The rainforest is burning and the right people don't care. Here's what you can do.
I know I’m not the only one flipping out about the Amazon Rainforest burning at a rate of a soccer field and a half every minute. That’s terrifying statistic I read in the article posted by one of my Facebook friends. I know because of these posts, that many people do care, and many of us are outraged that this has been happening for a while now and we’re just now finding out. Frustratingly, none of us are millionaires or politicians in high power. Jair Bolsonaro is currently trying to blame environmental groups for the fires, but isn’t really doing much to stop them. And he’s the guy in charge over there.
So what can we do besides repost articles, donate to anti-deforestation funds and gnash our teeth during our nightmares? I do have a few ideas that you can implement right now if you’re so motivated. I will begin with a disclaimer that I am by no means the Sustainability Queen. I do my best. I have friends who do better than I do, I have friends who do worse. I’m continually trying to get better and I am continually learning. What I impart do you is based on what I’ve learned so far.
Don’t leave the A.C. on full blast, don’t leave the car running, don’t leave your fridge open, don’t leave the water running. All those things your parents used to tell you to stop doing to save them money on the electric bill? Well, they’re better for the environment too. Freon is terrible for the environment. I live in Nashville, it’s well over 90 degrees most days, my car does not live in a garage, yes I use the AC, but I leave the car door open and get everything situated before I turn it on. (If it’s night, or I feel unsafe, obviously I just get in the car, but that’s a different article, roll with me.) I turn the AC up when I leave for work, down before I go to bed. I’m renting right now, hopefully when I have my own place I’ll be able to get high efficiency appliances.
Get a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, drinking straws, grocery bags and haul them around with you or have one for work and one for home. Yes, occasionally I take my coffee mug home to be ‘really washed’ instead of just rinsed out by the barista and forget it and get a paper cup and feel guilty. But if we all start trying to use our own mugs 95% of the time, it will add up. (And most places offer a discount, which will also add up.) We keep reusable bags in our house and in the car. That way if we stop at a store, we’re never without one. I actually prefer the stainless steel straws for more thing. Also they’re fun.
Switch to bar soap and stop using the liquid stuff in the shower. Less packaging. More sustainable. And honestly, makes better bubbles on the loofah. Now, someone gave me a gift of all natural liquid soap in a scent I loved. Of course, I thanked them and used it until it was gone. Now I’m back to bars.
Stop eating beef. Or at least eat less. Make it a special occasion thing. Do you really need a hamburger every day? I would like to have red wine every day. EVERY. DAY. Do I do that? No, not even nearly. I would be a billion pounds and never get a good nights sleep. As a sidebar, cattle ranchers usually start those rain forest fires to clear their land and then they get out of control. I stopped eating land animals and began avoiding dairy almost three years ago. Yes, cheese is difficult, but I still have some on the weekends or special occasions. And my stomach behaves much better.
Find a way to recycle. Dean and I came from Chicago, a place where it’s actually fairly easy to live more sustainably. It’s a walk-able city (this is the first time I’ve owned a car 19 years), there’s rampant recycling and reliable public transport. I had to find a way to recycling once we moved to Nashville. I had to do WORK and seek this out. Now we have different garbage bins. One for trash (smallest one, incidentally) one for cans, one for other recyclables. Every Saturday, Dean drives me out for my long run and drops me off, then swings by the nearby recycling drop off and sorts out our recycling into the bins. Once we have a full garbage bag of cans, I bring it with me to my last class on Thursday and afterward I drop it by the can place a few blocks away. I usually get a dollar, but that’s not the point. I had to actively look for these things. They weren’t just offered and they aren’t ‘convenient’ in the most used sense of the word. I went to a composting class our first month here. We don’t have the area currently to compost, but now I know how to for when we do.
Drive less. Goes with out saying and I know it’s not easy depending on where you live. Dean and I bike to work most of the time, weather permitting. Bus is the second option (the bus system in Nashville is not as reliable as the one in Chicago) and then the car when we need it for safety or distance reasons. We looked at hybrids when we bought our car, but couldn’t afford them. I wish electric cars were easier to charge. But we do our best with our little car. And our next one will be at least a hybrid.
These are all just options. (And by no means and exhaustive list! Please feel free to put things you like to do in the comments.) Like I said, I’m not sustainability queen, but I’m continually learning and researching. And if there’s something I learn that I can start doing right away, I try it. I’m not suggesting you change your life completely if you don’t do any of these things right now (although maybe change it gradually) but pick one thing that’s actionable to you and start doing it. I learned about the soap thing from reading an article, I started it right away. I attended a seminar and learned about food. I decided to try giving up land animals and dairy. It stuck. I think one of the big fears that a lot of us have is that this problem is not getting better because people are not getting better. It’s just going to get worse and worse until no one can ignore it anymore and then it will be too late. We can either drink whiskey, talk about moving to New Zealand, throw up our hands and watch the world burn, or we can try.
But it starts with us. Everything we do has a ripple effect. Every time you turn off the faucet while you’re washing dishes, that’s something. Every time you consciously chose to walk instead of drive. Every plastic bag you don’t use, every coffee cup you save… it has to all add up. It’s not hopeless if we all act on our hope.