How many times have you used “I don’t have time” as an excuse for not doing something you know you should do? The good news is, it doesn’t take long to take steps toward making the planet a better place. Today I’m sharing 5 ways you can help the planet in 5 minutes or less. So, no more excuses (at least when it comes to saving the planet—you’re on your own when it comes to cleaning the bathroom)! Also, did I mention these are all free?!
- Use reusable shopping bags. Stop whatever you’re doing right now (even though reading my blog is obviously a great thing to be doing right now), collect all your reusable shopping bags, and put them in the car so that they’re ready for your next trip to the store. You know you’ve got ‘em—all those tote bags with some company’s logo on them that are just sitting around in your closet/under your bed/all over the floor from that time you played “the floor is lava” and needed things to step on (wait, is that just me?). Seriously, I don’t think I have ever actually purchased a reusable bag, and I have more than enough for all of my groceries. Anyway, we’ve all got ‘em, and we all probably forget to bring them to the store at least half the time. I recently started hanging mine from the handle of my front door after I’ve put the groceries away so I remember to put them in the car the next time I leave the house.
- Subscribe to inspiring e-mail newsletters. This is an incredibly easy way to stay informed about your favorite causes and organizations. If there isn’t a specific area you’re looking to stay informed about, there are several organizations that will update you with more general news in the world of social justice as well as ideas for creating positive change. I like really like the newsletter from the Center for A New American Dream. It’s super informative and perfect for people who don’t want to be inundated with a barrage of e-mails, because their newsletter only goes out once per month. Care2 and Human Rights Watch are also good ones.
- Register to vote. If you haven’t registered to vote yet, it is literally so easy and will take you five minutes. In fact, even if you have registered previously, it’s a good idea to check your registration status. I once went to cast my ballot at my usual polling station, where I had voted many times before, and was told I wasn’t my registered. To this day, I have no idea how this happened, but the moral of the story is to check your registration status, even when there is no election coming up, so that you’ll be prepared when there is one. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least.” You can register here.
- Treat workers with kindness. I mean, you know, treat everyone with kindness, but I don’t like vague action steps, so I’m going to focus on workers – the guy who made your coffee, the lady you spoke to about that fraudulent charge on your credit card bill, etc. When these people do a great job, tell them! Or even better, tell their boss! Once upon a time when I worked in customer service, a compliment from a customer could make my day, or even my week. Getting yelled at over the phone all day for stuff that’s not your fault is the worst, but getting recognition for a job well done makes it a little better.
- Practice gratitude. Going around the dinner table and saying what you’re thankful for isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore! Okay, you don’t actually have to go around the table, but focusing on gratitude is one of the best ways to bring joy into your life, feel energized, and open yourself up to helping others. Take a minute every day to think about what you’re thankful for, or write it down in a gratitude journal. My gratitude journal is more of a list—I simply write down one thing I’m grateful for in my planner at the end of the day. It might sound a little cheesy, but it reminds me to stay positive, and it helps me feel more centered.
What easy things do you do to make the planet a better place? Let me know in the comments!
 Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road (New York: Random House, 2015).