When we want to make a change in our life, our first inclination is usually to think big changes: running every day, saving half of our income, or initiating a major career switch. Sometimes, we do need to go big or go home, but more often than not we can create significant results—in our health, our financial life, our careers, and more—by making small, simple, and even less obvious, changes.
By collectively nudging our behavior and actions in the right direction, a happier and healthier planet is possible for us all. Together, we can stack up a bunch of seemingly tiny actions for some serious environmental impact.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
So, with that in mind, we compiled five simple yet unexpected—and even fun—ways that you can vote for the planet today.
1. Ditch fast fashion.
In the last few years, the fashion industry has been getting a, perhaps justified, bad wrap for the greenhouse gas emissions (more than the shipping and aviation industries combined), pollution, and waste that it generates, which largely ends up in a landfill. The good news? You’ve got some oh-so-stylish options for clothing companies—such as theReformation and Everlane—that are doing things differently. The Reformation makes its clothes from deadstock fabric (leftover fabric usually destined for the landfill) or sustainably sourced materials. Its “RefRecycling” program encourages customers to send in their clothes for repurposing. Everlane is on a mission to make denim more sustainable and has partnered with a factory in Vietnam that recycles 98% of the water and turns denim byproduct into bricks that are used to build homes for those in need.
The next time you need to fill a hole in your wardrobe, think twice about fast fashion and opt for clothing from sustainably-focused fashion companies instead.
2. Pledge to #StopSucking.
You’ve likely heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an “island” of microplastics the size of Texas in between Hawaii and California. Although National Geographic recently reported that abandoned fishing gear is a major contributor, consumer plastics such as water bottles and straws play a role, too. And, whether it ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or not, we humans discard 28 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean year each. Here’s another staggering stat: In the U.S. alone, we use 500 million plastic straws each day.
The Lonely Whale’s Strawless Ocean campaign challenges you to #stopsucking and go either strawless or choose an alternative straw.
3. Go to a Jack Johnson concert.
Last year, musician Jack Johnson told Billboard, “[As] someone who grew up surfing and loving the ocean so much all the time, and seeing the amount of plastic growing and growing, the older I get, the more I feel I need to make sure that I'm at least addressing that issue.” Address the issue he has—and continues to do so.
Starting in 2008, all of his tour profits have gone to support the Johnson Ohana Foundation dedicated to environmental, art, and music education. In 2015, Johnson was named a United Nations Environmental Programme Goodwill Ambassador. He and his wife, Kim, also started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, which, among other things, focuses on reducing the use of plastics in Hawaii through its Plastic-Free Hawaii campaign.
Johnson’s environmentalism also plays out through his music, too, as evidenced in the music video for “You Can’t Control It” on his All The Light Above It Too album that was released last year.
Johnson is headed out on tour at the end of April through August. Grab a ticket, enjoy the music, and know that you’re doing something good for the environment.
4. Buy (sustainably) farmed fish.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 3 billion people get at least 20 percent of their animal protein from fish. With current demand, more than 70 percent of wild fish stocks are almost or fully exploited. Given that the world population is expected to increase to more than 9 billion people by 2050, wild fish won’t be able to support increasing demand alone.
Enter: Sustainably farmed fish. Aquaculture—the practices of farming fish and other water-based plants and animals—is understood to be the most efficient form of animal protein production in terms of resources required to produce one pound of meat. And, when done well, using good farming and operational practices, it can have a very minimal impact on its environment.
For future fish-eating decisions, consider fish that has been farmed sustainably. Consult Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (download the mobile app for easy use on the go) to find out what farmed fish are better choices than others.
5. Read Silent Spring.
Sometimes, in order to move forward we need to first understand how far we’ve come, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, is credited with spurring the modern-day environmental movement. As The New Yorker writes in a recent essay about Carson’s writing about the sea, the book—which documented the adverse effects of uncontrolled use of pesticides on the environment:
“It provoked the passage of the Clean Air Act (1963), the Wilderness Act (1964), the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act (both 1972); and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1970.”
Pick up a copy of the now-classic Silent Spring or the recently released collection Rachel Carson: Silent Spring & Other Writings on the Environment. (Take it one step further and purchase it used.)
Should we all drive hybrid cars, aspire to zero-waste living, stop using any form of plastic, and eat a plant-based diet? Of course! Baby steps. Small changes add up, so let’s get started.