Simple Ways to Live Peacefully with the Earth this Summer
Summer can be one of the greatest times of the year. It’s a wonderful time to spend time outside, take some well needed rest after a hectic school year, or get ahead in your field. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when it’s easy to get out of your regular habits, including all of the things you do to take care of the planet. Going into this summer, start thinking about all of the ways you can give back to Earth and continue your journey of living an ever-more sustainable life. Making changes can be hard, but this helpful guide should get you started on the right foot.
1. Visit somewhere you’ve never been before
Definitely more on the recreational side, this option is great for those who feel inclined to adventure. Discovering a new natural space with friends not only provides you with a lifetime of memories and good times but can reinvigorate the connection you feel to the planet. Fall in love with Nature all over again by exploring a place you’ve only seen in pictures. Bonus points for picking up trash along the way or learning something new about the Earth!
2. Declutter and thrift shop
In light of Marie Kondo’s inspiring methods of decluttering, in which you get rid of items in your life that no longer spark joy for you, choose to dedicate some of your free time this summer to going through clothing and deciding to resell, upcycle, or donate clothes and home items. It’s wonderful for the planet, too! The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world (behind only the oil industry), on top of contributing to numerous other environmental issues. In many countries that disproportionately produce clothing, synthetic and toxic chemicals are used in the process of production. This leads to toxic wastewater that is then dumped into the waterways, untreated; textile production also causes higher greenhouse gas emissions, unsustainable water usage, and deforestation.
Worse yet, washing clothes made of synthetic materials releases almost 2,000 microfibers into the waterways, which end up in natural ecosystems. This introduces plastics into marine food webs and contributes to marine life death. In terms of disposal, synthetic materials take a long time to degrade, so accumulation of clothing waste in landfills is a growing problem.
The best way to help combat the negative effects of the clothing industry is to stop supporting it and reducing the amount of new items you purchase. If you choose to buy clothes new, shop with companies that are committed to making a positive impact on the environment. Do your research before you buy and look for fabrics that have been sustainably, ethically, and naturally sourced; Fair Trade certificatied; companies that donate some portion of proceeds to environmental, human rights, or science foundations; and brands that practice transparency.
Look for environmentally friendly fibers
Read more about upcycling
Did you know Patagonia has a website just for resale items?
3. Invest in reusable containers, baggies, and other items to reduce plastic waste
It’s no mystery that plastic is causing drastic environmental harm on a very large scale. The abundant plastic waste accumulating in natural spaces comes with complex problems, such as widespread marine life deaths in seabirds, turtles, seals, and even whales (did you know there’s evidence to suggest that certain whales and dolphins have as varied and complex cognitive skills as humans? That they have social and emotional lives comparable to humans, including grieving for lost loved ones? Take a moment to think about the implications of that.). While scientists and environmentalists are working on ways to get the plastic pollution of the ocean and other ecosystems, it is equally as important to stop the influx of plastic waste on the producer and consumer end.
As consumers, we can use our dollar as our voice. Refusing to buy or use single-use plastics is the most important change you can make in your everyday life. Unfortunately, this is pretty hard considering how intimately hundreds of thousands of products are linked to plastic packaging, but buying useable items and buying in bulk are some easy ways to break your reliance on single-use plastic items.
Some popular plastic items to avoid:
Personal care bottles (shampoo, detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)
Feminine care products
Water and other beverage bottles
On-the-go cups (be the person that brings their own cup to a party! Inspire others!)
Plastic tupperware and plastic wrap
Some easy replacements:
Reusable, packable coffee mug and water bottle
Bamboo utensil pack
Reusable produce and grocery bags
Glass jars and containers
Cloth sack/wrapping for gifts
4. Meditate in Nature
Practicing meditation alone brings plenty of benefits including maintaining emotional wellness, reducing anxiety, improving mood, and lengthening your attention span. When part of a daily routine, meditation can bring you a lot of peace, and coincidentally, many meditative practices teach a connectedness to the Earth as a space for grounding yourself. Combining the healing effects of spending time in Nature with the mental benefits of meditation, the mix of the two can provide you with moments of serenity in the breezy weather of summer. Find a place to watch the sunset and sit with your feelings from that day, take a mindful walk through your local state park, or find a shady place to hang your hammock. Explore the solitude you can only find in Nature.
