You’re on your way to work and see some poor guy in the street getting pummeled by a group of his peers. What do you do?

  1. Turn your head and keep walking
  2. Attempt to stop them
  3. Throw a few punches yourself

In many ways, the earth is like that guy. It’s getting pummeled by trash, pesticides and other pollutants. But as ridiculous as choice C seemed before, it’s what most of us do to the earth every day. We’re all guilty of throwing punches. Some of us are guiltier than others, but we can start to turn things around when we think of our actions in terms of how they impact the environment.

When it comes to the health of our Mother Earth, it’s easy to become complacent. You recycle (most of the time) and wouldn’t think of littering. That’s enough right? After all, how much of a difference can one person really make?

While it’s true that our collective choices have the largest impact, you can make a difference on your own too.

Let’s explore a few ways our personal choices can affect the earth.

Dietary choices

There’s almost nothing more personal than how we choose to eat. Typically, we grow up eating a certain way and find comfort in the foods of our childhood. But when you start learning about how our food supply impacts the environment, it becomes clear that it’s time for change.

Your diet can have a massive impact on the environment, depending on how your food is grown and/or prepared. If you want to eat with the lowest possible impact, become vegan and grow your own vegetables. For many people, that’s extreme, so let’s explore a few more options.

  • Pesticides – The results of a recent lawsuit against Monsanto are all over the news and social news feeds, bringing light to the problems that pesticides can cause. But pesticides aren’t just a danger to people. They’re also a danger to the environment. When pesticides are sprayed on crops, they contaminate the soil and can leach into our water supply. Even if you buy all organic produce, you’re likely to come in contact with pesticides from our food supply. However, when you buy produce that has been sprayed with pesticides, you are effectively encouraging these practices. Each purchase is a vote that tells suppliers you want them to produce more just like this.
  • Antibiotics – Much like with pesticides, antibiotics leak into our soil and water sources from food production. It begins with unhealthy farming practices. On factory farms, animals like pigs, chickens and cows are crammed into tight spaces to maximize the farmer’s return on investment. They are treated more like products than beings, and as such, they are prone to illness. Antibiotics are often a quick fix, but they end up harming our environment.
  • Methane – Methane is about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping the earth’s atmosphere, so this is an important greenhouse gas. It is naturally emitted by decomposing plant material, and it’s belched out by cows and other ruminant livestock. We can’t eliminate methane, nor would we want to, but we can reduce its impact by cutting back on the animal products we consume.

Bad habits

We all have bad habits. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes, dealing with an alcohol problem and smashing bottles in a parking lot, or using too many disposable plastics, our habits can have a negative impact on the earth. Some things seem so minor and commonplace that we don’t even think about how they could be harmful.

For example, imagine you visit Starbuck’s every day and order an iced coffee. If you were to keep each plastic cup you were given for the entire month, you’d have a whole lot of plastic trash.

Did you know that the plastic cup you’re drinking out of will remain on this earth for more than 5 generations? You could pass that cup down to your great, great, great, great grandchildren, but instead, it will sit in a landfill. If we continue this way, our great, great, great, great grandchildren may be living in a landfill on top of all those plastic cups we’re using now.

And if you smoke, you should know that your cigarette butts will stay in landfills for 10-12 years.

What you can do

Everyone has a carbon footprint. So, when we talk about being kind to the earth, it’s not about eliminating your impact. It’s about lessening it. Recycling is a great start, but you can also keep from damaging the earth with the choices you make every day.

You don’t have to become a vigilante, either. Take care of yourself first, and then you can worry about what other people are doing. As a bonus, the things that are good for the environment are usually better for your health too.