Wednesday 3 June 2015

8 things you can do - this week - to save the planet

"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew."

So said Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan and it's one of my favourite quotes, one I've been contemplating this week as we hurtle towards World Environment Day (this Friday, June 5, but you knew that).

One of our crewmates
If we are all "crew", what simple things can we all do - right now - to help the world's environment? Everyday things that won't cost much (or anything) or require too much effort?

I give you: 8 things we can all do this week, to help save the planet:

1. Think about your impact on the planet. That's it. No need to actually do anything, not yet. There are five main ways our daily lives have an impact the environment: transport, food, energy, consumerism and waste. Of course, thinking naturally leads to questions, and that's a good thing: Where do your food, water and electricity come from? How much rubbish do you throw out each week? How do you get to work? Once we know where we are, we can see where we need to go.

Yes, let's!
2. Find an eco-friend. It can be anyone who, like you, understands that a healthy natural environment is essential for all life on Earth, including ours. A friend, a co-worker, a neighbour, someone in your family, hell, it can be 1 Million Women. Making changes to the way we live is always more fun, and more achievable, with company. It also reminds us we're all in this together.

Candles by candlelight
3. Have an electricity-free night. First, buy a few beeswax candles (hands down the best candles for you and the environment; try Happy Flame or Northern Light organic beeswax candles). Then turn off the lights, the tv, all devices. (In winter, electric heaters are optional!) Play scrabble or read by candlelight. It's surprisingly calming; like camping, with home comforts.

4. Ditch the car. Not literally, of course. Cars are handy, but most of us don't need to drive as much as we do. This week, try replacing at least one car trip by walking, riding a bike, car-sharing or catching public transport.

Light My Fire's
packable cup
5. Reduce before recycling. The fate of your garbage depends on where you live and what your local council can process. (My local council, Ballina, collects food scraps weekly in the green waste bin, and recycles plastic bags with paper, glass and hard plastics, which is pretty cool.)

But one thing we can all do in this coffee-loving country (Australians drink 1.3 million cups of takeaway coffee a day!) is avoid using disposable cups for one week. Some cafes (like these ones in Sydney) even give you a discount for bringing your own reusable cup. I use a Light My Fire cup that squashes down after use to fit in my bag.

Vegetarian pizza, mmm
6. Eat less meat. The holy grail for sustainable dining is local, seasonal and organic, but going vegan or vegetarian takes it up a notch. Why? Because meat is a land- and water-hungry beast, and accounts for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. (Don't get me started on fish, where there's a whole ocean of other issues.) This week, try to replace at least one meat meal with a vegetarian dish. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has some handy tips for going vego.

Sea, sky, sand: nature's balm
7. Get outside. We're part of the natural world - it's all around us, and inside us, all the time - but it's easy to forget that, particularly when we live in a big city. So do something to remind yourself this week. Use all your senses: feel the sun or a breeze on your face, listen to the rain on the roof, look up at the moon or the trees, smell the sea air, touch (or hug!) a tree. How does this help? When we appreciate our connection to nature, we're more likely to care about our impact on the natural world.

Tree-planting (pic by GeoLINK)
8. Make a positive impact. Living more sustainably isn't just about cutting back, it's about giving back. The natural world is all-powerful, of course, and will survive long after we're gone, but every little bit helps, if only to say thank you for all the rainbows and sunsets. Giving back can be as simple as picking up three pieces of rubbish the next time you're out walking; you can even join the Two Hands Project and record what you find.

Me, I'm going tree-planting on Friday morning, a first for me.

Whatever you get up to, happy World Environment Day!