How to make a difference every day to help restore our earth
Every April 22nd, Earth Day is celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Thousands of events have been organised on Earth Day already since 1970. Of course, acting to protect the environment is something we need to do every day and not only once per year. Nevertheless, it is helpful to have an annual event to keep us motivated, get ourselves updated on the latest developments and see that millions of people around the world are fighting towards the same goal of keeping our planet a habitable healthy place.
At Core Merino, we constantly try to make our supply chain and our products more sustainable, and we have started to document what we have achieved so far and where we want to go on our sustainability page. While it is important that businesses do more to protect the environment, also each one of us has an important role to play as all the small changes we make in our daily life add up to a positive change for the environment.
In honour of Earth Day, you will get a bunch of ideas in this blog post that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help planet earth.
Become aware of your impacts
Before we can properly make changes, we need to know where and how we have an impact on our planet. The first step to help protect planet earth is therefore to capture the existing state of affairs and to become aware of where and how we impact the environment in areas such as food, housing, mobility, goods, and leisure.
In South Africa, we have become experts in reducing our water consumption due to the high water stress levels we experience. While you had to reduce your water consumption drastically, you have probably become painfully aware of where and when you would usually use water and identified ways of how to consume less. This is a huge reduction of environmental impact.
Besides water consumption, there are many other areas where our behaviour has a direct environmental impact with the potential to reduce this impact by making small changes in how we live, work, and play.
The easiest way is to look at everything you do, use, buy and throw away in your daily life. If you find this exercise too daunting, there are also a lot of online impact calculators available that help you assess your material footprint, your ecological footprint or your carbon footprint. The United Nations have put together a document summarising different calculators available. Access the document here.
Once we have a better understanding of the areas where we have an impact on the environment, it is time to reduce our impacts. Often we can make the most change through the things we do or use regularly such as what we eat, how we use our electronic gadgets, or how we move from one place to the other. The list where we can reduce our impacts is of course endless, so we have picked a few ideas that we get most excited about.
Buy locally and in season
Strawberries in wintertime, avocados all year round? The global economy and industrial agriculture have made it possible for us to enjoy our most favourite food all year round. However, this convenience also has an impact on our planet. To help our planet, it would be better to honour the agricultural seasons again and eat the food that is grown close to you. Research if there is a local farmer’s market near you or observe the fruit and vegetable area in your supermarket carefully to identify what is currently in season. A little hint: local in-season produce usually looks and smells great and has a good price. Extra tip: Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag.
Expand your mobility range
South Africa is a large country and distances are long. Taking the car or plane is often the only option. However, going places by car is also a habit we quickly develop out of convenience. Start observing which car rides you could easily replace with a more eco-friendly form such as biking, roller skates, or walking.
Help our bees
With the number of environmental issues in the world, we can easily feel powerless, and it may seem that we cannot possibly make a difference. In his book, ‘The Garden Jungle or Gardening to Save the Planet’ Professor Dave Goulson makes the argument that all of us can make a difference in our backyard, balcony or terrace. No matter how small your outdoor space, you can plant flowers, fruits, and vegetables that provide food for insects such as bees. Bees are imminent to our ability to grow food and have been terribly impacted. Helping save our bees will also help save ourselves.
Wash less and buy better quality clothes
We have written about this topic already in many of our blog posts, but we cannot stress it enough. How we use and wash our clothes matters for the environment. With wool, the environmental advantage is that you do not need to wash your wool garments as often as you would wash a cotton garment for example. Wool does not smell easily and can be refreshed simply by just hanging it in fresh air. Another way to reduce our impact is to wear our garments for longer before we get rid of them and purchase new items. This means it is important to invest in garments that are of good quality and will therefore last.
The internet has made our life easier at a touch of a button, and we do not want to miss it. We are used to constantly sending messages and emails, buying products online, streaming music and films, and sharing photos and videos with our friends and family. However, for us to do these activities, large data centres are needed to host the content we consume and share.
Researchers measured that sending an email uses on average 4 g of CO2 while sending an email with a photo attached uses up to 50 g CO2. This does not seem that much, however, estimates predict that in 2021 a total of 319.4 billion emails will be sent and received every day. In other words, the CO2 footprint generated by email alone adds up big time. So, what can we do to reduce our impact in this area? Review the newsletters you are subscribed to and unsubscribe from the ones you actually never open nor read. Here is a good article from the BBC with more ideas on how to reduce your online carbon footprint.
How to keep at it?
From the examples, we listed above, protecting the planet seems like a lot of extra effort and work. Indeed, reducing your impacts often means a little less comfort and a little more planning ahead. However, if you revert the thought, wasn’t it that our constant drive for more comfort has led us to this environmental crisis in the first place? Items like plastic bags, stand-by TV sets, and huge SUVs were all invented to make our life more comfortable.
Our constant strive for more comfort is an important psychological element to factor into our endeavours to reduce our impacts because if whatever we try to do is too difficult and not rewarding enough we will most probably not stick to it (see every past attempt of starting a diet or doing more sports). So, how can we trick ourselves into living more sustainably? Here are a few ideas that may work for you.
Make it fun
Our first recommendation comes directly from Mary Poppins who found ways of making even tidying up one’s room seem fun. Identify ways to combine something that you enjoy with an activity that helps the planet. For example, have you ever heard of plogging? Plogging is a combination of jogging and picking up litter. You can get together with a few friends and turn your run outside into a great clean-up event. More ideas around plogging, can be found here.
Make it a habit
Recently, there has been a lot of new research on habit building (here are some recommended books on the subject: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg or Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear). A habit is a routine or behaviour that we do regularly and subconsciously. A key part of habits are triggers that start or induce the habit. For example, the alarm clock in the morning is most probably a trigger for you to get up, brush your teeth and start the coffee machine. If we want to form a new habit, such as buying local food, it will become easier if we combine the activity with an already existing habit or find a trigger that then makes us stop at the local food market. Can you find a habit such as picking up your children from school, driving back from work, or meeting with a friend for coffee that you can connect to stopping at the local food market?
Be clear on your why
Another important element of keeping us motivated to stick to our new more environmentally friendly behaviour is reminding ourselves regularly why we are doing this in the first place. Write down your reason why you want to help our planet and look at it regularly. Try to make your why personal, specific, and very relevant for yourself. So instead of, ‘I want to reduce my plastic consumption.’, write something like ‘I want to enjoy the beach and ocean with my family without plastic pollution.’.
Another trick we can play on our mind, to keep us going is to publicly commit to a goal. A public commitment has many variations. You can tell all your friends and family that you want to reduce your impacts in a certain area and ask them to keep you accountable. If you are competitive, you could even make a bet that you need to pay a certain amount to a charity if you don’t achieve your goals.
Finally, it is also important to give ourselves a pat on our back from time to time. If you have been taking the bicycle more often than the car or took your reusable shopping bag to the grocery store for the past 3 weeks, it is time to reward yourself. Define a few perks that you indulge yourself in when you have been keeping to your new sustainable habits as that will give you a little boost to stick to it.
We hope this Earth Day 2021 collection of ideas on how to help our planet is of value to you and that you can find ways to incorporate some new environmental friendly habits into your life. At Core Merino, we will also continue on our journey on reducing our environmental impacts throughout our supply chain. Stay tuned for more on this.