Earth Day Confessions
I have a love/hate relationship with Earth Day..
On the one hand, businesses and individuals come together for a day of good. There are brands donating money to environmental causes, there are individuals skipping single use plastics and biking to work and there is awareness raised for the struggles of our beautiful planet.
On the other hand, it’s a day of big words that quickly evaporate. It’s the environmental equivalent of New Year’s Resolution. It provides a good excuse for motivation and resolve that quickly gets left behind and forgotten.
It can also be overwhelming. Beeswax wrap and carbon offsets and, wait a minute, I’m just one person.
Our impact on this planet is something I am passionate about. I hate seeing new oil drilling rigs every time I leave the house and plastic filling our oceans and new studies showing just how dismal our future may be. But I also recognize, that it can be overwhelming.
When you are trying to pay rent and figure out what you want to be when you grow up and manage relationships and keep the never ending pile of dirty dishes at bay, trying to also minimize your impact can feel like a lot.
So, in the spirit of Earth Day, I’m bringing you a list of ten things. The first five things are ways I’m minimizing my impact on the planet. I hope they inspire you to start small.
5 Ways I’m Minimizing My Impact
No plastic bags, no exceptions. Years ago, we made not using plastic shopping bags a New Year’s Resolution. It stuck and we’ve been plastic bag free for years. I’m terrible at remembering our reusables, but my commitment has made me creative. I’ll walk out of the store with peanut butter in my purse and a cucumber in my back pocket and a box of pasta in my hoodie’s kangaroo pouch and an arm full of precariously perched items. The cashier always asks, are you sure you don’t want a bag? My answer is always an emphatic yes.
Being trail conscious. One of the biggest human impacts we see here in Colorado is over and misuse of trails. We always use the trail, even when there’s a quicker way to get from point A to point B. When the trail is muddy, we sacrifice our shoes to walk straight down the middle, avoiding widening the trail and trampling vegetation. We pack out our dog poop bags by tucking them under our car’s windshield wipers and bringing them to a trash can.
Cutting out meat. I don’t ever plan on being fully vegetarian. But in the last six months, we’ve cut way back on our meat consumption. Generally, we only eat meat three or four meals a week. A few years back, we participated in the Pulse Pledge, which was an awesome way to bring awareness to the footprint your food has. Pulses, which are legumes, peas and lentils, are very efficient to grow and packed with protein. We eat a lot of beans, tofu and veggie heavy dishes and don’t feel like we’re missing out.
Cutting back on eating out. This year, we resolved to only eat out three times a month, and only do coffee out three times a month. Admittedly, this was more of a financial goal than an environmental goal, but I’m realizing it’s making a big impact. We’re cutting back on to-go coffee cups and we’re aware of the packaging and food waste happening with every meal rather than being blissfully ignorant as we order food.
Choosing not to have children. I know, I know this isn’t really a small minimization and it’s not for everyone. I’ll be writing a more in depth post on the reasons behind our decision soon, but one of them is the environmental impact. Topher and I’s time on the planet will be a net negative. We won’t be replacing ourselves, we won’t be adding more. This study shows that not having children is the single greatest thing you can do to minimize your environmental impact.
The next five things I’m going to share with you are ways in which we’re failing to minimize our impact. I’m not sharing these to clear my guilty conscious, but because I want you to know that it’s okay to speak out about climate change and care deeply while still failing. Failing is part of being human. There are ways in which I can make a difference, and ways in which I can’t right now, or am unwilling to. Caring about the planet doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. While I admire people who are bending over backwards to minimize their impact, 71% of all carbon emissions come from 100 companies. If you forget your reusable cup, don’t beat yourself up. If you can’t afford an electric car or organic produce, it’s okay. Do what you can do. Because the little things add up.
5 Ways I’m Failing to Minimize My Impact
Being conscious of where my food comes from. I know that transportation of food leaves a big footprint. I know that pesticides are killing bees and polluting our waters. I am guilty of buying food like bananas that come from far away. I am guilty of buying apples the size of a grapefruit. Living in Colorado, it’s tough to buy local, especially in the winter when your only options are potatoes and, um, potatoes. I also don’t have the means right now to buy organic.
Volunteering. I am very selfish with my free time. I barely give my free time to my friends, let alone doing unpaid work. I’ve realized, however, that while I may not have money to give, I do have time. And, what’s going to ultimately be more fulfilling, scrolling through Instagram in bed, or giving back to the planet? Yeah, I’m going to volunteer this year.
Reducing single use plastics. I’ve become aware more this year about how many single use plastics I’m using. It’s scary when you start to become cognizant of the plastic sea we move through every day. I’ve been trying to reduce my consumption, but I know I’m barely scratching the surface. I’m not quite ready to give up tampons yet, but I am washing out my ziploc bags to reuse and skipping the straw.
Reducing airline travel. Travel is something that is so important to me and it’s a contradiction I’ve wrestled with. Travel is inherently not environmentally friendly, especially air travel. It’s not something I’m willing to give up. We won’t be doing much personal travel this year, but I’ll be flying a lot for work. When we’re financially stable, I’d love to buy carbon offsets for my travel. For now, I’ll remember my reusbale water bottle and admit that this is one way my impact is going to remain large.
Driving less. We drive a lot. We always have. I’m talking, like 20,000 miles a year on one car. Every year. We do tend to share a car and carpool a lot, which helps, but driving does make a huge impact. We can’t afford to live close to my office and we love to recreate, which usually involves driving. Our Subaru gets decent gas mileage, which helps a bit, but it’s yet another impact I’m not willing to give up right now.
So, there are my anti-green confessions. I’m human, you’re human. The reality is, we’re going to leave a mark on this planet. It’s okay. But, let’s do what we can to make it a good mark.