11 Ways to Love Your Mother (Earth)
April 22, 2020 § Leave a comment
Eco action is best summed up with 6 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, & Recycle. Here are a few ways to apply them at home to care for our home planet.
- Reduce product consumption by using items that are recycled, used, recyclable, compostable or durable (and fixable). Choosing reusable containers and bags, canceling mailed subscriptions, and reducing paper/printing are some of the most obvious and immediate changes you can make. Be vigilant about recycling anything you can. For most things you’d like to get rid of, there’s probably someone who can use it. Look up local recycling facilities and details. Post your useable but unwanted items online or donate directly to a charity. Find more recycling info at earth911.org.
- Eliminate products with toxic chemicals as much as possible. Use natural products for your home and body that do not contain phthalates, parabens, BHA/BHT, sodium laurel sulfate, and others. Avoid buying other products like paint, glues, furniture, kitchen supplies, and the like that contain harmful toxins such as Teflon, PVC, BPH, formaldehyde, triclosan, VOC’s and more. Use hot water to clean and natural products like white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, dish soap, borax or purchase eco-friendly products. If these plus elbow grease can’t get it, chances are it’s not going to harm you as much as the chemicals would. Get more details on toxins from trustworthy sources like the Environmental Working Group and the David Suzuki Foundation.
- Curb your water use. Create a lawn that requires less watering and consider using rain barrels for irrigation. Besides using low-flow aerators, take shorter showers and turn off tap while brushing. When buying appliances, get low-flow toilets, and water efficient washers and dishwashers (forego extra rinses). Instead of purchasing bottled water, filter your tap water and use a safe container– that will also save on plastic manufacturing/waste. And don’t pollute your wastewater with toxic chemicals.
- Improve your food habits. Compost your food scraps and consider starting your own garden, even if it’s very small. If you can’t compost in your backyard or under your sink, there’s very likely a composting pick-up service in your city. Without a yard, you may still have space for a small container garden or indoor hydroponic bed. Buy organic or ‘no-spray’ foods that are free of pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful substances like glyphosate. Consume food items with fewer ingredients and less processed. Corporate agriculture with genetically modified foods and monoculture crops are suspect as they hold patents and are focused on profit rather than health of the planet or people. Support sustainable farms that are humane and use minimal fuel, water, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Free-range, pasture raised, organically farmed food is better for your body and the planet.
- Scale back your energy consumption at home and office. You know this one – shut off lights and machines not in use. Buy energy star appliances. Utilize passive solar in your home by opening blinds to sun on cold days and closing them on warm days. Use ceiling fans properly. Set your heat and AC at acceptable levels and turn off when you or your pets are not at home. Consider purchasing renewable energy when possible and make green energy improvements like solar, instant hot water heaters, efficient roofing, windows, siding, and insulation – even if the investment is long-term.
- When remodeling or building, be sure to use items that won’t off-gas (no VOCs) and that don’t contain toxic material like formaldehyde and the like. Buying re-cycled or used is a great way to avoid the worst off-gas as well as to conserve manufacturing carbon and material. Consider other aspects like waste, energy consumption, carbon footprint, and indoor health. The EPA has an excellent online resource here.
- Consider your travel – fly and drive less, take trains, use mass transit, bike or walk as much as possible. Telecommute for work or meetings. If you do drive, be efficient with your errands, carpool when it makes sense, be mindful of idling & shut off your engine while waiting in your car. If you’re buying a new car, make MPG and emissions a priority.
- Support sustainable, independent small business, farmers, and self-employed folks. These actions bolster local economies, reduce transportation consumption/pollution, ensure sustainable incomes, and increase flexibility/response to customers’ environmental and fair wage concerns. Did you know? Small, local retailers return more than three times as much money as chain stores into the local economy and online shopping has virtually no local financial benefit. Locally owned restaurants return twice as much to the community as chains. Also, consider joining local credit unions or community banks and other institutions that have a more direct connection with your community. Support creatives and programs that advocate for the arts. All these things contribute to a thriving community that remains safe, clean, and economically resilient.
- Support companies that are consistently mindful of their manufacturing & operation practices so that they help sustain our environment and economy rather than deplete our resources. Though finding out every detail about every company out there is an unrealistic task to undertake, it’s good to at least know about the items that you regularly purchase. The clothing industry in general is a huge source of water pollution but maybe you can eliminate the worst of them when shopping. Electronics, particularly cell phones, are really awful on the planet but it’s really not possibly for most of us to do without. We can at least buy less often and try to encourage companies that innovate and make an effort to be eco-friendly. Don’t just trust the labels that greenwash and mislead you to think they’re eco-friendly. Do a little research on the brand and the item. The Good Guide has an excellent phone app to help with buying choices. This action includes shifting your investments to companies with a better environmental track record as well as innovative start-ups focusing on sustainable services, products, and renewable energy.
- Plant foliage! Leaf Area Index (LAI) of trees and plants is one of the best ways to tackle climate change. And it’s extra good for the human spirit. You can plant on property you own, or create vertical gardens, or offer to green up your community by planting flowers or wetland plants to mitigate rainwater. Support or join groups like the Arbor Day Foundation in tree planting efforts and speak out against companies or policies that destroy forests. If you need scientific proof, just do a quick online search and you’ll find study after study supporting methods and effectiveness.
- Advocate for sustainability policies. Request sustainable products from your local businesses and see that they reduce their waste and use of toxins. Join other in solidarity and action by connecting with organizations committed to environmental action. Make calls, write letters – pressure public servants and demand that our elected officials serve the best interest of the people and the planet by protecting us from polluters and incentivizing green policies.
There are many other resources online and great blogs to subscribe to, as well as books (consider electronic and library options). I hear there are wonderful mobile apps to assist you in being more eco-conscious. If you know of any more particular resources, feel free to share with us in the comments section!
Another note. If you fear you can’t afford “being green,” consider that you can usually save money by reducing your consumption of products and resources. Use that savings to invest in better food, quality products, and home improvement. It’s a matter of reconsidering your priorities and shifting your budget around just a little. Buying used products and less new will save you a bundle. Reducing lower-priority items like coffee drinks, beer, mani-pedis, entertainment, travel, or the latest electronics could buy you a lot of organic food or eco-home improvements. Utilizing your local library instead of buying books, driving less instead of expensive car maintenance, an extra blanket and turning down your thermostat a couple degrees at night – these things all can seriously offset added expenses from buying local, organic, and eco-friendly products. Being green is also healthier for your body so you have less health-related costs and loss of income-generation.
When you buy quality food and other products, you will find that you value them more, taking better care to not waste them. You’ll also find that your quality of life will greatly increase – you’ll feel better physically and emotionally because of the empowering, ethical choices you make.
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