* Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels
More and more, in our highly industrialized societies, we become disconnected to Earth and its natural rhythms, a planet that hosts us and of which we are an integral part of.
The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that sustains us….we seem to engage in pervasive and increasingly destructive practices, implementing short term solutions that negatively impact the environment and ultimately, our own livelihood. Choosing to place business and financial gain above the long term welfare of other humans, the animals and beings that share the world with us can only have negative consequences.
And if the state of our current global political affairs leave you feeling angry, worried and depressed, take heart, my friend. There is still hope.
Small, simple, daily actions that ALL of us can take can have a cumulative and compounding effect in shaping our world for the better.
And what does “better” mean? here are my thoughts:
*a rising global consciousness that continually evaluates and makes a concerted effort to responsibly use and protect the resources of our planet.
*to individually take responsibility for our actions, small and large, in our own communities.
*to honor, through daily practices, the planet we live on and its ecosystems by consuming thoughtfully, taking no more than we need and replenishing what we use.
I believe that conscious individuals transform their local communities. This ripple effect can trickle down to businesses, corporations and in the end, governments.
Want to make our world a better place? Start with yourself and do these 10 things:
1. Take care of the resources available to you:
I think it is important to start by changing our perspective about the resources that we use on a day to day basis, at our workplace and public spaces.
We often forget but the water, electricity, paper resources and heating systems used by our institutions (like our schools and workplaces) do not, technically, belong to the institutions that employ them. They simply distribute and manage them.
Ultimately, the aforementioned resources are part of the ecosystems of this planet we call Earth. Our home.
Adopting this perspective, we find ourselves less likely to squander or take them lightly. No matter who employs or pays for them.
2. Pick up (your) trash:
One simple thing each and everyone of us can do is to pick up after ourselves, no matter where we find ourselves: at home, at work or whilst traveling.
I have often witnessed careless attitudes in various places where I’ve lived and worked. For example, leaving the lights on, thinking that that is the janitor’s job and they will take care of it eventually; not discarding the trash accordingly because, again, it’s custodian’s job to do so; not recycling even though the option is readily available in the institution; leaving the hotel room a mess because someone else is paid to clean it, so on and so forth.
Don’t expect and think that just because someone is paid to do it (the janitor, custodian, bartender, housekeeper, etc), that you are exempt from doing your part.
These employees are most likely underpaid and overworked. The same goes for public toilets and spaces, airports and bus stations. CLEAN AFTER YOURSELF.
You too like clean spaces, don’t you? then do everything in your power to leave the places and things that you’ve used in good shape. Or at least as you’ve found them.
3. Wash and reuse your plastics:
This one seems counter intuitive, right? plastics were created to be easy to use and even easier to discard. However, due to their durability and their massive production since the 1950′, global plastic pollution has become a serious concern.
Take a look at this chart that details the exponential increase in the mass production of plastics. The numbers are astounding! Given that plastic takes more than 400 (!) years to degrade and only 12 percent has been incinerated so far, it has been steadily polluting our oceans, rivers, streams and well, our Earth. And continues to do so at alarming rates. Read more about this on World Economic Forum’s report and some charts here that explain the plastic pollution problem by world region.
Since there is a ton of plastic that we absolutely cannot avoid (most supermarket items come packaged in plastic) and totally eliminating plastic use is unrealistic at this point (in my opinion), what we CAN DO, however, is reduce the amount of plastic we use my making small changes in our day to day life.
We want to use the plastics that are in our possession as much as possible before discarding them. Plastic bags (sandwich bags, freezer bags, shopping bags) and containers can be reused again and again by simply washing them in soapy water and letting them air dry.
Also, reducing the amount of things we purchase (wrapped in plastic) can make a significant difference. Opting for a solid shampoo (I have used this one in the past with great results) instead of purchasing the one in a plastic container, choosing to use soap instead of a shower gel, choosing a reusable water bottle and a reusable coffee cup are small changes with big impact. Little things matter.
Again, we can’t get rid of plastic completely, but we certainly can reduce our consumption and reuse/recycle as much as we can (if this option is available to us, depending on where we live in the world).
Other things we can do:
*choose disposable paper plates instead of styrofoam or plastic when we entertain or host parties
*use regular cutlery instead of the disposable, plastic ones
*favor glass containers over plastic for storing food
4. Talk to your neighbors:
Get to know your neighbors and the people that serve in your community. Do not be afraid to talk to them. Say “Hi”, smile and make eye contact. Especially the ones that seem lonely, a bit off and disengaged. They probably needed the most.
The same goes for the people at your school, church, job that seem strange and awkward. As best you can, make the effort to get to know them. It could be a simple conversation of 5 to 10 minutes.
This suggestion might seem superfluous but growing up in post-communist Romania (in a tight, community and family oriented environment), then moving to US and living here for the past 7 years, I have noticed a noticeable difference in the way people interact with one another (comparing Eastern Europe to the Western world), as well as to the degree and depth of the interactions.
