THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GREEN LIVING
Following a lifestyle that causes no harm to the Earth and its inhabitants has never been this important. This is because we have damaged the planet’s health so much that we have endangered our future here. The good news is that we can still turn things around, but only if we act now. Fortunately, it is within the power of everyone to help fix the Earth.
Green Living is following a lifestyle that is beneficial to the Earth. It is living a life of no harm to our environment and all living beings. Through this, it is ensuring that we and our offspring can continue existing on a benign Earth.
Here are 3 more good things about Green Living
- Green Living is the deliberate caring for the planet
Green Living is a deliberate practice. It starts with having the awareness of, or acquiring, the seriousness of the problems we are facing. It is an intentional lifestyle, one of consciously making sustainable choices for our planet.
- Green Living is forming good habits
Adapting to a new, caring-for-the-planet lifestyle means learning how to do things differently. Green Living is having to consider the implications of what we do, how we do it, what we buy and use. It is constantly asking ourselves questions such as: Do I need to take this trip, buy another plastic container, leave the lights on, eat this, check labels for chemicals, chuck something else into the landfill bin?
- Green Living is having that satisfied glow that comes from believing in what we are doing
It is believing that we, at last, are doing things right. And isn’t that a relief?
- Greenhouse gasses: Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere and cause climate warming. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes it as: “Any gas that has the property of absorbing infrared radiation (net heat energy) emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiating it back to Earth’s surface, thus contributing to the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour are the most important greenhouse gasses.”
- Carbon footprint: A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses that we cause through our lifestyle and with the products we use. It is how much one contributes to what eventually leads to climate warming.
- Environmental sustainability: Interacting with the environment in such a responsible way that the needs of the present are met without jeopardising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
If one hasn’t lived under a rock, or with one’s head in the sand, or in total denial, one should know this: it isn’t going well with the planet.
In the documentary Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet, is a staggering sentence: “In just 50 years we have managed to push ourselves outside of a stable state we have been in for the past 10 000 years.”
How alarming is this?
The previous, and stable, state was the Holocene, during which the earth’s temperature varied only by about 1 degree C over 10 000 years. The stable climate gave us food, clean water and clean air. It enabled our civilisations to grow.
But then, through our activities, we caused a new and unstable state. We call it the era of the Anthropocene. The Age of Man. Now, carbon dioxide concentration levels in the earth’s atmosphere are increasing seemingly endlessly. This is causing an alarming rise in global temperatures. If this isn’t stopped, we will reach a point of no return for all the collapsing systems on Earth. Life as we know it will end.
This information is enough to let one panic. As Greta Thunberg said, in a famous speech on the state of the planet: “I want you to panic … I want you to act as though the house is on fire ….”
Watch her speech here.
4 Worrying Facts
- 1. Pollution
Already, around 7 million people die every year from diseases caused by our constant exposure to polluted air. Think of strokes, heart disease and lung cancer. It is estimated that nine out of ten people breathe unhealthy air. Furthermore, estimates indicate that air pollution causes over 800 000 premature deaths in the EU alone.
Many toxic chemicals from products we use, accumulate and stay in our environment for generations. In a new Swedish study, the foetuses of 20 stillborn babies were examined. In every organ of these foetuses, researchers found at least 15 of the 22 most persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on Earth. Four of these POPs were found in every foetus. Many of the pollutants have been banned from use in different countries decades before the babies have even been conceived.
This means we absorb accumulated, persistent pollutants through our soil, water and air. And we pass them on to our children. We are poisoning our planet, and along with that also ourselves and our offspring. (Ref).
4 Everyday things we do that cause pollution
- Driving: burning fossil fuels like coal, diesel and petroleum releases sulphur dioxide.
- Farming: pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer release ammonia.
- Wasting: refuse in landfills releases methane.
- Cleaning: household activities release a variety of toxic chemicals.
- 2. Extreme heat and drought, wildfires, heavy rain, floods and hurricanes
Climate change is already causing these things to happen. Globally, the five hottest years were recorded since 2012.
The Canadian military was on standby in British Columbia at the beginning of July, to help evacuate towns and fight at least 174 wildfires. A record-smashing heat wave and dry conditions fuelled the fires, which were mainly caused by lightning strikes.
In the Japanese town Atami near Tokyo, a mudslide recently buried at least 64 people and destroyed 130 buildings. Because of Japan experiencing abnormally heavy rain, 35 700 people across the country were cautioned to evacuate their homes. In 2018, more than 200 people died because of floods in western parts of the country.
