Researchers predict that today, we are in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction. This extinction differs from those that came before us in that for the first time we 7 billion humans are not only the cause but also the potential solution. Overconsumption and exponential population growth are driving humans to deplete Earth’s resources at record rates.
According to the Global Footprint Network, in 2013 the world’s population would have needed 1.7 Earths to support the demands on renewable natural resources. By August 2017, humans had already used up the allowance for Earth’s natural resources for the year. These alarming rates characterize the society we have built: one of endless waste and consumption.
The poorest and most vulnerable populations are already being devastated by the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and more extreme weather patterns. Although you may not be aware of the tragic consequences of human overconsumption yet, if we do not act to protect the Earth now, we may all be in grave danger.
In the face of these grim circumstances we must remember that we are not powerless. We are in a unique time in history where we have the opportunity, or rather, the responsibility, to shift from a consumer species to a restorer species, reclaiming our natural Earth, redirecting the future of our planet, and saving the future of our species.
So how can you consciously support our Earth today and every day? Here I’ve laid out five easy changes you can make in everyday life.
1. Eat Local
The average American’s food travels anywhere from 1,500–2,500 miles before it reaches your table. Not only does this require a massive amount of fuel, but it also creates numerous opportunities for contamination before it reaches your plate.
Support local markets, and research which neighborhood restaurants are sourcing food from the area. Think twice before reaching for that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and make it a special treat, rather than a staple on your grocery list.
2. Reduce Food Waste
Make a conscious effort to minimize food waste in your kitchen! According to a report by The Guardian in 2016, about half of all produce in the U.S. is thrown away, mainly due to unrealistic aesthetic standards of perfection. Although you may not realize the impact of tossing a slightly bruised tomato away, consider that your food waste is deepening hunger and poverty around the world and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.
Before you toss something, remember that fruits and veggies can be stored in the freezer for up to a year and a half, and there are plenty of ways to get creative with them before they go in the trash. At their ripest point, cut your juicy fruits and store them in the freezer for smoothies. Do the same for your veggies and save them for an easy stir-fry or roasted veggie dish.
If you want to reduce your waste footprint even more, compost your food scraps! Many cities now have compost services whereby, for a small fee, a company will pick up your compost weekly and transform it into high-quality soil that is offered back to you a few times a year.
3. Meat-Free Mondays
We now know the staggering statistics about the meat industry’s impact on the environment. An alarming 51% or more of global greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture and 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce a single pound of beef.
The global shift to eating more plants could have revolutionary effects. So although it may not be necessary to completely change your diet, bringing awareness to what you eat and choosing to eat smarter can truly make a difference in supporting the planet. Make Mondays meat free and try out that new veggie burger option you’ve been eyeing.
4. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!
There is simply no excuse for buying plastic water bottles or coffee cups every day. If you know you buy a coffee every day, it’s so easy to buy a reusable mug and fill that with your regular morning coffee. Leave reusable bags in your car so you don’t forget them and stash your favorite water bottle in your office. There are so many simple ways you can consciously support our Earth without drastically changing your lifestyle.
5. Refuse Over-Packaging
Support products with less packaging! It’s really that simple. Although individually packaged items may be more convenient, it’s time to take responsibility and stand for what’s important.
Buy in bulk when you can; refuse to buy products like individually wrapped cheese slices or those cute hummus containers that are perfect for lunch. It’s just not worth it! Invest in some mini reusable containers for dips and dressing. Speak up and say no to plastic bags and plastic utensils when you order take out. Every bit counts.
Each year humans are consuming and wasting more and more, depleting Earth of its resources at way faster rates than it can replenish itself.
The task is clear. For the future of our children, it’s critical that we educate ourselves, take action, and inspire others. Educate yourself on how your daily life affects the Earth and how you can support our beloved planet, even in small ways!
Take action to reduce your personal footprint. Inspire others to do the same. Buy your friends reusable bags, bamboo toothbrushes, or coffee mugs as gifts! The future depends on you; it depends on all of us.