Hi, friends. Today, I’m writing about a heavy topic— but please stick with me, because it’s going somewhere hopeful.
One reason I love my career is that I get to document all sorts of love and beauty and life, and I really love life on Planet Earth. My deepest personal value is commitment to the wellbeing of our planet. It is the only planet I ever plan on living on, and I have always felt, deep in my being, that stewardship to the planet is part of my purpose here. I’m undoubtedly imperfect, and I’ll never pretend that every action I take or decision I make is the right one or the most environmentally neutral one, but it is always on my mind.
It’s no secret that we are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever known. Science tells us we have less than ten years to turn this ship around, and it breaks my heart because of the dreams I carry with me and all the good I see as potential. The fact is, none of us can have the future we imagine without a planet. We can’t have sunsets or pool parties or nights on the porch with our loved ones. We can’t have weddings or new babies or birthdays. We can’t have sledding or card games or campfires or movie nights or rainy days spent snuggled under a blanket reading. We can’t have puppies or motorcycles or inside jokes. We can’t have massages or golf carts or painting or walking in the woods or serendipitous meetings with strangers that turn into friends or train rides across foreign lands or jazz or Broadway or ripe peaches or New York City or pandas or the Oscars or funny stories or Taylor Swift or hugs or laughter. We can’t have any of this without this planet, and that is why I am committed to this planet. Because that is how much I love this life.
The conversation about environmentalism often revolves around the question of who should be held responsible— we wee citizens or the massive corporations and the governments who don’t put regulations on them? This is a harmful false dichotomy. We are all citizens of this planet, and it is on all of us— every single one of us— to do what is within our power, which absolutely includes calling our legislators to tell them about our values and voting for individuals who we believe will best uphold our values and donating to causes we believe in and maybe even volunteering. But it also includes making decisions based on the best information we have about what will insure that we can continue life on this planet for hopefully hundreds or thousands of years to come. The only thing preventing the perpetuity of human existence is human irresponsibility, nearsightedness, and the belief that the responsibility belongs solely with others with more power.
So, with all the practice I have as a lifelong environmentalist, here are just a smattering of ideas for ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. If you’re really interested, I encourage you to pick one, try it for 30 days, and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else.
- Do your absolute best to avoid opening/using plastic water bottles. Any time you see a plastic water bottle that you know will be thrown away or recycled, open it up and pour the extra water out so the water can re-enter the ecosystem. Even if you pour it down the drain, it will be filtered through the wastewater treatment and once again enter the cycle. Bonus points if you then carry the bottle to a place where it can be recycled.
- Watch the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
- Read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
- Avoid eating animal products except for very special occasions. Don’t purchase meat or dairy; only eat animal products in settings where the animal has already been killed/suffered and the product purchased. Bonus points for only eating meat where you know the farmer, or, better yet, hunter.
- Avoid buying polyester, nylon and other petroleum-based fabrics, and, for the most part, avoid buying new clothing. Instead shop secondhand (click here for $10 off your first purchase from ThredUp) and let yourself be amazed. (Also you can check out my Poshmark closet! And TheRealReal is really awesome, too.)
- Actively eschew plastic and other single-use items. Tell people (nicely) WHY you’re avoiding plastic. Buy a set of bamboo utensils; buy organic cotton produce bags and shopping bags for the grocery store; use a tumbler for your to-go coffee, use a glass water bottle. (Package Free Shop is great for a lot of these things. I personally use my W&P Design Porter water bottle and to-go mug daily.)
- Start composting, wherever you are. Seriously. It’s so frickin easy. NYC even has a PSA that reads, “If you can compost here, you can compost anywhere.” And it is true! I can tell you this because I compost everywhere. Here’s how: I keep brown paper bags in my freezer. When I have food scraps or used coffee filters or tea bags or old flowers, I put them in the paper bags and put them back in the freezer so they don’t attract insects or make the kitchen smell. When the bags are full, I take them to the nearest compost pile or compost collection site and toss the whole frozen bag in, because paper decomposes! If you have questions about composting in New York City or Chicago specifically, I will be glad to answer them for you.
- People who menstruate— switch to period underwear or a menstrual cup. If you have an IUD, period underwear are possibly a better choice, since some gynecologists recommend not using cups with IUDs. Talk to your professional.
- Stop using amazon.com and any other services owned by Amazon (Audible, Prime, Whole Foods, etc.). More on that here.
- Switch to bar shampoo. (I’m back on Lush since they released a few new formulations that don’t use SLS, the sulfate commonly used in shampoos that is a common irritant.)
- Switch to toothpaste bites. (I use Bite— and haven’t bought a single plastic tube of toothpaste in almost three years— but there are other brands. Unpaste has a formulation with fluoride.)
- Switch to rechargeable AA batteries (I can’t begin to tell you how much money I’ve saved over the past few years since making this transition)
And, for the love of Gaia, if you don’t already recycle, just RECYCLE.
Remember: The goal isn’t to be perfect. The goal is to set new habits that are generally followed, but of course if every now and then you forget your reusable bags at the grocery, you’re still doing better than you were before. Please don’t let imperfection stand in the way of doing good.
Bottom line: When it comes to the wellbeing of our sacred wet green planet, I’m not going down without a fight.