Helping the environment and helping yourself don’t have to be in conflict. Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be much of a tree-hugger, I actually do a lot of the things environmentalists recommend for a sustainable future. I’d like to list a few of those things and others you can do to save the world and improve your life at the same time.
I rarely drive. Any commute that takes less than twenty minutes on-foot automatically becomes a walk. This includes the winter, and where I live that can mean -40 degree colds. Walking over driving may seem inefficient and time-consuming, but I prefer it for a number of reasons:
- Less stressful, no traffic jams.
- Forces you outside. Most people spend the majority of their day inside boxes. One for their house, another for their car and back into a cubicle in their office. Get outside the box.
- Listen to audio tapes/music. If you don’t feel like taking a silent, thought-walk, put on an audio book and learn while you move.
The meat industry has a huge environmental impact. Livestock consume mass amounts of grain that could be used to feed the world’s poor and reduce the land area needed to grow crops. Animals also produce huge quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas.
Eating vegetarian also has benefits for your health. Most of the nutritional data I’ve seen points to a near or completely vegetarian diet to be the ideal diet for human health. Even if you aren’t willing to give up steak and chicken, consider having a vegetarian day once per week. It will be better for your health and the planet.
Waste not, want not. Don’t buy food you don’t plan on eating. Don’t waste electricity or water. Don’t expand your lifestyle to overwhelm the things that are truly important. Living minimally doesn’t need to be a sacrifice, instead it can be refining out of life what really matters and forgetting the distractions to that.
Consumerism is a disease that infects a lot of people. It is also a disease that has been laying it’s side effects on the planet. “The things you own end up owning you.” (from Fight Club)
I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how computers are distancing us from nature. I believe this technophobia is unwarranted. I think going digital can actually be the step humanity needs to take to save the planet we live on.
In the past, much of our social wealth was physical. This meant that any net increase in social wealth resulted in using more resources of the planet. As we become more digital, I believe social wealth will be more virtual than physical. The result will mean that an increase in net social wealth has less impact on the physical environment.
At the very least, try to go paperless with many of your documents. It will save a few trees and save you a few minutes at the printer, shredder or fax machine.
Here are a few more small things you can do that help the world and yourself at the same time:
- Get Cloth Grocery Bags – Many grocery stores now sell cloth bags to carry groceries in. Not only does this cut the need for plastic bags, the cloth bags are far more durable and easier to transport groceries with.
- Compost – If you live in a house with a backyard, consider getting a composter. It makes great fertilizer for lawns and gardens and it reduces the organic waste in your garbage bins.
- Green Appliances – These can save your electricity bill and energy consumption at the same time.