I’ve always felt a lot of pressure on Earth Day. You know, like I should be doing something really major to help the environment to make up for my lack of doing anything major the rest of the year. I’ll think, I should’ve organized a climate change march or helped replant the rain forest or traded in my car for a walking stick and a pair of comfortable shoes. I imagine Mother Nature shaking her head, knowing how many ziplock bags I’ve wasted and wondering why I’m just sitting in my house on Earth Day doing nothing.
This syndrome is called “Earth Day Guilt” and it can happen to the best of us. It creates the idea that you have to do something big on Earth Day, which seems impossible, so you end up not doing anything at all. So I’ve listed 5 small and easy ways you can help the Earth that will actually make a big difference. And you don’t have to grab a shovel or buy poster board to make a protest sign or chain yourself to a tree and start screaming obscenities at loggers.
1. Change out your dish soap. Switch out your conventional dish soap for one that is plant-based and biodegradable. The soap you use to clean your dishes will eventually leak into the groundwater and into rivers and oceans, harming animals and plants, so the more natural your soap is, the better for the environment. Try Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyer’s. They both work great and smell wonderful.
2. Stop buying new jeans. Jeans are some of the most toxic clothing items made. The dyes and chemicals to make jeans soft poison rivers and ruin drinking water for the people that live around jeans factories (mostly in Mexico). But here’s the thing — used jeans are EVERYWHERE! You can find any brand and style you want at consignment stores, Goodwill or online consignment places like Thred.up. And they’re nice — not skanky at all! Buying used jeans saves you money and the environment all at once. So go shopping on Earth Day for used jeans.
3. Don’t eat fish. Were you afraid I’d get to something that was hard? To some people, avoiding fish isn’t that hard because they don’t like fish. For others, it’s a way of life. I get it. I love sushi too. But we are dangerously over-fishing our oceans. We humans don’t need to eat fish in order to live — we can eat lots of different things. But ocean animals have to eat fish — they can’t jump out of the ocean and wait in the drive-thru at Burger King. All along the coast of California this year sea lion pups have been abandoned by their starving moms because their moms couldn’t find enough food to feed their babies. So the next time you think about grabbing a pack of frozen fish sticks at the grocery, just grab a pack of frozen chicken nuggets instead. (They taste the same anyway.) Even if you don’t cut fish out of your diet entirely, cutting down on fish will still help. The ocean animals will thank you.
4. Avoid Palm Oil. This isn’t hard, it just takes label-reading. In places like Borneo that have very fragile eco-systems, tropical forests are being cut down to make way for palm oil farms. It’s a pure business decision that’s ruining our environment. Not only endangered animals like orangutans need the tropical forests to live in, but tropical forests keep our planet from getting hotter. Once you start reading labels, you’ll be astounded at how many things contain palm oil. But it’s totally do-able to avoid it. I haven’t bought anything with palm oil in it for years and I’m just fine.
5. Go outside. And I don’t mean you have to go find an old-growth forest and get naked so you can become one with nature. (Of course you can if you want to.) I just mean take a walk and step outside your busy life for a second and listen to the birds singing. Or notice a sunset. Or take a really deep breath of beautiful air. Because more than feeling the pressure of having to do something on Earth Day, I think the Earth would really rather have you just appreciate it for a second. We live on a truly astounding, amazing planet. And the more we realize that, the better we’ll take care of it.
Happy Earth Day.