Fires, floods, famine – our situation is that dire. 2020 showed us in numerous ways that global warming is very real. We cannot ignore the effect it has had, nor our responsibility to Earth anymore.

Having good etiquette is not restricted to how we behave around human beings alone but also extends to respect and consideration for our surroundings – how much we consume and how much we waste. The Global Citizen, an activism platform fighting extreme poverty and climate change, reports that Americans produce three times more garbage than the global average. 

It is no longer sufficient to wait for the powers that be to do something drastic to reverse climate change. Certainly, authorities can take massive action, but individuals can effect conservation in various ways while influencing supply and demand.

Freshwater supplies have dwindled, microplastics have leeched into our oceans, and wildfires burned down 4.2 million acres of trees in California alone just in 2020. This is alarming! Each of us needs to be an Earth-friendly citizen saving every drop of water and thinking about how we consume things.

Plastic is probably the worst offender. Plastic bags, bottles and straws take approximately 450 years to decompose. We are choking Mother Earth with plastics faster than she can recover. 

#1 – Refuse

Refuse should be everyone’s default mode before aiming to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • Refuse to be a bystander. Instead, be an upstander for the planet. 
  • Refuse disposable cutlery and napkins included with every take-out meal. Mention this when you place your order.
  • Refuse the plastic lid for your coffee cup if you’re not taking it to go.
  • Say “no” to plastic bags and single-serving containers. 

Become aware of your own patterns of consumption and break them. Consume little, and there is little to recycle.

The following Earth etiquette tips will help you begin to heal the planet and conserve the three most used resources:

#2 – Water

  • Reduce the flow from your faucets by going under every sink and adjusting the valves.
  • Take timed showers and don’t let the water run when brushing your teeth or loading the dishwasher.
  • Time your garden’s irrigation so that it is optimal for the season.

#3 – Paper

  • Reuse paper grocery bags as bin liners for kitchen waste.
  • Halve paper napkins to wipe your hands. Compost used paper napkins at home, or toss them in the green compost bin.
  • Use both sides of a sheet of paper while writing or printing. Only print documents if they cannot be reviewed or shared electronically.

#4 – Plastic

  • Reuse all plastic shopping bags. Take them back to the store and reuse them during other shopping trips. Use your larger shopping bags as garbage bin liners. Use smaller shopping bags to line bathroom bins. 
  • Avoid buying bottled water. As convenient as it seems to grab and go, single-use plastics are very wasteful.
  • Say “no” to straws when dining out. These end up in the ocean, directly threaten marine life, while their microplastics destroy the oceans’ integrity.

Recognizing the enormous nature of the waste we create leaves us with no option but to shift our consciousness to impel changes in our behavior.  The Earth will thank us for it.

By Miera Rao