Want to help the Planet – 13 Habits that will make a difference (Part 1)

Reading Time: 9 minutes

To Help the planet we need to start with us. By now, this should be no secret anymore.

The impact that one single person or one household can have might seem insignificant to you. But each one of us can be a part of the big picture. With every small step we take to live more sustainably, we can help the planet.

It is not through some amazing heroic act that we can help our planet, but by taking responsibility in our everyday life. It is here that we have the greatest influence.

Think of it like the foundation of a building. It takes all the bricks to be in place to make a solid foundation. Meaning, our planet needs each one of us to do their part, in order to recover.

“Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what [they] do. But I’ve learned that you are never too small to make a difference.” – Greta Thunberg

If we want to help the planet and stop climate change, it will need our collective efforts to do so

You might just be one individual, who is trying to live more sustainably, but don’t forget you are an important part of the collective.

Everyone is needed to change our society. And it starts with each one of us.

In this guide you will learn about 13 sustainable habits (or mindsets) that will help you to act more sustainably on a daily basis.

How to get the most out of this guide on how to help the planet:

This is not an ‘ultimate guide’, instead I have tried to focus on the things we can actively influence.

The things we have control over. 

The best way to aproach this guide is to read through all the 13 Habits. Once you get the basic concept, look at the examples and practical advice and decide on a couple that want to implement right away.

The 13 Habits that will help our planet

  1. Be the change that our planet needs
  2. Live water-wise – Conserve water and reduce pollution
  3. Live food wise – Support a more sustainable food culture
  4. Be resource wise – Practice the three R’s to reduce waste
  5. Live energy wise and reduce energy usage
  6. Let go of your “collector“ nature and live with less
  7. Never stop learning – Stay informed and make informed choices
  8. Stay connected – With nature, your values and your purpose
  9. Be kind to the planet, others and yourself
  10. Good things come a long way around: Support good causes – volunteer, donate, be politically active
  11. Think win–win
  12. Get creative – Learn to fix and repurpose stuff
  13. Travel sustainably

Sustainability is not a choice anymore, but a necessity.

1. Be the change that our world needs

Many of us worry about climate change. Yet we don’t take responsibility to actively shape our future.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan 

Instead, we want politicans and big coorporate businesses to come up with solutions that will help save the planet before global warming can’t be stopped anymore. After all, they are the ones to blame as they released the most CO2 and did the most damage.

Putting the responsibilty (or blame) on others is easy. But the truth is, we are part of the problem.

We have indirectly or directly shaped the world we live in today

May it be through our aproval of misbehavior by buying products that hurt the environment regardless, or by our silence which could be interpreted as acceptance, or simply by our ignorance or disinterest of what is actually happening out there.

Just to make sure I have said it: I am as guilty as many of us in that regard.

But after travelling the world, I decided to stop and change. I wanted to be the change that our world needs.

Help the planet by trying your best.
Help the planet by trying your best to live more sustainable. Copyright: Kristin Noack Photography

I believe we have to stop saying: “I alone am not enough to make a difference”.

It is not true.

We have at least the power to influence our own actions.

Indeed, we should be saying: “I will take responsibility to carefully consider my actions and the impact I have.”

We also have power over what we consume

Through our consumption we can support sustainable businesses and create a demand that the big businesses can not ignore unless they want to go out of business.

It is never too late to start walking the talk and be the change we want to see in the world.

Besides that, everyone of us has the power to inspire other people to follow our lead by being a good role model.

Even though we can not say for sure, if it will be enough. Whatever the future may bring:

Wouldn’t it be great if we can at least say, that we have tried our best?

