Mentality is the first step.
Why would you want to save something that you don’t know? It is easy to say you want to be sustainable. There are so many reasons but some of them to many people can seem so abstract. The truth is this. People want to save what they like, what they appreciate and we as humans have become so out of touch with the systems of nature and the world that for some people its just not at the forefront of their minds. There are reasons why so many people in the sustainability activists are people that spend a huge chunk of their lives outside. People like farmers, fishermen, biologists…these people see what is going on front and center. How can we as people who dwell in cities, who work in an office, who spend even our hobbies mostly in doors, be expected to really and truley have a fundimental understanding of what is happening to our climant?
This is not sarcasm. To care we must see and to see we must look. Only then can we make responcible choices and really understand the impact that each choice makes. From a bottle in the dirt to what sunscreen we use, it matters. What matters the most is not talking about how many small changes we make but really appreciating nature and reconnecting to it. Because we are not as seperate as we think we are and when we are really out there, we understand, feel it.
One of the best things I ever did for myself was start running. Not just for my health but also for the outlaying benefit of being outside…all the time. It allowed my heart beat to connect when it started beating fast. It reminded me for the first time since I was a child playing in the woods and the streams of bucks county Pennsylvania, that I was not a separate entity visiting a foreign place. Even if you aren’t a runner, even walking outside is a way to connect, to make it a hobby. Before long you start thinking about it all the time. When you are work you s tart out planning where you want to go, what’s new to check out? When you are on vacation you think about the different spaces and want to experience an entirely new world and feel the power of it. Some people that need terms have a very beautiful phrase for it. One that I like but that makes it sound so much more complicated then it really is: Rewilding.
Its that very basic but very beautiful connection that makes us understand just why we need to protect and change our ways in the most fundamental, deep inside us ways….and we cant to.
Buy Less; Keep Longer:
I could write an entire article, an probably will soon, on fast fashion and how it is screwing over our world. The waste it created, the water is abuses and destroys, the lives that it manipulates to keep in poverty for its own profit margins and to keep your dress that can only be worn once cheap. I have a theory that eventhing until 20 dollars needs to be avioded. I’m not rich. And I’m certianly not snobby about my clothing but you know know that if its under $20 it came at a very real enviromental and human cost.
Of course this doesn’t just go for clothing. Anything that is single use or disposable is probably something that should be avoided. Food storage, clothing, cleaning. Anything that can be tossed after one use is a waste. Consuming has become a way of life for us. Shopping is easy. We don’t even have to leave our house anymore. But like so many things when it comes to our mindsets, its not if we can, its if we should. The answer on every level is no. We shouldn’t if we dont need it. The things that we buy should cost more and last longer. We should really really like them. They should be beautiful and beautiful things tend to not be cheap. Clothing, jewelry, dishes, food storage, cars, everything should add value to your life and last because why would you want to let go if it.
This has become more mainstream with the promotion of the capsule wardrobe. We are starting to see what all of these fast industries are doing to our environments and our wallets. We see that they are tricking us into buying things with clever advertising and greenwashing. People are not stupid.
One of my favorite things to force myself not to be overwhelmed by this advertising and this constant bombardment of stuff is to have No Spend days 4 times a week where I buy nothing and put money into savings instead. That way when I see something higher quality or something really beautiful, I can buy it and have it for years.
Demand Policy Change:
A companies job is to make money. That is the capitalist system. I dont particularly like it but it is the way that the system operates. The job of a company is not to protect us. They shouldn’t harm their consumers for sure but in a capitalist model, that is because they want the repeat business. Their job is to make money. It is the governments job to protect us and in this time, that means protecting our environment. Policy change seems hard in in so many ways it is. Things like lobbying have made it even harder but with everyone understanding that this is something that needs to be done, it shouldn’t be as hard as it is. States are starting to ban plastic bags,. Canada has already ban single use plastic. Discounts are given on Taxes for sustainable energy.
Take for example the plastic problem that we all know about. It is the industry (Big Oil) that has come up with our current recycling program including all of the little numbers that you see on everything plastic is the one that gets its profit margin from harvesting virgin material. So why would they want to recycle? They wouldn’t. Not only does it not increase their profit margin, it diminishes it.
As we said, it is not a companies “Job”, though many would argue that it is their moral obligation, to protect us. These large box stores and what not are not going to give up plastic bags just because. Policy change on both a local, state and federal level is really what is going to make a different against big industries like Oil (Who is also responsible for plastic production) or Soda companies.
Make sure you are voting for people that not only beleive in this issue but have a real plan because this is going to be the thing in 20 years that changes where we can live, what we can eat, what products will cost and ultimately evey single aspect of our lives. Bringing your own bag is great…but do not think that it is going to cause the large scale change that we need to survive. Only regulation and law will do that.
