Topics like natural resource depletion, climate change, landfill waste, and water contamination are often presented with a side of "fire and brimstone," causing them to seem negative and inaccessible. However, a touch of mindfulness can make sustainable living much more accessible. Establishing a practice of mindfulness, the process of being more present and aware of your thinking and emotions, is one of the best things you can do for the planet (and your own well-being).
Here's why making an effort to tune in and connect with your day-to-day experiences can help you become a more effective steward of the environment.
1. Increased productivity can reduce your carbon footprint.
In the workplace, in the classroom, and at home, we are expected to wear many hats and constantly "do more." Mindfulness helps us gain clarity on what's actually important and what we have the ability to do, resulting in increased productivity and a better use of time and resources. This may translate to a reduction in carbon emissions from less time spent driving, less food waste due to better budgeting, and more free time to learn about sustainable best practices for the home.
2. Thoughtful decision making may lead to more sustainable purchasing habits.
Our culture of convenience trains us to look for things outside of ourselves (i.e., products and services) to solve problems. In the food industry, for example, pre-chopped produce, meal delivery services, and healthy snack subscriptions serve as more convenient ways to obtain quality foods. However, many of these items also come paired with excessive packaging and high carbon emissions from transportation.
Remaining conscious of what's happening inside your head while shopping is key to making a personal connection to your purchases, spending better, and supporting ethical manufacturers.
3. Decluttering your mind can help you find solutions for physical clutter.
Mindfulness practices often require us to create a routine around letting go. By doing away with what no longer serves you, you part ways with the material possessions that make you feel blocked or stuck. However, it's important to remember that while they may no longer be useful to you, all items have some sort of intrinsic value.
Instead of simply throwing your discarded items in the trash, dispose of them in a more ethical, sustainable manner. Try bringing them to a thrift store, giving them to friends or relatives, or donating them to Goodwill. For those items that are difficult to reuse or recycle, my company, TerraCycle, offers a customizable Zero Waste Box that feeds back raw materials into the value system.
4. Taking in your surroundings creates a greater investment in the environment.
Mindfulness is a heightened way of observing oneself and one's surroundings. Part of that is paying attention to your relationship with your environment and the effect each party has on the others.
So stop and smell the roses—literally. Slowing down to take stock of what you have as an individual and as a member of the global community will help you understand the great effects your day-to-day actions (and inactions) can have on the environment. This understanding translates to a moral obligation to protect the earth and move through the world fulfilling your highest potential.