Tips on how to make the new habits stick:

  • The most diffcult part is to get started! So start with small steps in the right direction.
  • Avoid being overwhelmed, which can lead to failure: Pick one or two of the habits below, that you are not doing yet.
  • Stick with them until they have become routine/second nature to you. Only then try to implement a new habit.
  • If that's not fast enough for you :
    • Start with a 'group of habits' i.e., habits that you can easily combine in one action:
      A good example is shopping local, seasonal, organic and package-free produce at a farmer's market. To make it even more environmentally-friendly, you should bring your own bag(s) and if possible use environmentally friendly means of transportation.
    • Make a schedule of things you want to change. You can add a new habit at each week/month or at whatever other pace that works for you.

 

Remember:

FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning?”

Not following through occationally does not mean you have failed completely, nor does it mean you wont scceed eventually if you keep trying and learning how to change.

It’s failing is not a bad thing at all, as long as we learn from it and move on.

2. Live water-wise – Conserve water and Reduce pollution

Only 2.5% of the water on our planet is freshwater. The rest of the water is saline water that we can not drink. At least not without processing the water first to remove the salt.

freshwater distribution chart from wikipedia
Amount of accessible freshwater on Earth. Copyright: Wikipedia.

Having access to clean, unpolluted (drinking) water is one of our very basic needs to survive and thrive. And the same goes for all other living creatures.

So preserving and conserving the precious amount of freshwater that we have available is a real priority.

Conserving water can easily be done if you follow these tips:
  • Turn off the tap – during personal hygiene
  • Use a plug when washing dishes
  • Take a shower instead of a bath
  • Challenge yourself to make showers 5minutes or less
  • Shower less - Showering twice a day is simply too much! - or start to hand wash using a small towel
  • Water plants in the evening & Use drip irrigation to reduce water usage
  • Learn about your community's water quality -> Often you can avoid overpriced drinking water by using a reusable water filter to make tap water drinkable
  • ...
Prevent polluting clean water at all costs:
  • Use biodegradable soap/detergents & use less of them
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaners and cleaning utensils
  • Avoid anything containing microplastics to get into the water
  • When outdoors: Don't go into the bush when close to waterways
  • Gardening: Use natural fertilizers that harm neither dirt nor the ground water
  • Use a car wash rather than hand washing
  • Don't let vehicle liquids or other toxins leak (they'll eventually end up in our grond water)
  • Don't dispose expired medication into your toilet
  • ...

 

3.Live food wise – Support a more sustainable food culture

One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to ~1.3billion tons per year.” – Food and Agriculture Organization‘s estimate from 2011. (To check out their findings, click here.)

Considering that producing food requires a huge, huge, huge amount of resources and has a huge impact on the environment (and we are not only talking about CO₂ emissions here), this is one thing we can actively change by ensuring that we waste less food.

Love Food Hate Waste – Animation from Visual Playground on Vimeo.

Here are some tips on how to achieve that:
  • Buy local & seasonal produce -> You can find Farmer's markets if available
  • Buy organic if you can afford it
  • Invest/ support fairtrade by buying fairtrade products
  • Eat-out in local restaurants, avoid ordering take-aways
  • Bring your own lunch-box & containers for leftovers
  • Eat leftovers the next day (or freeze) instead of throwing them away
  • Put only as much as you need on your plate, you usually can take seconds
  • Compost spoilt food or inedible leftovers
  • If you can not compost: Seperate food waste from household waste if your community supports that
  • Learn what best-before dates really mean, check if food after the best-before date really is bad before you throw it out
  • Buy less perishable food at once = throw away less, in case you can't use it up quickly enough
  • Buy staples you use a lot as bulk food (save packaging)
  • Avoid processed food
  • Reduce the amount of meat you eat: 2 meals a week often is enough
  • Buy high-quality meat from reliable sources (where animals are treated good) & organic if possible
  • Buy fish from responsible sources (look for a MSC label)
  • Prefer locally produced produce (meat, vegetables, fruit, etc)
  • Turn things that come from far away into a treat/reward
  • Don't overeat (our scale will thank you too)
  • Last but not least: If you have the capacity and time to do so: Grow your own.
    • Save money
    • Full control over what kind of seeds you grow and how you grow them
    • Harvest food at home
    • Repurpose your own composted (non-meat) leftovers, coffee grinds, etc
  • ...

