Our planet is called Mother Earth, because much like our own mothers, she gives us life. She is a living entity that sustains us, giving us the air we need to breathe, food to nourish us, water to sustain us, and resources for clothing and shelter.
Mother Earth is one big intricate ecosystem, people are but one piece of the puzzle. Ecosystems are complex interconnected webs, where each part is vital to the overall health of the system. Humanity in general is not participating in a balanced, sustainable way and it is wreaking havoc on our entire planet.
Our goal is to educate and empower you to know that you have the potential to make a real difference. In this blog we will discuss easy to implement, real world solutions to minimize your personal impact on the environment.
What is an Ecological Footprint?
Modern countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and those in Europe use a lot more resources than developing countries. How many resources they use has come to be known as their Ecological Footprint. It is called this because, much like the footprints we leave while walking in the sand, the number of resources we use has an impact upon the earth, leaving a mark.
if everyone in the world lived the same lifestyle as U.S. citizens (in terms of resource consumption), we would need more than 5 Earth's worth of resources to support everyone's need. This is not sustainable. We don't need to sacrifice or go without, we simply need to make better, conscious choices.
Each of us has a personal ecological footprint as well. Those of us living in western cultures have the greatest opportunity to make real change and lighten our impact upon the Earth.
Your individual ecological footprint is calculated by how many resources you use and how much land mass it takes to support your resource consumption. The main areas are: how you feed yourself, the goods you buy, transportation and your home. We will look at each of these more closely later in this blog.
One of our favorite quotes is, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
We can heal the planet in the same way. If each of us do our parts individually, collectively we can do just about anything. A great first step on your journey to helping heal the planet, is to recognize your Ecological Footprint. CLICK HERE to complete a free, online Ecological Footprint calculator. No need to enter an email or any personal info, it is simply a tool for your own knowledge. Just answer a few questions about your lifestyle and resource use to better understand the impact you make.
Once you have completed the survey, you will get a score showing how many earths your lifestyle would require, if everyone on the planet lived just like you do. This assessment is made by comparing to the total useable land mass of the Earth, your resource consumption and the global population.
This tool is valuable to fully appreciate your personal resource use, as well as the main areas you could make changes. Please utilize this quiz by answering a few questions. CLICK HERE to take the Ecological Footprint assessment.
Solutions for a healthier planet
Here are some simple suggestions you can do to reduce your Ecological footprint:
- Eat a more plant based diet. It takes a massive amount of resources in terms of food, land and water to produce meat, especially beef. Not to mention, the staggering effects of industrial farming practices have on the environment.
- Packaging in the food industry uses an incredible amount of unnecessary resources. Shop in the bulk section whenever possible. You can find cereals, pasta, nuts, candy, shampoos, soaps and so much more.
- You can also buy fresh, local foods that are not transported long distances using fossil fuels to get to your town, thus cutting out the carbon trail. Shop farmers' markets and things that do not come packages. Real food doesn't have an ingredients label, they are the ingredients.
- Pick organic produce to reduce chemicals in the environment. Who ever thought that putting poison on our food was a good idea?
- When grocery shopping, always bring your own reusable bags.
- Even better, plant a garden and grow your own food. No packaging, no transportation, no pesticides. If you don't have room at your own house, look for community gardens to participate in, or create one in your neighborhood.
First and foremost would be for all of us to buy less stuff. Ask yourself if you really need another pair of shoes or the newest model of cell phone. Think before you buy and then be a conscious consumer.
Everything we buy is made of resources. There is the raw materials needed to create it, the labor and energy used for the production process, and resources used in packaging plus the carbon trail to get the goods to you.
Don't be swayed by the concept of recycling, as most things we call recyclable are not really recycled. The 5 R's of consumption go like this:
- Reduce- Consume less.
- Reuse- Many things can be repurposed.
- Repair- Fix it before replacing it.
- Rot- Let it go back to the Earth.
- Recycle- Notice this is last on the list.
To reduce the impact of your purchases:
- Choose quality products. Everyday items such as shoes, tools, and appliance that are well made last longer and have the ability to be repaired, creating even longer lifespan. Fast fashion and single use items are used for very limited amounts of time and are then replaced constantly. Opt out of the disposable lifestyle.
