Disclaimer: This post is not for the lover of Excel charts or anyone who is drawn to lists on legal pads. It is not for people who own label makers and also put them to use. It is for the people who find a reminder note buried in a pile, accomplish it even though it is three years late, and mentally check it off as a grand victory. This post is not for the eco-warrior—although, kudos to you. This post is for the beginner. Learn to be kind to yourself first, in order to be kind to the world.
In that spirit, here is your first conservation lesson. As an educator, I call it, “How to be a Conservationist 101.”
Recycling is a must. It is a great place to start because recycling is pretty straightforward and involves throwing things into a container.
Depending on where you live, your trash company will either give you a large plastic recycling container, or you will have an excuse to go buy one. Either option is great. You are either given a container by the city, or you get to have the excitement of picking out your own. Most unorganized people I know love shopping for containers.
Skim through the recycling directions, recycle the recycling directions, and follow them the best that you remember in the future. Do not save the directions in a drawer, and absolutely do not hang them on the refrigerator. Companies are always changing the rules anyway. If your gut tells you something can be recycled, throw it in the bin. The experts at the recycling plants can sort that out later.
Pat yourself on the back. You are helping the planet by eliminating landfill waste.
On the day that you first pull the full recycling container to the curb, be proud. Do not beat yourself up over the ranch salad dressing bottle that you didn’t clean out. It is better for you, your family, and the world in general that you threw it away and emotionally let it go. The alternative was that it would have sat on the counter for a week, staring at you, and getting steadily more disgusting. That sort of thing helps no one.
Composting is fun. It also involves throwing things in cute containers.
The key is to keep an attitude of extra credit for this one. There are no worries, just bonus points. Remember the salad dressing container that you threw away? Composting probably balances that out.
Does your house run on coffee, clementines, bananas, and eggs like mine? Grounds, peels, and shells can all be composted. Once the pizza boxes and wine bottles are recycled, you’ve got to be pretty close to a zero carbon footprint.
Plants are happy.
Don’t think about the plants that wither and die. Those plants were stupid plants. Think about the one hearty plant over in the corner that just won’t quit.
Take some gardening risks. If some of them don’t work out, go look at the plant over in the corner that’s still green. Breathe deeply. Try a different plant next time. Before you know it, you may have grown a lemon tree from a seed. Call yourself Percy Thrower.
Your successful plants will also be impressed when you eventually feed them your composted soil. The plants can absolutely tell that it is not fertilizer that you bought at the store and will thrive accordingly. Their roots will suck up all that decomposed lettuce that stunk up your fridge for a month with relish. It’s a circle of life thing.
Less is more.
Shop where you see coffee sleeves or food bags that say post-consumer product, 34% less waste.
Shop where you see grocery bags that say post-consumer product, 34% less waste. Now your consumer dollars are encouraging conservation in big companies as well. You should feel so great about this that your stomach will stop churning over the reusable bags that you left at home…again.
While shopping, put one thing back on the shelf that you really wanted. Feel like a rock star for the rest of the day.
If your stomach still needs help settling down, stop for coffee at a place that will give you an eco coffee sleeve. (This is only for non-teachers who are not lucky enough to have their own personalized, embroidered coffee sleeve.)
Back at home, are you drowning in children’s art? Take pictures of the artwork and recycle the originals. At first this seems sacrilegious, but it is really a sign of respect. It is a good thing for the art to be properly honored and memorialized. It is a bad thing for the art to get smashed in the back of a closet, mangled, dusty, and forgotten.
Take a walk. Walks are perfect for many reasons. Not further polluting the air is one of them.
If an item is nice, but you don’t want it, donate it. If you don’t need it, donate it. If you have no place for it to live, donate it. If you have no real use for it, donate it. Donate. Donate. Donate.
In all seriousness, taking care of our Earth, resources, and blessings is vitally important. Of course it is. While you’re being kind to our planet, keep up a positive mental dialogue. Celebrate each and every success instead of feeling guilty for every failure. If taking the easy way out once in awhile means that you’re relaxed enough to not yell at your kids, that is a win. Kids who aren’t snapped at are at least as helpful to the universe as a composted banana peel. So recycle the junk mail that’s on the counter, eat a clementine, and walk over to your one and only living plant. Congratulations. For the moment, you and it are both green!
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on the environment from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.