One problem with the movement towards a more environmentally conscious society is that we analyze it from a negative perspective; namely, human practices that have created the current state of our planet. Awareness is the initial step in any movement but it’s time we start focusing on solutions. If people in 2018 continue to deny humanity’s role in pollution and climate change they are either uninformed, uneducated or serving some personal agenda.
Not only have we proven that we are the driving force behind these global changes, but that they are occurring at an unprecedented rate. Because we in the first world are the problem, we must also be the solution. Living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle isn’t just advantageous for the planet. It can also have tremendous health, well-being and financial benefits for every individual. Below are five (relatively) easy ways to live a greener life and minimize your negative impact on the planet all known life calls home.
1. Change Your Search Engine
The first and simplest change you can make is to your internet browser. Ecosia is an alternative search engine to Google that plants a tree for every 45 searches using ad revenue. Admittedly, the algorithms are not as advanced as Google. It may take you a few seconds longer to navigate to your desired website – but isn’t that a worthy sacrifice to plant a tree? Pro tip: Set Ecosia as your home page and navigate to Google from there for best results.
2. Clean Your Recyclables
Canada is locked into a recycling crisis because of food waste contaminating otherwise useful recyclable glass and plastic that China purchases from North America for manufacturing purposes. Steps are being taken in Ontario to mitigate the problem in an effort to turn the province into a circular economy, but with new Premier Doug Ford and his majority government, these policies will not be prioritized (and likely, reversed). Luckily, you can do your part to help. Before recycling a plastic or glass container, take a few seconds to thoroughly rinse it out to avoid mold contamination. Otherwise, you might as well skip the middleman and throw that container straight into the landfill or ocean.
3. Eat Less Meat
Altering your diet is one of the most powerful choices an individual can make to battle climate change . The agriculture industry, and more specifically, the land and water used to raise cattle, palm oil and soy (to feed cattle and other animals we consume) not only consumes vast amounts of resources, but is also the leading cause of rainforest deforestation globally. With over 7.5 billion people to feed, not everyone gets an equal share. If we eliminated beef from our diet and used (a fraction of) that land to grow edible plants we would have more than enough food available for every soul on the planet. A meat-focused diet is also the main driving force behind heart disease, which continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. and second only to cancer in Canada. Other than our conditioned ‘taste’ there are no benefits to eating beef or most meats over their vegetable alternatives. With creative techniques and new technology not only can this ‘meaty’ taste be mimicked in plant-based products, but our taste buds are adaptable and can change through repetition within one month. If every North American ate meat three to four times a week instead of every day, the demand for such a large supply would be radically reduced. Side effects include: weight loss, higher energy levels, lower risk of disease and more money.
4. Use Less Plastic
It is amazing that Canadians continue to use plastic grocery bags when reusable options have been around for over a decade. Most of our plastic use stems from the food and beverage industry, especially when it comes to single-use plastics. Changing your grocery bag is the simplest way to reduce your use, but there are a variety of other options, including:
- Always having a refillable container on you for liquids
- Choose glass Tupperware instead of plastic
- Use Etee or Beeswax paper instead of plastic wrap for food
- Switch to any of these instead of plastic bags for produce
- Purchase brands that have less plastic packaging than their competitors (i.e. pasta)
- Stop using straws, or bring your own
5. Shop Consciously
There is an ugly side to the fashion industry to which the average consumer is blind. The majority of the $3 trillion industry use incredibly unsustainable and unethical practices to source their materials More than 150 million trees – enough to circle the planet seven times – are cut down every year and converted into cellulosic fabric to make the clothing found at most retail stores. Before supporting a company, do your research and ask questions about their supply chain. Money talks. Large corporations will have no choice but to change their methods if consumers shift to buying sustainable brands. Buying from second-hand stores and recycling used fabrics also goes a long way to reducing waste. True change will only begin once we use the power of consumption for the benefit of the planet.
Honorable Mention: Get Outside and Get Involved
It’s summertime in Canada! Finally time for us to get outside and enjoy the beauty this country has to offer. Activities like camping or hiking are great ways to reconnect with nature and reinforce the will to protect the natural world. The Japanese have developed a tradition of ‘forest bathing’ which has proven to reduce stress levels, boost your immune system and increase overall happiness.
Another great way to help preserve the planet is to get involved with local initiatives within your community. A large one in Barrie is the FruitShare program, which plants and harvests native fruit trees to provide free, organic food to food banks and the community.
There are several other methods to clean up your act and when put into practice most of it takes very little sacrifice. In fact, it gives you a sense of joy knowing you are doing your part to help drive positive change. No matter what laws the government enacts, environmentalism needs to be a bottom-up social change. Once the masses shift their lifestyle, industry giants will be forced to change to stay relevant.