Mindful living for a greener future: Changing your mindset can save the planet
Discover the power of mindfulness and sustainable living in combating the climate crisis and creating a better future for all
The effects of the climate crisis have had a significant impact on human lives, affecting every aspect of living, from physical to mental health. Our environment has been under pressure to meet the material consumption of the 21st century, as mankind is living in greater prosperity than ever before. Ecosystems have changed extensively in the past 50 years, as compared to any other period in history. Pollution and overexploitation are the top by-products of materialistic advancement and major contributors to the climate crisis.
While the impact of global warming is being noticed globally, it is also causing various psychological problems such as worry, anxiety, distress, depression, and trauma. Heat waves, earthquakes, and floods are of particular concern, as they bring loss, grief, and trauma with them.
While one person alone cannot solve the climate crisis, collectively living sustainably can contribute to mitigating its impact.
Sustainability has become a popular term, yet its true meaning and implications are often misunderstood or overlooked. But what is sustainability? “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development has one basic fundamental, which is to improve human living standards and to sustain these improvements over time.
The growing demand for energy and resources while the climate crisis persists is a significant challenge that requires collective responsibility to find sustainable solutions. Here is where mindfulness steps in. Mindfulness is a concept that can help foster a deeper person-environment connection and address cognitive systems. It is a state of awareness that involves paying attention to what is happening at the moment. “Mindfulness is a state of awareness. It is paying attention, on purpose, to what is happening in the moment, without trying to judge or change what is happening,” said Scott M Pickett, PhD.
Mindfulness and sustainable living are interlinked as practicing mindfulness allows us to be aware of our actions and their impact on the environment, while sustainable living requires us to make conscious choices that are in harmony with nature.
How do we do this>? We can begin with RRR.
One way to adopt a mindful lifestyle is through RRR — not the blockbuster movie, but the approach — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Plastic is prevalent in our lives, and almost every item we use, from morning takeaway coffee cups to our night creams, comes in plastic packaging. We produce 380 million tons of plastic every year, and 50% of it is single-use plastic that takes hundreds of years to decompose. The US and the UK produce the most plastic waste than any other country, with Americans generating 105kgs and the British generating 98kgs per person.
By adopting a RRR lifestyle, we can reduce the amount of plastic waste that flows into our oceans.
Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, was invented in 1907, a groundbreaking achievement that paved the way for the global production that took off in the 1950s, leading to the current predicament where we produce an astonishing 380 million tons of plastic every year. Half of this is single-use and has persisted on our planet for centuries, with the US and the UK topping the list of the biggest plastic waste producers, averaging 105kgs and 98kgs per person, respectively. China generates only 15kgs and India produces 11kgs per person. Research tells us that the amount of plastic waste that flows into our oceans will nearly triple by 2040.
As we strive for sustainability and mindfulness, it's important to recognize that going beyond plastics is just the tip of the iceberg. We must continue to challenge our consumption habits, invest in sustainable products and systems, and advocate for policies that support a circular economy. Only by taking collective action can we build a more just and sustainable world for future generations. Mindfulness, after all, helps identify unhelpful habits and replace them with helpful ones. When we are mindful, we waste less food, water, energy, clothes, and move away from wants towards needs.
Research across the globe links mindfulness to sustainable behaviour, and we become more considerate of other people and the planet. We can look for brands that use recycled or biodegradable fibres, and carry a reusable coffee mug instead of using disposable cups. When we adopt a RRR lifestyle, major corporations will follow suit. Our unsustainable lifestyles cannot continue on their current path. It has to stop.
Bhupinder Sandhu is a London-based mindfulness coach who believes in the human ability to build a blissful world together
The views expressed are personal