Be you ambivalent or activist, it’s difficult to ignore the reality that our planet is changing. As our activities put increasing pressure on the natural world, delicate eco-systems are becoming imbalanced and many of our native species are headed for extinction every day.
With 50% of species set for extinction by 2050, Human Nature and Artist Louis Masai have been raising the profile of the extinction crisis across the USA with ‘The Art of Beeing’ tour. Focusing on bees, as well as other endangered local species, murals across the states urge us to start putting nature first. Following the completion of the tour, here are ten simple things you can do to reduce your impact on nature, and even begin to help.
1. Slow down and switch on
In the sandwich between the daily commute, it’s hard for many of us to find a minute to ourselves.
The Mindfulness saga of late, whether it ticks your boxes or not, seems symptomatic of something wider lacking in our society. Living in the ‘Age of Separation’, termed by Charles Eisenstein, our disconnection is not only with the products we buy to sustain our lives, but with ourselves, and ultimately our environment.
Keep alert and switched on to your senses. Schedule a daily or weekly date with yourself doing whatever it is that lights that fire in your belly.
2. Go Local
Rebuilding stronger and more sustainable local communities will not only decrease our ecological impact, but also lead us towards what Helena Norberg-Hodge terms an ‘Economics of Happiness’, one with more decentralised and diversified economic structures. Start buying seasonal, locally grown produce, research local alternatives for energy or check for a range of independent retailers in your area.
3. Mind what’s on your plate
Aside from sourcing food locally, two priorities that seem increasingly pressing if we’re to both feed our exploding population and reduce our footprint are a decrease in wastage, and adoption of a more plant-based diet. Look to Kip Anderson’s groundbreaking documentary ‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret’ for a compelling and harrowing survey on this.
Cue Veganism and Freeganism. Thanks to its proliferation in the media, the former probably requires little explanation, though widespread misconceptions regarding health risks and costs of a Vegan diet beg encouragement of some well-informed tips and facts. Check out these recent expert studies by the UN and PNAS for some informative and credible material.
The lesser-known Freeganism is the practice of ‘recycling and retrieving food and goods that have been discarded as waste’. Look into emerging freegan initiatives such as Made in Hackney – a London-based food kitchen offering classes in cooking healthily and resourcefully – and learn simple concepts to incorporate into your own kitchen, like tricks for transforming leftovers into tasty new meals. Tiny Leaf is a great new retaurant near Borough Market receiving much attention for transforming waste food into tasty dishes.
4. Wear with care
The ‘fast fashion’ era has reigned for around a decade now, more than long enough for the majority to have at least a vague awareness of it’s numerous ethical and environmental violations.
With endless supply chains dominated by global conglomerates, polluting factors infect every stage. Pesticides used for cotton farming and toxic dyes in manufacturing, not the mention the excessive natural resources required for extraction, processing, manufacturing and shipping.
Luckily, the sustainable fashion industry is growing. Brands like ECOALF are paving the way, sourcing materials such as used plastic bottles and fishing nets to create quality designer clothes. If shopping elsewhere, try to check ethical and environmental policies online, and avoid nasty chemicals used in the production of rayon, polyester and acrylic.
5. Travel light
Be it the daily go-between or a more adventurous voyage, our hypermobile generation is only too familiar with the feeling of itchy feet, whilst the footprint left behind gets hardly a backward glance.
Travelling locally or further afield, there are plenty of ways you can lighten the cost on our planet. If you have to drive, instead of walking or public transport, consider swapping to a fuel-efficient car, or getting your current one tuned up to improve its efficiency. Other helpful tips include combining various errands into a single trip, reducing your speed, and avoiding idling.
6. Progress from plastic
Did you know that every bit of plastic that has ever been made is still in existence? So when you hear that the UK alone goes through 13 billion plastic bottles every year, over 200 per person, it’s more than a little daunting.
Unfortunately, it’s our oceans and their eco-systems that bare most of the brunt. Just some of the recent victims include the beached sperm whales discovered in March on Germany’s North Sea coast, bloated with various plastics and car parts. A report released this year by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shockingly proposed that in just three decades, there will be a greater mass of discarded plastic than fish swimming in our seas.
A few easy steps that every one of us can already be taking are: bringing your own reusable shopping bag, avoiding unnecessary packaging, and kitting yourself out with sustainable portables instead of bottled water and single serving food packaging – try Eqo Living or Reusable Bottle. You can also support organisations like Synchronicity Earth, doing fantastic work to repair the damage we’ve done to our oceans.
It’s all very well and good preventing production of more plastic but this won’t erase the billions of tonnes we already on our hands. The same goes for the rest of the 100 million tonnes of waste produced in the UK every year. We need to replace our default mode-dispose with a more resourceful mind-set.
A more imaginative approach to recycling is ‘upcycling’: the creative reuse of waste for higher quality, eco-friendly products. There’s no shortage of how-to guides to be found online, offering innovative ways to transform seeming garbage into decorative and useful goods. If it’s some new home décor you’re after, learn how to make a lampshade from disposable plastic spoons, or browse numerous other concepts on Upcycle That. Opt for upcycled materials when shopping too, like ECOALF’s stylish and transformative fashion range.
8. DIY Permaculture
Contrary to popular perception – particularly amongst us inner city folk – you need neither bounds of land, a warm climate, nor a set of green fingers to get growing. All it takes to grow salad year round in the comfort of your kitchen is a windowsill, some old pickle jars or baking trays, dirt and soil sprouts.
Perhaps not for the faint hearted, a particularly important hobby endorsed by any hardy permaculturist is bee keeping. If having your own hive seems a little too close for comfort, you can help to protect native pollinators and revive the rapidly depleting bee population by donating to Defenders of Wildlife.
9. Get Crafty
Wool and the Gang, Bitch Gotta Stitch: with countless blogs and groups popping up, traditional crafts like embroidery, knitting and woodwork are on the rise, and we welcome them with open arms. The crafty comeback gives ample opportunity to make use of materials you already have, promoting a much-needed ‘make do and mend’ ethos. More, the time and care required by the techniques connects us to our products from which we’re generally separated to the nth degree.
Get inspired by simply scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, or book into a class. The Craftivist Collective set a great example with their ‘slow and gentle activism’ through craft – check out how you can support The Climate Coalition with their ‘A Heart for Your Sleeve’ project.
10. Read, watch, discuss
Given that we spend a large percentage of our days with eyes glued to various screens, probably the easiest way to get engaged and informed is by watching and reading. And just as important as brushing up on your own knowledge is sharing and discussing it with others. You know how it goes, plant the seed and it will grow.
Beyond Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, there’s a vast encyclopaedia of environmental material out there. From gruelling expose documentaries such as Rupert Murray’s The End of The Line, to fantasy and fiction, the likes of post-apocalyptic Korean anime Sky Blue. If you’re after a frequent dose of current projects and eco-demia, stay tuned to independent magazines Eco Hustler and Resurgence & Ecologist.
For more on ‘The Art of Beeing’ tour, visit the official tour site www.artofbeeing.org