Is it hot enough for you yet?
A few days ago, a person very near and dear to me made an off-handed comment about the unseasonably warm weather we have been having here in Northern Illinois. I couldn’t help but sigh. I definitely paused and considered whether I should respond the way I did, because I knew the person was trying to be positive, and I strive to be a positive person. However, on that day, I chose to be the Debbie Downer.
“Yea” I told them. “It’s been beautiful. Too bad we kind of…know the reason…” I trailed off, obviously alluding to climate change. I was promptly scolded by this person, who informed me that she didn’t want to talk about it when she was already thinking about it, and there was nothing she could do about it anyway, except start carpooling, which was not going to happen, thank you very much.
I was shocked. This was a grown person who is a functioning member of society, empowered and responsible for their own decisions. Yet here they were, informing me that there was nothing they could do about climate change.
It struck me in that moment that maybe the reason a large percentage of folks aren’t just lazy, or uncaring in the face of climate change…maybe they TRULY don’t understand what they can do to make a difference. They don’t feel empowered with action steps that are easy to fit into their life (and very little that we do to combat climate change DOES fit easily into the modern American life, because our culture relies so heavily on decimation of the planet.)
Education is, after all, a huge key to empowering individuals to change their lives. Perhaps it’s easier for some people who are already busy enough surviving and making their way in today’s crazy messed up world (I’m looking over at the dumpster fire that is our federal government right now), that they don’t have the energy or time to worry about how in the world they can make a difference in a problem that feels so much bigger than them. Additionally, it’s not a problem that they are faced with every single day-that they can see.
It’s different for people who have made a point to educate themselves on issues of the environment and how they can be solved. It’s not a judgement call against people who haven’t- it hasn’t been their priority, for whatever reason. For me, it is. So, perhaps it is my duty to put forward five basic things that can be fairly easily incorporated into one’s everyday life that make a difference.
- Minimize food waste in your home. Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to landfills, and contributors to world hunger. Hunger isn’t an issue of having ENOUGH food for everyone, it’s not wasting food and distributing the food we have properly. You can minimize food waste by eating things in the order that they go bad, to avoid rotting produce, looking for creative ways to use what’s in your fridge, rather than purchasing additional ingredients, meal prepping beforehand, carefully planning your shopping list, and more! All it takes is a little bit of forethought. Opt for to go containers in restaurants if you don’t finish your meal, and…COMPOST!
- BYOB (Bring your own bag). Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store, and USE THEM. The cute cloth bag you bought with an owl on it doesn’t really do you much good sitting in your car, your garage, or your kitchen. I leave mine in the trunk of my car, and when I know I’m headed to the store, I move them to my front seat so I have no excuse not to use them. This saves plastic from ending up in landfills, streams, and ecosystems where it can harm wildlife, and it also minimizes the use of petroleum which is used to make the plastic in those bags.
- Shop secondhand. It’s actually not as gross as you think it is- stores wash things before displaying them! There are also fun places you can shop secondhand online if you’re a fashionista- ThredUp is one of them. Or, you can even go vintage! It also saves a pretty penny. If shopping secondhand isn’t your thing, consider swapping clothes with friends. If I need a new dress for an event I always see what people I know have that I can use. I also avoid shopping for new clothes if I can at all help it- I take photos of my outfits in the morning so I am constantly forcing myself to get creative and find ways to switch it up. Plus, it makes me come up with new ways to wear things!
- Get a library card! This is a great way to reuse! And, it saves you money. Think of all the paper and resources you save when you don’t buy a book, but instead check it out from the library. If you can’t wait for the book, check in at a used bookstore and see if you can find it there!
- Skip plastic bags- Opt to store things in small Tupperware containers wherever possible. You save money, and you save the planet.
One thing you’ll notice about most of these is that they actually save you money in the long run, in addition to being good for the environment. That’s the thing about sustainability- it’s also good for the economy and for your finances long-term.
Pro tip: if you do all of these things already, hop on the google and look for more! You have no excuse not to, you’re already on the internet. 😉