Environmental Care: Changing our mindset to help our environment every day
This week let’s talk about the environment. It is such an important part of our lives! We have to take care of our earth if we want future generations to have a place to call home or even for there to be future generations. We are all super busy and it can be hard to practice environmental care in our everyday lives. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to talk with a busy working mom who has made caring for our environment a top priority.
Dr. Marie A. Cabiya is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Illinois who has a passion for the environment. This “environmental OB” has gotten involved in many environmental projects in her community. She also has taken a lead in several organizations to help our environment. She truly practices environmental care every day. This week she took some time out of her busy schedule to tell us some easy ways we can include environmental care into our everyday lives. Read on to find out more 😉
What made you become interested in the environment?
I’ve always loved nature, but I’ve become a lot more committed to environmental matters since having children. Feeling like I have to pass on the baton to someone else has given me a sense of responsibility and an urge to leave things a little bit better than I found them.
Tell us about the environmental projects you are currently involved in
I’m currently involved in environmental matters at work, in my kids’ school district and in my community of Evanston, IL. I’ve found that one project leads to another. I am happy to report that my involvement in environmental matters has helped me to build a supportive tribe and deepened the ties to my community. Last year, I helped start a Green Team in school. We have been educating the students on recycling and are hoping to start composting soon. We’ve already succeeded in reducing our landfill waste significantly. I’m also working with a group of very energetic women to bring sustainability to the forefront of our school district.
How can a person who is interested in helping the environment at a community level or even larger scale get started?
Social media is a great way to find individuals with the same interest. Start with small, measurable goals. As your contacts grow, you may find that the logistics of your work get easier. Also, you may feel ready to tackle more ambitious projects. Don’t underestimate the difference that one person can make.
Most of us recycle and feel like we are helping the environment in this way. What are your thoughts on recycling?
Recycling is clearly better than throwing something in the landfill. However, the more I learn about sustainability, the more I realize that part of the issue with recycling is that it appeases our need to feel like we’re doing something for the environment without going the extra mile. Recycling takes up energy and creates harmful compounds such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Besides, most plastic can only be recycled a few times before it ends up in the landfill. The plastic creation cycle utilizes fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. This cycle starts over again when you can’t recycle anymore. Recycling is harmful when it keeps us away from working on the true solution to sustainability, which is reduction. The best way to reduce our impact on the environment is to reduce our use of its resources.
We all lead pretty busy lives, what are your top 5 easy recs to start practicing environmental care in our homes and daily lives?
Many environmentally friendly solutions can be easy to implement in our daily lives and even help us stick to a budget:
- Taking my own leftover lunch to work in reusable containers is a way to avoid the line at the sandwich shop, as well as reduce all the waste produced through take-out meals. Now that I have my arsenal of containers, cloth napkins and reusable baggies, I find I have no need for many single use items I once found indispensable.
- At the supermarket or the store, we often have similar choices with different packaging options. Considering packaging when making purchasing decisions typically takes no time at all. Trying to decide between that plastic bag of limes vs the single item? Going for the package-free version may save me money and potentially cut down on food waste. You should ask yourself: Am I really going to use all those limes before they go bad? I got myself an inexpensive set of mesh bags and use those in the stores to purchase lose items that would otherwise be packaged (such as mushrooms, cherries, bulk beans, etc.). Another easy packaging swap for our family has been using bar soap rather than bath gel.
- The more I learn about waste, the more I try to think outside the box when purchasing gifts. These days, I’m buying fewer things and more experiences. This past holiday season, I ditched the online shipping option for at least some on my list and gifted some restaurant certificates for family members and a photography session for my sister and her new baby. No need to go shopping or agonize over what the perfect item would be for each person. This means I also gifted myself some time.
- There are tons of easy ways to reduce our use of single use plastic. After my son commented on the amount of waste we produced when we ordered food for delivery, we’ve made a conscious effort of eating in at a restaurant rather than ordering in. We also reduce our plastic waste by asking waiters to hold the straw at a restaurant or requesting no plastic film at the dry cleaners.
- Meal planning is a win/win situation since it saves our family time at the supermarket, helps us stick to our healthy eating goals, makes week-night meal times smoother and, as a bonus, is a money saver. I use Pinterest to collect our favorite recipes, then only spend a few minutes making a list. This saves us from scratching our heads in front of the refrigerator during the week. I try to incorporate at least one leftover meal during the week. This makes for an easy meal and decreases our waste.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your journey to become more environmentally friendly in your everyday life?
My biggest challenge has been getting out of the mindset of immediate gratification that is easy to come by these days (many times dressed in the guise of online shopping!).
Making a conscious effort to reduce my waste has forced me to ask myself more often whether I really need a certain item.
I sometimes surprise myself when I come up with alternate solutions to an item I initially think I ‘need’. This past week, I created a homemade Swifter with old, unpaired socks and saved myself a Target run.
So much useful information! As Dr. Cabiya tells us:
My motivation stems from the fact that once I saw my waste, it has become impossible to un-see it.
We really do make so much waste! 😱Dr. Cabiya has even started industrial composting at home! If you would like to know more on how to incorporate environmental care into your everyday life, please check out her website here.
As always, thanks for reading, subscribe below if you haven’t yet and have an amazing week! 🌟