6 Steps to Becoming More Eco-Friendly

This we know: the earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does the the web, he does to himself.

-Chief Seattle

I can get a bit worked up when it comes to the environment. It just boggles my mind the way people and companies carelessly and recklessly exploit and abuse the planet. So, if I launch into a diatribe, forgive me, but because the earth cannot speak (at least verbally), some of us feel compelled to speak on its behalf.

People sometimes say, “my doing [something careless that affects the environment], or not doing [something that takes into account the environment]” doesn’t make a difference. That is certainly one way of looking at it. But perhaps they have also heard that change starts with the individual and ripples outward. If they take actions that reflect their values and how much they love this planet we call home, others will be inspired to follow suit. And as more and more people do their own small part, then we have a movement. Here are some simple steps I do in my day to day life to be conscious of the earth and its precious resources. I may not be a total saint when it comes to this but I am constantly renewing my effort to be as conscientious as I can about my ecological footprint and doing my best to educate myself about the consequences of our collective actions.

6. Go easy on the AC

I really don’t understand why in the summer, buildings set the thermostat to 20 degrees below what it is in the winter. It is such a waste of energy and it makes people really uncomfortably cold. In two offices I worked in, the AC was so intense that people brought in electric blankets and bulky sweaters and they were still freezing. Macrobiotic philosophy teaches to limit the AC in the summer and heat in the winter so as to be better in touch with the rhythms and cycles of the earth and geographic environment in which you live. I do have a little AC going on at night in the summer (otherwise I wouldn’t sleep since NYC summers can be insufferable) and a bit of heat in the winter because I’m one of those people who is always cold, but I try to keep it to a minimum.

5. Think about stuff before you buy it

I have done some major feng-shuing in the past few years which meant I had to get rid of a lot of stuff. Some of the things were extremely hard and seemingly impossible (like plastic pens) to recycle. Try to only buy what you need and think will get a lot of use out of. Also consider what materials it is made of and envision it being smushed into mother earth, which is what will happen when it goes into a landfill.

4. Unplug your utilities when you’re away from the home

Your appliances actually use up more energy being plugged into the socket when they are not being used than when they are used, which is usually significantly less. I usually have all my electronics and lamps plugged into a few extension cords which I can then unplug when I go to work or out for the day.

4. Use natural cleaning products for your home and your body

Most household cleaning products and hair and body products contain sketchy and sometimes downright gnarly chemicals that you actually don’t want anywhere near your home or your body. They are also harmful to the planet which is why they are referred to as hazardous materials at waste facilities. Because of these often carcinogenic chemicals, which are unregulated by the FDA, household pollution is usually worse than outdoor pollution, even in big cities.

Natural household and body / hair products smell infinitely better, as opposed to toxic, and also relaxing because they often contain essential oils. Trust me, start buying all-natural products and you will never go back.

3. Carry a few reusable bags with you wherever you go

Then, when you’re about to buy something tell the cashier “I have my own bag.” This simple strategy saves so many pointless plastic bags from being used. I use these reusable bags made from canvas.

2. Get a water canteen

Plastic water bottles create more plastic waste, and as we know, plastic is not biodegradable. Furthermore, as documented in the amazing film Flow, water companies are going into third world countries and creating dams, thereby cutting off the indigenous communities’ access to clean health water and causing illness and death as a result. Access to clean, healthy water should be a basic human right. As a society, I think we need to be more cognizant about dwindling water resources for the sake of such indigenous communities but also for our own children and grandchildren who could potentially have less access to it if we continue being so careless.

You can save so much plastic by taking a water canteen with you to work (or wherever) and save money at the same time. Right now I am using Klean Kanteen‘s Reflect, which is their most eco-friendly model. I also use an alkaline filtered water pitcher at home from Santevia, which raises the ph level of the water.

1. Adopt a plant-based diet

Ok, I know this actually isn’t that simple. But if you genuinely do care about the environment, know that becoming vegan is the single biggest step you can take towards minimizing your ecological footprint. Animal agriculture contributes to more CO2 emissions than all forms of transportation (cars, planes, etc.) combined. It is also one of the leading contributors to water pollution and requires a great deal of water and other natural resources. Becoming vegan is a win-win-win as it is a healthier lifestyle, it is better for the planet, and it doesn’t support the exploitation, mutilation, and slaughter of helpless animals.

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