Saying that people have learned A LOT recently certainly wouldn’t be an exaggeration. And I don’t mean biology, Space shuttles engineering or IT. I’m talking about small and simple daily habits that quietly but consistently change your life and, hopefully, making an entire world a better place for all of us.
I think, we’re finally starting to realize that planet Earth isn’t an incubator with an endless energy and resources, created for us to be happy, wealthy and totally irresponsible. We’re starting to realize that we need to take care of our only home, otherwise one day we might… simply become homeless! But without any food given by a random stranger for breakfast and clothes donated by a charity organization this time. Or even without any air to breath at all!
The reason I am so positive about this is because I see a lot of people coming to supermarkets with their own fabric bags these days. Many of my friends are vegan or eat meatless meals at least one day per week. This weekend I attended acroyoga workshop in Tauranga that begun with an unexpected and really difficult question: if you could change on thing on Earth, what would it be? “Stop thinking animals are here for us and treat them like equals”, “Use less plastic”, “Avoid food waste” – these were the answers. All that makes me hope that people are becoming really conscious of the impact their daily habits might have on the world we live in. And awareness, in my opinion, is already a huge step to making a difference.
Of course, it might be confusing at first: there are so many problems – where do I start from? What if I don’t have money to donate? But if I use paper bag instead of plastic one, does it mean I’m now killing trees instead of fishes? And who deserves to live more? And what if all my efforts are too tiny and insignificant? Well, what if I told you – there is no such thing as “insignificant”? You might only choose to bring your own mug to a cafe instead of using a paper takeaway cup every day and in 40 years you would save 24 trees! To say nothing about all the water and energy needed to produce these cups. Do you still think this small move is insignificant?
It took Alex and I quite a while to realize how valuable our everyday decisions are. And I’m not ashamed to admit that two years ago I was never closing the tap while brushing my teeth. Or could ask for a takeaway cup even if I was dinning in a cafe – just because I preferred it that way. Did I know it’s not right? I certainly did. Did I fell it was wrong? Yes I did. I just couldn’t think that one little me is in a position to make a difference. So I preferred to simply ignore it. Until I made friends with some awesome people that sparkled the light and made me feel important, made me feel like I can really change the world, should I only start doing something.
I mean, we didn’t just wake up one day being a totally different people. We discussed our decisions a lot, we compared our opinions on different questions, we looked for an advice and information. And we’re still learning! Some things were easier. For example, once Alex just said: “Let’s take our fabric bags to the supermarket tomorrow. I’m sick of all that plastic. If they won’t fit everything, we’ll just take and reuse one of the cardboard boxes that are always left by fruit and veggie companies there.” Other topics might be more difficult and controversial. Like, if we forgot reusable water bottle at home, should we be dying of thirst all the way up to Auckland airport or can buy plastic water batter at the gas station? Without going too fanatical about it, we’re happy to do just as much as we can at the moment.
What I’m trying to say is no matter what was your life like til’ today, the only thing that matters is who are you now and if you’re ready to change your daily life just a little bit to finally start giving back. It is not “too late”. Whenever you make this decision – it is your perfect time! And even if you fail to do something one day, there should be no judgements and no regrets. Remember, you’re not indifferent, thus you’re awesome!
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Here are sustainable habits that we more or less have already implemented. Hopefully, they will inspire you to start changing your life as well!
1. Reusable water bottles. New Zealand is all about outdoors, being active, hiking and sunbathing. Not surprisingly, we consume a lot of water! A lot of water in a lot of plastic water bottles means… you got it, a lot of plastic! I hope, you never had a chance to watch one of those horrifying videos on YouTube of divers swimming in a giant rubbish bins that we used to call “oceans”. The amount of waste we produce by trying to stay hydrated is extraordinary. But if fishes’ safety for some reasons doesn’t seem really important to you, think selfish: if fish eats plastic and you eat fish… that’s right, you eat plastic too! Is plastic really your type of haute cuisine? Moreover, reusable water bottles save a lot of money. Imagine spending, let’s say $5 on water per week. That’s $260 per year! And how much a reusable water bottle would cost you? Just Googled – even an ultra luxurious one with Swarovski crystals is only $200. And let me guess, you probably don’t need the one with Swarovski crystals. No matter what your motives are, the main thing is to ditch single-use plastic.
