Green is much more than a color. It has come to symbolize 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. We depend on our environment for 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. 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? How is it possible that we are not all green?
Why we are not more environmentally friendly?
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.
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 not 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.
What does it take to be green in daily life?
It is not enough to accept that humans need to respect and protect the environment. Being green means committing to taking steps, both big and small, to minimize the impact our activities are having on the environment.
If you want to be green there are some key principles that should guide your daily life and choices.
- 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 organizations have developed different tools for understanding more accurately our individual impact on the environment. For example, check the environmental footprint calculator from the World Wildlife Fund.
By knowing which of your activities impact the environment the most you can then look to reduce that.
5 Things you should know to become green or environmentally friendly
What does it take to become environmentally friendly? 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 friendly 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.
#1 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 savoring a hot cup of coffee from your local café, we wouldn’t think about the amount of single use items, such as coffee cups we use. But looking at the numbers can be enlightening and a positive force for change.
By making yourself better aware of what is happening around us and sharing this information with others, not only are you helping others realize 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.
#2 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.
Did you know that a lot of places give discounts to customers that bring their own cup?
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 behavioral change which is critical to making progress as a society.
Or 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 traveling 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 minimize your use of natural resources in a way that also helps to make some savings!
#3 Make informed consumer choices
Knowledge is 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.
Being green 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-produced food and fish is particularly important. Conventional agricultural practices are particularly damaging to our land and biodiversity. Extensive fishing of our seas has severely depleted our fishing stocks. So, it is important to support producers who seek to provide affordable food while minimizing the environmental impact of food production.
Reducing your waste is another important aspect. While recycling is good, those who are really green try to minimize 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.
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 minimizes 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.
#4 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.
#5 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.
Go on, take the plunge! It is definitely greener on this side of the fence!