We have a hunch that, no sh*t, the planet is dying under the weight of industrialized consumption and disposable culture and that we might have a little something to do with that. So we recycle our hearts out, buy fancy organic produce when it’s on sale, and carry our colorful reusable water bottles to the gym (when we remember), all in the hopes of making a dent in an issue that’s fast approaching DEFCON 1. But in a day and age when people claim to care increasingly more about sustainability, our planet is also in the worst state it’s been in, well, ever
How can this be? Well, here’s my hunch: the dissonance between our desire to be green and our sloth-like inaction stems from three factors:
- An immobilizing belief that government regulation is more effective than individual action
- Lack of clear, credible guidance on powerful personal solutions
- The problematic stigma that sustainable living is expensive, inconvenient, socially isolating, and an all- or-nothing pursuit requiring absolute perfection
All of these limiting beliefs create and propagate a dangerous and defeatist ethos of “why bother?” So instead of realizing the precious individual influence that got us into this planetary pickle in the first place, we sit back and literally watch the world burn, hoping that some big shot will step in, pick up the pieces, or, at the very least, pour us a stiff drink.
Why You Should Give A Sh*t
We are the ones we have been waiting for.” —ALICE WALKER
You might be thinking, But hasn’t the earth been warming for, like, forever? Sure, the planet’s been heating and cooling on its own for millions and millions of years, usually due to very small orbital variations that alter solar exposure. But these rhythmic shifts only averaged about 9°F and happened gradually over hundreds of thousands of years. What we’re experiencing today is like going from putzing around on a golf cart to careening down the Autobahn in the Concorde savage ways of showing us she’s mad as hell and she’s not gonna take it anymore:
- Natural disasters
- Melting ice caps and glaciers
- Dangerous seas: Atmospheric
- Suffering habitats and species extinction
- Heightened risk of exploitation
It’s time to get real. This is the moment to face down the doomsday climate change Leviathan with pluck and passion. We’re going to get through this together, and we’re going to feel great, have near-criminal amounts of fun, save some coin, and look boss while saving the planet. Take my hand, sh*t-giver, and let’s go. We’ve been waiting for you.
In Your Home
There are oh-so-many ways to make positive changes in your home, but these are a few that will totally rock your socks in a short amount of time.
- Research recycling in your area. Make a plan to stick with the program and start recycling right.
- FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY: Vow to stop buying single-use beverage containers, like plastic water bottles, right freaking now.
- Following the steps here, put yourself (and an elderly relative or neighbor, if you have time) on as many unsubscribe lists as possible to cut down on the barrage of junk mail making your foyer impassible.
- When not in use, turn off the faucet, television, and lights. You’re grown. You can do this.
- Skip the dishwasher and give your daily dishes some hands- on attention.
- Wash small clothing items like socks and undies by hand, or save them up for a machine wash when you’ve got a truly full load.
- Swap paper towels for reusable, washable cloths. That’s it. World saved.
- Inherit, rescue (from Craigslist), or invest in one of the air- cleaning plants listed here.
- If you’re able, turn your water heater temp down to 120°F.
- Look around your home. Do you have a lot of stuff you don’t really use? If so, make a plan to downsize, and when you legitimately need an item, consider resource sharing or getting it secondhand.
In Your Kitchen
Few things will make a dent in environmental degradation like changing the way you eat and shop for food. Here are some fast tips that’ll have you helping our planetary pal in five minutes or less.
- Enjoy one (or more) vegan meal today. And then another one tomorrow. And another one. And another one. You’ll soon become the DJ Khaled of your daily diet.
- Find a dope veggie restaurant in your hood, and make a plan to visit with your posse, an open mind, and a grumbling tum.
- Build a reusable kit for grocery shopping from secondhand jars, upcycled cloth bags, and reusable totes. Now put it wherever you will see it and use it, like your car if you drive to the store or your entryway.
- Research bulk bin options in your area. The Zero Waste Home Bulk Finder is a great place to start, as are local forums and groups dedicated to zero-waste living. Find them, love them, and then set a date to check these places out and feast your eyes on their bounty of unpackaged bliss.
