Just in case you were wondering, this won’t be another post telling you to buy a reusable bag and use package free shampoo. Instead, this post will encourage you to leave your organic bed sheets behind, raise awareness, take physical action and think a little differently. Although I am a huge supporter of conscious consumerism and voting with your dollar, I am also an advocate for actually making decisions that will help the environment. Making sustainable lifestyle choices that positively impact the environment are a great place to start, however, they’re not the place to stop.
Although becoming a thoughtful shopper and using social media to document our environmentally responsible purchases is an extremely powerful way to raise awareness, I've realised key messages and motivations can easily be lost in Insta-worthy trends. That's why I've created a list of a few things that will help to bring about actual positive environmental change, so read on if you're serious about this whole environmentalism thing.
Whether you take part in a weekend planting or weeding meet ups, help out at a local event or pick up rubbish on your morning run, volunteering is one of the most effective ways to participate in and support your community and environment. It is important to give back and spend time with people who not only share your passion for people and the planet, but who also inspire and educate you. Volunteering also has the additional benefit of spreading environmental awareness.
I am lucky that in and around my local community, there are regular sustainability events and meet ups such as Bushcare and Landcare working bees, Brisbane’s Green Heart Fair and monthly Clean ups with Keep Queensland Beautiful. However, that's not the case for everyone and if you live in an area where there is a shortage of environmental events, there is nothing stopping you from starting one yourself.
CONTACT MAJOR RETAILERS & GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Although I am a big advocate for change starting with small actions, there is no doubt that the “big guys” – being the policy makers and the leading companies, hold much of the responsibility of bringing about positive (and negative) environmental change. These authorities won't make sustainable business decisions on their own, and lucky for them, as environmentalists, we also double as creatives and we're not only good at taking photos of our baskets and saying no at the checkout. We are also able to come up with the strategies to combat these major environmental issues. So next time you're feeling frustrated, instead of posting your thoughts on Facebook, send your ideas to the ones who have the power to educate and change habits, attitudes and behaviours. But if demanding change over email isn’t really your thing, you can always start by asking your favourite café to switch to reusables or sustainable food packaging.
DIY OR USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE
Although the recent sustainability movement tends have a foundation of minimalism and buying less, it is still so easy to get drawn into buying an endless number of reusable bags, stainless steel straws and glass containers. Well, I’m here to tell you that even though it may look aesthetically pleasing for Instagram, it’s not always necessary. Yes, we’re all guilty of posting photos of our Keepcups, but have you ever thought of having your coffee in, instead of takeaway? Oh, and don’t forget about those Tupperware containers you’ve own for over 5 years!
If you’re any good at DIY, I’d also suggest giving it a go first before buying into ingredients you’ve never heard of and more unnecessary packaging. For instance, there’s some incredible recipes for food and beauty products online (more coming to Project 3 P very soon).
READ YOUR LABELS & EDUCATE YOURSELF
It wasn’t until I watched the first episode, Lawyers, Guns and Honey, from the documentary series Rotten on Netflix, that I really understood how easy it is to be manipulated as a consumer. If you haven’t seen Rotten, I’d highly recommend it – but be warned, it’s quite the eyeopener. I’d also recommend following @savethebeesaustralia on Instagram. Although they focus primarily on the importance of preserving bee population and honey labelling in Australia, they really get you to think about where your food comes from, who made it and how it was made. Did you know, that just because a product is labelled as Australian Certified Organic, it doesn’t necessary mean that product is made locally within Australia or with Australian ingredients?
It's also really important to understand sustainability and how complex it actually is. There’s a lot more to consider than just shopping local, organic, vegan or in season. People often get fixated on pollution and can easily forget about a culture’s or society’s norms, employment, income and basic living necessities. If you’re not into endlessly researching issues, books and documentaries are a fantastic way to educate and inspire yourself. I’ve also found downloading a news platform app has really helped me stay up to date with the latest information and issues.
For my birthday last year, a friend of mine donated to a local organisation for me, instead of buying a physical gift, and if this isn't the most thoughtful present ever, I'm not too sure what is. So instead of buying a friend something they don’t need or won’t use, how about you donate to a charity or non-for-profit? Or instead of buying yourself an another expensive fair trade t-shirt, why not donate that money to an organisation that supports farmers and improves their livelihood and environmental conditions?
VISIT A NON-FOR-PROFIT OR SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
One of the elements of Project 3 P is eco travel, so for me, whenever I am visiting a new location or when I’m going overseas, I like to find nearby places or events that have an environmental or social purpose, or even plan my travels around them. Supporting an organisation or social enterprise on social media is all well and good, but when you're actually embedded in the good being done and being informed by the ones who are creating change, you will feel so much more connected to the issue.
REDUCING YOUR MEAT INTAKE
I know this one might seem obvious, but it can be easy to get caught up with thinking going to the local butchers and taking our own reusable containers is all we can do to live and eat more sustainably. But you may, or may not be aware that the agriculture industry is one of the leading polluters of greenhouse gases and main contributors to climate change. It has also been proven that by reducing your meat intake, even for just one day of the week, dramatically lowers our ecological footprint. But in saying that, I understand that some of us aren’t able to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet so easily, due to health, socio-cultural values or simply just preference. But if you're in a position where you can, or you are willing to give it a go, why not start by trying meatless Monday?