5 Ways to Go Green Beyond Giving Up Almond Milk on Earth Day

You've probably heard it all by now. Almondgate, the Devil Eats Marzipan, the 1.1 gallons of water it takes to grow an almond -- which is a lot, but a little misleading when it isn't put into perspective. A few years ago no one would have batted an eye to the world of almond farming in California, but with the state entering its fourth year of a grueling drought, the media's stirred itself into a frenzy. Fingers are being jabbed at almond milk obsessed hipsters and the blogosphere is swimming with alternatives to the popular dairy alternative, from kefir to obscure grain milks and "less thirsty" nuts. Has there ever been a witch hunt of this scale for a snack food? It's nuts!

We wouldn't be almond shaming if the world weren't on the fritz, right? Boston is only just thawing from its snowiest year on record and on the opposite coast, there are towns in California that have run out of water entirely. Last September's People's Climate March drew more than 400,000 supporters to the streets of NYC. This came just days before the U.N.'s climate summit on environmental action, where world leaders declared urgent action in areas like agriculture, energy and industry. Earth Day 2015 marks the 45th anniversary of what many consider to be the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 and it seems that, more than ever, the world is standing in solidarity in the face of the rapidly warping state of our urban and natural environments.

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to afford to install solar panels on their homes, plant-based diets would sweep our national consciousness and be so common as to seem the norm and climate change naysayers would be the ridiculous remnants of an ignorant past. Our world, however, is one that's wobbling on a tipping point. Not everyone has the means to effect sweeping changes in their communities overnight, regardless of how passionately they believe in more sustainable lifestyles. Starting at the individual level, though -- that's doable! And if we all strived to master these manageable, personal lifestyle changes, the impact could be substantial:

  1. Healthy doesn't always mean environmentally-friendly: as powerful as eating a plant-based diet can have on changing the course of environmental degradation, not all vegetables are grown equal. Some crops (bananas being the primary culprit) require high amounts of phosphate fertilizers, which can lead to algal blooms that choke streams, while other fruits and vegetables are doused in a cocktail of pesticides that can pollute water and harm neighboring animals.

If you'd like to eat to your health and the environment's, think more peas and beans, which can absorb nitrogen from the air; onions, asparagus and other members of the " Clean 15."

  • De-stress and declutter: We admit it: we're obsessed with the show Tiny House Nation and for good reasons. Smaller homes use less energy to heat and cool; they help us to simplify our lifestyle by eliminating the things we don't need. Decluttering in your current home, regardless of the square footage, will create more space -- you'll be less bogged down with stuff and be less stressed.
  • Give plastic the boot: Cities and states across the nation are increasingly enacting bans and fees on plastic and paper grocery bags, so you might as well avoid the hassle and get in the habit of carrying reusable bags with you on your next grocery run. Plastic is everywhere and it's convenient, but are the dangers and its knack for outstaying its welcome worth it? Do we need to remind you of the living nightmare that's the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
  • Go #MeatlessMonday and mean it: Plan it out! The more prepared you are about your meals, the more likely you'll eat what you intend to.
  • Use less water: Shut the water off when you're brushing your teeth and soaping up dishes in the kitchen sink. Consider not washing your hair every day if possible and use more dry shampoo.
  • Earth Day is critical in uniting communities across the world under a common cause and as a platform for pressuring the movers and shakers in our governments to act: it's not a 24-hour window after which you can just pat yourself on the back and be done. Every single day we spend should be devoted to finding solutions to the climate change conundrum. Mother Earth is counting on us and there are tangible ways to help. Let's start by revisiting the basics and getting rid of the needless fuss in our lives. It's both good for the environment and our peace of mind so we can all live healthy lifestyles that future generations can also enjoy.