The latest news from the U.N. is that climate change is affecting the planet faster than scientists predicted, which means its impacts and accompanying eco-anxiety are on the rise. Rapidly changing weather patterns, melting glaciers, rising sea levels – it can be so difficult to keep up with it all, let alone keep cool on an increasingly heated planet.
But don’t feel too overwhelmed... individual action really does count and the Earth needs more and more champions each making a contribution. And what better time to pledge yourself to the fight than Earth Day itself on April 22.
Here are 6 simple ways you can help the environment in your day to day life.
1. Be Mindful Of The Businesses You Support
One way to continue making a positive environmental impact is to regularly revisit the way we consume. The next time you're shopping, take a moment to look for businesses that use less packaging or promote environmental health. As always, be wary of greenwashing! It’s just savvy marketing that promotes sustainability rather than actually reducing environmental impact.
Many companies out there are truly working hard to make a difference and should be recognized for it. How can you differentiate between businesses that are following through with initiatives versus those only using the language of sustainability? Look for a certification that shows they are meeting certain standards.
Looking for a “B” inside a circle is a good place to start. It means the seller has B Corp Certification (like Prosperity Candle). These companies are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable economy. Check out some of our favorite B Corps or our eco-friendly candle collection for a few gifts made to give back to the environment. Additional green certifications include Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and Green Seal just to name a few.
2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (And Repurpose!)
It's impossible to achieve a zero-waste lifestyle overnight, but starting small is easy and leads to a big environmental impact. Limiting your consumption by skipping the straw, plastic cutlery and disposable coffee cups are some leading examples of simple, everyday ways to help the environment.
Bringing your own shopping bag to the store is easy, too, and avoids that whole “wish-cyle” problem: plastic bags are the leading contaminant in recycling systems, causing the entire batch to be trashed.
You can also get creative by repurposing old clothing, bedding and fabrics into reusable rags. Discovering new ways to reuse glass jars, newspapers and old furniture is also a great way to reduce waste and help the environment. One of our own favorite projects is to repurpose used candle jars into planter pots, toiletry holders, cut flower vases, and desk organizers.
Composting and recycling can drastically decrease the amount of household waste, but remember that recycling is only effective when there are no “contaminants.” If your town has single-stream recycling, be sure to avoid including anything not acceptable (like broken glass). If your program requires separation, make sure everything is clean, dry and properly separated without any of those pesky items that get rejected (your recycling service can provide a list).
3. Let Your Lawn Go And Grow!
We all love the look of a perfect lawn, but even more of one that has many areas full of flowers, plants and trees. The less grass you have, the more you are helping local ecosystems flourish. So why not take a corner and plant some beauty? Native plants attract pollinators and are more suited for your environment. They easily adapt to local conditions, requiring less resources like water and fertilizer.
Speaking of fertilizer, remember that green lawns come at a high price. The use of herbicides and pesticides is not only harmful to the surrounding wildlife, but also the local water supply. And when the run-off of fertilizer from yards enters waterways and leeches into the soil, it causes all kinds of environmental problems. Visit your local garden center to find native flowers and tips to maintain your lawn while helping the environment flourish.
4. Take Baby Steps To Reduce Your Water And Energy Consumption
We all know about conserving water, especially in places where draught and use limits are common. But even if you live in a region that doesn’t experience water shortages, it’s good to be conscious of your usage when showering, washing dishes, and watering plants or your lawn. Providing clean, drinkable water requires tremendous resources.
We also all need regular reminders about reducing energy consumption wherever possible. It is as simple as unplugging electronics and devices that are not being used, and turning off unnecessary lights. Don’t forget to swap out any incandescent light bulbs to LEDs… that will make a huge difference in your energy bill as well as help the environment!
5. Be Mindful Of Travel And Everyday Transportation
It's impossible not to have a carbon footprint (the calculation of individual or household contribution to greenhouse gasses). But some ways of living leave a much larger footprint, such as regularly jet setting around the world or driving a gas guzzler for small errands.
Then again, we all have to get around, right? Since our means of travel and transportation contribute significantly to our carbon footprint, it’s important to make good choices. Reducing air travel is a major way to help the environment, flying only when necessary. And whenever possible, try using public transportation if available in your area, join a carpool, or opt for walking or biking when a destination is close by.
6. Get Involved And Make Changes
Be a participant in your own regulatory process! Those who get involved in local government can make the biggest difference when looking for how to help the environment. You can attend town meetings, join a citizens group, or even run for a local government position where decisions are made that impact the environment. Let your voice be heard.
Do you have more ideas on ways that we can all help the environment? Share them in the comments below!
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