It’s been seven months since you made your New Year's resolution. Have you kept with it?
For me, I’ve decided the best thing I could do for myself and others this year is to make the trek to really “go green.” It certainly hasn’t been easy, and I’ve relapsed a couple of times, but I’ve discovered a lot about myself — and the planet — on this personal journey.
One of the best things I’ve realized is that changing my lifestyle has led others to bring up questions. Why aren’t you driving around everywhere? Why aren’t you eating meat anymore? How do you manage to have only a small mason jar of trash every month?!
I am always eager and happy to answer these questions, and I’ve found that some of my friends have really taken it to heart. Through example, I am able to influence those around me and help them consider a more eco-friendly path.
Have you considered going green as well? If you too would like to lead by example, here are four of the most important aspects to “going green.” You might be surprised at some of the answers for best practices when joining this popular movement.
1. Practicing Zero Waste This was certainly the hardest adjustment for myself, but it’s extremely rewarding when you can get to the point of zero waste.
In our world, one of the biggest problems isn’t just global warming and industrialization: it’s also waste. Millions of tons of waste are currently floating around the ocean, and mountains of waste exist just outside of every major metropolitan area. It’s a nightmare for our health (think of all the gross bacteria and diseases growing in those mountains of trash), but also a nightmare for the world. Europe is doing their part to curb it through the circular economy — a movement to enforce recycling up to 65 percent of all waste made and used in the European Union.
However, we (in America) seem to be far from that reality. So instead, practicing zero waste can be one way to make a small difference.
The best way to practice zero waste is to buy only raw and natural ingredients for your kitchen — nothing with packaging — and investing in reusable bags, cups, and utensils. For the little bit of trash that you might have, try to fit it all in a mason jar each month. If you’re still overflowing the jar with trash, then you might need to make some more adjustments to your spending habits to get rid of that extra little bit.
Also, try out composting for all your food scraps, and start building your own garden. You’ll find that switching to raw and natural ingredients is not only better for the environment, but way better for our bodies as well. Two birds, one stone!
2. Water Conscious Besides waste, another major environmental crisis is the use and pollution of our waterways. Luckily, it’s a bit easier to make this adjustment than it is to make the adjustment to zero-waste.
First, you’ll need to look at all the household items you have stashed away. Are your cleaners and soaps filled with chemicals? If you find they are, then throw them out (find the proper way to dispose of them), and support more “green” cleaning products, or make your own at home.
Next, consider the items you use on your own body. Most shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and deodorants are filled with hard minerals, chemicals, and sometimes hard metals (like aluminum) too. Make a switch to less harmful products that utilize essential oils and natural fragrances. These items don’t contain the harmful ingredients that can pollute our waterways and are less-toxic to the body.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Everything) Recycling is an obvious choice to make when “going green,” but what all are you recycling? Is it just your trash you’re being conscious about, or are you considering all the other items in your life? What about larger items, such as your car? Are you thinking about “going green” and getting an electric car? As it turns out, sometimes our penchant for “buying green” can actually be really harmful to the environment as a whole.
As Adam Conover, creator and star of “Adam Ruins Everything,” explains in his video on “Adam Ruins Going Green”: one of the biggest issues with “going green” is our habit of buying new items to replace the old. Sometimes buying green products can be more harmful than just living with the old, non-eco-friendly items that are still functional.
Conover interviews Professor Mike Berners-Lee, the Director of Small World Consulting, in his video. Berners-Lee gives this advice:
“If you really want to help save the environment, the best thing you can do is to reduce the amount you drive, and to drive your current car as long as possible (provided it’s reasonably efficient). But if your car is beyond repair, and you absolutely need to buy a new one, then go ahead and buy yourself a nice small electric car — perhaps even a used one!” [emphasis added]
The trick here is to limit the amount of items you’re buying, including those supposed “green” products. Consumerism is a large part of the problem with our current environmental crisis, and we need to limit the amount of items we’re buying to replace old items.
Instead, invest in recycled materials and stay with old items as long as possible. For example, don’t buy a new car, and instead maintain the car by buying some “green” tires when you need to replace your old ones. Plus, find ways to reduce the amount of driving you’ll be doing. Once the car has reached its last leg — or you’ve found that it no longer fits your lifestyle — trade it in for a used electric car. If your electronics are still working, then maybe put off getting that new item (smart phones are a tough temptation, but you can do it!) until your old one is no longer fixable, then resell it. Fix up old household items until it’s no longer worth fixing anymore. Hence the well-known slogan: reduce, reuse, and recycle!
4. Family Lifestyle Changes This is certainly the most personal decision to make when “going green,” but it comes highly recommended by climate scientists and researchers: family planning. Our planet is suffering from pollution and overconsumption because of our out-of-control population growth. Scientists are now suggesting that having fewer children can have a much greater impact on the Earth than biking to work, or even recycling.
It appears this is one of the top four most impactful decisions a person can make in their lifetime, with the other three being: live car-free, avoid airplane travel, and live on a plant-based diet. Luckily, as vegans, we’ve already got that last category covered.
Choosing not to have multiple children, of course, is a very personal decision, and everyone will view the information differently. Luckily, for myself, I don’t have to worry about having any more kids: I’ve already made that decision for myself. But if you’ve been debating about having your second or third child, add global warming to your list of concerns. Is it worth the potential risk to the Earth, and the potential risk that your future child will have to live on our overpopulated and polluted planet?
As one scientist, Josephine Ferorelli, co-founder of Conceivable Future, stated in an interview with NPR: "Having a child in that case is a vote of hope. It's a vote that the world is going to be a better place and we can actually tackle this challenge."
Lead By Example “Going green” is all the rage these days, but many people see it simply as a new fad and are not considering the more complex questions of how we need to change our habits. When I made this my New Year’s resolution, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the challenge it created. However, now that I’ve learned more about the movement, I have been able to enjoy making a noticeable impact.
Additionally, I am continually learning and embracing the latest research, reading the studies, and finding new ways to cut back on my carbon footprint. Although we have a long way to go, all the little changes that we make can slowly add up to a more beneficial future: for our children and grandchildren.
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