Thoughts on Living More Sustainably

I’ve always been kind of a geek for planet Earth. I blame the little trailer trips and hikes we took throughout my childhood, and all the veggies my mom made me eat. Okay, and I blame the mountains, the feeling of sunshine on my back, and all the flowers everywhere all the time.

Anyway, I do love my planet, and was even the little kid in middle school who bought WWF t-shirts and begged her parents to build her a compost pile. (TBH, I would not have taken care of it, so no hard feelings.) And recently, in a semester-long environmental health class, some of that love was reawakened, and I even joined an organization that has a literal farm right on my college campus. So as I embrace my tree-hugger nature once again, (no pun intended) I wanted to write a little about some of the things I learned from that class and that organization, and some of the ways I’ve been thinking about changing things up to help this floating green and blue orb I am living on!

1) Environmental health is a reciprocating interaction

If I had to pick a single big idea from my environmental health class, it would be that caring for the environment is not a one-way street. I honestly expected 4 months of lessons on reducing, reusing, and recycling, but environmental health is a lot more than that because our environment affects our health too. I suppose that I always saw helping that planet as just not littering or polluting because it preserves biodiversity. But living cleaner, greener lives is good for our individual health as well. By reducing resource consumption, waste, and pollution, we also work at reducing risks of respiratory and heart problems, as well as cancer. By preserving our forests we leave a slice of serenity in our lives. And actions such as greener transportation and vegetarianism can even increase our fitness and overall well-being. When you think about it, living green is better for us, and the lazy way we treat our earth backfires on more than just endangered animals.

2) Loving your planet is good for your psyche

In one of the most interesting topics we covered last semester was environmental psychology, which basically explains the great effects the natural environment has on your mental and therefore physical health. For example, natural light increases productivity, and having greenery in or viewed from a hospital room shows a decrease in the recovery time of patients. I may be a geek here, but I just think that is the coolest thing.

Personally, I can also speak to the stress reducing effects of working in and walking through nature, especially though my brief experience with Howdy Farm (that “literal farm on campus” organization). Whether it was taking some extra time to meander to my car after class, or weeding, or harvesting, I always walked away from an outdoor session feeling just plain better. I seem to remember that from my childhood too, that some of my brightest, happiest memories involved being out in nature, and I can’t think of a single time I went hiking or biking without smiling at the end of it all, even if I was dead tired.

3) Locally grown food is actually really awesome

In addition to chilling out and gardening, being a part of Howdy Farm was a super cool way to learn about (and eat a lot of) local food! A lot of the time, local food is grown more sustainably and not necessarily for the organic mark-up you would find in the grocery store. Although pesticides are extremely targeted, do a lot of good, and have an ever-decreasing environmental impact, at a location like Howdy Farm we used no pesticides whatsoever.

Pesticides and organic products aside though, the simple truth is that local, fresh food actually tastes pretty freaking amazing. You can debate all you want about nutritional benefit of GMO’s and pesticides and so on, but at the end of the day, if you are paying the same amount for food that tastes better, AND you are contributing to decreased fuel costs, AND you are learning to make a schedule like a “grown-up”, (ya know, to go buy the food) then you are kind of winning with farmer’s markets.

3) I make a TON of unnecessary purchases and trash

Although I learned about a lot more than the 3 R’s last semester, they definitely did come up in both my EH class and on Howdy Farm. And when it comes to reducing my purchases and wastes, I am not doing the environment any favors! I have recycled habitually for years, but the driving mechanisms of the reduce-reuse-recycle cycle are buying less overall, and buying sustainable or recycled products where possible. It’s great to throw things in the recycling bin, but if no one’s buying recycled products they will end up going into landfills anyway. By the same token, the more stuff you buy, the more waste you make, and the more natural resources you use.

Personally, I’ve always used paper plates and bowls for my meals as a means of convenience, and I realized just how wasteful it was as soon as I opened my eyes to living more sustainably! The same goes for paper towels in that they aren’t always necessary to clean up little messes. I also use plastic water bottles far too often (even if I do recycle), buy new clothes when I really don’t need them, and, regrettably, make a ton of trash with crafting! And so…

4) My crafting habits aren’t exactly sustainable

This was huge for me, and I think it’s part of what offset my DIY blogging for a little while, but I buy so many craft supplies that just sit waiting to be used—how awful for my beautiful earth and my cluttered headspace! Now, although in many cases home-made or restyled projects can use less materials than new purchases, crafting is still an area in my life that creates a ton of clutter and ends with a lot of unneeded leftovers. I really want to work on actually using those supplies that I already have, and reducing purchases AND wastes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that crafting is evil and it going to kill me. I just think that in the future it is worth taking into consideration if there are ways I could reuse materials for a project, or if I have the financial resources to invest in more sustainable craft supplies with less packaging. Furthermore, when it comes to never-used party piƱatas or yet another cute clutch, I need to keep in mind whether or not I will really be using the things I love to make.

5) It’s the little things.

This point is probably the most paramount one of the post, especially if you are reading this and panicking—when it comes to the environment, just do what you can. Yes, strive to buy less, recycle more, reduce your waste, and celebrate the earth, but at the end of the day you don’t have to do any more than what is within your financial and physical means. If you don’t have a farmers market, can’t afford the greener products, or just don’t have the time to wash dishes then that is completely and totally a-okay. It really is the small things that make a big difference, and half the time just considering the environment when you are going through daily life is helpful to reducing your carbon footprint. Furthermore, while being aware of your purchases is a very good thing, panicking over whether or not it is consciously responsible to buy that top you just love may not be helping anything.

There are people that devote their lives to making no trash, to creating new energy-saving inventions, and to saving the planet all on their own, but that by no means has to be all of us! Honestly, if everyone actually did what they could, the environmental health issues would be significantly lessened. The bottom line to all this is that as I continue to live my life and take part in making more of my own decisions, I want to consider the little blue planet in more of those choices. Not every food has to be organic, not every office supply has to be recycled, and not every thought has to be green. The idea is just to think about it and do a little, do your research and then do a little more where you can! And then go hiking or walking outdoors all the time because nature is just plain gorgeous and you need some time to breathe, my friend.

Do you commit to any “green” habits?

Stay lovely,

PS: I'm testing out some new visual branding and potentially some redesign for my blog (yes, again). My site might be a little bit of a mess during the transition, but I hope we will all love it at the end!

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