Today the earth is under so much stress due to anthropogenic activities…climate change, unsustainable resource use, species extinction…even more so today in Canada with so many federal environmental regulations beings stripped down or removed entirely by the current government. It’s hard not to get in a negative state of mind or feel powerless…that an individual can’t help or make a difference. I believe that every little thing we do matters and we can feel empowered that we are doing the best we can and make choices that better support the planet and other creatures that share it with us. I thought I’d share some ideas on things I do in my daily life to help the earth and ultimately myself. I am not extreme in my approach but thought I’d offer up the little changes I’ve made in my own life to send a little love to the earth.
Green up Your Home and Beauty Routine
Why expose yourself, the people and pets you share your home with, and the creatures in the receiving environment that receive water we use for bathing and cleaning to harmful chemicals. For your home, there are tons of natural options available for cleaning products. The Queen of Green, who hosts a blog on Dr. David Suzuki’s site http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/ has lots of recommendations, recipes for natural products and shopping checklists. The Environmental Working Group (EWG, http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides) has a series of guides and searchable databases you can use to look up products to see how they rate in terms of toxicity based on ingredients. I used their cosmetic database as well as the Good Guide’s database to search for new products and examine the existing products I was using when I greened up my beauty routine. Just because items are approved by regulatory agencies for use does not mean they are adequately tested for human health effects or that they’re safe for use in the long-term. The inspiration for greening my beauty routine was Canadian journalist Gillian Deacon’s book, “There’s Lead in my Lipstick”. It’s a great starting point. I have since switched to much simpler beauty products, started using henna on my hair instead of commercial colour mixtures, and making some of my own beauty blends (including those I use for my Indian head massage treatments).
Support your Local Environmental Protection, Conservation, and Preservation Groups
In British Columbia, there are some outstanding environmental groups practicing solid science and really taking a stand against the current government’s focus on economic growth without due consideration for the short or long-term impacts on the environment and future generations. While as an individual you may not be able to create big changes (not to say you shouldn’t be inspired to try), supporting a local environmental group and their initiatives is a great way to try to create positive change and protect the earth. Some of the groups I’ve been very impressed with especially in the last year with their efforts to use science to analyze potential impacts of the Keystone Development include Nature Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation. The Land Conservancy does great work finding donors with beautiful parcels of land that are preserved and sometimes made into parks. There might be a garden or park you visit that has a Conservation Society you might like to donate to. Find a cause that resonates with you, something you feel passionate about and support it! Even if it’s a small donation it will be put to good use.
Teach the Children in Your Life to Connect with and Respect the Earth
Whether you’re a parent or an aunt/uncle or friend to those of the younger generation, teach by example on the importance of respecting the earth. Getting kids to feel a connection to nature, be it a pet, spending time outdoors, visiting the aquarium, is so important to children feeling that they are sharing this planet and not sole owners of it. In today’s society there’s a bit of disconnect of children understanding where all the things we use in our daily life come from. Help them to see all the things the earth gives us and why it’s important to protect it. Be an inspiration… if you’re out for a walk in a park and see some garbage, pick it up and throw it out in the next trash can you come across. Instead of letting the little ones pick a flower or plant on a walk, only to toss it on the ground halfway down the trail, share with them that the plant is a home or food for someone smaller, be it an ant, bee, rabbit and to leave it be for them to enjoy. Get them to join in on a shoreline clean-up. Teach them to respect and be kind to animals. To turn off the tap when they brush their teeth. To see how we are connected and rely on the earth, and to see the impacts of their actions and to feel empowered that they can do little acts that help protect the earth.
Sending Love or Healing Energy to the Earth
As a Reiki Master, I teach my students how to send healing Reiki energy to the earth. As part of my personal practice when I go for a walk everyday in nature I send Reiki energy to the Earth and creatures in the park and surrounding area I go for walks in. You don’t know Reiki? Just visualize connecting with the earth and nature and send love and gratitude for all the things the earth gives us.
Amp up your Recycling
I live in a condo and based on the City of North Vancouver’s recycling program we can recycle:
- glass jars and bottles
- metal (aluminum foil containers, food and beverage cans)
- plastic containers (with labels 1,2, 4, and 5)
- mixed paper (e.g., magazines and junk mail)
- newspaper and inserts
- corrugated cardboard (boxes)
Because of the refundable deposit system in BC, there is great incentive for people to return beverage cans and bottles to recycling centers for cash money.
Going beyond this though is where you can really impact the amount of garbage you produce by visiting the Pacific Mobile Recycling Centers (http://www.pacificmobiledepots.com/), which is a pay-by-use recycling service. We’ve been using this service for a few years now and when we first started going I think the North Vancouver location was the only depot in the Lower Mainland. They have since expanded their operations and now have a depot set up in more locations in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. In North Vancouver, they come to the Presentation House Theatre the 3rd Saturday of every month. The cost is usually $6 for a big garbage bag. We recycle tons of things that would otherwise go in the garbage and be sent to the landfill including:
- all the other plastics items not accepted by City of North Van including plastic bags (including food manufacturing bags as well as the grocery store variety), plastic bottles, various hard and soft plastics)
- styrofoam (be it packaging from electronics, popcorn or take-out containers) – it is truly astonishing the amount of styrofoam they collect each month
- foil-lined bags (chip bags, tea bags)
- electronics (by weight)
We bought a great container at IKEA, which we use to organize our materials with plastic bottles for beverages in the largest compartment, foil-lined bags on another, and all the other plastics that can’t be recycled by the City.
You’ll learn alot and be inspired by going to the drop off location. We have a friend we see there who has dismantled all kinds of things. You will be amazed and inspired by the hard-core recyclers. You’ll also learn it’s easiest if you sort the night before (wow look at those smart people) instead of digging stuff out of your bag and wandering from container to container. Sometimes when it’s not too busy the people there will help you sort your items.
You will be shocked at how much you recycle if you start doing this and how little garbage you’re producing!!!
Buy Organic or Cruelty Free Products
I know there’s debate on how “organic” some of the organic produce and items you buy are. I won’t get into that debate but say just try to become informed about labels and what they mean if you’re concerned about the authenticity or degree of “organicness” to something you’re buying. When I initially started buying organic produce I was buying it more to protect myself from consuming pesticides. Later on I realized that when you buy organic produce you are also supporting a farm that is using better, safer methods, which may be more expensive to produce, and you’re also protecting the environment and other creatures from use of unnecessary chemicals. If you eat meat or eggs, you can choose to buy products that are hormone-free, free-range, or eggs from hens raised under more humane conditions. There is definitely a movement afoot to be more compassionate and humane to the livestock that people consume, with new regulations coming out in the last year; it can be shocking when you realize how animals are treated because they’re going to be slaughtered anyways. You may want to read books (e.g. Food Inc) or documentaries on this topic to help you choose more responsible options. Again this is a peace of mind thing. You may even want to consider reducing or eliminating meat from your diet. In the Lower Mainland there are so many wonderful local producers to choose from that you can support. We buy our groceries from Spud (http://www.spud.com/ – shout out to Spud, which I absolutely love). They offer a wide range of local products, organic produce, and even calculate how far your groceries travel and deliver them to your door with alot less packaging.
These are just a few things that come to mind and I’m sure you all have great ideas to share. Just give some of these ideas a try. They’re really easy to implement and you’ll have great peace of mind over the choices you’re making in your daily life that help you and the planet.