How to Go Eco Every Day
We often hear in the news about how the world is ending—oceans and beaches full of plastic
garbage, food waste that never seems to decompose, IPCC reports recently released by climate
scientists that show how even two degrees of warming can have catastrophic effects on our
planet…which we are already starting to see with heat waves, forest fires which have decimated
entire towns, hurricane after hurricane, melting glaciers and the extinction of species from man-
made causes. The problem is all too real and it can get very depressing about the state of the
world and make us want to bury our heads in the sand because we feel there’s nothing we can
do to change the course of events. However, the good news is that there is! Although many of
these problems seem to come from the top-down (from government and industry), I truly feel
that our daily choices and actions from the bottom-up (at the level of the individual) can make all
the difference in the world and send signals to industry that there is a demand for better,
healthier, more sustainable options for us and for the planet. And what is good for the planet is
pretty much always good for us! The younger generation has an incredibly important role to play
in the world we are co-creating for their and future generations, and we need to start now to
make our voices and choices heard.
Here are some simple but impactful ways we can start to make a difference in our daily lives:
1. Say NO to plastic!
Plastic never breaks down in nature; it only breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces, meaning
that it never really goes away! And we are now starting to see studies that as it breaks up into
smaller pieces, it may release methane and other greenhouse gases into the environment,
contributing to climate change. Recycling isn’t the best answer—a study by Columbia University
found that less than 10% of all plastic in the US sent for recycling in 2014 actually got recycled,
and earlier this year, China announced it would not take any more contaminated plastic for
recycling, leaving almost 111 million metric tonnes of trash with nowhere to go! Therefore, more
than ever it’s becoming crucial to refuse all single-use plastic such as styrofoam plates and
containers, and disposable plastic cutlery and straws wherever possible. Instead, you could try
going plastic-free for one day, one month or forever! We tried it for one month and wrote a blog
on it (we are now almost 100% Zero Waste).
Going plastic-free will require some preparation, like bringing leftovers to work in a reusable
lunch container, bringing a water bottle/travel mug/Thermos, and some reusable cutlery (from
home, that you keep at work, or carry with you in a travel kit). The next time you head out to do
some shopping, bring a couple of bags with you. These can be whatever you have lying around
your home: plastic bags, cloth bags, a backpack, or whatever else you wish. Anything that you
bring will mean one less plastic bag that you likely don’t need. And if you don’t succeed in going
fully plastic-free, that’s ok as every little bit counts! If you have any food scraps, try to compost
them, and if you normally use paper napkins, seek to go tree-free and reduce the number that
you use by using a reusable cloth napkin or challenge yourself to not even need one at all.
Ahimsa Eco has a beautiful fair trade, upcycled travel pouch (made at an Indigenous women’s
co-operative in Guatemala) for your reusable utensils which also doubles as a cloth napkin. Go
to ahimsaeco.com to stock up on everything you need for your Zero Waste toolkit!
2. Eat your veggies!
How and what we choose to go on our plates and in our bellies can be one of the most important
ways we can impact our environment. However, it is impossible to dictate that one diet can be
good for everyone, as our food choices are extremely personal and depend on a large variety of
factors such as health, culture and regional availability. Going vegan or vegetarian may not be
an option for many; however, it is always possible to make the healthiest and most sustainable
choice for yourself and the environment. Even if you can’t go fully meat- and animal product-
free, you can reduce your consumption of beef and seafood because of their detrimental
environmental impacts (deforestation and overfishing can lead to the collapse of entire
ecosystems), and choose to eat more organic, non-GMO, and locally grown fruits and veggies
instead. Beef cattle appear to have the greatest environmental impact of all livestock, followed
by chickens and then pigs. Turkeys, sheep and goats seem to have the least impact. And
because of the overfishing of the oceans, always look for sustainably caught seafood if you
choose to consume fish. OceanWise has an excellent guide to look up 160 species of seafood
for the most sustainable options. If you’re really daring, try going vegan for a day and see how
that feels for you! Your glowing skin might be all the reason you need to eat more veggies!
3. Only Buy What you Need (or really REALLY want and are planning to use)
At the end of the day, do we really need all the stuff that we have? Or are we being conditioned
by advertisers and corporations to always need the latest fashion, trends and gadgets to feel
better about ourselves because we’re not already good enough as we are (which by the way, we
ABSOLUTELY are!!)? And due to planned obsolescence, many products nowadays are made of
cheap materials which are designed to break down and end up in landfill to encourage you to
buy more! My husband Wes encourages us to buy as many things as we can second-hand, from
sources such as Kijiji, eBay or Craig’s List and you can often find really great items there for
much cheaper than if you bought them brand new. In our household, whenever something
breaks we do our best to repair, refurbish or repurpose it—instead of throwing it away—and Wes
loves treasure hunting at garage sales!
I was also shocked to find out recently how much the fashion industry pollutes the environment,
from growing non-organic cotton with agricultural runoff and pesticides, to the extremely toxic
production of synthetic materials and “fast fashion”, to the disposal of items that are no longer in
style in landfills where they produce methane and other greenhouse gases that contribute to
climate change. As much as possible, I choose clothing made from natural fibres such as
organic cotton or repurposed and recycled fabrics, and there are now many natural vegan
“leather” options made from natural materials such as pineapple skin and mycelium (mushroom)!
Instead of spending money on “stuff”, I prefer to spend time on experiences such as going out in
nature or with friends and loved ones. Ultimately, I’ve found that the less stuff I have, the less
weighed-down and the happier and freer I feel.
4. Get Outside
Wherever possible, instead of driving, try walking, riding a bicycle or taking public transit. Fossil
fuels are tremendously harmful for the environment in their extraction, processing and emissions
produced from the vehicles and manufacturing facilities. It’s also healthier to get outside and get
exercise, fresh air and sunshine by riding your bike or walking. Driving (in rush hour) and
parking can often be more stressful and expensive but if you’re heading somewhere and need to
drive, you can also consider carpooling by offering a ride to a friend or family member. It may
prevent them from having to take their own car (thereby reducing emissions) and it could be a
great way to catch up and make the rush hour traffic less stressful.
If you are in the market for a car, there are some really great electric vehicle (EV) options
coming out on the market, and with increased production and government rebates the prices are
starting to become more attractive. We are starting to see a lot of charging stations available
around town, making it even more accessible for us to get around with them. For a double
environmental whammy, try charging your EV with solar or other renewal energy sources
(instead of with coal-powered electricity, because duh!).
Doing good for the planet is without exception healthier (and oftentimes cheaper!) for us. It often
takes a subtle shift in the way we think and behave, and how we make our day-to-day choices,
but these daily actions truly do shape the world around us and it can feel really good to know
that we are positively contributing to society and to the planet. We have more power as
individuals than we often realise, and if we come together as a collective voice, we can make
these positive changes ripple out into the world at large, having a much larger influence than we
would as just one person going it alone. The first step is awareness, and by educating yourself
and others on the impact of your decisions you are empowering yourself to be an agent for
change in the world. And you’re not alone! Join a community of like-minded folks and get in
touch with us at Ahimsa Eco for motivation and inspiration! Stay connected with us on Facebook
or Instagram or join our mailing list for blogs and educational tools! Let’s do this…TOGETHER!
About Stefani Chan-Wright
Stefani is the co-founder of Ahimsa Eco Solutions, and the Director of Brand and Business
Development. She is also a Yoga Teacher and has been teaching Yoga philosophy and holistic
nutrition in teacher trainings and workshops in Canada and around the world for over twelve