According to the Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2021, 72% of adults in America believe global warming is happening now. Whether we read the articles, hear the news reports, or are witnessing the impacts firsthand in our own backyards, most of us can agree that things are changing.
Unfortunately, a lot of what we read, hear, and see leaves many of us discouraged. We wind up feeling paralyzed, guilty, or hopeless. There is a sense of helplessness and deep down, we want to make a difference-- but how?
The issue is undoubtedly urgent, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There is a huge misconception that “going green” is always expensive, time-consuming, and complicated… but nothing could be further from the truth.
Being environmentally responsible won’t cost you your weekends, your paycheck, or your lifestyle. Change is only sustainable when it actually works for you! There are easy steps we can all take to reduce our individual impact on the planet.
You may be skeptical about making environmentally friendly adjustments in your personal life, wondering, “Will making these changes really make a difference?” To answer that question, I want to share the Starfish Story. This tale is endearing (if a bit cheesy), and serves to remind us that our seemingly small actions do matter.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference for that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
We all live within our own unique ecosystems. It starts with ourselves and moves out to our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our cities and so on. There are opportunities to help the environment at each level of your ecosystem hierarchy, but the easiest place to start is with yourself.
A lot of energy goes into growing, making, and shipping our food, and therefore can be reduced by simply wasting less of it (along with saving money!). Start by trying to incorporate meatless Mondays and packing up those leftovers for lunch. Check out the Reducetarian Foundation for more on this topic.
Not only do food scraps stink up your garbage, but they also produce methane as they rot. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that we can all help to reduce by cutting down on food waste. There are new technologies coming out that support composting at home, but they are unfortunately still costly. Lomi is just one of many. There are also organizations that will do the composting for you- here is a list of options in Florida.
The world runs on coffee, but consider where you get yours from. Support a global mission to protect farmers, their communities, and the land they depend on for their livelihoods by purchasing Fair Trade coffee. Fair Trade USA provides a list of coffee companies that are doing just that.
LED light bulbs use less energy and will save you money in the long run. Florida Power & Light also offers a business rebate program to help your business replace the lighting with LED bulbs.
Sounds simple enough, right? Switch off the lights and turn up the air conditioning when you’re not home. This simple act can save energy and money! Or get a smart thermostat like Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat to do the work for you.
The next time you run out of something in your kitchen, consider an alternative that has less of an impact. Here are a few alternative options for common household products;
When your bathroom starts running low on necessary items, here are some greener options:
This may seem obvious, but according to the United States Census, our current recycling rate is only at 32 percent. We have a ways to go! Here is a list of items that can be recycled in Palm Beach County, but remember, your recycling must be clean before you put it in the bin. No food or liquid! And while it may seem counterintuitive to the cause… when in doubt, throw it out. Putting something that cannot be recycled in a recycling bin can cause machine clogging and actually delay the recycling process.
Almost every grocery store sells reusable bags. They hold more than traditional plastic bags, they’re easier to carry, and they last for years. Keep them someplace convenient, like the trunk of your car, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them.
The Federal Trade Commission gives consumer advice on how to get less mail from marketers and how to stop credit card and insurance offers.
As a final bonus tip-- talk about your easy lifestyle changes with your friends and family! Inspire them to take their first step towards reducing their impact on our planet. These conversations are crucial in spreading the word and scaling these efforts. By implementing even one of the tips mentioned above, you are making a difference for the planet we all call home.