As with most holidays (if you can call Earth Day a holiday), Earth Day generates enthusiasm in many people and is aimed to put our environment to the forefront. Many promises and pacts are made regarding new and old desires to change old habits, pick up new healthier hobbies and do our part to better the planet. However, like New Year’s resolutions, enthusiasm dissipates as big action is deferred for more seemingly immediate issues.
Convenience can override thoughtfulness and good intentions, and reduce promising ideas to an ashy remnant of the idealism that created them. (Although up here, excitement can be postponed by April snowstorms…)
For me, every day has to be earth day. The state of our planet can’t be summed up in the terms “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”, because the problems extend far beyond that. Trash overflowing into the ocean creates country sized masses of Plastic, Factory Farms produce enormous loads of Co2 while also providing us with cheap and tasteless food. However, the purpose of this is to not convince you that we are all doomed and our individual actions don’t matter.
In fact, I argue the opposite. While it would be nice for national governments to take greater initiatives on environmental concerns, we must do what we can as individuals and communities.
There are a couple of thoughtful and simple changes to behavior that we can all make that have large cumulative effects on our environment.
- Eat less meat. Simple, but hard for many people to accept. Eating large amounts of meat is not great for your personal health, but it’s even worse for the planet. Over 50 billion animals are slaughtered annually to meet a growing demand for meat at every table. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to reduce your meat intake, but you can reduce it. I love a good steak or burger, but the carbon footprint to raise cattle is astronomical. Therefore I have practically forfeited beef as a part of my diet (although I did grill my first burger in two months last Saturday). The point is, you don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to reduce how much meat you eat, just consciously make an effort to eat less. Your body will thank you, and so will the planet.
- Buy less stuff. As spring cleaning has been pushed back by the continual snowstorms, I’ve done some preliminary culling of my closet. When I laid all my clothes out on the floor of my room, I was quite disgusted by the amount of possessions I have that I don’t use. Find someone to give them to, or donate them to a charity or thrift shop. Don’t just get rid of items you don’t use, be more mindful about what you purchase. How long will you use said item? Is it something you really need? Obviously, this is connected to deeper issues that touch on consumerism and living vicariously through our possessions. But reducing what you buy is one way to address these habits that are destructive for the environment, as well as your pocketbook.
- Use reusable grocery bags and reusable water bottles. Nuff said.
- Be purposeful with your trips. Go to the grocery store with a plan, so you do not have to return the next day in your car for forgotten ingredients. Obviously this is completely different if you bike or walk, so if your heart desires to run to and from the store, go for it (on your bike or legs). Otherwise, make your trips purposeful and hopefully multipurposed.
- If you must drive, look into public transportation or carpooling.
- Be thoughtful about your food purchases, by trying to eat more vegetables and attend local farmers markets. Chemical free or organic if your budget allows it is preferable, otherwise you can grow your own cheap organic veggies…
- Plant a garden! However small or big, just plant something (besides grass). I’m dying to get outside and get my hands in some dirt and reconnect with the ground. There is little more rewarding than harvesting tomatoes or beans that you yourself have planted, they are more beautiful, add to your local ecosystem and taste better.
Some of these actions may seem over the top, or inconvenient, which is understandable, as we’ve been raised in a culture of convenience. Any thing that requires a little extra energy or awareness may seem stressful, but trust me, it’s worth it. Convenience is not worth the price of life on the planet.
One of my favorite Platonic quotes states, “I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work”. Change will not come by accident, our planet won’t right itself with us working against it, and our cars won’t stop driving themselves. Be intentional with your actions and do your best to make thoughtful choices regarding your personal life and connection with the planet.
My next post will be about food (Mushroom Gyro with homemade Chili Tzadziki), but these kinds of political/environmental posts will continue as long and become more entwined in my food posts.