This semester in graduate school I am taking an Anthropology course on Climate Change. I get the privilege of reading and watching Dr. Susan Crate’s work as an Environmental Anthropologist who has spent years documenting how people are responding to the effects of climate change. While reading through Anthropology & Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions, my inner activist has been enlivened anew. As most (if not all) of you know, Mother Earth is pretty important to me. I went vegan for the animals but stay vegan for the environment and my health as well. I refuse plastic straws, bottled water and plastic grocery bags. My partner and I are consciously scaling back on our possessions as we want to transition to tiny home life. This book reminded me that every small thing is indeed important, but sustainability cannot wait and there is more that I can be doing.
I want to kick start the “doing more” by sharing easy and simple life changes* that you can make in your own lives to live “greener” and more sustainably! Those are just buzz words for adopting practices that are less harmful to the Earth. At the end of the article I will include trusted brands and products that I use or that my Green Guru Kelly (@_takingmylifeback) uses.
Reduce Energy Use – What does that even mean, right? It is as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room, set your thermostat lower in the winter and cuddle up, open the windows to allow a breeze when it is warmer out, use energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances.
Shop Your Local Farmers' Market or CSA – Not only does this mean that you get to support your neighbors, you are also reducing your carbon footprint! Supermarkets are convenient and awesome and are stocked with produce regardless of the season. Unfortunately, this means that those fruits and veggies had to be shipped for a long time to reach your grocery cart. Start small by vowing to just get what you can from the farmers market and follow up with a trip to the grocery after.
Say No to Disposables – Speaking of the grocery store, say no to plastic grocery bags! Stock up a few cute reusable bags to take with you to the market. You’ll be cuter and trendier AND be helping the environment. Say no to disposable cups and cutlery as well. Swing by your local Goodwill and stock up the office lunchroom with reusable utensils and mugs. If you find yourself throwing a large party, find recycled cutlery to use as a nice compromise. There are also recyclable garbage bags that are a great alternative to traditional plastic bags. You can start by just making a list of the things you throw away most often and investing in reusable products for those things first.
Resell and Donate – Stop giving in to consumer culture. I know that marketing is everywhere telling you to do anything but resell and donate. Thankfully the environmental movement has breathed new life into thrifting so this is easier than it used to be. There are many vintage and thrift store options. When you do buy new, buy quality items that will last longer and support ethical clothing brands. Even H&M has jumped on the ethical train and have started selling a line of clothing that are environmentally conscious. By extending the life of any product, you help reduce dependence on disposable or cheaply made single-use products that end up in landfills.
Drink From the Tap! – I grew up drinking from the tap. For us, bottled water was an unnecessary expense. Stop buying bottled water like, right now! Get a filter if you are wary of drinking straight from the tap. There are low-end and high-end filtration systems, find one to suit your fancy. Reusable bottles are again more trendy and cute and just simpler. I super love Klean Kanteen (linked below) because you can use them for water, coffee, smoothies and more. You can even get through TSA with an empty reusable bottle and fill it up with the drinking fountain when you reach your gate. Encourage your employer to install filters and offer glasses or reusable bottles at work, too.
Save Water – Okay, I know I go against the mainstream in many, many ways but you do not need to shower every day. You just don’t. I know you think you are filthy but until you experience filth firsthand, know that you are very clean. We are taught to be terrified of germs, I get it. If you can’t fathom the idea of showering every other day, buy a water-saving shower head and start timing your showers.
Rethink Kitchen Practices – This is still something we are working on in my household. Simple changes are things like swapping paper towels for cloth towels and using cold water when hand washing. If you aren’t into the idea of composting, no worries, just use your veggie and fruit scraps for juicing! Repurpose glass jars whenever possible and ditch the plastic straws for reusable glass ones. I was raised on Ziploc baggies but have since adopted reusable bags to haul snacks in. Opt for home cooked meals and if you do order take away, be sure to reuse the containers.
Go Paperless – This is as simple as opting for electronic bills and bill pay and electronic receipts. As nice as paper wedding invitations and RSVPs can be, so can electronic versions (which is what we are opting for on our wedding). Something a bit tougher for me is switching to an electronic reader rather than paper books. The way I reached a compromise was by purchasing used books only. You can incorporate paperless and sustainable practices at work as well, encourage coworkers to use scrap paper and management to correspond electronically.
Reduce Dependence On Your Car – For some, this isn’t possible. Living in West Virginia, it would be really hard for me to ditch my car as we aren’t bike friendly (yet) and public transportation leaves you wanting. However, for those in larger cities, take advantage of bike lanes and public transportation. Car pool when you can and if you are in the market for a new vehicle, check out an electric model.
In the end, you are just one person but revolution starts with small changes. Understand that if we want to leave a beautiful and functioning Earth for future generations, we must act. Educate yourself further by watching documentaries or reading books or reading more blog posts. Educate youth and involve your children in making sustainable projects fun for the family. Remember that no one is perfect and don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you aren’t making a big difference.
Brands I would recommend (I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands, with the exception of the tote):
- Hummingbird Straws
- Rice Love Bags
- Klean Kanteen
- Beyond Meat
- Lush Cosmetics
- Be Authentic Tote (my design!)
*I am not including going vegan here because let’s be honest, it is not exactly simple or easy. But if you would like a blog post dedicated to the statistics and facts around why going vegan is good for the environment, drop a comment below and I will work on pooling resources to put that together for you!