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Responsible Consumption: 10 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference
Submitted by KimberlyBrown on Mon, 4/23/2012, 11:37am
by Kimberly Brown
April is The Interdependence Project's Responsible Consumption Month, and as the month draws to a close, it's time to think about how to continue being mindful about purchases, food, and media. All consumption seems fraught with so many worrisome and uncontrollable variables (Where was it made? Who made it? What was their intention? What is my intention? What happens when it's consumed?...) that it's important to generate compassion for yourself and your decisions, and trust that by practicing awareness, you will be guided by a desire to help, and your actions will do less harm.
In 2009, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje, hosted the first ever Conference on Environmental Protection for Kagyu Monasteries and Centres. As the head of a worldwide lineage and a long-time advocate for the earth, he established guidelines and assistance for environmental protection at all his organizations. He also founded Khoryug ("environment" in the Tibetan language), a network of Buddhist groups in the Himalayas which are working to establish environmental protections in their region. To support these efforts, the Karmapa created a list of 108 Things You Can Do to Help the Environment. Though written for monastic communities, these actions are practical and relevant for everyone, and can be practiced by each of us. The first ten are listed below and can be used as a guide in your daily life.
TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE…
1. Make aspiration prayers. We make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. This should also include the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life. We can pray for a more harmonious world where humans recognize how their actions have harmed the Earth and change their behavior.
2. Read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community.
3. Go vegetarian. Not only will you practice compassion for all sentient beings, but you will decrease the resources you use up. It takes about 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef but only 750 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of wheat.
4. Live simply. Practice your vinaya vow [if you are a monastic] and live as simply as possible, without unnecessary possessions.
5. Educate people on environmental values. Whenever possible, teach stories and Buddhist traditions that illustrate harmony between people and nature.
6. Don’t litter. Collect your own waste and dispose of it properly.
7. Use less paper. A lot of trees are cut down simply to produce paper. Even a small choice such as printing on both sides of the paper makes a big difference.
8. Use less plastic. We use plastic bags for a few hours, sometimes for only a few minutes. However, it takes over 500 years for plastic to completely degrade in a landfill.
9. When making [shrine] offerings, make healthy choices. Buy fruit rather than sweets, or plants rather than cut flowers.
10. Turn the switch off. If you see that a light or an electrical device is switched on but no one is using it, turn it off.
I find great joy and pleasure in the human spirit. The power of an idea is profound. Consider the concept of human rights: a simple idea that has overcome incredible odds—totalitarian governments, war, and poverty—to become a universal ideal. And yet, human rights was simply a fledgling idea 100 years ago. I believe a similar revolution in our thinking needs to take place in terms of environmental protection, including conservation of biological diversity. There should be rights for wildlife, ecosystems, and even environmental services such as intact water cycles.
I gratefully support global treaties for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems, agreements on common standards of environmental safety, as well as ongoing efforts to minimize man-made changes in Earth's climate. At the heart of each of these initiatives is the sincere motivation of a few individuals who have dedicated their lives to these causes. These individuals give me the most hope because if we want to create change in the world, the process must begin within ourselves. It is unrealistic to seek the transformation of the rest of the world and expect anyone to listen without living and being the example first.
H.H. 17th GYALWANG KARMAPA OGYEN TRINLEY DORJE. Walking the Path of Environmental Buddhism through Compassion and Emptiness. Journal of Conservation Biology. 9 Nov. 2011. ‹http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01765.x/full›.
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