When I set out late last year to begin soliciting ideas from people of actions and tasks they do with environment in mind, my inspiration was those segments you see (often in local newspapers) where a reporter takes to the sidewalk to ask people their views on certain issues.
I would love to take to the sidewalks one day to do precisely that with these themes in mind. In this era of so much time spent interacting via devices, some good, down to Earth face-to-face time is really valuable and I greatly value being able to have a good chat with people on various issues related to effecting change.
For now though, I would like to share this collective of ideas gathered from people in my various networks who responded. I have been compiling this list as people sent me their responses and thoughts. I could easily keep going with this. My curiosity is genuinely piqued to hear more from people in regions around the globe about what environmentally minded actions look like for them, in their homes, offices and communities.
My intention with Pacific Roots Magazine has always been to have in mind the spectrum of perspective from Citizen and Individual Consumer level to Collective and Community level. I know that positive change requires awareness and intensive action across the spectrum.
Also, as the editor of a site that clearly has many issues related to veganism at the heart of its coverage, it has been an ongoing meditation for me how to approach the basic reality that while interest in plant-based eating is absolutely on the rise, a reducetarian approach is the path that many people are likely to take rather than going vegan overnight. It is a path my own husband has taken in our home and frankly, the very path I took as well before later committing to a vegan lifestyle.
This interest in also understanding and supporting a reducetarian approach, even with plant-based being the centerpiece of my own advocacy, is something I enjoyed talking about with author Kenden Alfond when she shared her “4 Simple Ways to Eat” with the environment in mind earlier this year. This interest may also manifest in podcast sessions as, even being a strict, passionate vegan myself, I can see the importance in this movement for helping people to understand the impact of our consumption on environment as well as animal welfare concerns.
I am an idealist but also a pragmatist. When I envision our humanity in relationship with the environment in an innovative and more harmonious way, I also feel my curiosity constantly piqued when I hear individual stories and see organizational solutions that are helping us to achieve that. I know that there are things we can all be doing, as individuals and as a collective, towards that goal.
-Annika, February 2020
Monika (Stockholm, Sweden): Choosing public transport whenever possible, picking up trash on my daily walks, trying to scale down on plastic packaging, not buying much clothing, eating plant-based, buying local food when possible and inspiring friends and people around me to eat more plants!
Bill (California, USA): These days I don’t do much more than try to limit my driving as much as possible; and I still eat vegetarian. But, there was a time when I did most of my cooking with my solar oven. Because I now live in a house where solar cooking is not convenient, I recently gave the oven to a local middle school teacher, who will, hopefully, be able to inspire his students toward solar cooking.
Felicia (New York, USA): Carry around our own bags!! Although as of March 2020, there will be no more plastic bags and paper bags will cost .05! Public transportation (though that’s obviously easy in NYC (but only taxis/Ubers if absolutely necessary). Make an effort to buy local, in-season foods. Something kind of new to me was learning how much clothing winds up in landfills. Even though we always donate used clothing, I’m still now aware to check out materials before buying something. I now aim for clothing made of hemp, organic cotton and/or linen. I’m working with my daughter’s school to start a composting program – and we might put a bin on our balcony starting this summer. Even before I was eco-aware, I always hated wrapping paper! So for kids’ gifts I’d wrap them in a new, colorful t-shirt (now it has to be sustainable material, of course)! For other gifts, I put in nice, reusable bags.
Mayurii (India): 1. Have stopped using aluminium foils/ plastic to pack lunch. Instead I use a bunch of cloth towel to pack chapatis /bread. Switched to longer lasting steel lunch boxes instead of plastic ones. 2. I no longer buy plastic cutlery or heat resistant teflon coated cooking tools. 3. Learned this from my father who got a medium sized reservoir-style open water storage tank constructed on the outer periphery of his house. Depth is low to prevent any drowning while the length and breadth is big. He fills it with fresh water every other day for street animals (dogs, cows, oxes) to drink. 4. He also keeps a small earthen pot, filled with water right next to a plate containing grains, on the terrace. This is for birds who guest thirsty or hungry. 5. I try not to fly. I try to opt for journeys through public buses and trains as often as I can. 6. I used to waste a lot of paper. Now I use note taking apps to scribble. 7. We noticed we were generating a lot of electronic waste, especially with changing smartphones very often. Have pledged to not buy a new one until existing one is beyond repair.
