Every day we hear about the impact our lives are having on our planet. Every day we carry on with our lives as we are used to. Why? Because we cannot give up on our 21st century lifestyles. Every day the media, scientists and NGOs inform us that Governments have to implement policies to save our Earth.
But, can we make a direct difference? Yes, we can. We must change our mindset towards our habits. We can do this through being mindful. Mindfulness is the ability to connect with the moment in time you are in and the ability to change your outlook to be more at ease with yourself and life. For example, you are mindful when you fully engage all your thoughts and energies in something you are doing in that moment without getting distracted by other thoughts; you can be mindful when you live your life by taking into account the fact that your actions can affect the world around us and therefore act sustainably and resiliently.
Can we be mindful for our environment, then? Yes, we definitely can.
Society leads us in the choices we make; we are surrounded by advertising; our subconscious is conditioned by what we see and hear every single day. We all want to try to keep up appearances, buying the latest product on the market or the product that would keep our ego and self-esteem high, competing with everyone else who is trying to do the same. This is normal behaviour: since primordial times there has been competition for the fittest, it is part of the natural selection. Therefore, also in everyday life, in our modern society where we do not need to fight beasts any longer for our survival, we still need to fight for our assurance in society. Those who do not look like they ‘fit in’ are naturally isolated or treated differently. So the pressure is on all of us to ‘fit in’ with the modern world expectations.
For many of us being able to fit in means being able to have a certain look, the one portrayed by the media. The average person is able to do this by buying more affordable products on the market. Often this means that our buying is detrimental towards our environment and animals because often cheaper goods equal less environmentally and animal friendly products as, to keep costs down, manufacturers often have to omit some procedures which would be costly and therefore increase the price of the goods.
Consumerism has probably been one of the factors that contributed to the high level of pollution and the production of disproportionate waste. The more we buy, the more waste we create. The more waste we create the more damage we do to our planet. We are part of the ecosystems; many of the actions we take impact negatively on habitats in general. It is imperative to be mindful about our planet. It is imperative to be mindful about our buying habits.
We must fully believe that we all can make a change in our everyday life by believing in the changes we want to undertake without being conditioned by others or consumerism.
How can we achieve this? The possibility is actually already out there.
We all now know about using our own reusable shopping bags, reusable drinking bottles and recycling as best as we can. There is much, much more we can do. Mindfulness will help us look out for official Certifications/Labels which let us know when companies are acting on climate change, pollution, social and animal welfare. They are often easy to spot: for example the green leaf, to show that the product is organic; the frog logo, to show that the product is Rain Forest friendly; the rabbit logo, to show that products have not been tested on animals; the fair-trade logo, to show that the producers have been paid fairly; Forest Stewardship Certificate (FSC) to show that the paper in the product has been sustainably sourced; the recycling triangle… These are just but a few. Start looking out for them and you will notice how many companies you can find that are trying to make a difference in the manufacturing of their products. There is even an App, Giki, which, helps and advise us on products we buy; the developers say, ‘Giki is the social enterprise committed to making easy to find sustainable, healthy and ethical products.’ It is easy to use and quite addictive as well (I realised that some products I was using were not as environmentally friendly as I thought!).
Other decisions we can make mindfully are to not overbuy just to be fashionable. We can buy better but less. The items you would buy would last longer too, decreasing the surplus of polluting discarded clothes. We can also wash clothes at 30°C and shorter cycles – we would reduce CO2 emissions, use less electricity and the colour on the clothes would fade less easily. We can buy cleaning products that are plant based containing less chemicals, which may also reduce skin allergies, not to mention water pollution.
We can eat less meat and when we do make sure it follows Animal Welfare standards; trying to buy as much organic and responsibly sourced food, and from local farmers to reduce carbon footprint. Unfortunately, organic is still rather expensive, however, if we try to buy it when we can, the sales will increase, and the price will hopefully decrease becoming more affordable for all.
To be mindful about our planet, I don’t believe veganism is the answer, nevertheless we must try to all be conscientious in our buying and eating habits, moving towards a more balanced diet. Many communities in the world survive on the trade of meat or animal derived products from meat to wool, from dairy to leather, from honey to silk; by all becoming vegan we would negatively impact many people’s lives and cultures. To this end, we must aim to support communities and businesses who are in line with our mindfulness; ultimately to safeguard, protect and conserve animal species, habitats and climate change. We do not need to give up on progress to be mindful for our Planet, we just need to use our intelligence and willpower to actively choose to make a difference in our ordinary life. If we all make a difference, our single step towards positive change would turn into a mass change which is what our Planet, our Mother Nature deserves.
We must think of ourselves as part of the life cycle of our Planet, we must actively, responsibly and resiliently take part in it. As Human Beings we are one of the many species in the Animal Kingdom, we are not superior, we depend on this life cycle too. Mindfulness towards our Planet is the key to unlocking that secret passage that will lead us to sustainability where we can evolve and adapt to further our development started millennia ago.
Silvia Barro is the founder of MindfulVita.
Photo Credit: Lucy: By Lake Iseo, Italy.