- Pick items that are natural, earth friendly and made of sustainable resources. This covers every single thing you buy. If its made of single use plastic, look for the same items that are reusable and made of metal, glass or paper.
- Shop locally made whenever possible to reduce the carbon emissions related to transportation. Local businesses sell products from around the world, so its best to look where the item is made.
- Packaging uses incredible amounts of resources and usually goes straight to the landfill. Try to purchase items without packaging, or with compostable biodegradable natural packaging. Always bring your own bags, take away containers, straws, etc.
Transportation and Travel:
To save on fuel and reduce carbon emissions it would be great if we lived close to our jobs or worked from home, but the truth is, we all need transportation sometimes, if not daily.
- Walk or ride a bike whenever possible. No fuel or resources needed plus its fun and you get exercise and can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
- Use public transportation. By sharing a ride, resources are distributed to a larger group, with more bang for the buck.
- Carpool with friends and family when attending the same events.
- Use ridesharing services so you don't need to own a vehicle.
- Choose to ride a scooter or motorcycle. Get great gas mileage and save money.
- If you do purchase a vehicle, be sure to pick one with good fuel efficiency.
- Traveling by car or train uses much less fuel than flights.
Every little bit helps, think ahead, plan accordingly and do your best.
The houses we live in also use a lot of resources, from building materials to lifestyle. If you have the luxury to build your own home, you can choose to build a smaller house using less resources, choose building materials that are better for passive heating/cooling, add more windows for natural lighting, and plant trees for shade (to keep the house cool). Even better than retrofitting existing structures is to build environmentally sound structures from the start. For most of us though, we have to do the best with what we have. Here are suggestions anyone can implement in their daily lives:
- Live in a smaller home. Less energy to heat and cool, less possessions to fill it. Tiny homes are the future!
- Turn off and unplug unused appliances. Anything plugged in (like your coffee maker) is using electricity, even when not in use.
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
- Paint your roof white to reflect the sun's rays. This natural anti warming method can save air conditioning costs by 40% by keeping your house cool.
- Save the cold water when waiting for it to warm up in your shower. Use for pets, to water your house plants or in the garden.
- Use natural cleaning products. The water and byproducts from your dishes, shower, laundry, etc all go into the water supply and often go right back to the earth. You can even use this "grey water" to water your lawn or garden.
- Compost food scraps or use worm bins. Food scraps, coffee grounds, leaves and other natural yard waste don't break down well in the landfill and can be turned into valuable compost to be used instead of fertilizer.
- Wash your laundry in cold water, save power by not heating it.
- Hang dry your laundry. No need to waste energy, plus you save money.
- Pick natural fiber housewares, from cotton towels and sheets to ceramic or glass dishes. Use cloth napkins rather than paper towels. The choices are endless here.
- Bare floors or area rugs are better than synthetic toxic wall to wall carpeting. Carpets have been proven to make children and pets ill due to the chemicals used to make them and the fire retardant chemicals added. Carpeting also collects known allergens like dust and dust mites. Every time its replaces it takes up much room in the landfill. Use natural floor coverings like sea grass, solutions exist.
- Open the windows for a breeze and fresh air, many homes are bad for your health when kept closed up, and fresh air just smells better.
- Use a fan before turning on air conditioning. Close the vents to only cool the room you are in. Set your thermostat higher in the warm months.
- Add a blanket or put on more clothes before turning up the heater. Set your thermostat lower in the cold moths. Or heat only your bedroom, not the entire house. You can also use an electric blanket rather than heating an entire room.
- Choose renewable energy providers and/or install solar panels if possible.
- Essential oils can be used to deter pests and rodents. There is a natural solution to almost everything.
Have you every thought that somebody should really fix the world's problems? Well, guess what, you are somebody, and you have more power than you know.
Our biggest impact comes from acting cooperatively. Individuals each doing their parts, adds up collectively. If each of us thought more about how we shop, where we shop, packaging, and transportation and made simple changes like eating less meat, the cumulative effects would be astounding. We have the power to create the changes we need.
We have offered suggestions to help you find ways to lighten your personal footprint. We hope you can easily implement many of them into your own life. No matter how eco you may consider yourself, there are always ways to be more Earth friendly. Every day is Earth Day when your care about Mother Earth.
"Be the change you want to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi