"We often forget that we are Nature, Nature is not something separate from us. So, when we say that we have lost our connection to Nature, we have lost our connection to Ourselves." - Andy Goldsworth
Every year the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement is celebrated on April 22. This commemorative date is better known all around the globe as Earth Day. It was the first Earth Day in 1970 that really set the stage for awareness around environmental consciousness and put the concerns around the environment in the fore front.
Thinking about the global environmental issues that are largely out of our control can feel overwhelming. One day a year is not nearly enough action to make a dent. While little actions do add up, when everyone does them together, it is behavior change that make an even greater impact. When behavioral changes become habits, they become second nature and then the widespread norm. So, how can we change an annual to-do list to a 365 day habit?
There is always going to be something we can do. We can ask ourselves questions each day around ways we can become more sustainable. For example, try thinking about the following questions regarding your daily routine.
1. What are my energy use habits?
2. How do I use water?
3. How do I get from point A to point B?
4. How do I take part in the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle?
If you look at these questions and wonder what you can do to alter your habits, here are a few ideas to consider.
Spend some time thinking about how efficiently you are using the energy within your home. Make sure your appliances are energy efficient and up to date, consider using LED lightbulbs or getting a programmable thermostat and lowering the temperature when you go to bed.
Using less hot water when doing laundry or dishes, taking shorter showers and committing to the use of a water bottle that can be washed and refilled can all help positively impact the sustainability around water usage. It is also important to consider that implementing a Meatless Monday or transitioning into a vegetarian diet decreases water usage as well as decrease the amount of polluting gasses.
Consider how you get from one location to another. How it can be altered to make a positive impact? For example, riding your bike., carpooling or taking public transportation can all have positive effects on the environment, If you’re taking your car, be sure it is running properly and that the tires are inflated, you are being gentle on your breaks and driving a little more slowly, all of which can help save gas.
Finally, reduce, reuse, recycle! This phrase has been a popular one for quite a while now. What are some ways you can increase this mentality in addition to recycling? You could start to compost, donate items you no longer need or use, shop secondhand, or invest in reusable products instead of disposables. All of these are small steps that really add up to a great distance of coverage.
Even in light of these effort, we are PSF believe that the biggest impact can be made when we educate children to be mindful and aware of how their choices can make a difference, positive or negative. If we are not passing this practice of checking in on our habits and behaviors to our younger generations, the efforts needed to enhance environmental consciousness will not be sustained.
In the month of April students are often taught ways to help the environment as a part of classroom curriculum. One of our PSF mindfulness teachers opened this conversation with a group of Kindergarteners and it was no surprise they were well versed on the topic. When met with the question, “What can you do to take care of our planet?” there was no shortage of emoji hands raising during the Zoom lesson. Many of the answers echoed the suggestions offered above.
The really exciting part came when the students were asked how those actions related to mindfulness. While adults might take a few moments to consider the correlation, they did not even hesitate. They shared answers like; “When we pay attention to the things around us, like the trees and flowers and animals, we can be thankful for them.” Another student chimed in adding, “Yes and when we are thankful for them, we want to be kind to them.” And yet another addition, “and we want to keep them safe so we need to make sure to throw our trash in a trash can and not in the park or the forest or the ocean.” One final addition on this particular round of sharing, “Right! Because I like sharks and we will have none if they eat plastic. I want to keep them safe so we still have sharks.”
The discussion continues with some many wise and mindful moments related to the teacher by five and six year olds. When the lesson was coming to an end a student who rarely shares was anxious to do so. The mindfulness teacher noticed his raised hand and asked if he had something, he wanted the group to know.
“When we are practicing mindfulness, we are aware of how our actions affect others.”
When we are mindful being and aware of what is happening in the present moment, we can alter our patterns and choices because we can see the effects of them. We can make a choice to pick up a piece of trash while out walking or offer to carpool to the next sporting event. We can be aware of our consumption and reduce our understood norm. We can be conscious of our carbon footprint and eat less meat, drive less and enjoy our planet more. We can reuse items creatively or donate what we do not need. When we are practicing mindfulness, we are aware of how our actions affect others and we can make an empowered choice that drives habit change. Each of us can make a small different but together we can change the world. We can teach our children to be the change we wish to see and together we can foster the love and care our planet needs to heal.