With everything happening in the world, it’s a challenge and perhaps a dilemma to take time to celebrate regular holidays. With Earth Day’s 50th anniversary occurring Wednesday, April 22nd, I’m striving to pause and reflect on my environmental impact and keep up with global trends.
The paradox of this international pandemic is that pollution has decreased drastically from the lack of cars and planes in operation. Wildlife has emerged and taken to exploring our sleepy city streets, from goats wondering Wales to ducks exploring the canals in Venice (spoiler alert: the dolphin story wasn’t real). On the other hand, increased usage of medical masks and gloves is littering the beaches of Hong Kong.
We live in changing times, but we can’t forget that climate change and environmental concern is a long-game. These few months of lockdown won’t reverse decades of pollution and deforestation. But maybe this crisis will encourage us all to take stronger steps towards restoring our planet’s health. Maybe, lawmakers will start listening once they see that change is possible. If you want to be more involved, join EarthDay.org’s 24 hours of digital action.
Nevertheless, we can all continue to do our part as individuals by working with what we do know. There are many tried and true ways to decrease your carbon and landfill footprint. Here are just a few:
1. Be an ethical trendsetter
We make a statement about our values with everything we wear, read, put on our skin and in our bodies. That’s why organizations like B Corporation use language like “vote with your wallet,” Remake urges women to #wearyourvalues and toasting good encourages conscious consumerism.
By choosing second-hand, recycled or social enterprise-made products, you’re becoming a trendsetter for a more sustainable and inclusive society. This Stanford study shows that people are more likely to adopt a pro-environmental behavior (PEB) if they see the majority of their peers participating as well. So, every time you take a friend to a thrift store or post on social media about environmentalism, it’s causing a chain reaction that can lead to collective action and change.
Fashion is a major way to make such a statement. The apparel industry contributes 10% of annual global emissions, so it’s an impactful area of your life to make some sustainable swaps. One place to start is your belt!
Jelt, a Certified B Corporation and social enterprise, makes functional and socially impactful elastic belts from recycled plastic bottles that are manufactured in a way that empowers women. Since its inception, Jelt has pledged to be 1% For The Planet and has donated thousands of dollars to charities all over the world. Jelt truly uses business as a force for good.
Looking for brands like Jelt when you shop is just one way to be a trendsetter for environmentally friendly fashion.
2. Snack sustainably
Changing your eating habits can also have an astounding impact on the environment. You may know that it takes exponentially more water to raise animals than crops, and that livestock alone account for over 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. You can reduce your personal emissions by 63% by adopting a vegetarian diet. Even participating in Meatless Mondays is a great start!
A somewhat overlooked practice, however, is changing your grocery shopping habits. You may already bring your own grocery bags to the store, but are you thinking about the details? What about those produce bags? Plastic packaging and bags pollute our landfills and endanger ocean wildlife, so every piece counts.
Luckily, there are practical solutions. First, try shopping at local farmer’s markets or stores with bulk supply. Next, bring your own produce bags. Frusack and ECOBAGS are both great brands to explore.
ECOBAGS offers mesh produce bags as well as a variety of reusable grocery bags. The design makes it easy to wash your produce in the bag and hang to dry. They recently implemented carbon-neutral shipping via UPS within the United States and plan to expand the program internationally.
Frusack also achieved 100% carbon neutral delivery in March, so you can rest easy ordering online. Their mesh bags are gentle on produce and fully compostable, including the string and the tag! They were featured in Icebreaker’s zero waste kit and have partnered with L’Oreal’s sustainability efforts.
3. Go outdoors
One way to encourage pro-environmental behaviors is to intentionally appreciate nature and everything our environment has to offer. Donate to your local national parks or nature preserves if you’re able. While you’re there, be sure to pick up trash as you go and don’t leave a trace.
Going camping? Be sure to light a safe and sustainable fire. Tree of the Field’s Pit Kit offers a Fiber Flame log made of renewable crops, not chopped wood. Their flame fuel has no added chemicals, and even the box is biodegradable.
For inside your tent, you’ll want MPOWERD’s Luci Core Light. It’s solar-powered, portable, adjustable, lightweight and lasts for 12 hours. The best part is that with every purchase of Luci Core, MPOWERD donates a portion of the proceeds directly to those in need of clean, safe energy. They have worked with over 700 NGOs and non-profits worldwide and provided essential light to communities that lost power following natural disasters. Their efforts have supported Nepal and Puerto Rico following their devastating earthquakes that occurred in 2015 and 2020, respectively.
4. Recycle creatively
Conscious consumers take pride in selecting sustainable products to bring into their lives, but what about the items that leave us? How do we responsibly dispose of our waste or recycle non-traditional goods? When it comes to bras, shoes and beauty products — here are some solutions:
The Bra Recyclers, LLC is a textile recycling company that specializes in donating bras to women and girls escaping domestic violence and human trafficking. By reducing the number of bras in landfills, they are also able to provide supplies and support to these survivors returning to self-sufficiency. All you have to do is fill out their recycling form and mail in your donation!
Have shoes or other clothes to donate? Instead of adding to the overflowing racks in thrift stores which often end up irresponsibly sending leftovers to developing communities and disrupting their economy, try sending your used items to Soles4Souls. Through their micro-enterprise program, donated shoes and clothes are used to support entrepreneurs in developing countries. Their unique program gives individuals the chance to start a small business and break free from the cycle of poverty, which helps their communities thrive. So far, Soles4Souls has kept 59 million pounds of textiles out of U.S. landfills through their donation program.
Finally, when it comes to beauty products, try to shop zero waste alternatives. But if you have products to dispose of, turn to ILIA. You can send up to 5 empty containers per month to and they will responsibly recycle them through a partnership with Terracycle.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Earth Day this year, be sure to do it with others and share your passion with your peers. Our actions are meaningful, but only together do we have the power to make a real difference for our one planet.