Most 20- and 30-somethings love supporting causes in seemingly passionate ways. We’re all rallying together for protest marches or sharing articles all over social media because that helps people hear our voice. And one of the most abundant causes Millennials and Gen Zers are rallying behind these days? Environment conservation and safety.
With that being said, I notice things that really irk me about this trend. Many of my acquaintances and even some close friends take to social media with their calls for saving the planet, yet they hang around at Starbucks in their new, designer threads with faces covered in cosmetics. So, which is it, guys? Do you really care about the environment, or are you just enjoying the attention that supporting righteous causes brings to your social media feeds?
Here’s the reality: If you truly cared about the environment, you’d start doing some of these simple things.
1. Conserve & Cooperate
People often whine about how expensive solar panels or smart homes are, but true conservation doesn’t require expensive equipment or sitting in the dark. Start by turning the lights off behind you, hang-drying your clothing, closing your drapes during the heat of the day, or using less hot water. These small changes only require a bit of extra effort, but they can make major impacts on our planet (not to mention your wallet). By conserving just a bit of energy each day, you can reduce your monthly energy bills and help reduce power plant emissions.
And while you’re reducing emissions, why not find ways to make your work commute more cooperative as well? Between mass transit, carpooling apps, and good old fashioned bicycles, you don’t need to fork out tens of thousands of extra dollars on a hybrid car just to cut down on vehicle emissions. If none of that sounds appealing to you, there’s always the option to request work-from-home days so that you can cut down on your carbon footprint at least a couple of days each week.
2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Regardless of where you stand on the stupid plastic straw debate, one thing is clear: We can all reduce our plastic use and find ways to reuse and recycle products. Even investing in reusable water bottles and coffee tumblers can help. From shopping bags to condoms (yep, really!), so many products now come in reusable forms. When you invest in reusable products, you reduce your carbon footprint and improve our planet’s life expectancy more than you may realize.
And when you just can’t reduce or reuse, at least make sure you recycle. You can easily research recycling rules, and if you live in a residential area, they may even pick up your recycling for you (no sorting required)! Yes, it takes a few minutes of your time to rinse out that jar of pasta sauce or plastic Starbucks cup, but what’s a minute in the grand scheme of thousands of years on Earth?
3. Watch Your Waste
The other day, I looked down and realized just how much sh*t I waste in a given day. While you sit at your desk and chomp on that bag of chips from the vending machine, you probably never stop to think about how wasteful all those dang post-it notes really are. Technological advances can really help us eliminate some of the everyday workplace waste, and we should all jump on board for the environment.
When it comes to our kitchens, the waste is even worse. However, we can definitely find ways to watch what we throw away there, too. Instead of contributing to the 133 billion pounds of food waste that reaches a landfill every year, try finding ways to reheat or reuse that leftover chicken. When all else fails, you can also compost some of those food products or feed the wildlife… either way, win-win!
4. Live Life Naturally
While it may not be feasible for you to grow your own produce if you live in an apartment or highly urbanized area, there are still many ways that you can adapt a more “natural” lifestyle that benefits the environment. You can start by eating a more plant-based diet. This means either reducing the amount of meat you consume (think “meatless Mondays”) or removing meat from your diet entirely. You can also just choose to support local farmers’ markets and farms that practice sustainability as opposed to huge corporate farms.
Outside of your diet, there are numerous other ways to “live naturally.” Although aerosol cans no longer contain those dangerous CFOs, they do still contain hydrocarbons and other compressed gases that impact the environment, so let your hair fall naturally. Same goes for makeup: Most European countries banned thousands of chemicals over environmental concerns that US-based cosmetics companies still use. Essentially, by simplifying or eliminating parts of your “beauty regimen,” you can help save the planet.
I promise I’m not a hippie, and I’m not perfect by any means. However, I do believe that it’s important to put your money where your mouth is, especially in times like these. Next time you feel like climbing on your soapbox about climate change or gender equality, make sure that your lifestyle actually matches the cause which you’re supposedly supporting. And if you really want to positively impact the future of our disintegrating planet, consider some of these simple ways that can improve your habits and ultimately change the world.
Previously Published on Thought Catalog