One-day extravaganzas like Earth Day usually don't attract me. Shouldn't we be caring toward nature at all times? However, it is an opportunity to think more deeply about how we can be less destructive to our environment. Generally, earth mindfulness doesn't require great sacrifices. But even when it does, the benefits of slowing climate change and reducing waste far outweigh those of our alleged must-haves.
Here are four simple ideas of how to honor the earth year-round.
1. Think needs-based
In rich countries we have been taught that fulfilling our desires will bring us happiness. We rarely consider what we actually need -- which tends to be much less than what we want. Many people I know who have tested the needs-based versus wants-based approach to life have been pleasantly surprised.
Whenever I'm about to make a big purchase, I like to ask myself, "Do I really need this?" If I do, I go for it. When I don't, I consider how much pleasure it would bring me in the long run. If it's just a short-lived spike of "Life is good!" it's usually not worth it. And that's liberating. Plus, I save money and avoid cluttering up my place.
Water bottles are a good example. Instead of buying hundreds of little throwaways every year, invest in a durable one that's made of the least problematic material and refill it with tap or filtered water. Same thing goes for takeout coffee cups.
And there are lots of other ways to reduce waste: write with pens that have refillable cartridges; jot notes on the blank side of printed paper; bring your own shopping bags to the store; use grandma's cotton dish towels to wipe up spills and upgrade yourself to cloth napkins. And the list goes on and on.
Yes, you will have to wash and maintain all these reusable objects. But even busy people have time for that. Come to think of it, you'll probably save time -- and definitely money -- because you'll make far fewer trips to the store to pick up all those disposable things and fewer trips to the garbage can as well.
3. Fix things
Here is a novel idea that has been popular for thousands of years. Why have we forgotten about it? Planned obsolescence is big business for corporations and it's become cheaper to buy a new product than to repair the old one. Unfortunately, the price we pay in terms of environmental impact is much higher than the sticker price on that new TV or mobile phone.
The good news: more and more people are finding ways to fix things and extend the life of almost everything, even smartphones. I have to admit that I take great pride in mending my clothes and repairing lamps and other mechanical things. I'm not good at more complex machines but it looks like more fix-it outfits are popping up with this new trend.
4. Create new things from old ones
In the face of the incessant consumerist push of fast fashion, recycled fashion and slow fashion offer a welcome respite. I absolutely admire people who create art or new products out of old things, sometimes even out of garbage.
There is really no limit to creativity in this area. Anybody who can sew, weld or use a stapler, can turn cardboard boxes into a kids' playground or make a "silver" platter out of recycled metal. Just make it beautiful, make it useful, make it yourself.
What is your favorite earth-first approach that makes your life more meaningful and fun and reduces stress on Mother Nature?
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