- Earlier this year more than 1 000 people had to flee their homes in Jakarta, Indonesia, because of severe flooding. Floodwater levels rose to 1,8 meters in some neighbourhoods.
- 3. Melting ice
Warmer temperatures are already causing ice to melt and consequently sea levels to rise.
Due to warmer air and ocean temperatures, globally an estimated 318 gigatons of ice has melted per year in the last 15 years. One gigaton is enough to cover Central Park in New York City in ice 300 meters (1 000 feet) deep.
Greenland is losing 10 000 cubic meters of ice per second. Unless we can drastically cool the earth’s climate, the melting of the Greenland ice cap will continue. If this happens, sea levels around the world would rise by seven meters. If west Antarctica melts it would lead to a sea-level rise of more than five meters. The melting of east Antarctica would cause more than 50 meters of sea-level rise.
Hundreds of coastal cities are under threat.
- 4. We did it, we are doing it
Our activities caused all of this. And we are still doing it. Our carbon footprint is huge.
For instance, the rearing of cattle to satisfy meat-eaters releases more greenhouses gas emissions than all the vehicles in the world combined. According to a study published in 2017 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, red meat can have up to 100 times the environmental impact of plant-based food.
Yet, veganism is still considered by many as “abnormal” and shunned.
For detailed information on the state of the planet (and reason to panic) watch this must-see Netflix documentary: Breaking Boundaries, The Science of our Planet. It is narrated by the Swedish scientist Johan Rockström and the environmental stalwart David Attenborough. Importantly, the film also says how we can avert the collapse of Earth’s health and that of its inhabitants.
The documentary is based on the book with the same title, by Johan Rockström and Owen Gaffney. Greta Thunberg wrote the foreword. It is published by Penguin/Random House.
The trailer is here:
Also on Netflix is the documentary Seaspiracy, by the British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi. It deals with the astonishing and worrying harm we do to the ocean and marine life. Ultimately we endanger also ourselves and humanity’s future on earth.
Watch the trailer:
Now that we know, maybe panic, or are at least concerned about the planet’s health, we need to know how we can fix it.
What we do, depends on our circumstances. Not all of us can do the same. For instance, not everybody wants, or is possible to be vegan or even vegetarian. But all of us can do something.
Firstly, what everyone can do is be mindful. To live consciously, with the intent of doing no more harm. To consider how we live and what impact our life has on our surroundings.
We can all live a life of:
- Less: less buying, traveling, flying, meat-eating, wasting, polluting, packaging, electricity, single-use anything.
- Re: re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose, re-think, re-invent, re-consider.
- Non: non-chemical, non-toxic, non-polluting, non-damaging.
- Free: cruelty-free, animal-free, plastic-free.
You may say, “All of this is old news, and they have been working against climate change for many years.”
But whatever has been done, or is being done, isn’t enough.
Have you done anything?
Only if each one of us understands in what trouble Earth is, and does something about it, can we fix matters. And then, eventually, Green Living will wash over the world and heal it.
An important and fun part of Green Living is getting to know and use the plethora of new Earth-friendly products that are available to us. We have at our fingertips wonderful items that are pretty and effective. Using them can prevent more damage to Earth, and help heal it.
The palm oil-free company Adorn Cosmetics offers their customers specially-designed refills. Thereby they use up to 90% less plastic and minimise waste and carbon emissions. They also ship their products in biodegradable paper. Their products are non-toxic to coral and marine life.
The hair product company Ethique wants to save the world from plastic bottles with their shampoo and conditioner bars, that come in compostable boxes. One of their shampoo bars has just 8% of the carbon footprint of the equivalent liquid product in a plastic bottle.
BKIND recently introduced OceanBound plastic into their packaging. Some of their tubes are made with plastic found on ocean banks. Most of their skincare products are available in bulk at their Canadian outlets, and customers may bring their jars for refills. They ship orders in cardboard boxes filled with 100% biodegradable peanuts made of corn starch that melt in water, leaving no toxic waste in the environment.
Architype Passivehaus sustainable architects use insulation, fresh air, natural daylight and sun power in their designs. Their homes boast a typical reduction in energy use of 75% compared to a standard new build.
Let us, together with companies like these, work towards having a smaller carbon footprint and building a sustainable future.