For as long as I can remember, protecting the environment has been important to me. The earliest instance of this is when I was 4 or 5 years old on the school playground and I had gone around collecting stray trash from the ground and shoving the pieces into my pockets. One of my friends made fun of me about this to no end, going around calling me a “garbage picker” (yes, we’re still friends) and I guess I was, especially given that the garbage never made it to the bin and stayed in my pockets. Still, I like to think that I was doing it for more of a reason than just an odd way to occupy my recess minutes. Maybe it was a bit of both.
The next time I can remember doing something eco-motivated was when I was 15 years old and I joined Meat Free Monday. The movement is pretty self-explanatory although, fun fact, Paul McCartney and his daughters are big supporters. I don’t remember this as being a health driven choice, but more of an environmental one. I found out about red meat consumption’s ties to climate change, and wanted to do something. Oh, and this was also the year Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released.
Then, a year later, I joined the environmental club at my high school with one of my best friends (the same friend who called me a garbage picker, it should be noted as she’s probably reading this). I honestly don’t remember doing much in that group besides making sure everyone in the school knew how to properly recycle, but I think my heart was in the right place. This was around the time when I began to really listen to my dad when he told us all to “turn off the lights when you leave the room”, and to maybe not take 30-minute showers.
The next time my environmental heart was stirred was in my first year of University at the U of R when my English 100 class was subgenred as environmental lit. It was in this class that I first read stunning works of environmental poetry and, of course, David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance.
A year later, I had ditched Uni and moved to Toronto to give my music biz dreams a shot. It was in this year that I low-key joined the Toronto Greenpeace chapter. This endeavour was short lived as I found out more about the company and decided I just couldn’t get on board with some of their missions. I’ve always been an idealist, but something with that just rubbed me the wrong way.
I guess what I’m trying to get at with all of these half-assed attempts at being part of something bigger than myself, is that I’ve always tried and I’ve always cared, even if I’ve been lazy as hell about joining groups and sticking to them. But through it all, I’ve learned the things I’m doing right, the things I can do better with, and, most of all, that the biggest hurdles to making a change are to get us all to take off our blinders, create a voice loud enough for lawmakers to hear, and to get past selective empathy.
I’m not saying there hasn’t been change, because there has, in regulations and in overall mentality, but there is so so much more that we could be doing, and this year, I’m making it my mission to do those things. To be someone that, from an eco standpoint, I can be proud of. I want to know that I’m waking up every morning and doing the best I can.
So here it is, my environmental manifesto of sorts. The things we can all do to make the world a greener, cleaner place for ourselves, the animals we share this planet with, and for generations to come. Here is what I pledge to do every single day of my life from from now until my body gets re-purposed as tree fertilizer.
An Environmental Pledge For Us All
I pledge to…
Ditch fast fashion and only purchase high-quality items I know I’ll love
Despite the fact that I could walk into a mall right now and get giddy at all the fashion in cheap retail stores such as H&M and Forever 21, I pledge to only purchase clothing I know will last me a long time, even if it means spending more money in the moment, and will wear into the ground. Further to this, I’m going to start looking at sustainable clothing companies, who use green fabrics and humanitarian methods of clothing production.
Give up single-use plastics as much as possible
Given that I already never go to the grocery store without my reusable shopping bag, I feel like not going the extra mile on this is a personal laziness issue. I mean, there are obvious things I could do to lessen my plastic use.
For example, I can simply purchase less items that are packaged in plastic (of course, it’s “simple” until you go to the grocery store and realize how many things are wrapped in the stuff). I can bring my own water bottles and coffee mugs with me to coffee shops instead of using their paper/plastic ones, I can bring my own reusable straws and collapsible to-go containers to restaurants, and I can make my own cleaning supplies instead of using ones in disposable plastic bottles.
Another area where I find myself consuming a lot of plastic is in cosmetics and toiletries. There is no reason why I need to buy a new bottle of shampoo every couple months when I could easily be using solid shampoo and conditioner (on that note, I still haven’t found a solid conditioner I love, so if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears).
