Using Less and Having More

There once was a young girl on a beach covered with starfish that would die if they remained on land. The young girl walked along, picking up starfish and putting them back in the water. A man approached the girl and said, "Why are you taking the time to do that? There's too many starfish here for that to make a difference!" "Tell that to those starfish," the girl replied, gesturing to the water. She had a point, so the man joined her, moving starfish. Soon, several people on the beach joined their efforts, and many starfish were returned to the water.

I encountered this story on a podcast. It resonated with me because I want to be more like that little girl. I want to believe that my small, daily actions can do something. It's easy to believe that small acts don't amount to great change. That in the grand scheme of things what we do is fairly insignificant. But it's quite the opposite. Little actions over time have the potential for great impact. Our actions can change us, inspire others, and ripple out into the world. As in the case of the little girl and the starfish, what we do matters.

This realization has prompted a lot of little lifestyle changes as of late — new habits, doing away with old habits, finding simple and gentle ways to care for the Earth and its living things (myself and family included). Here are some of those small changes. You could say these are my starfish: 

1. Take better care of myself. I find that when I make time to take care of my basic needs, I'm more peaceful and positive. Taking care of myself includes (and is far from limited to) intentional (limited) use of technology, time outside, exercise, and mindful regard of daily rhythms and expectations. Covering my basic needs allows me to focus on things other than myself and live in light of what's important.

2. Invest in and create items that eliminate the need for disposable goods. At first, it felt odd to buy additional things when I wanted to limit my consumption. But I realized that I could make a big difference with a few more permanent items such as reusable cups, cloth bulk bags, cloths for napkins, etc. These are things I can remember to use that will amount to less waste over time.

3. Buy organic and fair trade (food, beverages, and clothing) when possible. Those phrases can ring pretentious. But associations aside, for me it's about health and people: limiting exposure to toxins and treating living things with dignity. I know that the designations 'organic' and 'fair trade' are far from perfect, and the process to earn them is complicated and costly. I hope this changes. But for my part, I want to invest in products that go gently on people and the planet.

 4. Make food from scratch. We've started making things from fresh, simple ingredients. Bread, granola, salsa, tahini, and hemp milk are a few of our most recent productions. It can be time consuming and it takes planning, but it has been immensely satisfying. My hope is not only to prepare wholesome food, but to grow in my appreciation of what we have while connecting to where our food comes from.

5. Buy only what is needed, and feel grateful for what I have. I've incrementally donated excess stuff that I don't and won't use — clothes, household items, and the like. I want to move away from clutter and excess. And as I do, I'm learning that true happiness will never be found in more, new, or "better" stuff.

6. Engage with others. It's not always my propensity, but I find that smiling, treating strangers with kindness, and actively choosing community is one of the ways I stay inspired to keep living gently and making mindful choices. 

7. Buy bulk foods. I've been following The Story of Stuff, and have been moved by the amount of waste continually going into our planet, and how disconnected we can be from that reality. Our family is attempting to buy foods with minimal packaging. Unfortunately, even much that is labeled recyclable is not actually recycled. Each item we buy without a package is one less thing in a landfill or the ocean. 

8. Practice mindfulness. It goes back to remembering why we would want to take care of our environment in the first place. The reality is we are all fragile and interdependent. Making small changes to take better care of the Earth today will be a gift to future generations: not just my children, but yours too. When I come back to living in this moment and relishing in this beautiful world, I can't help but want to throw a couple of starfish in the water. Don't you? 

Will you tell me about your "starfish?" A world full of unique individuals is a world full of unique contributions, unique passions, and unique ways of believing that small changes can make a big impact. I'm eager to hear the ways you are enacting change, or hoping to change. Cheers!