If you are passionate about politics and climate change issues like I am, you were just as disappointed as I was when you heard that Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Accord. It is so stubborn and pathetic of him it is almost funny. I would laugh, except these issues are real. Even if climate “change” by itself is unbelievable (despite all the scientific evidence), what about good old pollution? I truly believe that the next global crisis will be a water shortage if we don't get our act together. There are oil spills everywhere, plastic floating in our oceans, and complete ecosystems being destroyed. Let's face it, most of us wouldn't know how to survive without running water from a sink or a grocery store with fruits and vegetables. Climate change is a huge problem because as the population grows, we need to make sure our resources will be enough for everyone. We need a sustainable lifestyle if the human population is going to survive much longer. We need to save Mother Earth, with or without Trump.
That being said, it can feel overwhelming to try to change something so much bigger than ourselves. Trust me, I feel defeated by it often, and it would be so easy to just give up and feel like my actions won't make a difference, but I know that is not true. If every single person made a small change in their lifestyles, the whole world could change. The power is in the individual, and also in the group. We have to be leaders in our communities and be an example to our kids. If the lifestyle spreads, we can help reverse climate change and save our precious planet. Here are some of the things I do as one, teeny person to make a difference.
1. Recycle! (seriously, just do it)
This one might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don't recycle. I went through recycling boot camp (so to speak) when I lived in Japan for four years, they have SEVEN categories for their trash! In the U.S all we have is one trash bin, and one recycling bin, easy. There is so much you can recycle, not just the typical milk jugs and pop bottles. Paper, cardboard, plastic of all kinds and metal can all be tossed in the bin. It is worth it to have a small recycling container in popular areas of the house like the kitchen and bedroom so you remember to use it. Personally I also keep one in my sewing studio, so I can recycle the packaging from sewing supplies I buy like machine parts or sewing needles. They come in a package of plastic and cardboard, I just separate those two parts and I'm all set to recycle! Make sure to look up online what recycling trucks accept in your city because each city is different.
2. Use old-school dishes and silverware
Look, I know washing dishes sucks, but so does a future drowning in plastic. Think of it this way: Every single piece of plastic and styrofoam that has ever been produced (and not recycled) is still in existence! And we just keep making more! If you can't afford a set of dishes, go to Salvation Army or even the Dollar Store and get yourself a few metal spoons and forks, and some ceramic dishes. They will last you longer and won't be causing pollution. If you are having a big event like a barbecue and you must use paper and plastic items, just make sure your guests are on board with recycling it. Have them dump extra food in one bin and toss the paper and plastic into the recycle bin. Styrofoam isn't recycled like everything else and needs to be dropped off at a special center near you.
3. Get creative with your old clothes, or give them a new life.
This is a big one for me! The fast-fashion industry is destroying our planet. The majority of landfills are filled with clothes! As someone who sews, all I can do is cringe, shake my head sadly, and imagine all the fashion I could have made with that fabric. There is a whole bunch of ways to re-use your clothes that don't require much knowledge in sewing. The first is by cutting them up into squares and using them for dusting and dish rags. You can cut a T-shirt into strips and tie them together to make a mop head. Or, use an old T-shirt to dry your hair. When I was traveling I only brought one big towel for my body and would use my shirt to dry my hair. It's super absorbent and doesn't make your hair frizzy like a towel. T-shirts are also great for small pillow cases, just flip it inside out and hand-sew the arm and neck holes shut. If you are more craftsy, think about using your old clothes to make fabric yarn and crochet a chunky rug for yourself. For tough fabric like jeans, cut them up into small squares you can use to patch bags and other pants. Be creative, there is always something you can do with old clothes around the house. If you don't have the time, make sure to donate them to Salvation Army so someone else can make use of your unwanted items.
4. Be green while storing your leftovers
There are plenty of food items that come in nice packaging great for reusing. Why buy a whole new piece of plastic when you are already bringing your food home in good containers? My favorite has to be yogurt containers, they are durable and a good size for salads. If you can't collect enough containers and need more, try buying glass or metal containers instead. Those will last you longer than plastic.
5. Walk or bike as many places possible.
Walking/biking instead of driving reduces the amount of emissions your are letting out into the atmosphere. I understand this can be difficult with people who have families or live in a state like Michigan where things are far apart. Sometimes it is as simple as walking from one store to the next instead of moving your when shopping in a strip mall. Or, walking to the end of your driveway to get your mail instead of driving your car like some people do. If biking is a viable commuting option for you, go for it. Its good exercise too.
6. Be mindful of how long the water is running.
Leaving the water running when they are brushing their teeth is an awful habit, and it wastes so much water. We see the water flowing freely out of our tap and always forget that it comes from somewhere. I live in Michigan and am blessed to have the Great Lakes supplying water, but many states are experiencing water shortages. If the water doesn't need to be running, turn it off. When I am doing the dishes for example, I usually fill a small tub with hot soapy water and scrub the dishes all at the same time, then rinse them off at the same time. This is saves more water than by washing and rinsing each dish individually.
7. Conserve energy
Our high-tech 21st century lifestyle requires lots of electricity. In order for us to have power, natural gas or coal is burned to make steam, which drive turbines, resulting in electricity. There are other ways besides coal and natural gas to make electricity, but we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Obviously, this is not a sustainable source of energy, so we need to be aware of how much we are using, until we can make the shift to sustainable sources. Make sure to turn the lights off whenever you exit a room. Another tip is to unplug big appliances that don't need to be on, because those actually leach energy out even when they are not in use!
8. Use soap bars instead of body washes
This one is kind of random, but there is a logic to it. Body washes come in plastic bottles, which will fill our landfills or have to be recycled. On top of that, most of what is in the bottle is water anyway, and we are just paying for the fancy packaging. There are some pretty luxurious soap bars that come in minimal packaging that do the trick. My favorites are charcoal, African black, and shea butter soaps.
9. Join the clean plate club
Did your mom ever tell you at dinner that you had to “join the clean plate club?” Maybe it was something only my family said, but it is relevant to our topic. Every time we throw away food, we are essentially throwing away energy. That food took water to grow, fuel to export, it sat in a grocery store being powered by electricity, and you most likely drove a car to purchase it. Food is also fuel for our bodies. Throwing it away is a massive waste. What I usually do is take smaller portions so I know I can finish what is on my plate. You can always get a little more if you are still hungry. When you are at a restaurant, take the leftovers home and eat them for lunch the next day instead of letting the waitress toss it. If you have leftovers, get creative with them and cook something new if you are bored of the dish. Food being thrown away also bothers me personally because my family in Syria experiences food shortages as a result of the war, so I am very conscious of how blessed I am to have food readily available.
10. Grow your own food, or shop local
This one I am still working on. I generally lived in apartments but this year is the first I have my own backyard! Growing a vegetable garden is something I have always wanted to do. Not only will the vegetables be fresh, they will also be organic, have no pesticides, and won't have to travel long distances by truck to get to the supermarket for you to buy. Overall, having your own garden would mean those vegetables required less energy to produce than their supermarket counterparts. If you don't have your own yard, some neighborhoods have a shared community garden. You can also do the next best thing and shop at farmers markets, such as Eastern Market in Detroit. There you can find organic delicious produce and help support local farmers at the same time.
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