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I think that many people approach this “real food” or “natural” or “green” world and feel completely overwhelmed by it. And even once you’ve got it down at home, looking at the rest of the world and how difficult it is to change it is just too much.
Most people are not activists. They do what is right for their families, and they try not to worry too much about the rest of it. And it’s easy to see why — you can drive yourself crazy if you worry about all the “stuff” that is out there.
But there are ways that you can make a difference. Ways that are small, easy, yet can, over time, make a really big difference. They don’t take much time and they don’t cost much or any money. And if we all did them? The world would be a way better place.
1) Pick up a piece of trash
It’s become common for us to notice a bag or a wrapper in a parking lot, pick it up, and take it to a trash can. If you’re out somewhere and you see a piece of trash — pick it up. Take it to a nearby trash can. It only takes a minute, but it helps clean up the world. Bonus: choose a park or another area and bring your own trash bag and spend an hour cleaning it up.
2) Ask for what you want in a restaurant
This is especially true if you think they won’t have it. For example, if you’d like stevia for your iced tea, or real salt, or real butter — ask for it. The restaurants won’t know customers want these things if they don’t ask for them! Mention it whenever you go in so that they catch on that there is a demand for these items, and they just might decide to offer them. Bonus: bring your own condiments with you and tell the server why (briefly and politely).
3) Bring a meal or a snack to a friend
Lecturing a friend about the benefits of real food, even gently, isn’t a good way to win them over. Bring them a delicious meal if they’re having a busy time, or bring a snack to a play date to share, and you’ve got an easy opening. Most people will ask for the recipe if they like the food that was shared with them. It’s a simple, easy opportunity to share your love for real food in a non-threatening way. Bonus: tuck a small cookbook in with the meal that contains several real food recipes for them to try!
4) Praise something you like
If your local grocery store starts stocking a product you like — organic produce, natural peanut butter, local grass-fed milk — let the manager know you appreciate it. Stop by his or her office and say “Thanks for carrying this product, I enjoy it and really appreciate you having it.” It lets them know that people really want these things. Bonus: mention another product you’d like to see them carry!
5) Be honest about a choice you make
Sometimes it’s easier not to talk about your choices, if they’re “different,” because people take offense to all kinds of silly things. But don’t back down. Smile and say, “This is what we choose to do,” and then leave it alone. I know I feel guilty a lot if people ask me if it’s okay for my kids to have things (even though they are being totally non-judgmental), but I shouldn’t — and you shouldn’t either. Just be polite, be positive, but don’t hide it. Bonus: if they ask ‘why,’ answer the question and you might have a small opportunity to open someone’s mind to an ‘unusual’ choice!
6) Share an article on Facebook
If you find an article in a newspaper or on a blog that is particularly interesting to you, or explains something you believe in in a non-judgmental way, share it on your Facebook wall. It’s not at all in-your-face and your friends can choose to read it or ignore it. Add a comment like “Interesting” or “This is something we believe in;” something that’s very casual. Even if your friends aren’t commenting or ‘liking’ it, many are probably reading it. Bonus: If you have a friend who is especially curious, tag him/her. Alternately, ask a gentle question and see if you can start a mature and respectful discussion.
7) Sign a petition you believe in
I subscribe to a lot of petition sites and I get sent many I don’t agree with. I delete and move on. But every now and then, one comes in that I really get behind — like labeling GMO foods. It takes two minutes to sign these petitions, and if they get enough signatures (which many do), they can actually force companies to enact change. It’s a very simple way to show your support. Bonus: if there’s an issue you’re passionate about that no one’s doing anything about, start your own petition.
8) Write a note to a company
Love something they’re doing? Want them to change? Let them know. Most companies have email contact information on their websites and it takes only a minute to write an email. I wrote to Chipotle once to ask them to use something other than soybean oil in their cooking. I wrote to Trader Joe’s to let them know their information vilifying saturated fat was out of date. Trader Joe’s never responded but their website reads differently now. You never know what difference it might make! Bonus: if you’re really pleased or bothered, make a phone call and speak to someone directly.
9) Reuse something
I used to throw away many of the glass bottles that I got from tomato sauce or tea drinks. Then I realized I could use them! We store the kids’ money in glass jars (the pennies they earn from doing extra chores — away from their reach), I use glass jars with lids as drinking glasses, I store leftovers in them, and so on. There are so many uses for them! And frankly reusing yourself is far better for the environment than recycling, because it doesn’t cause any additional energy use. Recycling still requires melting down and reforming the glass, but reusing only requires a quick wash at home. Bonus: Make it your goal to reuse anything that comes into your home at least once, even plastic bags.
10) Teach your children “why”
One of the most important things we can do is raise the next generation to be responsible and respectful of the earth and their bodies. Although our children are often immersed in the things about which we are passionate, they won’t know why we are passionate unless we tell them. Make sure to take the time to tell them “why” so that they can understand and hopefully adopt some similar passions, and carry on the important work of traditional foods and sustainable living. Bonus: involve your children in the projects you do as much as possible, so that they can learn how to do them in a hands-on way.
These are all very simple ways to make a difference, and they take very little of your time. No, each of them is not going to change the world tomorrow. But if you’re consistent and you do small things all the time, they will eventually make a big difference.
**This post has been entered in Frugal Days and Sustainable Ways.**