Thursday, 16 July 2015

10 Ways to Adopt a More Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle

Below are 10 tips to change your lifestyle and live with less impact on the earth and your environment. But before we start, make sure to check your foundation often; the place where it all starts. This consists of what I call the golden rule.

The Golden Rule: Be present. If your mind is polluted (or 'in charge'), then it is hard to clean up your surroundings. If you are not conscious of the impact of your actions on the earth and its inhabitants, then why would you change anything? One way to raise your consciousness is to follow a path of passion. Meditation also helps. The objective is living in the present moment, so whatever helps you be more present; do more of that! And then, practice, practice, practice.
Being present has so many benefits. It helps you be a good role model, because you are no longer defensive or dogmatic about your views on life. You allow people to change (or not) in their own time. You are able to communicate your message with love and confidence, without hurting others. You are able to really listen to others, which makes them more open to listen to what you have to say. And your relationships are loving, nurturing and fulfilling.
If you are present, you are naturally open and doing what matters. Presence is the key.
Read ‘The Power of Now’ for more on this topic.

So what are some things that matter? What are some of the ways you can start living more in balance with the earth, your fellow humans and all the other creatures on earth? Here is a list with some suggestions (each with several options):

1.       Dumpster dive, only shop local organic, or grow your own food
There are many benefits to dumpster diving. By dumpster diving, you can save food from ending up in landfills, you can feed others and experience the joy of giving, you can raise awareness about food waste and you can show supermarkets that the food they throw out is still perfectly okay to eat (most of it anyway). But dumpster diving is not a solution in itself. It is a form of ‘treating the symptoms’.
To make a statement with where you spend your money, choose options that are good for the earth. That means supporting local, organic farms. Get your food straight from the farm if possible! If the food was produced locally, then that means they are fresher and usually not treated with chemicals to keep them fresh. Of course the transport in itself causes a lot of pollution too. Another benefit is that if you choose local foods which do well in your climate, chances are that you will do well on them also. They provide what you need where you are at that moment.
And if you really want your food as fresh as possible and know exactly how it has been treated, find a space where you can grow your own food. It does not have to be your back yard. If you don’t have a back yard, maybe you can initiate a community garden or a shared space to grow food. Or perhaps you know someone with an unused patch of land where you can get started. Make sure the seeds you use are organic too!
Here is my little garden with rescued plants (from dumpsters or donated by the store):

Me and my little veggie garden with rescued plants and herbs

2.       Consider adoption or make the decision not to have children
With a world population of 7.3 billion people and a current annual growth rate of 1.14 percent, it is clear that this is unsustainable. Each additional person uses up natural resources and takes up space, which means that more native flora, habitat and wildlife are lost and even more air and water becomes polluted. Therefore it is strange that having children is considered so normal (almost 'mandatory') in our world. Because of the situation we are in now, it is not a decision that can be taken lightly. Do you really need to reproduce in order to have a fulfilling, meaningful life? Perhaps not. And if you want to experience parenthood, there are other ways than going through childbirth, as there are many homeless, underprivileged or orphaned children longing for a loving home. What about them? And if you love going for walks in nature, just imagine what would happen if the population keeps growing. Will you still be able to enjoy that? What kind of world are we creating for the children on earth?

3.       Eat less meat/fish/dairy, choose organic meat and dairy, or eat only plant-based foods
The meat and dairy industry not only contributes to huge amounts of pain and suffering to innocent animals and the people who have to work there, but also contributes a lot to climate change. If you want to learn more about this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.
Fish is also not a good alternative, because the oceans are overfished and fish populations are decreasing at an alarming rate. But the good news is that we can live happy and healthy lives on a largely plant-based diet. And if you are not ready for the change yet, you can still get your meat from dumpsters! That way you are at least not supporting the industries financially.

4.       Drive and fly less, take public transport more, or travel only by bike and foot
I sold my car last year as I was not using it much anymore anyway and I was moving countries (from the Netherlands to Norway). Now I only have my feet and my bike and I have not really missed my car since then. Even in winter, when it gets very cold and the roads get icy, I find myself more in touch with my surroundings and being more present when on the road. This is especially true when I am going somewhere on foot.

5.       Buy less stuff, or stop buying stuff for a while to make yourself more conscious of consumption and what you really need
Every time you want to buy something, ask yourself: do I really need it? Maybe there are other ways to get the job done, like borrowing things from others. Sharing and exchanging not only results in great friendships but also cuts out the need to buy everything. Also, you’d be amazed of all the things you can find in dumpsters. So if you need something, first check the dumpster of the stores that sell it for a while. And if you end up borrowing someone else’s stuff, make it a habit to always give back in some way, even if it is just by making it cleaner than it was when you borrowed it.

