Earth Day is just a few days away.
Each year, I see pretty social media posts of people outside, loving on the planet. That’s usually my go-to each Earth Day.
However, this year I wanted to do something a little more change-making than just a simple post. So, some friends of mine and I put together a social media challenge.
It’s called “Earth Day Eco Challenge.” Each day leading up to Earth Day, we’re asking you to learn about a topic and make related choices that are better for the health of the planet and all of the creatures who share this home.
Here’s what we’re up to in this challenge:
1. Reduce plastic use.
This is something we all see around us. If you’re on social media or news sites at all, you’ve seen pictures of dead sea creatures with their stomachs full of plastic. The truth is that recycling isn’t enough. We have to reduce (or completely stop) our use of plastic.
Here are some facts from Earth Day Network:
>> The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the weight of humanity.
>> Except for what has been incarcerated (which is terrible for the atmosphere and air quality), every piece of plastic ever made still exists.
>> Ninety-one percent of plastic isn’t recycled.
>> A hundred billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, enough to go around the earth 773 times when tied together.
>> There are more micro-plastics in the ocean than stars in the milky way.
It’s bad, y’all. Bad bad bad. I’m definitely not perfect, but I’m trying!
Here are some of my tips for reducing plastic use:
>> Buy local, unpackaged foods.
>> Bring your own bags, to-go cups and containers, and bulk bags.
>> Opt for paper and glass over plastic.
>> Make your own foods, like bread, granola, and energy bars.
>> Wear clothes made of natural materials (working on this one!).
>> Educate yourself! Take baby steps.
2. Eat more plants.
I went vegan almost four years ago now, and that change was originally inspired by the environmental impacts of factory farming. Animal agriculture is the greatest source of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farming is also the leading cause of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, and ocean dead zones.
Here are some facts from Cowspiracy:
>> Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
>> Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56 percent of water in the United States.
>> 442 to 8,000 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef.
>> A thousand gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of milk.
>> Livestock or livestock feed occupies one third of the earth’s ice-free land.
>> A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
>> Three quarters of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.
>> Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins, and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels.
>> As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year.
>> Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon destruction.
>> Ten thousand years ago, 99 percent of biomass was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98 percent of the biomass.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you have to be vegan to make a difference, but I will tell you to start questioning what you consume. Can you eat less meat? Can you try out a new recipe that doesn’t involve meat? Can you adopt Meatless Monday? Can you educate yourself more on the impact of food on the environment as well as the animals who live here, including our fellow humans?
3. Rethink your travel.
Tourism now accounts for eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. There’s a great article here where you can read more about the impacts of tourism on the environment.
This is a hard one for me. I travel every few weeks. However, there are some things I’m going to do more in order to offset that traveling.
Here are some ideas:
>> Travel close to home. There are tons of adventures close by.
>> Offset flights by planting trees.
>> Walk, bike, use public transportation, or take shared rides.
>> Choose environmentally friendly accommodation. Look for places that have efficient waste management and energy use, that recycle, that educate guests, and that are interested in becoming better for the planet.
>> Stay somewhere you can cook your own food so you’re not eating out for every meal.
>> Pack your own food and drinks for the ride instead of using convenience food.
>> Respect the culture and environment you visit. Stay on trails. Think about which souvenirs you buy.
4. Money matters.
Become a conscious consumer. Use what you have, buy used, or invest in companies that are sustainably minded.
First of all, just buy less stuff. So many of us in the developed world have way more stuff than we need, and we keep getting more stuff. Adopt a minimal mindset. Question everything before you buy. Do you really need another pair of shoes, or are you just trying to get a dose of excitement from instant gratification? Look for fulfillment from within first.
I binge-watched a bunch of minimalism videos a few years back. How and what I buy drastically changed after that. I have way less stuff than I used to. It feels good. It clears up space. Not just physically, but energetically, too.
If you have or want to buy something (which there’s no shame in), try to be conscious of what you’re buying. Can you get it used? Can you buy from companies that give back? Can you opt only for sustainable packaging or no packaging at all? Can you buy local? Can you buy fair trade or from Certified B Corporations?
Pause and reflect on your impact before you buy.
5. Use your voice.
Join the conversation, get inspired, and inspire others.
Here are some ways to speak up for the planet:
>> Educate yourself. Read about climate change. Learn about the effects on people in developing countries and animal and plant species. So many of us in developed countries can afford to not see the impacts. We have flood pumps, we ship in food from across the globe, we transport potable water for miles. Learn to look outside of this privilege bubble.
>> Get informed. Read the news. Get to know your politicians. Vote.
>> Volunteer. There are a ton of opportunities to donate your time, energy, and money to organizations that are working to make a difference. Find a local organization to support in your town.
>> Have courageous conversations. Buy reusable bags for your parents and explain why they should stop using plastic grocery bags. Tell your barista why you always bring in your own to-go cup. Answer questions with openness and compassion when asked about why you’re eating less meat. Be open to sharing what you’re doing and learning, and be open to continue learning.
>> Join challenges that hold you accountable and inspire you, like the Earth Day Eco Challenge.
The Earth Day Eco Challenge starts April 18th, but feel free to hop in late!
Go here to learn more and join the challenge.
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