reusable, plastic free water bottle.
The next challenge is all about reducing waste. The idea is to reduce the amount of waste you produce by following the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot as championed by Zero Waste Home. The goal is to send as few items to the landfill as possible. Due to rampant production and consumption we send a lot of items to the landfill when they still have a lot of life to them. The goal of the #ZeroWasteChallenge is to reduce the amount of waste you generate given where you are in the world and what resources are available to you.
• The first R is to Refuse. Commit to refusing things you do not need. These can be free stuff such as giveaways, tsotchkes, pens, unwanted mail, extra plastic bags, etc.
• The second R to Reduce is to figure out areas in your life that you can simplify. When you simplify and declutter, you’ll know exactly what you have and be less likely to purchase duplicate items. Keep a shopping list and reduce the amount of times you go shopping.
• The third R is Reuse as much of what you have instead. Swap disposables for reusables like switching from paper towels to cloth towels, plastic bag to a reusable tote, plastic utensils to actual silverware. Take a look at what you have already. An old jar can be used as a to-go cup, a container for bulk goods, or a food storage container.
• The fourth R is Recycle. Get to know your town’s recycling policies. Recycle what you throw out. Try to reduce plastic use as plastic rarely gets recycled.
• The last R is for Rot. Create or find a compost system that works for your home. By composting natural items like fruit, vegetables, egg peels, and more you keep these items out of the landfill and back to the soil where they will enrich the environment.
Challenge yourself by completing a waste audit. Take a peek into the kind of trash that you produce and find ways to reduce it. The alternatives are there, but we must look for them. Find more ideas on how to reduce waste using #ZeroWaste across all social media platforms.
Opt for un-packaged vegetables, skip the plastic bag and reuse a cloth bag for smaller items.
Consider this, each time you buy something new, a resource has to be extracted from the Earth to make it. It goes through a production process that may not be environmentally friendly. For many of us in the Western world, we don’t see the harmful effects of all of this production and disposal because all we see are beautifully packaged products in beautifully designed shelves. For this particular project, consider buying nothing new. What does this mean? It means being creative. It means refusing the impulse buys and reusing something to its end. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the next model, to upgrade, but what if we just reuse and recycle existing products first. By following a Buy Nothing New Challenge, you’ll be questioning need versus want, you’ll be searching for clever alternatives and you’ll start recognizing how strong the pull of advertising and marketing is. How does one do a successful Buy Nothing New Challenge?
• Avoid stores where you are more likely to purchase something. This may mean skipping the mall or department stores.
• Unsubscribe from marketing emails and opt-out of magazines and catalogs.
• Make a list of what you need.
• Take a look in your home first to see if you may already own something similar.
• Ask family and friends to borrow certain items.
• Check Craigslist, Facebook, eBay, NextDoor, and your local thrift stores to find secondhand alternatives
By buying nothing new, you extend the life of old objects and you save them from the landfill. It also saves money and reduces home clutter.
I encourage you to try these challenges for a week or a month. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish and how much of an impact you are making. We all benefit from a healthy environment so it’s important that we try to do our part today and every day. It doesn't have to be perfect, we just have to Start and Do Something!