When I was a child, I learned about environmental issues for the first time. Just like many others, I started worrying that our shared resources on this planet wouldn’t last long enough for the next generation to use. To quench my anxiety about our depleting resources, I started living sustainably. As it turns out, sustainable living does not only benefit the earth by making sure our resources stayed accessible for many years. I learned that by being sustainable, I save more money, reduces environmental damage, and keep my health at its peak.
Now, you might have your doubts about how one person’s effort could contribute to the world’s environmental and economic health. Being a sole environment warrior when your neighbors decided to take the opposite approach can be discouraging. However, there are ways to communally practice sustainable living to ensure your community’s success in contributing to our planet.
Here are six ways you can give back to your community by promoting sustainable living:
1. Sharing your ride
Imagine a sedan that can fit five passengers, carrying only the driver to work. To make it worse, imagine 100 or 2000 other people doing so every day, passing the same road as you do. Perhaps now you could imagine the stressful traffic, smoke coming from multiple exhausts, and honks blearing around you. As you could imagine, having many people drive their own cars increase the rate of carbon emissions, which would harm the ozone layer that had already begun to tear up, making us more vulnerable to skin cancer. Not only that, it is socially unsustainable to expose ourselves to traffic and noise pollution since it increases our daily stress. Unknowingly, this routine tires our body and mind upon our arrival at work. With that logic, no wonder we feel low, unfocused, or even find it hard to be productive to conduct our daily lives.
Carpooling or using public transport reduces the number of vehicles in the street. Offering rides to people in your community does not only reduce carbon production in the air. It also saves gas expenditures and reduces noise pollution. For social butterflies like myself, it gives me a chance to socialize with my busy neighbors while help decreasing traffic. It means everyone could wake up later, have a social life, and still get to work on time!
2. Promote buying food from local farmers
It might seem trivial, but imported food from out of towns or across nations produces carbon output in the transport process. The principle behind it is similar to comparing driving to a nearby coffee shop versus using your car to get to the other side of the town. The longer you ride, the more fuel you would need to keep your vehicle running. The benefit of purchasing local products does not stop there. From cost-saving, increasing your community’s income, and finally, reducing environmental damage. Typically, small farmers also use environmentally friendly methods to farm with less chemical involvement and nutrient cycling. So hey, who would say no to healthier food for you and your loved ones?
3. Launching community gardens specializing in food production
A community-edible garden is a satisfying project to start. In particular, there would be personal satisfaction for the people involved as they harvest the fruit of their labor - Literally. When local or national market price increases, having a garden that could provide food would allow you to allocate your savings for other needs. A community can sell the fruit of their hard work to become economically independent or consume them to ensure local food security. If that still does not convince you, imagine craving some oranges but forgetting to buy them when you go for groceries. It felt empowering to be able to walk a few meters to your community garden and pick them up!
4. Using sustainable alternatives to replace one-time use products
Unsustainable wastes such as plastic and metal could take years to decompose. In some countries, these wastes were dumped on top of barren land, producing odor, creating health concerns, and resulting in an unsightly view for the surrounding neighborhood. To prevent our landfills from worsening, start simple. Bring your own reusable bags when shopping or water bottle to school would be the first fantastic step to decrease plastic waste. You can promote reusing goods by teaching children about the environmental damage that plastics could do and show them sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives.
In developed countries, we often see trash bins separated by different symbols and colors. The purpose is to recycle plastic and metals, and food waste could decompose. In some countries, the three-bin system is not yet implemented or, in some cases, properly regulated. Hence, all sorts of garbage are cast together in a landfill. If this sounds like what happens in your community, fret not! Your community could still start independently managing local waste.
Pitching a community composting facility to your local area or starting your own by collecting food waste around the neighborhood is not a bad idea. For starters, to show the benefit of composting, the compost processed by local facilities can be returned to the neighbors. Then, your neighbors can see the improvement of their soils with the help of natural nutrients that feed their gardens. It is an ideal plan to go along with creating a community garden.
To recycle metal, paper, and plastic, you could rally your community to have them collected. You could choose to either sell the materials to recycling companies or support your local artists by donating the elements to them as mediums for their art.
6. Water Saving
The simplest way to save is to be mindful about when you spend tap water. Remember to rinse dirty plates in one go instead of one by one in community events and your homes. Do not let water runs out of your tap when nobody uses them.
Additionally, the modern world we live in consists of concrete jungles. Most of the time, rainwater could not make its way back to the ground. Unfortunately, this prevents water absorbed underground. Catching rainwater off a roof or using a water container assists water to penetrate the ground as you use them to water plants around the house or neighborhood. It is a better alternative compared to letting water dried up on a concrete surface. In addition, it saves tap water for irrigating your plants and reduces your utility bills. It is relatively easy to start in every household regardless of their economic status. Note this down if your local weather condition is hot and humid. To prevent mosquito breeding, put a lid on your water container after it has done its job of collecting rainwater.
There are many ways to be sustainable that fit your culture, climate, and community resources. Learn more how sustainability looks like around the world to get some inspiration on what you can apply in your community.