As inhabitants of this beautiful earth, and as consumers, we need to change and live more natural sustainable lifestyles. We need to return to connecting with our local communities, making more conscious choices, and demanding environmentally-conscious alternatives, which all can influence political decision-making and markets.
Knowing what choices to make can be daunting so I've condensed actions we can take down to five categories. Now you can look at your hand and remind yourself of the most important things you can do.
1. Change. Embrace change. Look on some of your habits as addictions that you need to change. Get your brain used to change by taking smaller actions to start with such as changing the route you take for work. Imagine you have a committee of voices in your head: When one says, "I really fancy a takeaway and a bottle of wine tonight" counter it with, "No I'm going to make a salad and just drink water tonight" or, "It's raining - I can't walk to the shop in this!" to "I'd better take my umbrella". We're not going to change the world if we stay stuck in our comfort zones. Remember that desire comes from unmet needs and most of the damage that has been done to the earth comes from our learned behaviour. It usually takes about 6-8 weeks to create a new habit so persevere, whether it's with walking to work or giving up meat, eventually you will form a new habit which will replace the old one.
- Make conscious choices. If someone asks you to do something, give yourself time to think and formulate an answer. Avoid 'going with the crowd'.
- Take up a new hobby.
- Go a week without going to a supermarket - use local shops, farmer's market, or find a grower selling at a car boot sale.
- When you think you need or want something, question yourself on whether you really do and whether you can go without.
- Sleep in a tent (in the back garden will do!)
2. Think. How can you live a more natural lifestyle? Make conscious decisions about everything you buy from food and clothes to cars and holidays. Avoid waste, packaging and single-use plastic and recycle everything you can. Leave your car at home and walk, use public transport, or car share. Also, consider whether it is worth changing to a green energy supplier, consider virtual meetings, work from home schemes, and holidaying locally. Make conscious decisions: With everything you buy think about where it came from, how many people/animals were involved in its production and its carbon footprint.
- Think about how you respond to people. Before giving a negative response ask yourself, 'Can I learn anything here? Are they right?'
- Switch off the television in the evening and do something creative instead.
- Implement a regular exercise routine into your day
- Have a clear-out and only keep the possessions that you need or really love.
- Start looking at everything you buy and thinking whether it is cruelty-free, good for the environment and/or whether you can get something similar with less packaging.
3. Nourish. Eat a healthy diet with more natural, locally sourced food. A run-down body offers the ideal environment for germs, the same as poor soil invites weeds. If you think you'd struggle to go vegan at least aim to be a 'flexitarian'. Flexitarianism or 'casual vegetarianism' is an increasingly popular, plant-based diet that claims to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health with an eating regime that's mostly vegetarian yet still allows for the occasional meat dish. Eating a more plant-based diet can help to protect bone and heart health, and lower the risk of cancer. Drink plenty of water too, and cut down on alcohol.
- Go vegan or eat a flexitarian diet
- Stop eating or cut right down on ready meals
- Eat at least 10 servings of fresh fruit or vegetables a day
- Drink 2 litres of water a day (avoid bottled - drink tap or filtered water).
- Reduce the amount of sugar you have in your diet.
4. Connect. Think Local. Buy locally grown, seasonal food whenever you can. Think connection. Support local eco-friendly businesses. If someone opens a vegan café, sells cruelty-free eco-friendly products, and/or locally grown food support them in any way you can. Buy from them, donate to their cause, tell other people about what they are doing. Share their posts on social media. Form a community group and meet up to do litter-picks, have discussions, and raise awareness in local communities and businesses. Social connections can strengthen our resilience so finding a supportive community of like-minded people can help ease your eco-anxiety and make you feel your actions are worthwhile. For everyone, strengthening social connections can be a powerful source of resilience and healing.
- If you are going out for a meal look for somewhere that sells locally sourced homecooked food.
- Share information on social media about a local environmentally friendly business.
- Create or attend a community event (litter-pick/art/walk etc).
- Check on neighbours who are elderly or live alone.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter or charity.
5. Appreciate. Learn to appreciate the natural world. You might not have access to woodland and long nature walks but even a trip to a local park can help. Stop and look closely at a leaf, the insects on a flower, breathe in the aromas. Remind yourself how good it feels being out in nature and what you love about it. Appreciating the natural world helps give us a vision for what we want in the future. It also reminds us of how little we really need. We don't need lots of possessions but we do need nature and for too long we have believed that we can inflict damage without suffering damage ourselves. Ask any environmentalist why they care about the environment and they will tell you stories about love and loss - green fields where they played as a child that are now housing estates - or about happy memories of being in nature. We need to build a world where, once again, people and nature can thrive together.
- Before you go to bed write down five things you have been grateful for that day.
- Make some cakes for a friend or a neighbour.
- Handwrite a thank-you note to someone who was pleasant to you or helped you.
- Consciously spend some quiet time in Nature.
- Watch the sunrise and sunset.
I strongly believe that connecting with our communities and feeling gratitude are just as important as recycling. Being creative, thinking up other things you can do and sharing your thoughts and pictures help to inspire others. Join fellow 5Thingers on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Do5Things.