Cut Your Carbon Footprint: Environmentalism as a Yoga Practice

 

Hailey, a member of our Yoga District Community, will explore how to live a more sustainable life. Her environmental blog series will introduce various ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

 Find out how to reduce your carbon footprint while being homebound. During these unusual times, why not try to develop some new environmentally beneficial habits?

Each of our lives, bodies, and yoga practices are linked to our planet. Just as we receive nourishment from our yoga practice, the Earth sustains us. The word yoga is derived from the word yuj in sanskrit, meaning “union (1).” The concept of unity with our planet can be a key component of a yoga practice and how we live our lives. In this series, we explore how to adopt mindful practices to serve as caretakers of our planet.

Yogic Ethics and Environmentalism

Many of yoga’s core principles can relate to environmental stewardship. The yamas and niyamas are a set of ten ethicalprinciples written at least 1,600 years ago (2). The yamas relate to self-regulating behaviors. This includes our interactions with other people and the world as a whole. The niyamas are personal practices. They relate to connection with our inner selves and the world around us.

yoga sutras

The Yoga Sutra outlines them as teachings to guide us through our life journey (3). They help us reflect on our role within Earth’s ecosystems and deepen our awareness of our impact. We can practice ahimsa (non-harming) and asteya (non-stealing) by being conscious of resources we use (4,5). We can detach ourselves from the consumerism through aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and santosha (contentment) (6,7). By practicing svadhyaya (self-study), we can identify opportunities to change our lifestyles and reduce our carbon footprint (8). 

What Is Your Carbon Footprint?

Each of our actions has an impact on the environment. The miles we travel, the food we eat, and the products we consume all contribute to the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. 

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, methane, and others) generated through our actions. Research has determined that greenhouse gases due to human activity are the main cause of the changes in our climate (9).

Climate change is overwhelming, and science tells us it will require large scale global interventions (10).  That said, there are choices you can make to offset your emissions and impact on the environment. The average American’s carbon footprint is four times higher than the global average (11). You can even estimate your carbon footprint with a calculation tool from Conservation International (12, 13). Often, folks are surprised by the results. While this may be a harsh reality check, it offers us the opportunity to make a collective difference with individual choices. 

Upcoming Topics

Mindful Meals: Eating for the Planet

Shifting one’s food choices is considered the most effective step an individual can take to reduce their carbon footprint (14). We’ll offer guidance on ways to minimize your carbon footprint, and potentially improve your health, through your food choices.

Introducing methods such as: planning meals to reduce waste, growing your own food, and transitioning toward a more plant-based diet. 

A Guide to Recycling in Washington, DC

Recycling is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think about doing their part. However, different localities have different recycling standards. Too often, the things we hope we’re recycling end up going to the landfill. In our recycling post, we’ll explore the District’s recycling standards and learn how we can make sure the things we throw in the blue bin actually get a second life (15). 

Getting Creative With Upcycling

So many perfectly usable items are thrown away everyday. This creates a massive amount of garbage and wastes valuable resources. In an upcoming post, we’ll explore the endless opportunities of upcycling, or reusing items to create something of higher value (16). 

Conscious Consumption

Just as we try to remain mindful in yoga practice, we should also strive for mindfulness when we shop. Our purchasing decisions have a direct impact on both the environment and our health, so we’ll dive into the concept of conscious consumption and offer some tips to minimize our impact on the environment as consumers (17). 


Maintaining Sustainable Habits: A Reflection

During this time of physical distancing, we’ve all been forced to slow down a bit. We’re driving and traveling less, planning out meals, trying to minimize food waste, and realizing that we may not need the extra little things that we once thought essential. 

While our current reality may be challenging, we can use this time to slow down and reflect on oft-forgotten values. Now is a time to remember the importance of a healthy environment. Our hope is to take lessons learned during this time and build on them going forward. 

Sources 

  1. Yoga Definition, https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/4/yoga
  2. Yamas and Niyamas, https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/live-your-yoga-discover-yamas-niyamas
  3. The Yoga Sutra, https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5518/the-yoga-sutras 
  4. Ahimsa, https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yamas-ahimsa-non-harming-yoga-practice
  5. Asteya, https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yama-asteya-non-stealing-yoga-practice
  6. Aparigraha, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/yama-aparigraha-non-possessiveness-yoga-practice/ 
  7. Santosha, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/niyamas-santosha-contentment/
  8. Svadhyaya, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/niyamas-svadhyaya-self-study-yoga-practice/
  9. IPCC: Observed Changes in the Climate System, https://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/topic_observedchanges.php
  10. Global Climate Change: What You Need To Know,  https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-climate-change-what-you-need-know
  11. World Bank: CO2 Emissions (metric tons per capita), https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC?end=2014&start=1960&view=chart
  12. Carbon Footprint Calculator, https://www.conservation.org/carbon-footprint-calculator#/
  13. Conservation International, https://www.conservation.org/
  14. World Resources Institute: Shifting Diet for a Sustainable Food Future, https://www.wri.org/publication/shifting-diets
  15. DC Recycling Fact Sheet, https://dpw.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dpw/page_content/attachments/DC%20Recycling%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
  16. About Upcycling, https://www.upcyclethat.com/about-upcycling/
  17. 3 Ways to Become a More Conscious Consumer,  https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/ways-to-change-your-shopping-mindset-and-become-a-more-conscious-consumer

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The Teachers

The diverse family of DC yoga teachers at Yoga District are dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone through a huge variety of yoga class types, from vinyasa flow to restorative and beyond. Most Yoga District teachers are graduates of Yoga District’s nationally-attended 200 hour teacher training program. All Yoga District classes focus on coordinating breath with body movement to promote flexibility, strength, and peace of mind. We strongly believe in yoga as therapy, so catch one of our classes whenever you need a healthy dose of self-care.
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