We are finally waking up to the impact of climate change, and we are in a crisis. The United Nations recently said that there are only 11 years left to prevent ‘irreversible damage’ from a warming earth. Like some sort of collective addiction we know that what we are doing is killing us but we are still acting on our compulsions. As we continue our destructive habits we are effectively self harming on a global scale.
We think that what we do on the individual level won’t affect us as a whole but it does. When we ‘throw’ things away they don’t disintegrate into thin air they just go somewhere else. For too long we have trusted that when we get rid of things, we pass it on to be ‘sorted’ out and feel it no longer becomes our problem. We think someone else will take care of it, but the truth is there is no one taking care of the mess, that’s how we got here. Now we are facing the fruits of our flippancy and ignorance. Just because something isn’t in our immediate sight doesn’t mean it is not harming us.
Our oceans are choking with plastic, It’s ending up in our water systems. It is toxic, killing off ecosystems and hundreds if not thousands of species. Do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up living in toxicity just because we were too lazy and otherwise distracted to sort out our crap. We are not only dealing with the extinction of species but the potential extinction of human kind. According to the UN Goals there is a 1/20 chance we could be extinct. You might not think those odds sound too alarming but would you put your children on a plane if it had a 1/20 chance of crashing? This impending disaster is something you might imagine in some big scale Hollywood film, where a group of people are fighting to save the world amid catastrophic destruction but this is actually our reality and unlike in the films where in the end the world gets saved by some brave individuals, in real life the truth and ending is likely far darker and finite.
Do we want to be the ancestors our grandchildren blame and look upon with disdain for their greedy compulsions based on a need for convenience, leaving them to live in a world where global famine is a reality. Where species such as the great blue whale are merely mythical and the sound of birds singing in the morning is rare if non existent.
I believe we all need to do what we can to help however imperfectly. As the name of Greta Thunberg’s book goes ‘no one is too small to make a difference.’ We can all do what we can to infect change however incremental. So what are we doing about it and what can we do?
Below I have put together 11 ways we can all be more sustainable and eco friendly in our lives and homes from a variety of sources. These are practical things that we all can all do and be mindful of.
Check your beauty products. The beauty industry has a huge carbon footprint. Many products include nanoparticles and chemicals that pose danger to marine ecosystems, particularly by contributing to the bleaching of coral reefs. The average woman is exposed to over 192 chemicals that could be carcinogenic on a daily basis through her beauty routine. Check the labels on your products. https://www.thinkdirtyapp.com is a great website you can use to find out whether you’re products are toxic or not. There are many non toxic alternatives now. You can even go to workshops to show you how to make your own natural skincare. For example I recently discovered you can use cacao powder as a bronzer. Lemons can act as a natural deodorant since they create an acidic environment which inhibits bacterial growth. You can use coconut oil as a cleanser and moisturiser, essential oils as perfume and use a wash cloth to cleanse as opposed to make up wipes which are extremely destructive to the environment.
Avoid synthetic fragrances they are full of chemicals and toxic for us to breathe in. They can be found in lots of our hair products and creams that we use. If you ever feel a bit headache or dizzy after smelling something strong that could be the cause of it. Replace scented candles with natural beeswax ones and use essential oils in the place of air fresheners.
Go plastic free where you can. Use the plastics that you have for storage. It’s best not to use them with hot foods as this can release chemicals into your food. Look to ways to use what you already have as opposed to just dumping the plastic which will likely end up in landfill. Every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists, I find that insane! Instead of bringing more plastics into your home look at alternatives such as glass, wood and stainless steel. Don’t forget to bring reusable shopping bags whenever you go to the supermarket.
Beware of PVC. It’s the most toxic form of plastic so avoid this, alarmingly it’s often found in children toys. PVC is a petrochemical product that is heavily processed from start to finish. It releases phallates which are released into the air both when its being produced and being used. They are endocrine disrupting. Moreover, as compared to animal leather which takes approximately 50 years to decompose, PVC takes upwards of 500 years, and even then, it breaks down into little micro-beads which get washed into our oceans. For these reasons, it is advised to stay away from brands that use PVC and its derivatives.
Look at reducing your food waste as much as possible. This can make a significant impact on reducing global warming. The leftovers and food we throw out give out huge amounts of green house gases. Food that goes to landfill gives off methane gas as it decomposes. Tracy Bailey founder of Biome, Australia’s first online eco store says “If the amount of food we wasted were a country it would actually come in third after the US and China in terms of impact on global warming.” Eat your fruit and veg before it gets rotten and don’t buy more than what you need. Any waste you do have can be used as composte. Reach out to local councils and find out if they have any green waste systems.
