We do everything we can to treat our environment with respect, at the Unity Spiritual Center, at home and when we're making choices about what we do and how we do it.
Below are some suggestions on how to reduce the "footprint" or environmental impact of our activities.
Avoid Takeout Containers - Say "no" to takeout food and bring your own containers for restaurant leftovers. Sure, no more takeout is starting big, and you might never eat pizza again. If you can't say "no" to takeout, how about not having so much? Try only one takeout meal a week and find restaurants that pack up dinner in non-plastic, non-Styrofoam, eco-friendly containers. (Skip the plastic bag, too!)
Stop Using Plastic Bags - One easy way to go a little greener is to refuse bags. Have your reusable bags handy. If your locale doesn't have a plastic bag ban, talk to your local representative and see if you can get the city, county council or state legislature to implement one.
Stop Using Paper Towels - Yes, they're convenient. Yes, your family's messy. But it's easy to live without paper towels. Instead of these perforated one-use paper sheets, start using your dish towels (sure, even the nice ones) to wipe up messes. You can even use them to pat meat dry and clean mirrors and windows (just not at the same time). Toss them in the wash and reuse next week. Cut up old bath towels for extra-absorbent needs. If you want to get really crafty, add snaps onto a dozen or more washcloths and roll them up onto your old paper towel holder. (Also works with Velcro.)
Use Non-Plastic Reusable Water Bottles - If you're one of those people with cabinets full of water bottles, make a commitment to stop accepting plastic. Just say "thank you," and hand it back to the person working the registration table. Start using the reusable water bottles you have, recycling or passing along any that you know you won't use or ones that leak.
Give Up the Straw - Yes, you have the right to drink from a straw. And yet, if you don't need one in order to sip from a glass, stop using them. Just like that. Make sure when you order drinks at a restaurant to request no straw, then remind them when they arrive at the table. (It's habit; they're not being huffy by offering them.) Encourage your eating mates to do the same. It's small. It saves our water families too. Or carry you own steel straw. Its reusable.
Use Green Cleaning Products - We Americans really go after our homes when we clean with products that strip grime, kill bacteria and leave everything smelling like bottled meadow. Cleaning products can be made of some toxic stuff and often yield the same results as quick cleaners you make yourself (minus the toxicity). Look into orange oil, castille soaps and all the things you can do with lemon and baking soda. Commit to not replacing your cleaning products with more bottles and sprays of stuff, and instead shifting to more earth-friendly strategies.
Eliminate Food Waste - The production of food is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S. So, when you're throwing out food, you've warmed the planet for nothing. Make a choice that you're no longer going to throw out food and, instead, shop smarter, offer and take smaller portions at meals (allowing for seconds, of course), and find ways to incorporate leftovers into lunches or other meals. Shopping more often and organizing the refrigerator can help cut back on waste as well. This takes practice but can become habit.
Start Composting - Another way to take the guilt from (and reduce the environmental damage of) food waste is to start a compost. If you find that you often have wilting lettuce and kale in the fridge, tossing it in a compost bucket or worm farm is a great way to return it to the Earth rather than putting it in a landfill.
Buy Local Produce or Start a Garden - Even if you don't have a lot of space, you can start a garden on a windowsill, deck or sunny corner in the living room. Gardening reduces, one tomato at a time, the carbon emissions on your daily salads. While you're waiting for your Earth Day garden to produce, you could also commit to shopping from local farmers, either at a farmer's market or a grocery store that carries locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Repair Things - Small appliances, houseware, furniture, and clothes and shoes are cheap enough that there's little financial incentive to repair them when they break. Instead, most of us just replace them with new ones. But fixing is possible, even if you're not an electrician or super great with a needle and thread. Shoe- and leather-repair places still exist in most cities, and YouTube has videos on how to fix almost anything. You'll not only keep things out of the landfill, you also won't be purchasing something that's made from tons of plastic, has been shipped halfway across the world, then trucked all the way across the country. Plus, it's fun.