U.S. State Parks by state (again)
Most beautiful places by state (again)
5. Learn more about eating sustainably (and then change your habits!)
In the United States, each step of the industrialized food production process from growing crops to marketing has a negative impact on the environment. While the list of all of the ways this industry produces pollution is rather extensive, a short list of some of the biggest concerns include producing and improperly disposing of by-products (think fertilizers, manure, pesticides, etc.) that contribute to water and air pollution, depletion of soils and water resources, the environmental costs of transporting food around the world, waste from package, and excess food waste (that results in 1,000 million kg of CO2 produced unnecessarily).
Protecting the planet from this industry starts with learning more about it and the impacts it has on the environment. There are some great documentaries and books out there that shed light on that often unseen horrors of the industry, and staying up to date on policies can help you fight for changes on a larger scale. On a personal level, making changes in your diet that reflect the desire for the industry to become more sustainable both can send a message to companies about what consumers are looking for and reduce your carbon/pollution footprint.
Some switches to think about:
Buying only what you need and freezing food to prevent unnecessary food waste
Compost organic food waste
Buy in bulk
Buying organic, seasonal produce, Fairtrade, and local food goods
Also look for Freedom Food (for animal welfare), MSC and ASC (for seafood), and RSPO (for palm oil) certifications
Practice mindful eating
Eat and purchase as few animal products as possible (including meat and dairy) to cut your carbon footprint in half
Avoid processed and packaged foods
Grow your own fruits and veggies
Share your knowledge with family and friends!
WWF Livewell report on sustainable eating
6. Learn more about Nature and wildlife (and then be an advocate!)
The more you understanding you have about the pressing issues facing wildlife, the more empathy it creates for the planet. And the matter is drastically important. In the past 40 years, we’ve seen a 60% decrease in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Wild spaces now experience the calamities of habitat loss, overgrazing and overhunting, invasive species, and the effects of pollution and climate change.
Take time this summer to learn about how climate change and pollution affects plant and animal life in every corner of the globe and what that means for biodiversity and ecological standards. While it can be sobering to see the true effects humans are having on our Earthly companions, you have the chance to make a difference. The information about the issue can be used to inform the kinds of policies you hope to see and can fight for in your local city, state, or even country. Don’t be afraid to call your respective representatives when you hear about an issue that speaks to you. Your voice matters.
Good Nature docs on Netflix (highly recommend Our Planet and Blue Planet II, they will change your life)
If you’re planning a trip, learn about how it will impact wildlife in the area and travel responsibly
7. Volunteer or help with citizen science
Volunteering in your local green space to help clean up, take out invasive species, or even plant trees gets you outside enjoying the summer while doing something to be a friend of the Earth. If you’re really feeling it, organize a volunteering event with your family or friends to strengthen your impact. Besides working with big well-known organizations, many towns and cities have volunteer forces that work to maintain the natural areas and parks locally. Reach out to your city’s board to see if there’s anything you can help with!
Dedicating time to citizen science projects can be another way to make use of your time (sometimes from the comfort of your bed!). Working on projects that helps scientists accomplish more work to make a greater positive impact with their research. Find a project that is particularly interesting to you and help make a difference.
8. Support your local wildlife
Haven’t hopped on the Save the Bees bandwagon? Get started this summer! While honey bee populations are in decline, native bees and other pollinators are important to protect. Pollinators account for ecosystem services like pollianting 75% of crops worldwide, but in natural ecosystems themselves, a healthy pollinator population ensures a healthy plant population and so forth.
But more than just insects live in your yard! All local wildlife could use your help to survive and persist in this ever-urbanizing society. To help conserve bees, butterflies, bats, and all other local creatures, you can plant native gardens, a wildflower garden, give bees and bats habitats in your yard while avoiding pesticides and choose natural fertilizers, as well as raise money for a wildlife not-for-profit, and more.
Read more about native pollinators
Pamper native pollinators with a wildflower garden
Whatever you choose to do to help the planet, commit yourself to the goal of creating a better planet for yourself and future generations. Although you are just one person, imagine the change that could be made if everyone made some simple changes and made the radical decision to care and pass on messages of environmentalism. Without immediate action, the Earth is at risk for major catastrophes, and it’s time that we united under the mission of creating a greener future. Our lives depend on it.