Earth Day has inspired me to post about over-consumption. Anyone who lives in the United States knows how much we like to consume too much of everything: food, media, gasoline, the list goes on. So, in the spirit of Earth Day I thought I would encourage everyone to look at their own habits and see if there might be some opportunity to save time, money, calories, or even the planet in the meantime. Don’t worry, you don’t have to live “off the grid” to do your part.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
A good place to start is with the Nature Conservancy footprint calculator. It helps you get an idea of how your daily habits impact our natural resources. It might get you thinking about some things that you haven’t ever considered before.
I try to recycle as much as I can, and I hope anyone reading this does too. However, about 10 years ago, I was surprised to find out that we are consuming things at such a rate that we can’t keep up. The Story of Stuff is a video that demonstrates how bad this problem has become. It’s this video that inspired me to look at my consumption habits. I have been able to cut down on unnecessary waste just from watching this video.
I immediately starting composting after watching The Story of Stuff and I wish I had started sooner. The thought of throwing an apple core into a plastic bag and shipping it off to a landfill for 30 years just didn’t make any sense. If you’re not sure how to start, visit the Sierra Club or search for an online video. It is so easy and has reduced my garbage to about half of what it was. Believe me, if I can compost, anyone can. I wind up putting the compost into a garden instead of that landfill.
Cooking and Eating
Buying your food locally helps people in your community but it will also likely reduce the carbon footprint of the food you are eating. I am looking forward to strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry season coming up here soon where I live. I would much rather go to a local market or even a farm to pick them than have them trucked here from 2,000 miles away (literally). It’s also really great to get out to meet and support farmers who are growing our food. Thank them. It is a grueling job and our society doesn’t value our farmers the way we should.
Take a look at your meat consumption too. Raising animals for consumption puts a huge stress on our planet. There may be an opportunity to replace some of it with plant-based foods. If you are eating meats from large, factory farms, it is likely they have also been given feed with antibiotics in them.
When possible, consider walking, biking, or taking public transportation. This is good for our environment, but it also gets us moving and burning calories. It might not be possible all of the time, but there may be opportunities to do this throughout the week or on the weekend.
Before you go shopping for any material thing (clothing, housewares, etc.) do a “clean out”. Consider donating those items to Goodwill or another charity. Amazon has started a “Give Back A Box” program to reuse boxes and recycle goods. Once your clean out is done, you can ask yourself whether you really need those material things you thought you did. If so, could you get any of it second-hand? As far as food consumption, beyond buying local, consider cutting back on dining out. This can help save money, and cut back on some unwanted calories.
Ditch Plastic – It’s Bad For Your Health
Not only is plastic bad for the environment, it’s hazardous to our health. Quit drinking things that come in cheap, plastic bottles. Pack your lunch daily in reusable containers and carry a reusable bag with you wherever you go.
Take some time to appreciate what you have. A walk outdoors, especially in or near green space, can be very inspiring. Research has shown that exercising outside can help with stress and boost creativity. If you are able, find a local park or area that you enjoy spending time to walk, bike, hike, or whatever kind of exercise you might enjoy!
Most of these ideas really come down to being more mindful of what and how you are consuming things. If you start to look at some of these habits, you might find very small, realistic things that you can do that will not only help the Earth, they will have a positive impact on your overall health.