To me, the back-to-school months of September and October feel more like the new year than January. There’s a general sense of inspiration about fall that prompts people of all ages to do more for themselves and the people and environment around them. Speaking as the helm of a recycling company on a mission to eliminate the idea of waste, I can attest that my drive to help the planet definitely revs up around this time of year.
Let's all start using that energizing motivation to make positive change we can carry through for the rest of the year and beyond. These three simple eco-actions are easy, effective ways you can be a force for good this season:
1. Get moving outside.
With new research saying that sitting is the new smoking, finding ways to get up and move every 30 minutes or so may add years to your life. Setting aside time during the day to stand up, stretch, and look away from your screen can help make movement a habit. Bonus if you can do it outside. Not only does stepping into nature to take a stretch, read a book, or a walk around unplug us from our machines (which saves energy), it can actually make us healthier and more productive. Research has found that laying your eyes on something green and organic—even if it’s a photo or screen saver—can help improve attention and performance in the workplace. Couple that with the happiness boost that comes from being around fresh air, direct sunlight, and actual plants, and the benefits of engaging with the natural environment are nearly endless.
2. Snack smart.
Fall is an inherently busy season for a lot of people. And even if you're already on the meal-prep bandwagon, it can be tempting to grab some prepackaged snacks in between meals. However, besides being unhealthy a lot of the time, these also come with a whole suite of single-use plastics. Arm yourself with healthy snacks like vegetables with hummus, cheese sticks, or almonds. Pre-portioned food packaging is typically not recyclable because of its small size or multi-compositional material makeup, so if you do have to grab something packaged, make sure it's 100 percent recyclable (such as LaraBar and LemonKind).
The best way to cut down on food packaging is to prep and pack your own snacks along with lunch. Invest in durable containers with compartments to make portioning and creating variety an enjoyable activity. I recommend PlanetBox, which is made from stainless steel instead of plastic.
3. Have an honest conversation with someone you don't agree with.
"I’m unfriending/unfollowing anyone who______" is a phrase I’ve seen on social media for some time now. In my opinion, this is the human equivalent of being a cat under a hat; just because you opt out of seeing it (or engaging with it), it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, "it" being the existence of people with a different worldview.
Conversing on divisive topics like climate change and politics is an opportunity to learn where people are coming from and disseminate information. Ask questions, respect their right to have a different opinion than you, and come prepared with facts…and patience. Conversations need not be combative.
I recommend starting with a topic the other person enjoys talking about and then connecting it to climate change. Animal lover? New plant and animal species are constantly added to the endangered list as a result of human activity. Even if climate change isn’t solely the result of human activity, the negative impacts of human actions cannot be denied. In the spirit of argument, propose this: If the narrative of the climate skeptic is true, what is the real argument against climate action? Who benefits? Big corporations.
In case you need some help, Grist’s guide to talking with a climate skeptic has some great ideas, and you can link your loved one or friend to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate resources in good faith.
If you're looking for more simple ways to spread your voice ASAP, check out these five climate actions you can take without even leaving your desk.