Gwen (Oregon, USA): I have thought a lot on the things we do to help our local environment. Some things are leftover from living in Germany where the trash was collected twice a month and we had a small garbage can. We strive to recycle all we can to reduce our quantity of garbage. I do try to shop with mesh bags for my produce. I also take all my own shopping bags. I try to buy bulk foods and use reusable bags (draw string flour sack bags). All efforts to reduce plastic usage. In Oregon we can return cans and bottles for a refund. I have been known to take these out of the trash when I see them and turn them in to be recycled. My husband and I belong to our local litter patrol group and as a group we collect trash that is in the ground in our community. We do this May through October. I save glass jars and reuse them to store left over food. I take glass containers with us when we eat out so if we have leftovers I can use my own reusable container. I try to use parchment paper bags instead of plastic baggies. We walk or ride our bikes as much as we can. We are lucky to live near shops! We had our garden landscaped with native plants to encourage more birds bees and wildlife. My husband replaced all of our light bulbs with low energy bulbs. He also had an energy expert come to our house to survey the efficiency of our house. We try to keep the at 68 in the winter and 70 in the summer. We really try to use open windows to air the house when it’s cool in the summer mornings then close the house up during the heat of the day. We strive to not use the AC! That’s a lot but it’s a bit of a passion for us.
Dawndra, Washington, USA: Don’t forget your to go cups, get a zero waste kit, stop buying bottled water and drinks in plastic cups, say no to a straw, tell everyone to watch ‘What The Health?’, ‘Cowspiracy’, ‘Forks over Knives’ and go vegan!
Aletha (Hawai’i, USA): Taking food containers and reusable cups to restaurants , supporting local and honorable agriculture.
Elizabeth (Phillipines): We do things like buy glass when we can and always reuse the glsss containers. The containers now hold anything from bathroom supplies to craft supplies. We save the paper towel rolls and use them at least once more usually as a craft before they get thrown out. We use our reusable straws and cups when we go out. We save all plastic take away containers and use them until they can’t be used anymore. We use beeswax wraps to store things in. Harper’s snack box is made up of all reusable containers. We try to use paper towels as little as possible and use cloth napkins and microfiber cloths to clean with. Other things we do: we never buy gift bags. We reuse all gift bags given to us. We also don’t buy shipping boxes because we save and reuse boxes that get shipped to us. Of course we use our reusable shopping bags. I also recently started using reusable produce bags so the grocery would quit putting my produce in a plastic bag. I even take these to the wet market now.
Lauren (Scotland): 1: Trying to make our house as efficient as possible. We new we would have to do some remodelling when we bought it. We’ve put in A++ efficient appliances and an induction stove. We will install solar panels when we can afford to. We’ve also replaced our condemned natural gas fire for a wood burning stove. Although we know about the pollution concerns around stoves, we chose an A++ rated one, burning only well-seasoned wood or waste wood from a local joinery co. We figured if we use it as our primary heat source, only turning on the heat for approx. 2hrs/day during the winter months, it’s a better option than using gas. It also means we have a heat/cooking source should we ever lose power and no more relying on Russia to keep warm. When our boiler breaks we intend to put in a ground source heat pump or electric model. All these options will also allow us to rely completely on renewable energy sources. 2: We try to cycle everywhere. Annaliese cycles 1.5miles each way to school and Richard cycles to the station, where he takes the train to work in Liverpool. I also cycle with with Alexander in his bike seat. No traffic and we know exactly how long our commutes will take and get a bit of exercise in. We do drive but only when necessary. 3: We buy as many of our groceries as we can for our local waste-free shop. It supports a local business rather than large supermarkets, cuts down on waste and makes our house look lovely. I adore opening kitchen cupboards full of identical glass mason jars. 4. We use our farmers’ market and butcher. Again, supporting local businesses (I go in as much for a chat as for fruit and veg), cutting down waste, buying local sources produce allowing me to choose exactly what and how much of something I want. We eat meat but know exactly where it’s come from and limit how much we eat. 4: Obviously recycle everything possible. Our food waste is minimal but either goes in our allocated council bin or our garden compost bin. 5: We only buy what we need, usually second hand and save a fortune! Our children’s nappy’s were used on other children first. We’ve also recently discovered auctions for furniture. They’re incredible! For the price of IKEA rubbish you can get sturdy, beautiful Victorian oak furniture. Apparently, brown furniture is out of fashion (I prefer to think of it as classic) so no one wants it.
Dempsey (California, USA): As a business we have gone solar, use compostable to go cups and to go containers, have recycle bins next to all our trash receptacles, always provide re-usable mugs, glasses, plates and flatware as a first option and offer recyclable options when needed in substitution. We donate our burlap sacks and try to give away as much of our coffee grounds as possible for composting and gardening. We are also on the wait list within our city to have an approved compost on site.
Melissa (Kansas, USA): Things we do- Minimal beef consumption, Plant-based milk (soy), Reusable shopping bags, Buy local chicken/eggs, Buy local veggies when available, Recycle anything that we can, Avoid disposable plates/utensils, Compost, Mindful water consumption, Pay (slightly) extra on electric for 100% wind-generated energy
Beth (Kansas, USA):Small things: Recycle, I only use reusable bags when I go shopping, I use a reusable lunch bag and water bottle so I no longer buy plastic bottled water. We do food rescue with grocery stores to reduce waste. At work I no longer print everything out. If we have a meeting I send the info in an email and tell people to bring their laptops so we are not making a thousand paper copies of everything. We recycle and shred all paper we do use. I pay all my bills online to reduce getting paper mailings. We no longer use plastic straws when we dine out.
