This post was originally published on the United Nations Environmental Programme’s WED (World Environment Day) Voices page. “World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action,” held on June 5. In 2010, Tuesday Phillips won their first-annual national blogging competition and travelled with the UN to Rwanda to cover WED events.
Whether you live off the grid in an obscure part of the country or in a densely populated city, like I do, lines can become blurred when attempting to visualize a mental sketch of what the green economy could, should and would look like. For me, living in Los Angeles (otherwise known as the most ozone-polluted city in the U.S.), these lines are not only blurred, they are sometimes connected by very fine traces, if not entirely invisible.
Admittedly, I have allowed this realization to wash over me with a cool rush of defeatism more than a few times, leaving me feeling helpless within the urban setting I currently call home. However, over time I have been able to alter my aforementioned emotional aversion to city living just enough to see my surroundings as more than just a challenge in sustainable living and look at them as an opportunity for grassroots community growth.
As it stands, there are more people living in urban environments vs. those living in rural parts of the world, with percentages said to increase to up to 80% of the entire population by 2050. Not only are these facts staggering, they are the wake up call we need to begin implementing more innovative economical changes for the urban environment, now, before it is too late. Though most major environmental issues and concerns will take unyielding effort before real change can take place, some are very simple and can be implemented at will. Consider these, for instance:
Build More than A Home: It has never been a better time than now to throw out the old notion that home is where you simply eat and sleep. Home can be where you find ways to utilize the space you have in a way that has the least impact on your community and, ultimately, the planet. Even the tiniest of balconies can be converted into an edible garden and compost bins come in a multitude of sizes, ranging from full-size to, yes even apartment-size. You can also find ways to lower your environmental impact and reliance on external grocers by making things you already eat/drink like learning how to ferment your own kombucha, brewing your own beer, pickling your favorite food, baking your own bread, the list goes on.
Look Beyond Your Backyard: Once you’ve utilized all the space and brainpower you have by trying to create your own personal ecological oasis, that works for you, consider reaching out to your local community to provide support. A great place to start is by shopping at your local farmer’s market. If this is not available to you, consider a community garden, CSA or a food co-op in your area. And since we’re talking about solutions for a green economy, look not just into supporting sustainable businesses in your neighborhood, but transferring your money to a credit union, run by and for the community vs. baking with a for-profit institution.
Get Creative: This can mean lots of things. But the main message is simply, “think differently.” Organize a clothing swap to get rid of clothes that no longer fit, fix things you use on a regular basis before replacing them, make plans in places that are easy to walk or bike to, start a car share with friends, again- the list goes on.
The truth is, if we continue to run global economies as we have in the past, we will find ourselves facing even more environmental deterioration than we do today. We need sustainable solutions. And I believe that these solutions start at home, flourish in our communities, and have the potential to inspire beyond.
There is an ancient Native American proverb that warns, “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” By putting our money where our lives are and enriching our communities through investing in local businesses and people, only then can we turn that mental sketch of the green economy into a beautiful, clear picture.