Often, when we hear about environmental problems around the world and look outside and see a concrete jungle we feel helpless. That is how I felt. I thought, “I live in the middle of the city, how I can contribute to the greater good?” I’m no activist and I don’t live somewhere there is a whole lot of green to work to save.
The weight and growing fear of the world that my daughter would grow up in prompted me to do a little research of my own. I started making simple life changes in hopes that my actions could potentially be part of the drop of water in the bucket of change and would create some necessary ripples in those around me for a better looking future.
Here are some simple ways that you too can be more conscious of your personal impact on our beautiful planet in hopes of keeping it that way from right where you are.
Stop Junk Mail
We all get that mail that comes and immediately we trash it (or recycle it hopefully). Most of us don’t want or care for it but on average we get about 69 lbs. of junk mail per year. That is an insane amount of waste. By stopping your junk mail not only will you be saving trees but water, fuel, energy and any other resources allotted for the production of these unnecessary flyers and letters none of us ever look at.
Here is a bit of perspective, it takes 24 trees to create one ton of paper which ends up equating to 96 million trees in just the United States every year. Far more is being destroyed than we can possibly replenish in the same amount of time for something of no importance.
The water waste is also immense. The junk mail industry uses 10-24 billion gallons of water every year, so if you’re tired of getting those pesky fliers and don’t agree with the waste this is a great first step. Go to DMAchoice.org and utilize their opt out service. This should remove you from most lists. For credit bureaus visit OptOutPrescreen.com and for catalogs email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name (including middle initial), current address, previous address if you have been at your current address fewer than six months.
Changing where we get our food from is another very large area where we can all make a huge impact. A lot of our food comes from a minimum of 1500 miles away and much of it is very unhealthy. This comes back to creating the ripples that I mentioned earlier. Local businesses are much more likely to care for the environment they live in and be conscious of their impact. Supporting each other, creating jobs within your community, and avoiding outsourcing is also important. Additionally, with local businesses you get a higher chance of fresh produce and other goods.
Farmers markets are a great way to accomplish this as well. It supports local businesses and organic, healthy foods in your community or close by. We vote with our dollar when it comes to food and the products that we purchase. If people begin to be interested in healthier foods, the industry will have to respond to that. There are many fantastic farmers markets all over the country. Do a quick google search and find one close to home.
This should be a no brainer but sometimes it is not so easy depending on where you live. It can get frustrating having to pack it with you to the nearest recycling bin. It is a necessary burden though. There is also the issue of what goes where. Sometimes recycling can be confusing and different cities have different guidelines for recycling correctly in that area. Be sure to check with your community about the when, where and how.
Change The Way You Commute
City buses and subway systems are a great alternative to driving and more often than not more efficient in larger cities than driving. In my opinion having a car is overrated, but I grew up in the city and enjoy riding my bike from place to place as well. These changes were easily done on my end. For those of you who don’t have a competent bus or subway system, carpooling is always an option as well. This will not only save gas and money but reduce emissions.
Vote With Your Dollar
You don’t have to be out with marching with a sign to make your voice heard. Money talks. Your purchasing power speaks to the values of you, and your community and industry will respond to that. The variety of purchasing options are quite overwhelming, so paying attention to labels when buying everything from food to clothing is a great way to lighten your impact on the environment. Fair Trade certified products are dedicated to sustainable production and paying their laborers a fair wage. Buying USDA organic is a vote for keeping pesticides out of your food and water and protecting our farm workers and wildlife.
Embrace Meatless Mondays
Meat production has become one of the most destructive means of production on the planet. The amount of water use, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and habitat destruction is astronomical. You can reduce your environmental footprint by reducing your meat consumption. If you are a true carnivore at heart buying local is also a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. You can embrace meatless Mondays (and maybe Tuesdays) or choose to support your local butcher all the while helping to diminish the 15% of greenhouse gas emissions that the meat industry creates every year. That’s more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars in the world.
Plastic has taken over 40% of our ocean’s surface. There is legitimately a place in our oceans currently called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre that is a floating garbage patch twice the size of Texas. Worst of all because of this tremendous amount of litter wildlife like sea birds, sea turtles, seals and even whales are being killed and caught in the masses of it.
Choosing to utilize cloth reusable bags when shopping will help to drastically diminish the ever-growing piles of plastic in landfills and our oceans. Most grocery stores carry them; if not I have seen them online for anywhere from 90 cents to upwards of $15 depending on how trendy you would like your bags to be.
Everything we purchase has some form of environmental footprint. The process and materials used to create the product, the emissions emitted during production, and packaging that will inevitably end up in a landfill all are a part of this footprint. I am right there with a lot of you. Retail therapy is fun for me. I love to try new styles and mix up my wardrobe. In fact I probably have more clothing than I need but I definitely have come to live by the mantra “reduce reuse recycle” when it comes to all things, including fashion. Thrift stores and upcycled clothing stores are full of gems and easy on my bank account, and when i start getting bored with my wardrobe I donate what I have back and continue the cycle.
Get a Ficus Plant
Probably the most simple and beautiful of all of the suggestions. These pollution fighting, anti-microbial and gas absorbing plants are the perfect addition to any home. A study found that the Ficus plant could remove formaldehyde from the air, which can cause headaches, coughing, nausea, and breathing problems. The pollutants in your home can be very high from paint, carpet, flooring, and furniture emitting what is called volatile organic compounds (or VOC’s).
With that I bid good luck my fellow city dwellers. Let’s all do our part to create a better, cleaner, more livable future for all living things. Whether it is air, water, or land, in the end we are all in this together and should act as such.
Be the first drop of water in your community creating those ripples of conscious change.