It’s a tempting idea that an eco-friendly lifestyle starts and ends with watching enough episodes of the new David Attenborough series on Netflix. Even though it is beneficial to watch documentaries about the planet and all its treasures we tend to take for granted, harm or flat out destroy without care, that is not yet real action – it’s more like doing research.
First off, I don’t think it’s possible to live an entirely eco-friendly life as you can’t avoid everything that should be avoided in order to really stop the harmful human activities that took centuries to form and are so hard to break free from. Which is kind of the point: it took quite some time to get to where we are, so it will take us quite a while to make some real changes towards the betterment of our own everyday behavior as well. By the same token, even if can’t swing some magic wand around and make everything alright, we can take certain small steps, first of which is to have a more conscious approach to the things we just, well, do and the way we’re so used to be – making a difference could start with evaluating the possible consequences of our actions first..
Wake up, be present, pay attention
Yes, it does sound ridiculous. But before you roll your eyes in utter disdain, ask yourself: how many of the decisions you make daily are conscious and how many are executed in the most neutral and automatic way? Maybe you were brought up with the idea of taking an extra plastic bag every time you go shopping or throwing leftover food away at the end of the day. These seemingly insignificant actions add up during a lifetime. Especially if millions carry the same careless approach we are sort of programmed to operate with when it comes to our everyday existence.
Just pick a day and start to pay attention to what you do, how and why you do it around the house, with regards to food or energy consumption, etc. Whenever you recognize that you’re actually running on autopilot, stop for a second and reevaluate the given action: consider what effect it might have on others, on the planet, on your and your family’s health, perhaps.
Reduce food waste
Sure, leftovers are not the coolest – but there are some easy ways to boost them up. You can always freeze a portion or two, and add another few ingredients when you decide to use the batches later. I don’t like cooking, I’m a terrible chef so I usually find zero pleasure in preparing food. I live with my four-month old puppy – an adventure I highly recommend – so I basically cook for one, which can be difficult for such an unskilled person as I am because well, it’s hard to get the portion right and I usually end up with the possibility of having to eat the same thing for a number of days or a massive amount of leftovers. Which I could throw away, I guess, but I don’t. I put it in my freezer, let it sit there till the next time I feel like having something along the lines of — insert the name of given meal —, then I add something fresh to it and there you go!
Under normal circumstances, giving food away is also a possibility: you’ve got neighbors, maybe a family of five with small children, or old people living nearby. Of course, these days we need to make sure we keep the distance, and probably most people would feel uncomfortable giving or receiving food prepared by someone else than they would during non-crazy-pandemic times; let’s hope this weird period won’t last forever and we’ll be able to knock on the door of our neighbor and say ‘oh, hey, I just baked some cookies/ made too much chili/–insert the name of given meal — ‘ and carry out such a simple act of kindness while also not wasting something others could have possibly enjoyed eating.
In 2020, I moved houses three times. However much I hated the process, it allowed me to free myself from all the things I did not need. If you’re anything like me, meaning you work from home and find it crucial to have enough space around you, at some point you start to think twice about what clothes, shoes, furniture, kitchen appliances you should buy. In-between moving from second to third place last year, I kind of realized how I had so much stuff, yet there was so little that I needed.
Yeah, maybe you don’t need another pair of jeans or bag or an extra set of plates or more pieces of jewelry. (Or maybe you do, I don’t know, all I know is that I have enough things and whatever is missing from my life, no encoded capitalist desire will be able to fill.) Also? Just don’t be one of those people who pile up 600 rolls of toilet paper – like, what sort of solution is that supposed to provide if the end of the world was nearby?
Aim to use less and do more
I wouldn’t be able to give you the exact percentage, but my daily consumption of paper is noticeable enough to mention: since pretty much everything went digital at my workplace, all the paperwork I used to deal with arrive via email, just like all my utility bills except for one (those guys are real dinosaurs of bureaucracy). The same goes for plastic: I don’t buy bottled water, I have my cute textile shopping bags – oh, and btw, if you do go to the store to get a couple of apples, pears, bananas, whatever it is you’re craving, you absolutely have no reason to put each kind of fruit or vegetable into different plastic bags. Apples won’t hurt the oranges – if you know what I mean!
I think we’re more likely to overconsume these days, whether it’s clothes or food or objects that are meant to sever our comfort; it is only a matter of common sense to cut back on what we keep piling up and throwing out and just step away from the vicious cycle of overdosing our body, mind, surroundings with too much of what we don’t really need.