It has come to symbolise our natural environment and the planet Earth and how important it is to safeguard them for our own benefit and that of future generations. Being green is living one’s life in a sustainable way and ensuring that our activities as individuals or a community reflect our planetary resource limits. Going green means that we acknowledge how precious Earth is and the importance of protecting our planet for our children and grandchildren. At first sight, these principles seem hard to argue against. Who would want to degrade their environment and pollute the Earth if the consequences are so clear and backed by arguments. So how can it be possible that we are not all green?
Perhaps one reason is that instead of being green, our society has taught us to be greedy. We grow up in a society where consumption and acquiring material goods are the primary motivating force and factor of success. This mentality is diametrically opposed to the notion of being green. Being green means recognising resource limits and the need to co-exist with other creatures which means ensuing they have enough space to live and grow. In contrast, our greedy way of life supports that we can take as much out of nature as we want to satisfy our ever-increasing needs.
So if you are prepared to acknowledge that the planet and its natural resources are here only for our exclusive use, and they need to sustain other living creatures and plants which in turn are essential for our own survival and that of other humans in the future, you are one step closer to being green.
But what does it take to move from being green in theory to being green in practice? It is not enough to accept that humans need to respect and protect our environment. Being green means committing to taking steps, both big and small, to minimise the impact our activities are having on the environment. And recycling your plastic bottles, paper and aluminium cans at home is not enough on its own. In fact, if you want to be green there are some key principles that should guide your daily life and choices. These are¹:
- Know how your activities impact the environment (for example, assess your environmental or carbon footprint)
- Reduce pollution
- Reduce resource and energy use
- Consume sustainably and reduce or even eliminate waste
It might be that most people do not understand what their personal impact on the environment is. This is why some organisations have developed different tools for understanding more accurately our individual impact on the environment. For example, check our WWF’s environmental footprint calculator here.
By knowing which of your activities impact the environment the most you can then look to reduce that. It might be that you are using a car which emits a high level of pollutants. You could consider replacing it with a hybrid car which will also help you cut fuel costs. Even better, you can choose to leave your car at home and use public transport or cycle to work and different chores. For longer distances, consider whether travelling by train as an option instead of a plane.
Similarly, opt for products that do not emit any toxic substances into our environment. A lot of personal care products such as creams, shampoos and scrubs or other household items such as soaps, cleaning products and detergents contain chemical substances that upset the balance of ecosystems. While we use these products in our homes, they often end up in the water system and from there into aquatic environments. To avoid polluting the environment in this way, it is important to buy environmentally friendly products or use natural solutions for cleaning, for example vinegar or baking soda.
When using water, be sure to do so with care. You can easily install reuse water systems to clean water that goes down your kitchen sink is redirected to your garden hose. Installing solar panels is a more sustainable way of generating electricity and helps you save on energy bills. There are a ton of solutions to minimise your use of our natural resources in a way that also helps you make some savings!
Being green also means ensuring that the products you buy and use are sustainable. This means that they come from sustainably sourced resources and where possible renewable or from recycled products. For example, recycled paper which is certified is readily and cheaply available on the market today. Same goes for recycled plastic products. Purchasing organic or sustainably food and fish is particularly important. Conventional agricultural practices are particularly damaging to our land and biodiversity. Extensively fishing our seas has severely depleted our fishing stocks. So it is important to support producers who seek to provide affordable food while minimising their environmental impact. Reducing your waste is another important aspect. While recycling is good, those who are really green try to minimise waste generation by buying products in bulk, or without any packaging and avoiding the use of single-use items such as plastic cutlery and paper cups.
So go on, take the plunge! It is definitely greener on this side of the fence!