2. Use Your Own Cup. Or mug. Or use the one they have at the cafe and for once enjoy your drink while comfortably sitting at the table. Have you ever heard about UYOC? Or Use Your Own Cup. It’s New Zealand’s cafe guide, that lists sustainable local businesses supporting the idea of bringing your own cup to the cafe. Some of them might even offer you a discount for doing so! Besides reusable coffee cups, you can search for cafes that will refill your water bottle for free, have ethically sourced coffee beans, use organic products, don’t use plastic straws, etc. I love using this website to discover new vegan and eco-friendly places in towns and regions we travel to. Not only do I feel I’m making smarter choices, but I also support local businesses trying to make a positive impact by simply indulging into their food. Isn’t it awesome?
3. No plastic bags. I remember the first time I paid attention to that – my Italian friend, who moved to Moscow, rang me after her first groceries shopping in local Auchan, shocked and nearly crying: “They gave me so many plastic bags! They put one or two products in each bag! I asked them to put everything in one bag, but they couldn’t care less!” That’s what she told me. And that was the moment of truth. After that we were constantly trying to reduce the amount of bags we’re using. Until that very monologue by Alex I have already mentioned:) Now we prefer our beautiful fabric bags. Sometimes gaining a new habit requires some time. And that’s OK.
4. Switching off water while brushing teeth. By doing so you can save up to 700 litres of water every month! Many people in Africa, for example, do only have an access to 600 litres of water per month. For everything: for cooking, for washing – not only for brushing their teeth. Just saying.
5. No paper receipts. I’m glad people in New Zealand often ask if I need a receipt. And really, in case I’m not going to pass it on to my employer or something like that, why might I need to keep a piece of paper? As a reminder that I wasn’t strong enough to resist this mouthwatering burger? Or that I was lucky to see this cool new movie? I have my bank’s mobile app to track all the transactions and expenses. I only wish our bus drivers stopped giving a receipt every time you take a ride! Seriously, they all have rubbish bins for those receipts right next to their seats. So you pay, take the receipt… and immediately throw it away. Are you kidding me?
6. Library. I LOVE reading and I love books. Many of my favourites I’ll read two or three times. But what’s happening with these books after I almost learn them by heart? They are left on a bookshelf completely abandoned. We have a really amazing library in Tauranga and since moving here I only bought one book. No, two – I bought one as a gift as well! But I go to the local library every two weeks to pick a new book to read. Because even if I read my books 2 or 3 times, imagine how many times can a library book be read! What a smart way to use less paper (and spend less money).
7. Picking up rubbish. I don’t know how and when it all started, but at some stage I started noticing that except for carrying our cameras and water bottles while hiking or just walking around, Alex and I would normally carry some bits and pieces of rubbish, be it an empty bag of chippies, a can or something else. When you really love the place where you live you just can’t pass by the rubbish someone had left here before you. Especially knowing there should be a rubbish bin somewhere ahead. So we just try and pick it up whenever we can:) Because who wouldn’t want to live in a safe and clean environment?
8. Using public transport. Did you know that in some cities on our planet up to 80% of the pollution is attributed to cars? So taking a bus for once is another great way to do something differently. We all love our cars. That’s probably why our buses are always so empty:) Seriously, I can most often stretch my legs on the nearby seat and read a book or scroll Instagram feed while a bus is comfortably taking me from point A to point B. I plan blog updates, answer emails, eat my snacks – Gosh, buses are awesome. To say nothing about the fact that people who use public transport normally take 30% more steps per day. And I definitely like my legs to be toned!
These are some of the things we try to think about in our daily life these days. Hope they will inspire you for a new beginning! If not my writing, than our photos of the incredible place we all call home definitely should. Look how beautiful the nature around us is, and try to remember – there won’t be another planet ready to welcome us as soon as we’re done here, there won’t be a second chance. And it’s only upon us what world will we and our kids live in!