Cut down on waste as much as possible
Perhaps this is just further to the plastic thing, but I want to seriously cut down on how much I chuck into the garbage bin every week, no matter what it’s made of. I’ve watched tons of videos on how to go trash-free, and while it’s definitely something that’s going to be a learning curve, I believe I can do it.
Whatever I need to buy that will eventually create needless waste, I’ll recycle. It’s the three R’s, folks.
Book with tourism companies that have sustainable initiatives
Let’s face it, travel isn’t exactly a green thing to do. And yet, staying home all the time and depriving ourselves of a global, worldly mindset seems pretty grim as well. Luckily, one of the ways we can do better while traveling are to choose companies that care as much as we do. In fact, there are so many companies out there that donate to carbon offsetting programs such as reforestation.
It’s up to us to do our research and pick out the companies we want to give our dollars and time to. This goes for hotels as well.
Call out irresponsible behavior
In a totally nice way though, of course, or else it can just really go in the opposite direction. When I see people on hiking trails littering or not following basic leave-no-trace principles, I’m going to say something. When my friends and I are out for lunch and they reach for a straw, I’m going to nicely give them one of my clean metal ones.
There are ways to speak up without offending, and to nudge people in a more green direction without being condescending. Shifting to more green ways is a struggle until it’s a habit, and everyone’s on their own journey.
Clean up my surroundings as I am in them
When I go to the beach, it’s so easy to do a quick 20-minute beach cleanup, and it’s so easy to carry around a small bag so that when i’m on a day hike, I can pick up trash that other people have left behind so I can dispose of it properly later.
There is nothing shameful about cleaning up outside (just don’t keep the trash in your pockets). Other people have already been reckless, and not doing something about their recklessness, even in just a small way, would be to pretty much endorse it.
Whenever possible, I’m going to try and purchase locally farmed or crafted products. I’m talking farmers markets, greenhouses, and craft sales all the way here, folks. Of course, this isn’t always possible if you live in the tundra (okay, so Alberta isn’t the tundra but potatoes aren’t exactly farmed in winter), but in a greater effort to support the local economy and stop most of my consumed goods from being shipped in from elsewhere, this is a little something that can go a long way.
This goes for travel too. When on the road, purchasing local souvenirs goes so much further than buying that same trinket from the airport on the way out of town. When we purchase directly from the artisan, not only do we know where our funds are going, we help to build up the local economy.
Money that can be used in so many ways that will come back around for the locals. Environment for us, environment for all.
Eat less red meat
Okay, so obviously this one is kind of a pledge I have already been doing for years, but eating less red meat is not only great for our bodies, it’s great for the atmosphere as well. And yes, I know this is controversial, especially given that it’s estimated 40% of developed countries agricultural output comes from livestock. That said, scientific reports vary in their estimates of how much livestock contribute, but according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock are responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, there are things farmer’s can do to help this number, and for those who have, I salute you. But even with those efforts, the number is still projected to rise due to an ever-increasing human population, and an ever-increasing consumption of meat.
I honestly can’t tell you the last time I purchased red meat, and I go pretty easy on even chicken and fish at home (I tend to opt for alternative sources of protein), but I know that I slip up on this when I eat out and go to friends houses. I wan’t to do better with this, one veggie burger at a time.
Take more public transit
At the moment, I live in a city where public transit is pretty much non-existent. So, while I do have a car, I pretty much limit my use of it to getting to work and back (7 minutes drive each way), and to weekend road trips. Outside of my car use though, one of my biggest carbon footprint culprits is airplanes, and it feels like such a struggle to take less of them.
Yet, I do have a few travels planned for 2019, and instead of taking a plane absolutely everywhere (which is just so cheap and quick when not in Canada), I’m going to make a point to see more of this beautiful planet from the good ol’ bus. I find that this also gives a more cultural experience though at the same time, so what’s lost in time is gained in adventure and sustainability.
An Eco-Friendly Packing List
What are some more ways we can all go green in 2019? Let me know in the comments!