“Adversity is a fact of life. It can’t be controlled. What we can control is how we react to it.”
In my last post, I mention a plethora of problems from the global environmental crisis to the consumerism that has taken over most of our lives. It is clear that the world is in dire need of change, and it starts with the individual to create this change. We must take responsibility by educating ourselves and taking action. It’s never too late to do your part.
Here are five simple things you can do for yourself and the world:
1. Watch a documentary
Documentaries provide unadulterated information on any topic. I highly recommend “Food, Inc.,” “Bag It,” “The Corporation,” “Blue Gold”, and “Hungry for Change,” all of which are available on Netflix. If you haven’t seen them already, these documentaries are life-changing and will make you reconsider the way you eat, buy, think and act.
2. Read the news
Avoid news sources that are looking to advance themselves. Instead, seek sources that are looking to advance communities and societies as a whole. For Honolulu, Civilbeat.com gives you information and news happening in the community that mainstream media often does not cover.
3. Eat more plants!
Some of the documentaries I mentioned above provide in-depth investigations of the food industry that may shock you. It may sound hard to believe, but the meat and dairy industries are the leading cause of the environmental crisis. They emit 40% more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. An average omnivore’s diet requires over 4,000 gallons of water to produce while a plant-based diet requires about 300 gallons of water – all for just one day’s worth of food. If that’s not enough, studies show that vegans have a 40% less chance of getting cancer and avoid a host of illnesses including heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. I could go on and on, but if you’re interested, read the “World Peace Diet” by Will Tuttle and watch “Forks Over Knives.” This video will also change your perspective on eating meat and dairy.
4. Walk, bike, or bus
Living on such a small island, it’s easy to convert to a zero-emission form of transportation. By walking or biking to school and work, you can burn calories instead of burning fuel. You’ll save money and feel better. The bus has great bike racks if it starts to rain or if you have a far commute. Plus, who wants to sit in traffic or find parking anyway? If you choose to drive, make sure to carpool whenever you can and plan your routes to be as efficient as possible. Remember that there are ways to convert your vehicles to electric or hybrid, and many gas stations offer biofuel, which fuels diesel-powered cars with reused vegetable oils from local restaurants!
5. Vote with your dollars
We all have to buy things, but there are things we can do to reduce our impact and make a statement when we shop.
- Buy recycled and recyclable things (clothes, paper, supplies) at thrift stores or “green” businesses. You can even get all your books used from Amazon or in electronic form with your Kindle or tablets. Basic things like phone chargers or cases for your electronics can be bought in “like new” condition and are easy to find online or at your local thrift store. Gently used products are cheaper for you and less damaging to the environment.
- Be prepared! Bring your reusable shopping bags and reusable water bottle wherever you go. Most grocery stores offer a $0.05 discount for every bag you bring and several coffee shops offer incentives if you bring your own mug.
- Buy from local and/or sustainable businesses. Avoid big chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco. This small step protects our environment, keeps the money in Hawaii and reduces our dependence on mainland and international imports. Websites like Google and Yelp make it really easy for you to find out which local stores or restaurants carry the products you are looking for. Etsy is also a great site to find recycled and eco-friendly products!
- Know your food – at the preschool I work at, the #1 rule is to take care of yourself, followed by taking care of others and taking care of the environment. This starts with your body. You really are what you eat!
-Read the ingredient label. A lot of hard work by grassroots organizations went into requiring companies to be honest about the food they produce. Take advantage of this information to make sure those companies aren’t taking advantage of you. Whole foods are what your body needs and wants. Things like peanut butter should only have one ingredient: peanuts! The time it takes to read the ingredients and nutrition facts is worth the illnesses you can avoid. Tip: If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or if a product has over 10 ingredients, it’s probably not good for you. -Avoid Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): GMO food is directly linked to infertility, food allergies, cancer, autism, etc. It’s really not worth the money you think you’re saving (healthcare is pretty expensive). Nearly all corn, canola, and soy grown in America are now genetically modified. Buy corn, soy, or canola products only if they are certified organic, or if they are verified by the “Non-GMO Project”. You’ll see these labels on the shelf or on the product itself. This is where ingredient reading comes in handy. Watch out for byproducts like soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin which you will find in a lot of packaged, processed foods, candies and juices. Go to your local health store as conventional grocery stores have a limited supply of these items. Watch “Genetic Roulette” if you’re not convinced. (By the way, over 90% of cotton is genetically modified as well so look for organic cotton or buy recycled clothing since GMOs have a harmful impact on our land and environment as well).
***If you have an iPhone, download The Non-GMO Shopping Guide!
Remember that every purchase you make has an impact on the world. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you go to your favorite stores and restaurants. Business owners and managers take what their customers say to heart! Let them know you’d like to see more eco-friendly products and ask for healthier options sourced from companies that ensure fair trade, fair labor and cruelty-free practices.
From GMO foods to the loss of natural resources, every environmental crisis we are facing is connected in a web of suffering and oppression. Each and every person has the power to start making change. When we find the compassion for the world that allows us to exist and thrive, we can create the universal change that Mother Earth needs.
“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing.”