Photo by Bùi Linh Ngân via flickr
Many of the problems facing the world today just seem too big, beyond our ability to address. Climate change, rising sea levels, widespread use of toxic pesticides and GMOs, rampant pollution and deforestation — just to name a few. What difference can one person make? While we can’t just press a button and fix what needs fixing, or “Abra-Cadabra” our way to global ecological harmony, there are some ridiculously simple things that anybody can do to make an impact where they live.
1. Grow your own food. Number one for a reason: there is no better way to reduce your impact on the environment and be of benefit to your community than by planting a vegetable garden. Don’t have a yard? You can grow some edibles in containers on your patio or balcony, or some little potted herbs right in your windowsill.
2. Buy local. Whatever you can’t grow, get it at the farmer’s market. Buying local supports the growers in your community, builds sustainability, and reduces the cost and the carbon footprint of shipping foods across the globe.
3. Buy green. If you must go to the supermarket, buy products that are organic or fair trade whenever possible – even though it costs more. The same goes for paper products and cleaning supplies. Always choose what’s best for the environment.
4. Plant some flowers. It’s simple: flowers feed bees. And butterflies, and other pollinators. Some of their favorites are sunflowers, dahlias, crocus, cosmos, poppies, zinnias and goldenrod. And again, if you don’t have a yard to plant them in, put them in pots on your balcony.
5. Leave the weeds alone. If you can’t manage to keep flowers alive, the least you can do is not kill the weeds. These dreaded enemies of the perfect lawn are the bees’ bread and butter. Dandelions, clover, dead nettle and other common plants provide much needed nourishment for our pollinating friends.
6. Don’t ever use chemicals on your lawn. Seriously. NEVER. Enough said.
7. Talk to your neighbors. Make sure the folks next door know not to spray weed killer all over their lawn. Share some of the tasty things you’re growing in your back yard. Encourage them to plant a few things for themselves. Offer your help and advice. Teach the kids in your neighborhood where real food comes from. Let them help you pick berries and such.
8. Organize a recycling program at work. Or at your church. Or put a recycling bin outside the door of your apartment. Talk to the neighbors on your floor and tell them they are welcome to use it, that you’ll hall it to the recycling center for them. Tell them every little bit counts!
9. Clean up your ‘hood. Go for a walk around your neighborhood, and take a couple of plastic bags in your pocket. Whenever you see some trash on the side of the road, stop and pick it up. Put it in the bag, take it home and throw it away. Go to the nearest park, and do a walk-through clean up. Never mind the weird looks you get – they’ll catch on soon enough.
10. Show some love. While you’re out walking around, be sure to stop and smell the roses. And the lilies and irises too. Admire the trees and the bushes, and their ecstatic wind dances, and the million different shades of green. Remember we are a part of this earth, this great web of life. Say “thank you” for the food that sustains you, the sunlight that warms you, the water and the breath that flows through you. Appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. In silent gratitude, commune with the awesome intelligence and the infinite energy of the universe.
Being an eco-warrior is about having an attitude of vigilance, of readiness. It’s about being mindful of the little things; the daily opportunities we have to make a difference, however small. It’s about being aware of the impact we have on the world around us, directly and indirectly. It’s about taking a stand for our principles, taking a stand for Mother Earth and all living things, even when it is costly or inconvenient. Moment by moment, day by day, we show what’s really important to us. Not with a bumper sticker, or by liking a Facebook post, but by the choices that we make. Every time we have a chance to take a stand, to walk our talk, to make a difference, and we let that chance pass by, we suffer a silent little defeat. Being an eco-warrior is about working hard to enlighten ourselves and change our habits, so that little by little and day by day, we turn those defeats into victories.