Carmen (Georgia, USA): Well the first I have to say is if you’re not already doing everything you can to live vegan, take it moment by moment, step by step and one day at a time, but keep moving towards that goal. Another thing that we do is swap out disposable products for reusable products. For instance, paper towels and napkins. We still keep paper towels on hand for when the animals have accidents, but that’s rare. For daily use, we’ve invested in “unpaper towels & napkins”. We found them on Etsy and I’m sure you can find them elsewhere, but they’re made from absorbable cloth and we use them daily and just wash & reuse! We also have metal and silicone straws as well as keep travel glass to-go food containers in our car to bring into restaurants to use instead of using what they provide. I use reusable feminine sanitary products as well. Those are just a few small things, but the biggest bang for someone’s effort is to no longer support animal agriculture on any scale. Having taken care of animals in a sanctuary setting has really opened our eyes to how much resources it takes to take care of the few animals that we have here and not to mention all their waste aka poop! We can’t even imagine breeding animals into existence, all the water and food resources to raise them, but then all the dang poop.
Greg (Georgia, USA): Definitely volunteering at a farm sanctuary. Attending animal rights march.
Christina (Texas, USA): I had to take some time to think, because we often do things that become second nature. We use reusable bags at the grocery store and recycle. We often walk to the park or the library instead of driving and carpool with my mom or brother (they both live two blocks away). I try to reduce my use of single use plastics (no straws and reusable water containers). We also recycle clothes through the kids and cousins. I also donate and thrift for clothes and books.
MaryAnn (Texas, USA): Here are a few things that Larry and I do to help our environment. We participate in El Paso’s recycling program by using the provided bin. Each week, we place paper, cardboard, aluminum, and plastic in the bin for pick up. Since I am currently unemployed, I try to do all of my errands in one day by combining the trips. My car has an eco mode, so I use that to save on fuel use. Depending on the book, we download books onto Larry’s tablet instead of buying paper backs. I must admit, I do enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, so I don’t see myself moving completely to digital books. We also use fabric bags when we grocery shop.
Allie (New York, USA):The #1 things you can do is vote in every single local, state and federal election for candidates with a strong commitment to climate change policy and animal rights; and of course, go vegan.
Paul (Colombia): 1. Try to grow some of your own food, even if it is just some indoor peppers and herbs. If you have the right environment and land, maybe you can grow more but even if you live in a New York apartment, you can use hydroponics to grow indoors. 2. Support local organic farmers by buying all your fruits and veggies you don’t grow at the farmers market. 3. Join a Community Supported Agriculture group. 4. If you have the opportunity, swap produce with your neighbors 5. If you really care about the planet, its time to eliminate all meat and dairy products from your diet, since it is well documented that the factory farming of animals is the biggest polluter of the planet. 6. Do not use plastic bags, but reuseable tote bags. 7. Try to avoid buying your children plastic toys. Go for products made with natural and recyclable materials and even better, rather than toys, give them experiences. 8. Purchase products from socially-responsible companies who care about the planet and are doing their part to make a positive impact. Reward these companies with your business. 9. Start to think of the planet in terms of a living, breathing organism. Respect it and it will respect you. 10. Understand that every living thing has a purpose, a service to perform for the benefit of the entire ecosystem. Respect all life.
Jahkota (Hawai’i, USA): Aloha! We recycle and we try to purchase second hand goods a lot. I feel like there is no need to buy new toys or furniture, and thus we get products from thrift stores, Craigslist, or Facebook market place. Our thought is that production creates a lot of waste. Additionally, we try to buy local fruits and vegetables as shipping in foods for consumption utilizes unnecessary fossil fuels. This year our goal is to grow more of our own food and eat less meat. My eldest son is vegetarian and we would like to follow his path eventually. I would like to do more and want to participate in beach cleanups and do some things with the community.
Louise (Norrtälje, Sweden): I try to recycle as much as possible. I also makes rags of old clothes that I use for cleaning and also for a dishcloth. I use very little paper or paper towels. Another thing I have realised that people don’t often think about is that the water you “take up” thru your water tap takes a looong time to hit the ground water level again, I heard 70 years, which means that the amount of water we bring to the surface evaporates and comes down as rain. Not good! So I never let my tap run when I brush my teeth, or while using the soap when I shower or when working in the kitchen. I try to really use all the water I get from the tap. Sometimes it’s hard when the horses don’t want to drink from the bucket, but I try to use that water for something else instead of just throwing it out.