Even preschoolers know how to save the Earth

Image courtesy Georgia, of http://www.chrisroberson.net

With World Water Day and Earth Hour both happening this week, I’ve been reflecting on the personal actions I’ve made towards cutting down my impact on our planet over the past few years, and looking forward to additional changes I intend to make. While these actions may seem small, it will be the sum of our individual choices that gets us out of the mess we’ve made. Choosing to believe in and consciously live a sustainable lifestyle of “less is more” is the key.

I’ve committed to making at least two significant environmentally conscious lifestyle changes per year – significant in that they must actually be somewhat of a challenge to achieve. The most gratifying aspect about committing to any lifestyle choice is simply exercising our ability to choose. We live very privileged lives in that we can easily obtain information about a topic, reflect and assess this information in relation to our own values, then make choices and take action in how we will live our lives as a result.

Looking for a small challenge to get started in exercising choice? Here are some places to begin:

  • Stop consuming coffee/tea from disposable paper cups and only use a travel mug or an in house ceramic mug. Seriously – if I don’t have my mug with me and I’m on the run, I will opt out of a hot drink. This means I almost never forget my mug anymore! (Did you know that most paper coffee cups are made of 90% new paper and are NOT recyclable due to the plastic resin coating? Every year, 20 million trees are cut down and 12 billion gallons of water are consumed in the process of manufacturing paper cups. 58 billion cups are then thrown away (not recycled) each year. The disposable coffee cup has become a symbol of consumerism gone completely out of control. Source: Betacup)
  • Stop consuming from single-use plastic containers including bottled water, bottled juices, etc. (Heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Did you know there is one in EVERY ocean gyre?? Bone up on your plastic facts here. Scary stuff. And make sure to watch the spectacular documentary Addicted to Plastic.) On that note…
  • Start purchasing milk in glass bottles. It’s amazing how much plastic this can save, not to mention it just feels quaint and wholesome pouring milk out of a glass bottle. Many companies (including Avalon, if you live in the lower mainland of B.C.) even have home delivery options! Bring on the ‘50s!
  • Get informed on your curb-side recycling program and make sure you’re following the rules. I started taking all of my tetra packs (mostly soy milk, almond milk, and orange juice cartons) to the Return-It centre to be recycled, since British Columbia has yet to allow tetra packs in it’s curb-side recycling plan. (Do you know what’s included and what’s not in your roadside recycling plan? If you live in Vancouver check it out here.)
  • Compost! Even if you live in an apartment building, you can get a small, stink-free compost container and empty it into the curb-side yard waste pick up. You’ll be amazed how much garbage you save by composting.
  • Start commuting by bicycle. This year I committed to cycling to work full time, rain or shine. I bought a great little commuter bike and got it all set up with panniers and fenders to make this a more enjoyable and comfortable endeavour. Not only do I get to work refreshed and rejuvenated from spending some quality time outside my sweat on, but I don’t have to deal with the frustration of unreliable bus schedules or paying for gas and parking. An added bonus- I seem to get my best ideas for writing when I’m pedalling around town!
  • This year, my big challenge will be to cut down my shower times. I recently read a stat on Surfrider that knocked my socks off: a 4 minute shower uses 20 – 40 gallons of water!!! This challenge is going to be a tough one for me because I really love luxurious, hot showers, but I’m committed to making it happen by turning off the water while soaping up and enjoying a couple of minutes of warmth when I’m done.

In the next 2 years, I also plan to start a vegetable garden, either in my landlord’s yard (if they will be so obliged) or else in one of the highly-coveted community garden spaces in Vancouver. I’m really excited to dine on the fruits of my own labor, and it will be neat to learn about growing food in the process.

Don’t forget to join 1.3 billion people worldwide in celebrating Earth Hour TONIGHT (Saturday, March 26th) – turn out your lights from 8:30-9:30pm PST and enjoy a little peace and quiet by candlelight!

Want to get make some conscious changes but still have questions? Feel free to comment below or contact me via Twitter @jodyjwright.

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Jody is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology at UBC.