By Kristina R. Anderson
November 5, 2012
We all have ideas as to how we would like to see society change. But how does one become a doer, a changer, an activist? How do we create change? While many of us dream of influencing large changes, of having a great big voice that triumphs over the rest, that’s not always possible for everyone. Most of us have jobs we must do and people who rely on us, so “activism” comes second to our obligations. But does this mean we cannot affect change at all? Of course not! There are so many ways to be an activist and change the world without making a huge time commitment or taking a radical stance. Often, it’s the small steps that matter the most. With that said, what can you do to make a difference?
“That’s the number one question: ‘What can I do to help?’” says Charles Hambleton, producer of two acclaimed documentaries, The Cove and The Big Fix, and another about the executives at Britesol, a company committed to changing the world through technology. “The answer is: look in the mirror. What is it you do in your daily life?”
Think about it for a few minutes. What are your sustainability shortcomings? Is it the disposable coffee cup from your daily Starbucks run? Do you leave lights on when you are not home? By the same token, what areas of your life are you using to mitigate your impact? Maybe you pick up litter by the side of the road once a week, or perhaps you take public transit to work instead of driving. Take an inventory of your habits. What do you do?
“Every single time we make a choice, we make a difference,” says famed tree-sitter and activist Julia Butterfly Hill. “Because we do not live in a vacuum, every single choice has an impact and therefore, it is not only spiritually impossible to make no difference, it is scientifically impossible to make no difference! Ever!” she says. “Therefore, seven BILLION of us … are actually ‘activists.’ The difference is are we being conscious or unconscious activists with each and every thought, word, and action.”
Ready to take control of your power to affect change? Here are 15 simple actions that you can take to be a more conscious activist in your everyday life:
- Eat less meat. Producing meat releases more greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere than either industry or transportation. Less meat consumption, less global warming. If you want to be an over-achiever, go veg!
- Kick your single-use habit. Disposable goods don’t disappear when we’re done with them. Plus, they require significant resources to manufacture. Something we use for a matter of minutes shouldn’t take up energy, materials, and space in a landfill. Think about all the GHGs we could avoid creating if we replaced single-use with reusable items.
- Learn. Watch a documentary about water-use. Read an article about deforestation. Knowledge is power. You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken. Expose and empower yourself to think and form an opinion. (You’re on the right track if you’re reading this article!)
- Have conversations. You cannot change other people, but you can be a source of information. Being a body of knowledge, or even simply alternative thinking, is an activist action.
- Plant a tree. Trees are a valuable ally in the fight against global warming. They absorb CO2 and release oxygen. They have super powers. Be a tree-hugger and stand proud.
- Go to a beach clean-up. Trash that is swept into the ocean becomes food for the fishes, literally. Or it becomes part of the garbage patch in the Pacific Gyre, which is larger than Texas. When you clean up a beach, you’re helping to keep our oceans safe and beautiful.
- Choose organic. Organic produce isn’t just good for your health, it’s good for the planet. Pesticides are highly toxic. Humans end up ingesting these chemicals through food, but they also end up in our water.
- Buy local. When you buy locally, you not only support your local economy, you also save fossil fuels from being burned by cutting out the transport of that item. Find out about your local farmers’ market and look for “local” labeling at your neighborhood market.
- Reuse. Visit your local thrift stores and look for items you can buy used. If you buy a used flower vase or picture frame, you’ll save money and the raw materials needed to make it new.
- Flex your muscles. Ride your bike to work. Walk to the grocery store. Take public transit. All of these alternative transportation methods lower our carbon output.
- Use your voice. Write a letter to your senator. Call the White House. Sign petitions. Your representatives are elected and paid to listen to you. Your voice matters.
- Watch what’s happening. Watch the news, check out YouTube videos, and browse articles online (find great material in Sierra Club Green Home’s Learn More section). See what social, cultural, and environmental leaders are up to. Get inspired by current events and people who are doing great things.
- Consume less plastic. Plastic is made from oil, which is toxic and takes hundreds of years to fully degrade. In the meantime, plastic that gets lost or thrown away will photo-degrade (be partially broken down by sunlight) and animals that have access will eat it. For more info, watch the documentary Bag It.
- Volunteer. Pick a cause you care about and get busy. No matter where you live, there are likely to be plenty of local organizations that you can donate your time to. You’ll not only do good, but you’ll feel good, too.
- Let love rule. “You want to know the very best thing you can do for your daily life and for the world?” asks Julia Butterfly Hill. “Ask yourself in each moment and every choice, ‘What would love have me think, say, and do right now? What would love choose?’ Love always calls forth our greatness, our best and most conscious selves, moving us past and through the limits of our minds, fears, apathy, laziness, and other ways we sell out on our world and ourselves. And our world, planet, and future desperately need our best from us right now!”
You are an activist. You make a difference. What conscious actions will you take or are you already taking to steer your world in the right direction? Comment below.
© 2012 SCGH, LLC.