I’ve heard “It’s organic!” so many times it makes me want to lose my (all-natural, free-range, home-grown) lunch. And I think we’ve all read enough labels in the store to go cross-eyed, or even give up trying to understand the nuances of each one. But the fact remains – our earth is our home, and the only one we’ve got, at least until we settle on Mars (my husband would be SO excited!) which means that we have to take care of it.
My parents taught me to make my bed in the morning. So why on earth – see what I did there? – would it be acceptable to litter and burn through all of our natural resources? I think it’s safe to assume we’re all in agreement that leaving a healthy planet to our descendants is preferable to leaving them a blackened ball of trash to live on. But as easy as it is to decide what we want, making it happen can be tougher. The challenges for me are two-fold:
- Weeding through all of the information out there to determine what I can, should, and want to do, in order to make a difference.
- Implementing changes in my lifestyle that actually stick, so I can make a difference over the long term (or in food terms, gradually moving towards healthier choices vs. a yo-yo diet).
To be clear – I don’t think that I can personally save the planet. BUT! I absolutely believe that each individual who has the power to do something, should. For example: I have the ability to recycle, so I do.
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My sustainability advisor/best friend J shared a great point that helped me get my arms around challenge #2 above. I was stressing out about not being able to recycle a small piece of a food carton, and she pointed out that living greener only works for the world if it works for our lifestyles. Not to say that we shouldn’t try to make small changes to make a difference, but it has to work for us. One example is baths – I am a big proponent of bubble baths, both for peace of mind and body 🙂 but they’re not great for conserving water. So I limit them to once a week or every 10 days, and relish each one – and leave it at that – without guilt.
Ok, but why should we try to make a difference in protecting the planet? Here are 4 reasons to kick us off:
- We’re running out of water. It’s true that most of the planet is covered in water, but it’s not usable for drinking or agriculture as is. It’s salt water, which can only be consumed after undergoing desalination, which is expensive. Droughts and contamination (think oil spills) further limit access to clean and fresh water, meaning we need to take steps to reduce water use and save as much water as possible. Water shortages are becoming more critical and scary – so if you haven’t started taking steps to conserve your water use, now’s the time 🙂 Think of a leaky bathtub or sink – the average US household leak can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water a year, which is the same amount of water 11 million households would use.
- We’re running out of our current energy sources. Simply put, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels like petroleum and coal that provide electricity and gas, which are non-renewable resources – so at some point, they’ll be gone.
- Chemicals are in a LOT of what we consume. Pesticides are harsh, and we try to buy organic as often as possible (check out the dirty dozen for direction). But what about cosmetics that we use on our faces and bodies?! Absorbing chemicals like hormone disrupters, pesticides, carcinogens and reproductive toxins through our largest organ doesn’t sound good to me. I love the tip I read on Oprah’s website to help me avoid grody stuff in what I eat or put on my body/face: if my grandmother wouldn’t recognize an ingredient, that product doesn’t belong in my shopping cart. No need to be extreme about this one, but I’ve found it to be a straightforward guide and reality check!
- We’re testing medicine and a lot of household and beauty products on animals, unnecessarily – and it’s not humane. We don’t need to test cosmetics or medicine on animals. Really. Here are three major, scientifically-approved, and well-funded alternatives. And if you’re wondering why do bunnies care if we put mascara on them? A clear example of inhumane and unnecessary cosmetic animal testing is eye and skin irritation tests (no graphic photos on this page), where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained rabbits.
The great news is that we CAN make a difference! So we gotta at least try, right? From my perspective, every single attempt to be a better citizen of this planet is a worthy attempt. And can you imagine the difference we can all make, together? These 7 tips are just my suggestions (I’d LOVE to hear yours in the comments!) and just a starting point.
But don’t let all 7 get overwhelming! If you’re feeling like it’s too much at once, pick one or two tips you can easily implement, make a small change, and then get yourself a big glass of locally-grown wine to celebrate your contribution to sustaining our beautiful planet! 🙂
Ok friends, let’s do this – the 7 easiest ways to live more sustainably. Here we go:
- Turn off the water when you do dishes. Play music, light a candle, take a page out of my husband’s sweet Grandma’s book and enjoy the dishes (and I’m not a dish-lover!) by filling up the biggest bowl/tub/dish you have to wash and letting the water gather in there, then turn off the water and use a scrub brush to gently clean the rest of the stuff. Also, think about installing rain barrels! I just got them as a birthday present and LOVE hearing the rain, knowing I’m just storing up water for my plants!!
- Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and shave. For shaving, I know my hubby likes the water warm – keep a cup next to the sink to rinse your razor and keep that water warm!
- Fix leaky faucets!
- Minimize garbage in 3 ways:
- Recycle. It’s easier than it seems, with a modicum of research, and so worth it to limit the waste we dump into landfills.
- Compost! We do it with no worms (GROSS!) and the result means more nutrients for our garden!!
- Start to notice what you buy from a waste perspective. Is the packaging recyclable or compostable? Think reusable or paper bags for grocery shopping, reusable (or no) bags for produce as an easy start.
- Shop local as often as possible! It’s a way bigger impact to our environment and economy than I realized.
- Shop smart and ethically: free-range, organic (if you’re like me and don’t want to splurge on everything, only buy organic for the dirty dozen), cruelty-free, all-natural products – my go-to simple trick is to scan the ingredients list and if I see something my grandmothers wouldn’t recognize, put it back.
- Grow your own food and make your own beauty products whenever you can 🙂 There are practical reasons; it produces less pollution and requires less money, energy, travel cost and waste and packaging. Plus it feels and tastes amazing!!
I gotta tell you, I’ve been working on this particular post for about two weeks to make sure I got all the research completed to my satisfaction, and shared all of the tips I’ve heard from friends and family. And this evening, I just returned from four days out in Eastern Washington with my husband’s family. We spent the days out on Banks Lake doing catch-and-release bass fishing (a first for me – a little nerve-wracking but fun and absolutely gorgeous!) and the nights sleeping in the middle of the canyons, watching the stars move around the sky and listening to the crickets, owls, turkeys, geese and deer moving around in the grasses. And I can’t think of a more apropos time to publish this post, having finally finished it 🙂 I’m especially grateful tonight to have spent so much time in awe of the larger than life beauty of nature, and I’m especially motivated to preserve it so many more generations can experience those moments of wonder.
Thanks for reading along, friends. Let me know what I missed!
A Happy (and tired!) Wife