A woman overlooking a mountain in the distance

As an “outside kid,” life on our family farm revolved around the weather, if it rained too much or not enough, froze too early, the wind blew too hard or the sun scorched the crops before they were harvested. Part of me always cared about how I treated the earth, but most of me never quite knew what to do about it because I was just one person.

I wanted summers that didn’t last as long, springtime storms that were not as severe, snow every winter and mostly the water to rise back to normal levels at the lake we called our second home. Yet, I had no clue what I could do or where to even start.

The things I wanted to change were unable to be changed by sheer will, and no matter how passionate I felt, so many things in the world were still upside down and wrong. My entire life, I relied on my passion to change things. Somewhere along the way, I came to see that passion and protest were not always the answer. I had been righteously angry about many things and still unable to change anything about them.

I had been righteously angry about many things and still unable to change anything about them.

As a girl who had relied on pure emotion to get me through for most of my life, I felt stuck. What else was I supposed to do?

In my last semester of college, I was feeling more lost and stuck than ever. A friend told me that where I could, I should stop doing things that were not good for me. So I stopped doing things that made me feel suffocated, helpless, anxious or inadequate. I stopped eating foods that made me feel sick or foggy (looking at you, Oreos) and started working out semi-regularly. I made the promise to myself that no matter what the day held, I would do one thing that was good for me every day.

To my shock, I started to feel a little better and a little more like myself each day. I started to ask what else I could start to shift by making small changes: Could all the things I was passionate about but couldn’t change (through passion alone) improve if I made small changes? Eventually, I took a deep breath and decided to do what had worked for me once: make small changes and see what happened.

I started to ask what else I could start to shift by making small changes.

I am a strong believer that if one person starts to do the next right thing and takes steps toward a goal, others join. This is how movements are created. As we approach Earth Day, there are simple (and inexpensive!) things we can each do to create a healthier planet.

Reduce single-use plastic.

Reusable shopping and produce bags are a one-time, inexpensive purchase. You will also be relieved to no longer have heaps of plastic bags hoarded away in your pantry. You can also switch your to-go coffee cup with a glass or ceramic tumbler as well as invest in a reusable water bottle.

Also, a metal or glass straw is also an easy change to make. By reducing your amount of single-use plastic, you can help lower not only pollution but also carbon emissions. Many coffee shops and grocery stores also offer discounts for bringing your own bags or cup!

Save electricity.

As the days get longer and warmer, try to use your overhead lighting less. Open your curtains and use natural light to work in your home. Not only are you saving energy and money, but you can also avoid headaches or eye strains that typical overhead lighting can cause. You can also switch your lightbulbs out for energy-efficient bulbs.

Shop less. Shop more responsibly.

When you are shopping for clothing or shoes, think twice before you buy. Is this something you have been wanting for a while or is it an impulsive purchase? Will you wear this piece, and will it hold up for a long time or fall apart in a matter of months?

You can save money in the long run by shopping less often and buying pieces that may be more expensive upfront but are made well to last. Try to look for brands that are fair trade or B corp certified. These are ethically made and designed to last.

Unplug.

Not using your charger, fan or straightener? Unplug them when you aren’t using them! You can save money and electricity by unplugging devices that aren’t in use. When it comes down to it, these things don’t need to stay plugged in either, especially your curling iron or straightener! The earth and your electricity bill will thank you.

There are many more changes we can all make to help promote a cleaner earth, but these are simple and money-saving switches that are quick and easy to implement. When things seem a little bit overwhelming, I remind myself that all it takes is the next right thing.

Earth Day is April 22. What small changes can you make that will impact our earth on this day and in the future?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

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