THE GRATEFUL EIGHT
8 Easy Things You Can Do Now To Show Your Gratitude To Mother Earthby Gina Caputo, Founder & Director of the Colorado School of Yoga
It's Earth Day! Since we live on Earth, technically everyday is Earth Day, but we love this day as an opportunity to reassess our environmental footprint and see if there's more we can do to respect the bounty Earth provides and ensure some of that bounty will be left for future generations. Since yogis are in the business of higher consciousness, I think it only makes sense that we lead the charge in living our yoga practice off the mat and make choices that reflect an awareness of their impact on others and the planet. I'm a big fan of gradual change and baby steps. So before I tell you to go solar, buy a Tesla and farm all your own food (all great ideas, btw) I wanted to give you a few little shifts you can make to get some traction now. Here goes, the Grateful Eight!
1) You love coffee or tea. You're on the go. If you get coffee to go everyday, in a year just that purchase will accumulate 23 lbs of landfill. The paper cup and sleeve may eventually degrade but that plastic lid is around FOREVER. All 365 of them a year. Instead, buy a thermal travel mug. Make it cool! Stoke it out with your favorite stickers. Hell, bedazzle it if you want to! But have a travel mug in your car and one at work. It takes some discipline at first but eventually it will become your pal and be with you always. You can usually get a discount for bringing one too. Bonus!
2) Get that mug a water bottle buddy. Single-use plastic water bottles are one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions (they require 17 million barrels of oil to produce per year) as well as to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And the most popular brands are filled with purified municipal (tap) water that you're already paying for. So unless you're in a country with an unsafe water supply (or Flint, MI) and you don't have a method for filtering it, you might just drink regular or filtered tap water in a reusable bottle. Thermal versions of these bottles keep your water cool for hours and can be refilled eternally. Picture in your mind your one handy bottle side by side with a pile of the 167 single-use water bottles the average American uses per year that will NEVER decompose and can only be downcycled into a lower grade plastic, that will probably get thrown into landfill. Just like the coffee mug, it takes a little intention at first but eventually you'll become inseparable. Home, work, travel, it will become your buddy and you won't want to leave home without her.
3) Pluck fastic bags. Kudos to the cities who have banned plastic grocery bags. These have one of the shortest use spans and the longest life spans. In other words, you get your groceries in a plastic bag (that will exist forever), you drive home, empty the groceries into your fridge and cupboards and its use life is over but its life span continues. And maybe you pick up dog poops in yours but that's just putting organic matter inside an inorganic bag so now the poop won't break down naturally either. ANY bag will work for groceries! Our favorites are the Chico Bags that are little stuff sacks so they fit in your purse, your glove compartment or center console or even carabiner onto your belt loop so you don't forget them. Yeah you might have to go back out to the car a couple of times but after that you won't forget. Easy peasy to never use a plastic bag again. Stores are QUICK to put anything in one out of routine. You can break it by just saying "No bag thanks!" even if it means you put groceries directly back into the cart, then go out to your car where you forgot your reusable bags, fill them and then bring the cart back inside. :)
4) Some rare cities have imposed regulations on food vendors that they must provide compostable utensils for to-go foods. But alas, they are the exception, nowhere near the rule. Grabbing a quick lunch to go? Bring your set of bamboo utensils to cut down on the massive amounts of waste to-go food creates. They are low profile and fit into any purse or backpack. Don't carry either? You can even get just a wee bamboo spork to carry in your pocket. This one seem too fussy to you? Just remember that we generate about 40 billions pounds of plastic utensil waste a year. And you use them once. For about 15 minutes. The fuss is worth it to the next generation, I promise.
5) Support local farmers! Many towns nationwide host seasonal Farmers Markets. Besides often being fresher and organicker (no, that's not really a word), it has traveled fewer miles to get to your kitchen which cuts way down on greenhouse emissions. Buying other stuff locally helps too since it avoids individually shipping when you buy online.
6) But what if you need something you absolutely can't get locally? When you order from Amazon or other online vendors, they ship in cardboard with styrofoam peanuts, plastic air pillows or bubble wrap. You recycle the cardboard - good! But did you know UPS Stores will take all of the packing materials off your hands? Yup. Just bring it right into the store as a donation. I've been doing it for YEARS and every single time they seem genuinely happy and grateful to get it.
7) Setting the ethical and health reasons aside for just a moment, eating less meat is a more sustainable choice. The meat industry creates 1/5th of man-made greenhouse gas emissions a year, and requires astronomical amounts of water (think 1800-2500 gallons of water per pound of beef, for example). The US is ranked 1st in the world in meat consumption per capita (264.55 lbs/person). Um, that's a lotta spicy meatball. This one may take a bit more effort on your part to get used to but it doesn't mean you're resigned to salads and raw nuts. You might surprise yourself with how hearty and satisfying alternatives to meat can be. And I'm not talking meat substitutes, I mean good ole grains and beans and delicious fats like guacamole! Look for a vegetarian cookbook that is simple and suits your tastes. Or follow my Instagram feed and I constantly post lots of recipes that are meat-free or meat-light! And treat meat more like they do in many other countries, as a special occasion meal.
What do you think? Workable? I think we've arrived at a point in history where we can't wait for scientists to come up with a solution. It's time to put all the awareness we've cultivated via noticing our bone stacking and our bandhas to the test off the mat.
We don't have a lot of retail at CSOY but we do have is intended to make a difference and we carry it proudly. If you can't find what you need elsewhere to activate change in your habits, we've got these at the school for you!