 

4. Be resource wise – Practice the three R’s to reduce waste

“America’s landfills are full of food—organic waste is the second largest contributor to the country’s landfills. Those same landfills are the single largest producer of methane emissions in the United States—they produce almost a quarter of the country’s total methane emissions, according to the NRDC.” – Washington Post

And so are many other modern countries’ landfills.

Our oceans instead are full of plastic and chemicals, besides aluminium and many other materials that will outlive us for a long, long time.

The simplest solution to live more resorce wise is based on three principles: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse. Follow the 3R’s rule, ideally in that order, if you want to help the planet by preventing it from turning into one big dump.

A note with the words Reduse, Reuse, Recycle.
This is something we all can do. Copyright: Marco Verch/ Flickr

For those who are already working on their 3 R’s. Have you given the 7 R’s of Sustainability: ReThink, Refuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle, Rot a try yet?

A few more examples of how you can become more resource-wise:
  • Rules of Thumb:
    • Refuse to use anything that you use only once and that will outlive you
    • Avoid to purchase anything that is made of or packaged in not sustainable materials and / or will outlive you (Plastic, Aluminimm, ...)
  • Buying new:
    • Buy less and only what you really need
      Make it a habit to ask yourself: Do I really need it?
    • Try to purchase things that work in a circular economy
    • Get good quality items that need to be replaced less
    • Buy package-free stuff(= bulk / unprocessed food / local )
  • Try to Reuse things more so it takes them longer to get to the landfill:
    • Buy second-hand whenever possible
    • Join exchange circles and swap clothing, etc
    • Don't throw it away right away - Ask yourself first:
      Could it be useful to someone else?
    • Recycle anything you end up with that your community can recycle
    • Get engaged - fight for better recycling in your community if you think it could be improved
  • Dispose of stuff that can be reused:
    • Don't collect stuff whichs components could be re-used (old cell-phones, etc)
    • Dispose of electronics and other harmful appliances the right way
  • ...

 

5. Live energy wise and reduce energy usage

Switching to alternative energy is good, but it is NOT the solution.

Not everyone is able to change their energy provider. And even if you do, the production of alternative energy still has negative consequences for the environment.

If you really want to help the planet, follow the principle of “Reduce”. This will also help you to save money, so it’s a great win-win.

Alternative energy and a light bulb.
Alternative energy can only help to a degree. We need to start become more energy wise and use less. Copyright: commons.wikimedia.org

Examples of best practices that are in your power to change:
  • Turn off appliances when you don't need them/ leave the house
  • Use power off switches or unplug stuff when you don't need it for a while
  • Replace lightbulbs with LEDs
  • Buy energy efficient applications if you have to buy new ones
  • Find energy wasters and get rid of them (or replace them if you really need them)
  • Skip the dryers (for clothing and for hair) unless you are in a hurry
  • Use less hot water (washing machine, shower, washing hands)
  • Use rechargable batteries
  • Change to alternative energy if you can
  • Electronic cars are nice - but using a bicycle or public transportation (when available) is still better
  • ...

 

6. Let go of your ‘gatherer nature‘ and live with less

Historically, it has not been that long ago, that we used to live as hunter & gatherers.

This mentality still sticks with us. But do we really need it in a world where most material needs can be fullfilled within a few clicks and a short waiting time?

Room of a hoarder full of boxes with stuff.
A gatherer simply can’t stop collecting things. Don’t be like that! 😉  Copyright: commons.wikimedia.org

Not really! We need to stop gathering things we don’t really need. They clutter up our living spaces and distract us from what we need to do. It’s time to declutter or lives and say NO to not essential stuff.

