On our journey to living with more gratitude, the earth and what she offers should be foremost in our minds. The only planet in our vast universe to support life (as far as we know), the earth is an amazing place. Unfortunately, humans have never been very good at living out the gratitude we should feel for our home.
We should start now, and one of the ways we can do so is by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Unfortunately, we often forget the order in which these things should be done, and many businesses are only too ready to prey on our misguided attempts to protect our planet. Enter unnecessary environmentally-friendly products, packaging, and greenwashing.
Environmentally friendly packaging is good. But not making the packaging is even better.
As consumers’ concerns for the earth increases, so does the marketing geared towards that concern. And we follow along, often blindly, buying all the new “environmentally-friendly products,” not once stopping to think about the “greenwashing” of said products.
Greenwashing is the tendency of companies to market their products to the concerns of environmentally concerned folk, even when the products they’re marketing aren’t actually environmentally friendly.
We’re forgetting one bit thing in our “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra: the first word in that mantra is reduce. In other words, stop consuming so much needless stuff. There are many ways to do this. Here are just a few.
1. Reduce your environmental impact by shopping second-hand
Going to thrift stores is not just fun, it helps the environment. Buying more things used also sometimes helps charities and/or your community. You can also try websites like Kijiji or Craig’s List. But even better than shopping second hand is asking yourself: do I really need what I’m about to buy?
2. Reduce your environmental impact by not buying
Often times, we believe we need something when in reality we actually just want it. Making that distinction will not only help you in building a more environmentally-conscious life, but it will help you save money, too.
3. Reduce your environmental impact by choosing active transportation
Burning gasoline puts a hole in your wallet as well as a hole in the ozone layer. The better option? Active transportation. Can you walk, cycle, roller/inline skate, roll, or manual scooter it to your destination? If you can purchase these active means of transportation used, even better.
4. Reduce your environmental impact by reducing food waste
Can you eat at home most of the time and compost food scraps? Can you meal plan and prep for the week ahead so that there’s less food waste?
Grocery stores are some of the worst culprits for food waste, so if you’re someone who feels called to activism, think about protesting so our country adopts the same policies France has when it comes to supermarkets and donating surplus food.
After reducing your environmental impact by not buying unnecessary items, shopping at second hand stores when possible, using active transportation when possible, and reducing food waste, only then should we think about reusing (and that’s before we think about recycling).
5. Reuse items when possible
If you must buy packaged things, consider ways in which you can reuse these packages. Protein powder canisters make great craft supply containers. Glass bottles make nice vases for single buds from your garden. Plastic containers from leafy vegetables can be used to grow your own. There are a tonne of ideas on how to reuse items before (or instead of) sending them to the landfill or recycling centre. I share some interesting reusing ideas on my Pinterest board, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Once you’ve run out of options on reusing items, it’s time to recycle.
Once you’ve reduced and reused as much as possible, it’s time to recycle. Check your neighborhood’s recycling program and follow the instructions to ensure your items actually get recycled (and to find out which items your municipality actually accepts). Be sure to make use of recycling receptacles wherever they are offered.
7. Pick up trash when you see it
If you see trash in places where it doesn’t belong, make a point of cleaning it up, and reusing or recycling it whenever possible. It’s unfortunate we have to do this (people should just not litter), but we do. So on your next walk, be sure to do your part to clean up and take care of the earth that takes care of us.
Once you’ve reduced your consumption as much as possible, reused everything you can, and recycled everything you can, you’ll still have some waste that will inevitably go to a landfill.
You don’t have to become No Impact Man or Zero Waste Girl, but doing even a little bit to help out the environment is a good thing. Remember to not fall for greenwashing campaigns, and instead, avoid purchasing unnecessary products—even if they’re environmentally friendly. This will help you save money, be good to the earth, and live a mindful life of gratitude towards the beautiful planet in which we live.