In the past few years, I’ve really started to become more aware of my environmental impact and the amount of things I take for granted each day. I used to throw things out without blinking an eye, not thinking about where they would end up or how I was contributing to the large amount of waste humans produce. But then I started becoming informed. I heard presentations in humanities classes in college that really got me thinking. I started reading articles, watching videos on people living a “zero waste” lifestyle, and I began realizing how little changes I make in my life can make a huge difference.
My mantra in 2018 is “Change starts with me.”
I didn’t start the year thinking this but I read it while studying our school’s leadership program, the Leader in Me, and it really resonated with me. It’s so easy to think that we can’t make a big impact whether through work, politics, or anything. But then I think of all the people making an impact in our world today and I realize how silly it is to believe that we don’t make a difference. We do. (More on this soon)
Imagine if just 10 people read this blogpost and started implementing these changes. And then they inspire their friends and family, who inspire others and the butterfly effect continues. It’s easy to think of the big corporations who have a huge, negative environmental impact, but what about the billions of individuals making choices each day?
So I’m taking small steps to try and make a different and I hope you do too.
1. Bring your own
I recently learned that cardboard coffee cups can usually not be recycled because they have a plastic lining. I recycled them for years not realizing. And while I’m not perfect, I’m trying my best to either make my coffee or matcha at home or bring my own cup if I do get one out.
Same goes with everything else! Straws, plastic bags, water bottles, and more can’t always be recycled and usually end up in a landfill. It’s a much better solution to bring your own reusable items that you will have for years instead of using something for a few minutes and tossing it.
Again, I’m not perfect, and I still use straws and store bags from time to time. But being aware makes me much more conscious of my everyday choices and often leads me to ask for no straw or paper bags instead of plastic.
2. Use a wooden toothbrush
If you follow me on Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ve seen my wooden toothbrush. I’ll never forget the moment where I was scrolling through social media and I came across a wooden toothbrush for the first time. I had literally never thought before about how each toothbrush I’ve ever used is sitting in a landfill somewhere (or worse, floating through the ocean) and will be for hundreds of years to come.
That hard plastic will take forever to break down. And I go through several a year. By switching to a wooden one, I’m making a huge impact just by making a small change.
3. Eat less animal products
Look, I’m not hear to preach to you about veganism. That lifestyle is just not realistic for everyone. I recognize that I am extremely fortunate that I have the privilege to access vegan foods often.
That being said, producing animal products has a huge environmental impact on our planet including carbon emissions, plant consumption for the animals, water usage, and animal waste. Just choosing a few vegetarian or vegan options when you can will help so much. Imagine the impact if each person cut their meat and dairy consumption in half.
I won’t go into all the logistics but this brings me to my final point…
4. Do your research
I’m no expert. I’m just a first grade teacher trying to become more knowledgeable and aware of my personal impact on this planet.
Like with anything else, if this is something you are interested in, do your own research. Find trusted sources with current references to guide your decisions and changes.
I just know that humans have had a huge impact on this planet in a very short amount of time. If we want to keep thriving, we need to make some serious changes. And even if you’re not sold on that, you have to admit that bringing a reusable coffee cup with you instead of throwing one out each day has to be a good thing.
Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson put it best…
He has a good point. This planet will keep on orbiting the sun without us. In the long run, we’re only hurting ourselves and the other beautiful life on Earth by the choices we make each day.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
We often think of the last two because they are easier. When we already have stuff, we need to figure out what to do with it. But what if we got by with less? What would our impact be then?