Earth Day is fast approaching, and with it the season of the Environmenta-List, those instructions for easy ways to save the planet. The suggestions that routinely appear, including recycle more and buy energy-efficient light bulbs, certainly help build a healthier world. But to really do the job, we need to change more than light bulbs. We need to change the way we think. With that in mind, here's my own Earth Day list of the Top 5 Things You Can Do To Save the World.
- Burn less stuff. This means driving less, turning lights off, and other standard energy-saving strategies. But it's also about distilling global warming to its simplest fundamental so that we can make a meaningful connection between our lifestyles and what's ultimately required to maintain them. So consider all that's ignited and learn not to burn.
- Pull your kids away from the TV and into the Great Outdoors. Kids who grow up without appreciating nature can grow into adults who don't understand why they should care about it. Sharing the world's natural wonders is a great way to create tomorrow's environmentalists. Visit national parks instead of theme parks this summer. Get started here.
- Become a life-cycler. Before you buy anything, consider its full life cycle. What's the product made from and where does that stuff come from? How is it manufactured, where is it produced, and what occurs when it is? What happens when you use it? And when it's thrown away? Add up these hidden costs and ask yourself if the price is worth it.
- Go loco for local. But expand your definition of "local" to embrace things that are homemade, artisan-produced, used, and borrowed. The idea is to replace our unintentional economic backing of destructive practices, products, and companies with support for local economies, communities, and individuals -- even if they aren't next door. There are other benefits, too. By purchasing handmade items, we spend more but get better quality, which leads to less buying. When we buy used, we meet our needs without using new resources. And when we borrow or rent, we meet our needs locally without any consumption at all.
- Start an eco-meme and share the motivation. A meme is an idea that spreads so energetically that it becomes a self-sustaining cultural influence. Eco-memes have power. A new study from Stanford University, for example, finds that for every 1% increase in solar installations in a given zip code, the time until the next installation occurs drops by 1%. Yes -- environmentalism is infectious. So tell everyone what you're doing and why -- your family, friends, neighbors, newspaper, and elected officials. It'll spread the word, create a bandwagon effect, and put decision-makers on notice. Be friendly and compassionate, not pushy or self-righteous, and share the inspiration with a smile.
If we add these ideas to the other lists that will be around this Earth Day, we just might get somewhere good.