6.       Become aware of the amounts of (natural) resources you use each day, try to minimize your use of resources, and eventually move towards a self-sufficient life off-the-grid / build an eco-home (such as an earthship)
You can harvest your own electricity/heat, water and food. Install rainwater tanks, re-use gray water, insulate your home with natural materials, collect solar power… There are many ways to make your home and lifestyle more resource efficient (the term energy efficient doesn’t really cover everything, so resource efficient is a better fit). When you simplify your life, you find that you don’t really need much to live a great life. And simplifying means that you will have more time and other precious resources to do the things that really matter to you.
One of my personal goals in the long run is to build a simple eco-home somewhere, preferably from found materials, where I can live in harmony with nature and be largely self-sufficient. 

7.       Recycle whatever you can, reduce your amount of waste, or go zero waste
Choose unpackaged food products (from the market or directly from the farm), bring your own bags to the shop, reuse items at home or give them away to others… There are many ways in which you can reduce your amount of waste. At the moment I technically don’t have any waste because I am living off of society’s waste, but even now it is shocking that I have so much plastic waste. This heap of trash is only 2 weeks worth of products’ packaging:

Only 2 weeks worth of packaging from rescued foods :(

8.       Disconnect from appliances and connect more with life. Spend time in nature.
Although all the appliances we think we need seem to offer more comfort and ease, they also come with the price of disconnection. For example, watching TV robs you of valuable time that could be spent in nature or with friends. Spending time in nature is a good reminder of what it is all about. This is what you are working for. To protect the animals and the plants and the trees. To be able to sit quietly in nature and enjoy the oneness of just being.

9   Reduce your dependency of substances, or go substance-free
This can be medication, tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and other drugs. All those substances make you very much dependent on others and most of them also have quite a big impact on the environment. Even the pill can be replaced by a non-hormonal variant, such as Ladycomp (although this does require some dedication). As with all forms of contraception though, there is always a risk of getting pregnant, so the safest option is to get sterilized.

    10. Learn more: Watch inspiring documentaries!
It is always interesting to learn about alternative ways to live your life and the impact your life choices have on the world. The following documentaries have really helped me to put things in perspective:

* Cowspiracy
Brilliant documentary about the dairy, meat and fish industries: consumption and ‘production’ (which is really a strange word to use when talking about other beings, which implies a lot of things that could be questioned).
If you want or need to see the hard, horrible and depressing truth of animal industries, I can recommend Earthlings – however, the images can be quite traumatizing! I only managed to watch the first 29 minutes with tears running down my face for the entire time, often covering my eyes in absolute horror, and even then some images remained stuck in my mind for at least a few months after. I still feel horrified just thinking about it.

* Zeitgeist: moving forward
Watching this documentary helped me to stop believing in money and seeing the importance of becoming more self-sustainable.

* Fat, sick and nearly dead
This documentary launched a revolution in my food consumption. I was already interested in healthy eating and into raw food at the time, but this documentary really gave me long-term commitment to feed my body with as many nutrients (from plants) as possible. At the same time I also came across the book ‘Peace Food’ by R. Dahlke, which provided me with the science and cemented my motivation to stick largely to plant-based foods.
* Just eat it
 Great documentary about food waste and dumpster diving. It shows how easy it is to find huge amounts of food (after some initial research) and to survive entirely on rescued foods.

How to start a new habit:
The way that works best for me is to treat it as a challenge! My Stop-Shopping-Challenge has helped me to stick to my goals, so if you want to change something, it might help to set yourself a temporary challenge where you can experiment with the new behavior and be motivated to complete the challenge. Make it long enough for it to be challenging so that you will need to problem solve, because if you can overcome those initial 'problems' it is a very empowering feeling which might lead you to extend your challenge!

Some words of encouragement...
When learning about the state that our earth is in right now, it can be very depressing and discouraging. It can make you feel like it doesn’t matter what you do and that you can’t really make a difference. But that is why it is so empowering to know that one person CAN make a difference and if we all do our part, life on earth does not have to end this way. And more and more people ARE doing their part, so you are not alone (even though sometimes it seems that way)!
We can live harmoniously with other creatures and share the planet. We can simplify our lives and live happier, healthier and more meaningful lives, with more freedom, depth and other things to be grateful for than ever before. It may take some work and getting used to in the beginning, but the journey is well worth it.
Show Comments: OR

1 comment:

  1. Nice article except that I completely disagree with point 2. And I would add a point 11: take part in "green" organisations/associations and vote green!