Over the past five years or so, the impact of human activity on the planet went from a conversation about believing in global warming to a conversation about how quickly we can get to Mars.
For those that are just starting to grasp our reality and learn about global warming, it is likely to seem overwhelming. What can one person do? We didn't learn about this in school, or don't work in the environmental field - what kind of impact can we have?
The answer to that question is simple. We can, and will have the kind of impact we choose. Every single day, we can choose the kind of impact we want to have with every single one of our actions.
So don't worry if you’re not an environmentalist, lobbyist, scientist, activist or someone that is actively working toward saving the planet as a profession. Regardless of our job title, we can be consciously kind to our planet, during our nine to five, Monday thru Friday. Here's how to start, without even leaving our desks.
I. Change your Search Engine to Ecosia
Ecosia is a search engine add-on that actually plants trees with its ad revenue! Its pretty straight forward - we use the engine, the search ads generate income and then Ecosia uses the ad revenue to plant trees,
I was skeptical when I first saw this, but did some digging - and found that they were clear about what they are doing, honest about their decision making and transparent with the whole project.
II. Frequent flyer? Buy a Carbon Offset
Carbon offsets are basically a way for the CO2 emissions created by our flights (or any kind of travel) to be offset, thus reducing our environmental impact. Flying will never be good for the planet - however purchasing a carbon offset means paying for a reduction in emissions to compensate for the CO2 emitted from our flights.
For those of us that might not have known much about this practice, the good news is that carbon offsets are becoming widely adopted by airlines around the world (Air Canada, Delta, United Airlines, West Jet). For all the frequent flyers out there - work or otherwise - look into carbon offset programs with the airline you’re using! Many airlines have it already, and for those that don't, initiating the conversation is the first step to starting anything.
V. Rethink your lunch, and your coffee
Making a difference every day is done when we change the way we do something every day. For many people in the working world, food is what keeps us alive, and coffee keeps us going. Without reinventing the wheel, here's how to keep it easy, and sustainable.
Packing our own lunch is (typically) more sustainable, healthy and financially sound than eating out. This is because doing so allows us to control what is going into our food and to know how it is prepared. When we are looking to have sustainably sourced, organic or local foods, purchasing pre-made meals that fit into that realm can be challenging, and incredibly costly.
Diving further into it, when we're packing our food ourselves, we can re-use our containers, thereby eliminating the use single-purpose and disposable packaging from pre-made. After that, we can bring our own ustencils for a much more sustainable approach than using plastic cutlery, and easily wash and pack up after using them.
Sourcing our own food, packing it in our own containers and bringing re-usable ustencils is a great start, but to really hit it home we can't forget about food waste. If we don't finish our food, we shouldn't throw it in the garbage and send it to the landfill. Just because something is biodegradable, it doesn't mean that it will break down when it is sent to the landfill because landfills are not designed for that. Should our workspaces have a compost or green bin system, that is an awesome option to use, but if they don't, bring it home and do it yourself.
Ordering in: Simply ditch the extras by noting it in your order or mentioning it when you're calling in. Plastic ustencils and straws, paper napkins and salt & pepper packs tend not to be used, and thrown out right away.
Coffee & Tea
Whether we are at home, at work or on the go, choosing Fair Trade, Bird Friendly, Rainforest Alliance, and/or Organic* coffees (and teas!) is better for the people harvesting coffee, the environment, animals and our own personal health! Certifications vary, so click here for a quick run-down on what's what.
Don't use pods. If we're conscious about the environment, we should not, under any circumstance, be using a Keurig, Nespresso or any other kind of coffee pod machine. I don't typically dish out a hard no, but for this, there is no arguing otherwise - this form of consuming beverages is not environmentally sustainable in any way, shape or form. Pod coffee machines are one of the most environmentally destructive inventions that has happened to this planet, and John Sylvan, the person who invented Keurig, agrees.
For those of us that might already have one, the best action plan is not necessarily throwing it away, but, should you wish to continue using it, you should look into composting your grounds and tea leaves, using canisters that can be re-used or recycled, and looking for coffees or teas that are responsibly sourced.
This is what the leaders in this industry, Keurig and Nespresso, are doing.
IV. Turn everything off
Not in the room? Turn off the lights. Same for televisions and computers - if they're not being used, their screens should be blank. Then, for some unknown reason, this changes when we enter the workforce.
An empty printer room, or empty meeting room don’t need for the lights to be on all day AND all night. Computers can be turned off, and so can printers! Start small but keep to it, people tend to catch on, trust me, I was that person and after a little while people caught on.
V. Paper: Reduce, Re-use & Recycle like you mean it
To reduce, re-use and recycle we don’t need to all ditch our notebooks, stop printing and go buy tablets. It’s easy, but we’re all guilty of not reducing, re-using or recycling properly, never mind to full potential. Beyond the basics, we can
Reduce consumption by printing two screens to a paper page and cancelling all paper mail-subscriptions.
Re-use paper by using scraps for scribbles and shredded paper for packing
Recycle everything. Paper, boxes, ink and toner cartridges - none of those are trash.
Green-ifying our commute: Public transportation, biking, walking and picking up one piece of trash on our way to work
Power-strip it: Putting as many electronics as is possible (and safe) onto a power-strip makes turning off our gadgets a one-stop shop.
Smarter paper: Recycled, chlorine free, or made from organic products
It doesn't take anything extraordinary to make a difference. Small acts, done repeatedly, by a growing number of individuals, is the only way any change has ever materialized itself. Saving the planet is no different, and luckily, there are a few small changes we can make without even leaving our desks.
Here's to hustling consciously!