Support Companies that Care:
Yes okay. You need to make these small changes. But plastic straws are hardly the thing that is going to kill us and every other living creature on this planet. And as stated before, policy change is really going to be the thing that changes the way that large scale companies that are entrenched in our way of life are going to change. But that doesn’t mean that businesses that do have a fundamental company culture that combats these very real issues should not be rewarded.
Luckily, companies that support climate indicatives not only in their statements but in their actions are very easy to find. They are extremely vocal about it. Often when it comes to shipping they will have a carbon offset option. Generally they are smaller and will tell you how and why. So why? Because they care. An d because they know You as a consumer care. Go out of your way to support these businesses not only for what they do but because that support is what makes companies powerful and influential in the spaces we need them to be.
Learn to Live More Local:
It used to be that we could only eat and consume what was in a few hundred (At most) square miles of us. I am not saying that we should go back to that. That is impossible and it is important for us to know what is out in our world. But what we should think about is the biodiversity of the area what we live in. Biodiversity is the most important part of our world and its survival. And as we ignore it in our own community, it dies out around us. But supporting local businesses and small farms, we are supporting a historic system that can cultivate the earth and feed groups of people well still being conscious of the land. Shopping for local goods is also beneficial and more sustainable by decreasing the amount of transport needed to market and, for the most part, ensuring living wages, decreasing the amount of run off, decrease the population, supporting the local economy and your neighbors.
Supporting our local farms and vendors is easier now then it has been in a long time. In the last few decades as prices increase and people have become aware of just how much they don’t know regarding their food and goods, more farms and small businesses have popped up in local communities, and not just country ones either. Farmers markets are everywhere now, in major cities and in the suburbs. Of course, this is also a way to get in touch with nature and your community. Getting to know farmers and makers has a million different kinds of benefits, not the least of which is getting to know new people in your community. But along with that, we are meant to eat seasonally and locally. Much of what we need depends on it but also there is the fact that in the process of transportation, we loose a lot of nutrients. In fact most food starts to loose its nutrients immediately after harvest- nearly 30% in the first 3 days. The solution of this is to of course eat food that has to travel as little as possible.
Think About Your Diet:
I am not saying to go vegan or even vegetarian here but plant based, hunter and gatherer diet is the way that humans have always lived. There is a reason why there are very few large carnivores in nature and it is because carnivores need a lot of prey to sustain their calorie intake. In the US and around the world a disgusting amount of agricultural land is dedicated to staple crops like corn…but that is not for us. No, that is for live stock. The corn and other food goes into the feed to feed industrial farming which takes up even more water and land, creating run off before we slaughter it and eat it. According to Business Insider to make one single hamburger patties requires 14.6 gallons of water, 13.5 pounds of feed 64.5 Square feet of Land and products 4 carbon pounds, and .126 pounds of methane (Green house gas). Not per cow. Per BURGER. This is all also before processing and transport as well.
Changing your diet to a more plant based one helps cut this and when you start to well round your foods and eat a variety can help encourage crop rotation to fertilize the soil. It has also been shown that this might reduce some food allergies in children still developing. A great place to look at for guidance is the Netherlands who have increased their yields and in a more sustainable way.
Your diet is so important to your body and health but it is also a means of connection. Like the farmers market mentioned in the living more local Section and the first getting outside section, connecting with the natural world has always been wrapped up in what we eat and the appreciation of the natural world around us.
Educate Yourself Every Day:
The truth is that we all know this is a problem as I said in the first statement about getting outside. We all know that Climate change is a thing now and the vast majority of us wouldn’t even begin to deny it. But it is so much more then just the little things that we can do every day that are going to make a difference. Education on more then just trends is so important. This topic is so multi pronged. From Coral Bleaching, marian protected areas to farming practices and deforestation, there are so many things that we have to to to make this work and to keep our species form facing its own extinction. The first thing that we as individualy need to do is to aknowledge our own part in it. We have all made mistakes as both individuals and as a species. The next thing that we need to do to make the their and most important step in change, is to educate outselves.
Luckily with the technological advances that have made so many of these problems, they have also made them visable. The ability to gain information for the average person is the most that we have ever had. The statistics, the numbers, the photographs and the research is right at out finger tips. From books, to audible, the netflix documentaries there is so much information out there on each topic and those that do not educate themselves are almost actively not looking.
I think one of the most beautiful things that I have found because of this plethera of information is that so many people care. There are so many people that care and we are networked in a way that humans have never been before. This is important. Read, watch, care and we can make a difference.