Start by asking yourself:
  • Do I really need it? And for how long/how often?
    • Buy less and only what you (or someone else) needs
    • Get rid of distractions in your house (give them away or donate them, rather than trashing them!)
  • Is it worth the expense to own it rather than rent it?
    • If you need to buy it:
      Prefer good quality items, that are made to last, over cheap stuff that will break easily.
      Doing this will naturally decrease the amount of things you need to re-buy over time and save you money.
    • If you don't really need to buy it, wh not burrow or rent it instead?
  • Do I buy to get a quick dopamine fix (=feel happy for a short moment)?
    • Become aware of such unhealthy, unsustainable shopping habits. Once you know it - you can start fixing it!
    • Next is to overcome / replace these unhealthy habits with good / healthy habits
    • Embrace living minimalist – most things we can buy will only make us happy for a short time, if you must spend money, invest in things that let you:
      • Collect memories and experiences
      • Collect good karma by doing Good

 

7. Never stop learning – stay informed and make informed choices

Technology and Science are developing so fast that anything you know now, could be outdated within a few years.

Staying informed will help you make better choices.

Whether it is for the environment, your health or your career – as we have reached an Information Age, we can not afford to close our eyes and ears to what is happening in the world.

The Information Age makes it easy to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the world. Copyright: Mudassar Iqbal / Pixabay

To make more sustainable use of your time, you could start with these practices:
  • Sign up for a few, well-chosen, informative newsletters or podcasts that keep you updated on a regular basis, without much effort on your side to find the the important stuff.
  • Schedule the time it takes to read those newsletters or listen to the podcasts
    →  If you don't use it, it's better to unsubscribe and keep your inbox clutter-free.
  • Don't take the status quo for the norm, when in doubt do your research and do what your consciousness tells you is the best to do.
  • Continue to work on yourself to become the best you that you can be:
    • Learn new, better habits or improve old ones. A good start is the classic "7-Habits of Highly Effective People" by Steven Covey.
    • Learn how to improve your relationships and enhance other people's lives
  • ...

 

8. Stay connected – with nature, your values and purpose

“People only care for what they know and love. Therefore the best way to educate people is to get them out of their four walls and allow them to experience nature.”

Nature

I don’t know about you, but for me that is where the fun part starts. Being outdoors gives me SO much.

When I live in town I will often take the longer route just so that I can cycle through our park. Just so that I can see some mighty old trees, maybe a squirrel or a few birds rushing by, too.

Even if I had never heard about a study that proved how trees have a calming effect on people, my body and spirit knew anyways.

And because I have benefitted from nature’s effects as much as I have often marveled at it’s beauty I do care.

It gives me purpose.

I know WHY I am doing this.

I know WHY it is worth to stretch my comfortzone in order to live more sustainably.

Because I want to help this beautiful planet with all it’s wonderful creatures.

Nature connection quote and footprints on a sand dune in the backgrond.
Nature gives us purpose. Copyright: Kristin Noack Photography

Values and Purpose

Reflection goes hand in hand with being in nature.

Whether I am starring at the dancing flames of a camp fire, observe the starry sky above or listen to the calming sounds of water (waves in the ocean, rain drops falling on my tent), it soothes me and brings me into the right mood to reflect on the day, a past experience or the future.

Even though you might not be in such an ideal place for reflection at this moment, I encourage you to stop RIGHT NOW, right here, to think about why you are reading this guide.

What is your reason and purpose for wanting to live more sustainably?

Why do you want to help the planet? What are your values? How can you combine both?

If you were to do nothing else, but only one of all the things in this guide, start with WHY.

Black man thinking about something.
Take a moment to think about it.
Copyright: Tara Bergen / Pixabay

Because without a purpose, without aligning your personal values with your goal to help the planet, you will set yourself up for disappointment and struggle.

 

I don’t want that and I know, neither do you.

 

So take a moment and think about it.

 

 

 

When you are ready to continue, you can read about 9 to 13 here: 13 Habits that will help the Planet (Part II)

 

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