Yes, USA is a capitalistic country, where, as we all know, independence, individualism and self-centeredness are predominant traits at the cultural and societal level (whereas Eastern countries are typically more family and community oriented). Researching about it to see if I am correct in my perceptions or not, I’ve stumbled upon this article that recognizes the same thing.
I think it is important to remember that we are social creatures above all else. We thrive and progress through and with the aid of our peers. Just as children need multiple support systems to grow healthily, we, as adults, need to feel invested and connected in our communities. One simple and easy way for us to do so is by engaging with one another.
So talk to your neighbors.
5. Choose one cause and learn as much as you can about it:
Of all the things that are happening in our world right now, what is the ONE thing that troubles you the most?
Read and dedicate your time to it. Find as much as possible about it, from various sources, so that you can have informed conversations with others. Let your passion drive you.
Volunteer and donate, your time and skills, to this cause. We may not solve all the world’s problems, individually (nor should we), but we CAN learn as much as we can about ONE issue that is important to us.
Often times, looking into our own “backyard” is a great way to start because:
a) our local community is easily accessible to us
b) we become cognizant of its needs by simply being part of it
c) we have instant access to resources already available to us (people, friends, coworkers with their skills, knowledge and financial resources). The WARM initiative in my local town is a successfully organized effort of multiple churches and local volunteers to provide yearly reliable shelters to the homeless population over the winter time. How cool, right?
Do, as much or as little as you can, with what you are given, right where you are.
6. Put living things back:
That tiny bug you see crawling on your floor and walls? it’s too tiny to hurt you. Really, think how much bigger and frightening you are compared to that small bug. Don’t kill bees, ants and spiders unnecessarily just because you are afraid of them! They serve crucial roles in our ecosystems.
Let them be or gently pick them up and let them loose outside. Ask for help if you can’t seem to bring yourself to do it. Of course, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, if you see a bug or a fly in your home, let it loose. It probably wants to be outside anyway.
7. Adopt a positive mindset:
The most impactful thing you can do to change your life, and consequently the world, is to adopt and practice a positive mindset.
Why? because You, optimistic, hopeful, rational and centered, are much more likely to make consciously better decisions for yourself and others, including the environment.
It will help you keep your cool in stressful situations, bounce back faster after a negative incident and overall, it will change your life for the better.
A positive mindset allows you to have more time to focus on things that really matter: like your well being, your family, a cause you care about AND to fully enjoy your life by spending less time gossiping, brooding, whining and complaining. Now doesn’t that sound nice?
There are LOADS of articles and research on the power of a positive mindset but if you want to start somewhere, check this out.
8. Practice gratefulness:
Another important and life changing habit to practice daily is gratefulness.
The more you stop and practice it throughout the day, the more and deeply you will feel its benefits. Scientific studies agree.
Give thanks for your life, your health, your clothes, your job, your family and friends. It does not have to be perfect (the thing or situation that you are grateful for).
It really doesn’t matter what you are grateful for, but that you are!
Stopping and acknowledging what you have is a powerful, accessible tool that can shift your entire perspective. Even in dire situations as someone’s illness or a car accident there is still something to be grateful for.
Our minds are incredible tools because we can imagine! and we can feel. And the feeling is what propels us towards action and change.
The 5 minute Journal is a great tool to get you started.
Feel the gratefulness and let it permeate your being.
9. Have (at least) one meatless meal per week:
With the variety of fruits, grains and vegetables readily available in most supermarkets, it is easier than ever to make a super delicious and nutritious meal, sans animal protein.
Given that many health risks, as well as environmental concerns, have been linked with the high consumption of red and processed meats, choosing to eat one meal per week that is plant based could open your senses and taste buds to new and wondrous dishes. As well as being kinder to our planet and the animals that live on it.
Sadia’s recipes are always mouth watering and totally plant-based. ;)
10. Take care of yourself:
Last but not the least, take really good care of yourself, every single day.
What does that mean to you and where you are in your life, right now? losing a bit of weight, implementing healthy habits, walking three times/week? giving up a bad habit?
No matter what that thing is, practice it a little bit of it EVERY SINGLE day.
It could be something as simple as a facial once/week, drinking a glass of water first thing after waking up, meditating in the am for 5 min, committing to a weekly exercise routine, or reading for 15 min before going to bed.
Giving up some of your TV or social media time to put your well-being first will feel incredibly rewarding.
You are basically showing to yourself:
“You are worthy, you are precious and you are important enough to put your self-care needs first”.
If you are not whole and healthy, how can you give to the others and the rest of the world?
We may not be able to stop wars single handedly or change corrupt corporations and governments.
What we CAN DO is use the resources available to us responsibly, be good to ourselves and one another and practice a caring attitude towards all things and beings that cross our path.
We are warriors of light after all. :)
Okay friends, what am I missing? What are some of the things YOU have been doing to steadily improve your life and that of the others, as well as the world around you?
Comment down below and let me know!
Hoping that you have a wonderful, love-filled week ahead of you,
*Next week we are taking a virtual trip to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. A place close to my heart for many reasons and a space that is great to visit any time of the year, with friends, family or just by yourself.
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