Connect with Nature – When we see nature as a part of us and not separate, not a commodity but as a part of our community we all belong to that must be nurtured we can then give it its due respect. Our disconnection to nature and our perspective that it is separate from us has caused us to abuse it. We can not go on objectifying it. Marvel in its magnificence. We so often forget that we are nature, we are one in millions of species on the planet and yet we spend less and less time outside. Figure out how you can get outside more, walk to work, take in your surroundings, get grounded. Take your shoes off occasionally and connect to the earth. It does so much for your cells and nervous system. It’s the best soul medicine there is. We need to fall in love with nature, animals and plants. The earth is our mother, we must take of her. It’s the least we can do. She provides so much beauty and nourishment for us. If you are looking for ways to volunteer towards helping the environment join your local community in picking up rubbish. Join local environmental groups, Extinction Rebellion is a great place to start to bring awareness to this cause.
Look at your relationship to shopping and simplify where you can…before you buy something new ask do you really need it? Is it going to last? Are you going to use it consistently. I try and go for clothes that aren’t trend lead so that I don’t feel that they’re going to become obsolete when that trend is over then again most trends come back around so it’s always worth hanging on to things. Buy less and use what you have more! There are many websites now that allow you to rent clothes which is a great option when you are likely to only wear something once or twice. Look at where you’re spending your money, what are the companies you are supporting. What are their core values? Do you want to be adding value to them? I took sometime last weekend to go through my wardrobe and simplify, looked at ways I could make more outfits. Sometimes we forget what we have as we’re so used to looking for what’s next or the latest trend to follow. I took the clothes I no longer wore to charity shops and clothes banks which served charities for the homeless and refugees. Look to shopping local, supporting conscious and cruelty free brands and look to pre-loved as opposed to new every time. The effects of fast fashion and the fashion industry as a whole are clear to see. Tonnes of waste, dangerously polluted rivers and even deaths of factory and garment workers. Translating designer trends to the high street now happens at lightning speed. Our need for instant gratification is killing us. We need a movement of conscious consumerism.
Upcycle where you can…Sustainability doesn’t just have to apply to fashion but also to you’re home furniture. According to the Swedish agency for environmental protection our homes represent 20% of environmental impact half of which is made up of home furnishings. We can look more and more to buying second hand items which support conscious change. Pontus Silverstolpe co – founder of barnebys.com encourages this and the upcyling of furniture saying ‘today it is possible to buy a high quality object made by hand in the 1800s for less than the cost of a piece of Ikea furniture.” Quality pays, not only for the wallet but for the environmental impact. There’s fast fashion and fast furniture so look to pre loved rather than Ikea when you need something new. When we reduce demand for fast furniture it will reduce the prose on deforestation that’s taking place
Eat less Meat. The animal farming greenhouse gases being released by livestock, deforestation and water shortages are a couple of other ways that current food production methods hurt the planet. A global shift towards a flexitarian diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent, and would reduce other environmental impacts by 6 to 22 percent. They say the global food system emitted around 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide in greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, in addition to using vast amounts of cropland, fresh water, and fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus (which pollute waterways.) To boot, animal agriculture requires massive amounts of land, water, fuel and feed. This industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the world’s transportation systems combined, and 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared to make way for pastures or for growing feed crops. Shifting to more plant-based meals and curbing meat consumption not only helps the planet, it also improves your health by lowering intake of saturated fat, lowering the risk of developing heart disease and cancer, the world’s leading causes of death.
Buy vegan alternatives to leather – Leather has long been a staple in our wardrobes. But we often overlook the animals whose skins become our jackets and shoes. Every year large numbers of animals, including cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, crocodiles, snakes, kangaroos, emus and more are killed for their skins by the leather industry. Many of these are factory-farmed, involving extreme crowding and confinement cruel treatment. According to Voguelore.com the majority of the world’s leather comes from India and China, both of which are countries which lack animal welfare legislation. The leather tanning process is often incredibly toxic. People who work in tanneries or live near them are exposed to harmful chemicals used to process, treat and dye animal skins. However, even in developed nations such as Australia, animals raised for leather do not have the same legal protection as pets, meaning they are often subject to painful procedures and even abuse. Contrary to popular belief, leather is not simply a by-product of the meat industry. Rather, it is widely considered as a profitable resource and is therefore a co-product of meat. The worst part of all this is indeed in the journey of our fellow sentient beings into becoming the bags and jackets we mindlessly monger. These innocent animals endure horrific conditions, often confined to overcrowded indoor spaces without access to sufficient food, water or fresh air. They suffer through painful procedures without anesthesia (like branding and castration) and face countless other forms of unimaginably harsh treatment.
Last but not least please be mindful next Christmas which is one of the most wasteful times of the year. Look to saving and reusing paper where you can for wrapping gifts. Metallic wrapping paper for example can’t be recycled. You can get creative with so much that you already have at home. We wrap gifts in newspaper, old magazines and you can use ribbon as opposed to tape to tie up presents which can then be reused. Look into buying eco friendly gifts this year for you’re friends and family. Spread the message of sustainability and remember that’s it’s relationships not things that are most important. Look to sharing experiences with those you love. Memories last so much longer than the latest material gifts or gadgets.