Most people want to do their part to help the environment. We all know that something is very likely going to go terribly wrong, and we all know that something has got to change to prevent that. But what can individuals like us contribute to such a global problem?
The thing is, it is individuals like you and me that can make the biggest difference of all. Imagine what would happen when instead of thinking “What I do doesn’t matter, so why should I change my behavior?” everyone would think “I’m a part of this world so it’s my responsibility to take care of it, just a much as it is my neighbour’s”.
Suddenly the ones changing their behavior wouldn’t be the exceptions. They would be mainstream. It would be society that’s changing, not just a few idealistic individuals.
In other words: the idea that what we as individuals do doesn’t matter, is a vicious circle that needs to be broken. Here are some things that you could do that do matter.
Shop responsibly or consume less
People have more stuff now than they used to. That’s a fact, and it’s only logical, seeing that we had this golden age of consumption. The sky was the limit, and your success in life was largely reflected by the car you drove, the size of your house and the label on you clothes.
That’s slowly shifting, now that we are entering the age of experience. Just think about the urge that many people feel to share everything they experience on social media. Marie Kondo’s way of organizing and destuffication is immensely popular. At the centre of her approach is one simple question: “Does this bring me joy?” If not, there’s no need to hold on to it.
Still, we do need to buy stuff. Of course we need clothes, and transportation, and food, and things that simply make us happy. We are not urging you to stop shopping altogether. But if you shop, do it in a responsible and conscious manner. Do you really need to buy this? Is it really going to bring you joy and enrich your life?
Pro-tip: use a plugin like TreeClicks when shopping online. This way, for every purchase you make, a little bit of money is being put aside to plant trees.
Choosing local products helps the environment and your local economy
Another great way to reduce the impact of your consumer behavior, is by choosing local products. This reduces the amount of pollution from transportation.
Think about it. Which is better for the environment: an apple that you bought from a local farmer, or one that came from Spain and was delivered here by airplane?
There are tons of small businesses that grow fruits or vegetables, make clothes or deliver other services in an honest, biological and sustainable way. They usually have a artisanal touch to them, which we think is part of their charm. Like this Dutch supplier of Bach therapy, that is creating its own herb garden in a biological and nature loving manner.
Whenever you have the choice, buy what you need from those small entrepreneurs. It’s better for the environment, and you support your local economy at the same time!
Be critical about the way you travel – travel less or travel responsibly
And it’s not just about the way that the items you buy reach their destination.
It is widely known that the aviary sector is one of the biggest polluters out there. You are probably aware that taking the bike or public transport to work helps the environment more than taking your car.
Still, in most instances, taking the car is simply the more convenient choice. When you have a car, it’s cheaper, faster and easier to ride it to work than taking the public transport. To get more people in busses and trains, prices would need to go down. This is something you might write about to your government, to ask them to put this on the agenda. If enough people would do this, who knows what would be possible.
But that’s not something you could contribute today. What you can do is stop taking the car for small distances, that you might just as well travel by bike. That way you save some money on gas, and help the environment. You could take this one step further, by taking the money you saved and use it to compensate the CO2 emission of your other travels.
Have fewer children to help the environment
Probably the least popular of the measures on this list, but one that can have a substantial impact. Think about it: you can do all the responsible shopping, traveling by train or separating your waste that you want. But having one less child dwarfs those efforts, because it means one less person having to travel, shop or produce waste at all. Of course, our new generations are giving hope with all the climate activists, they are bringing in. And a new generation can also have a positive impact on the world.
There is this notion in our world that procreation is the highest order that we can achieve. That it is a biological necessity, to ensure the continued existence of our species. But one could argue that overpopulation is now one of the biggest threats to that existence, slowly turning the planet in a place where mankind can no longer survive.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t have kids. If you feel the desire, by all means go for it. What we’re saying is that if you feel like maybe you don’t want kids, that’s completely okay and you should feel comfortable choosing not to go that way. Or if you do want them, that you take a conscious decision to stop at one or two.
Talking from experience: it can be challenging to be a young couple without a child wish. Talk about it with people in your surroundings, but try to get opinions from both sides of the spectrum. When you’re just talking with parents, you’re just going to hear that “you will be missing out on so much”. But if you also talk with people who made the choice to remain childless, they might tell you they don’t feel like that at all.
The most important thing is coming to your own decision.