- Find your nearest farmers’ market. Sign up for a CSA.
- Walk to get your groceries. Then walk home with them. Feel strong like bull.
- Start a container in your freezer for saving vegetable scraps. At the end of the week, make my Scrap-Happy Vegetable Broth.
In Your Closet
Sure, the fastest way to ace ethical wardrobing might seem like joining a nudist colony, but until you (and everyone around you) are ready for that, these five-minute fixes will keep you consciously clothed.
- Examine your closet and see what you actually wear. Commit to simply turning the hangers around on the items you’ve worn over the course of a month, and reevaluate thereafter.
- Research secondhand and consignment stores in your area. Ask friends and your social media fam which are their favorites. And if you’ve never been, plan a trip to peruse.
- Look at your bank account. How many clothing items have you purchased over the past ninety days that were necessity versus impulse? Then add up how much you spent on the impulse purchases. If the number has you sweating bullets, perhaps it’s time to consider the Give a sh*t Closet Detox.
- Pick a date and plan a clothing swap (guidance here). Prepare for mega fun.
- If you’ve got a hot date or a fancy function, ask around your networks to see if you can borrow a more special occasion outfit as opposed to buying something new. It’ll be like a ritzy version of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
- The next time you pass a fast-fashion retailer, eye the display windows, but don’t go in. Resisting mindless consumption is a muscle that gets stronger the more it’s tested and exercised. If you’re a chronic shopper, consider this the dumbbells portion of the mental workout.
In Your Mirror
Whether you’re a makeup maven or an ardent minimalist, these five-minute tips will get you one step closer to liking that sustainable human looking back at you in the mirror.
- Take a peek at your grooming or beauty routine. Do any of the products bear cruelty-free, vegan, or organic symbols? If not, make a vow to replace them with kinder and conscious options when it’s time to refill.
- Using the chart here, see if any of the items you currently use can be easily swapped for more sustainable options. And then do just that. A super-painless start? Swap your plastic toothbrush for a mostly compostable bamboo version, and flash those pearly whites.
- Do the Give a sh*t Beauty Fast here. Just do it. Do it now.
- Research cruelty-free and vegan companies and products. Have fun with this! If you’re going to online shop and go down a rabbit hole, you may as well do so for goodies that are kinder to, well, rabbits.
- Make your version of my homemade air freshener. Then, spray it around your entire home, dance in the spritz, breathe deeply, and feel happy that you’ve officially cleared the air sans chemical nasties.
- Love yourself. This may sound hella silly, but living better with less starts with believing that you, with all your so-called blemishes, cellulite, thin hair, and weird cuticles (points to self) are enough. Once you’ve got that down, you won’t be as susceptible to the ads designed to shame us into buying exploitative sh*t we simply don’t need.
In The Wild
Fast and easy might not be what you want to be labeled as in high school, but these tips are just that—they take just five minutes or less and are small steps that lead to big shifts over time. Try one (or many) today.
- Request no straw or napkin when you go out for your happy hour beverage (or any beverage).
- Bring your own coffee cup or container to your local coffee shop today instead of relying on disposables. And if you forget your reusable, all’s not lost. Carve out five minutes to enjoy that delish sip in-store in one of their mugs or glasses.
- When shopping this week, ask upfront for no (or an electronic) receipt, no product wrapping, and no bag.
- Pack your fuggin’ lunch for tomorrow and, if you want to get realllllly crazy, for the rest of the week.
- Got hot dinner plans? Cool! Before rolling out, bring a reusable container with you so you can bring those delish leftovers home in something sturdy and less wasteful. Drunk-you will thank you tomorrow morning when you roll out of bed only to discover pristine Chana Masala well preserved in your fridge.
- If applicable to you, inquire about and research your company’s work-from-home and charitable matching policies. Then see how that information will personally apply to you to either limit your commuting consumption or maximize your donations to sustainability-minded organizations.
- Need to give someone a gift? Think of secondhand or experience options. And when wrapping, use upcycled materials to preserve the magic and mystery of present-opening without adding waste to the landfill.
- Explore environmental, animal advocacy, and human rights organizations and political candidates in your area, and see how you can get involved.