Go Electronic -Stop most of the unsolicited mail that shows up in your mailbox. Even if you recycle all your junk mail, not having it created on your behalf in the first place has the better environmental impact. cataloguechoice.org is a website where you can stop those unwanted catalogues.
Turn Things Off - Being vigilant about turning the lights off in an empty room is great. But what about all the appliances and electronic goods that, even when not in use, drain electricity. Phantom power use is a big waste of electricity, money and natural resources.
Eat Less Meat - This year go vegetarian or vegan, even for just the day. Even if you're a meat-and-two-sides kind of family, there are ways to abstain from meat and animal products, if only for one day a week (think: Meatless Mondays). There are plenty of ideas for weeknight vegan and vegetarian meals. The way meat is produced in most of the world — no longer on small farms — has taken a toll on the Earth's health and climate. In fact, meat production is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases on the planet.
Recycle (and Stop Buying So Many) Electronics - We live in an age where even our $1,000 phones are basically disposable. We expect them to be out of date in fewer than five or 10 years. Lower-cost ones are even easier (and more common) to get rid of, rather than resell, refurbish or live without new and better features. Recycling electronic goods, called e-waste, is important. Precious metals are stripped and reused, and plastic casings are melted and converted into something else. Even better is to commit to not succumbing to the siren song of upgrades and new gear. Sure, we're in a home computer and smartphone world. But do you really need a tablet? Or would a single tablet cover your needs and mean you don't also need a smartphone and computer. Isn't one videogame console enough? And what about all those handheld toys going unplayed in your kids' closets?
Shop Used - Clothes and fast fashion are also destroying the planet. Fabrics contain petroleum products. The carbon cost to make and ship them is steep, even if the price tags are low. Retail therapy can still be a guilty pleasure, but shopping used means you're not making the planet pay the steep price. Secondhand stores are filled with barely worn clothing, brand-new home goods and other things you're tempted to get at big box stores. Make Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul your first stop when you think you need something. Save the big box stores for times when you can't find gently used items.
Refuse (Then Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) - We are given so many things throughout a single day that we haven't even asked for. Straws with our drinks, napkins in a bag, packages surrounding one serving of a fruit or vegetable, packets, tote bags, flyers, stickers, free keychains, armbands and more. It seems rude to refuse and, when you do, you're often met with confused looks and "Are you sure? It's free!" But not taking something, no matter how small, is the first step in turning around modern lives of excess and planet destruction. Next is finding ways to reduce packaging on necessities, which might mean shopping in bulk food stores, especially ones that let you bring your own container. Recycling is great, of course, and we're lucky to have the option (though it's unclear how long that is going to last). But refusing: That gets down to the root of it.
Tell Grandparents: 'No More Toys' - It seems rude and unthinkable, but we might be at a point where we need to tell grandparents (and other well-wishers), "No more toys." Before kids are even born, they have a carbon footprint, with all the gifts and equipment and supposedly necessary things you need to raise a baby. By the time they're toddlers, they're surrounded in chaos by so many plastic toys, or even cloth and wooden things, that they don't ever really play with them
Speak Out -Sure, individual actions are important, but policy changes could go a long way to support (and incentivize others) to go green, reach out to your city council about cleaner air, a plastic bag ban or how to create a more walkable neighborhood or downtown in your area. Tell your representative in your state legislature that you want your state to commit to reducing carbon emissions as agreed upon in international agreements, such as the Paris Accord. And nationally, pressure your senators to approve executive cabinet appointments of only those whose interests truly benefit the environment. Elect leaders who understand that climate change is real. And if there are none of them to vote for, run for office yourself.
You know all this. We all just need to put it, at least some of it, into practice. Let’s start with implementing a new program from Big Unity…UnityVeg.
We can take a small step and work our way into healthier eating and help the Earth in that small way. You all know we at Unity are doing many things to reduce our Carbon Footprint…recycling, using cleaning products that are environmentally friendly, buying recycled paper products and copy paper, recycling our ink cartridges…and now let’s give a try to healthier food options for our Fellowship time. Fruits, veggies, baked goods with a healthy twist. We can do this.
Blessing to you all for all you do.