One trend that has been gaining traction lately is the push towards integrating environmental sustainability into our everyday lives. The issue with trends, however, is that they always fizzle out. Changing small practices in our everyday lives to make them more sustainable is easy and can have long lasting impacts on future generations. As humans, we have created a lot of great technologies that make our lives more efficient. The tradeoff has been the negative impact they are having on the environment. Sustainability involves using practices in our everyday lives that reduce waste, reverse the impacts of climate change, and allow us to support the continual health of the population. Living sustainably is too important to just be a trend! So, what can we do as a generation to make sure sustainability stays relevant?
Eat less meat! Animal agriculture is unhealthy for the environment because of the pollutants that are released by factory farms. In fact, factory farming is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it is not very sustainable. Chickens, pigs, cows, and most of the other animals we eat are herbivorous, so they don’t eat any animals. Thus, eating animals is like eating second-hand plant nutrients. Also, they eat much more than humans. If we eat less animals, factory farms will breed less animals because it is not cost-beneficial for them, and the crops used to feed animals could directly feed humans (and since we eat less, it would feed many more of us)! As if sustainability and was not a good enough reason to eat less meat, the impact on our health is another great benefit. One documentary that I watched on Netflix called The Game Changers explained the numerous health benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you don’t want to give meat up completely, try starting with Meatless Mondays! Starting a plant-based diet can seem very intimidating and limiting at first, but in my experience, it can also create opportunities to try new foods!
Use less water! One thing we have probably all heard is to remember to turn off the water when we brush our teeth, and that is very important. The EPA estimates that leaving the water running while we brush our teeth wastes an average of 4 gallons per brush. If you brush your teeth twice a day, that is 2920 gallons (11054 liters) per year! Another simple way we can save water is by buying low-flow shower heads. They are usually inexpensive, and there are a wide variety of options to choose from. Another benefit for you is that you will save more money on your water bill each month!
Compost! This is one of the most underrated practices in our world today. So what exactly is composting? Compost is essentially the controlled decomposition of biodegradable materials, including but not limited to: leftover food, eggshells, paper waste, and some plastics. Instead of throwing these items in the garbage, we can compost them! Many people can create a compost bin in their backyards, but if you don’t have a backyard, you can create an indoor compost bin. Composting can enrich the soil with nutrients, which creates healthier plants for us to eat because it reduces soil erosion and runoff. Composting is not only sustainable, but it is also regenerative. While it is important to live sustainably, it is even better to be able to live regeneratively. This means that we are living sustainably by not depleting Earth’s resources, but also giving back by creating more resources for the Earth. Composted matter brings a lot of organic matter into the soil, allowing the soil to store more water, sequester (or extract) carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and give plants more nutrients. By diverting compostable waste from landfills, you will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it will reduce your carbon footprint!
When I was younger, I understood the concept of practice in the context of the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”. As a child who participated in many sports and played multiple musical instruments, practice referred to the events I worked on to improve my technical skills. At practice, I would learn how to do better through acts of repetition and intentional change.
Eventually, I chose to centralize my practice towards my passion for dance. With my goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, practice took on a whole new layer of meaning. I worked daily and repeatedly at a set of physical movements in ballet to improve and refine my technique. This repetition led to growth and mastery within ballet and my practice became understood as a necessary means that would result in self-improvement.
As I got older, my conception of practice began to evolve. My practice became grounded in the habitual sense of coming back to something. There was still a level of mastery that I was after, but it was more so realized as a continuous and infinite pattern that I felt compelled to return to. Year after year and almost every day, I would start again at the ballet barre where I would repeat the same series of physical movements. But the sameness of this repetition never bored me, because everyday was different and I was different everyday. Every day brought its own joys and challenges, and everyday I came back with 24 more hours of lived experience. Everything surrounding me was in a constant state of change and the stability of my daily practice became like a refuge for me, one that I could always return to and find comfort in.
As I reflect on how I approach my practice in the present, I have found that in many ways, practice is similar to a routine. The habitual nature of both concepts are the same, but practice puts an intentionality to the repetition and implies a sense of growth. The contents of our daily routines can be the same as our daily practices, but approaching our daily routines as daily practices can drastically reframe how we approach our lives. For me, practice no longer only refers to the physical practice I put into my dancing body. My daily practices encompass how I approach my life, what I eat, what time I go to sleep, how I take care of my body, and how I take care of my mind.
What is it exactly that enables us to leave our beds every morning? What is it that motivates us to perform daily tasks such as school, homework, studying, work, chores, etc.? In the midst of a now year-long global pandemic, how are we still able to function? In each of us, there exists a trait called resilience that is the driving force behind our decisions to perform our daily tasks even while the world outside is undergoing a chaotic time. Resilience means that while we may have a million things happening either directly to us or around us, we are able to still carry on with our responsibilities. We do this by prioritizing certain tasks as essential duties meaning that we are so bound and determined to follow through on our decision(s), we will ignore all other things attempting to distract us from our priorities. So why is this important?
The reason why I chose to write this article on resilience is because I strongly feel that we have an issue with recognizing and acknowledging our own resilience, and therefore we do not give ourselves the credit and acknowledgment we deserve. Prioritizing certain tasks and events over others, even while the world may be falling apart around us, is no small feat. I firmly believe that we owe it to ourselves to recognize our resilience in the daily, seemingly insignificant decisions that we make. By choosing to recognize our resilience and give ourselves credit, we are making the decision to show ourselves self-care. We are also feeding our confidence and self-esteem in a healthy way.
How can we recognize and acknowledge our resilience? Personally, I try to be mindful of the fact that every decision I make is important and give myself credit for prioritizing things even if they are small such as getting out of bed, attending class, and opening up my textbook to study for my exam. I recommend that you do the same: Give credit to yourself for every decision you make even if it seems small, getting out of bed when the world is falling to pieces and showing up to your Zoom lecture to take notes and listen are no easy tasks.