practically everything: from the air we breathe, to the water we drink and the food we eat to let’s face it pretty much everything. But what does it take to become environmentally conscious? Does it mean fitting to what is often wrongly perceived at the stereotypical environmentalist dressed in hemp clothes, hair in thick dreadlocks and vegan all the way?
It turns out we can all be more environmentally conscious without giving up parts of our lifestyle which we consider essential to our sense of self. Very often small and incremental changes are all that is needed.
So here are 5 things you need to know to become environmentally conscious:
- Educate yourself and others on our environmental footprint
Most of the times we are not even aware of the magnitude of a particular issue or how we contribute to perpetuating unsustainable patterns. For example, when we casually throw a plastic bottle into the bin, we don’t necessarily consider the resources that it took us to produce it in the first place and that recycling it can be much better for both our economy and the planet. Similarly, when savouring a hot cup of coffee from your local café, we wouldn’t think about the amount of single use items, such as coffee cups, that we use. But looking at the numbers can be enlightening and a positive force for change. In the UK alone, about half of our plastic bottles end up in landfill rather than being recycled¹ whereas coffee lovers use around 3bn disposable cups per year².
By making yourself better aware of what is happening around us and sharing this information with others, not only are you helping others realise what impacts our activities are having on the planet and by extension our own future and wellbeing but you are also helping prompt others into action.
- Commit to making small but important changes to your lifestyle
If you know how helpful recycling can be or the difference that avoiding single-use items such as paper or plastic cups can make, it is a small sacrifice to commit to recycling regularly and avoid using disposable coffee cups either by opting for normal cups or carrying a reusable coffee mug with you. A lot of stores give discounts to customers that bring their own cup too!
While this seems like a small change, it can really make a difference. It is also the kind of change that matters the most because it is about behavioural change which is critical to making progress as a society.
- Make informed consumer choices
Knowledge is also empowering in that you can make informed decisions about your lifestyle. For example, by knowing what the benefits of organic products are and what organic good certificate schemes mean, you can make an informed decision about whether you would like to purchase organic products or not. The same goes for fair trade products as well as any other eco-friendly products.
A lot of the times, technology is a great friend to the environment and the consumer! You can use a number of websites or applications that can help you make informed choices about the products you buy but also the services you need. For example, could you set up or be part of a carpooling service? This minimises air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and saves you money! There are many online platforms that make those options available to us and they are only a click away.
- Be open to how the environment can provide fulfilling activities
We often forget how versatile our environment is and how building a relationship with nature can help us find mental balance but also physical wellbeing. Why not open yourself to what the environment has to offer by taking up hiking, cycling or just going on a walk at a local park, reserve or other protected area open to visitors. If you have a bit of space in your backyard, try planting some herbs or other plants.
- Volunteer or donate
Naturally not all of us will become active campaigners for the environment but we may be able to spare a few hours a month or a year to help collect litter from a nearby beach, support the activities of a local environmental charity or make a small donation to help them continue their good work.
In the end, being environmentally conscious is not something that is reserved for those committed environmental campaigners and activities. It can be and should be done by everyone. Just as we see how important it is to take our environment into account when it comes to policy decisions about transport networks, economic activities and healthcare, we should integrate environmental parameters across our different areas of life. This does not mean that environmental concerns will govern all our decisions, but they should be a factor for consideration. Environmental stewardship and awareness should be part of our civic responsibilities.
So go on, take the plunge and do your bit for the environment!