Many people know me as an actress, producer and environmentalist, but first and foremost I’m a mother. The health of my son has always been — and will continue to be — the primary motivating force behind my eco-stewardship and passion for a sustainable lifestyle. I try to consider the health of both my child and our planet with every decision I make.
Not only do I want to protect him from harmful chemicals and pollution, but I want to leave behind an inhabitable world for him and his children. Luckily, what’s right for our planet is also good for our health and, with some easy small changes to our everyday lives, we can make a huge, positive impact on both.
Like many parents, my eco-friendly actions start at home: I use plant-derived, chemical-free cleaners, soaps and laundry detergents, grow vegetables and herbs in my home garden without the use of pesticides or herbicides, avoid single-use plastics (including restaurant take-out containers, Baggies and plastic straws) like the plague and always bring my reusable bags to the grocery store (and make sure not to leave them in my car when I get there).
But while it makes me happy to see people like me green their home-life, our environmentalism can’t stop at our own thresholds. On average, you’ll spend 90,000 hours at work during your lifetime, so make those hours count by being more green in your workplace, too.
Making environmentally-conscious decisions when and where you work is just as important — and honestly, pretty easy, especially when so many of the places to start can also save your company money.
For instance, if your workplace still using Styrofoam cups, suggest a switch to compostable ones. Or, given that the average American worker uses 500 disposable cups a year, encourage your workmates to bring reusable mugs and cups from home (or your office to provide them, since they’ll cost less than disposable ones in the long run). Paper usage is another major issue in many offices: The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year., which is nearly one tree being cut down for every person.Thus, keeping things digital instead of printing is good for both the environment and your company’s bottom line. Google Docs and Sheets, for instance, are great digital options for collaborative work (and the whole point of email is that it isn’t necessary to print). If you office really must use paper, make sure you’re participating in a paper recycling program.
If you’re feeling ambitious, see if your industry has any set criteria or standards for environmental stewardship: Odds are, you’re not the only person trying to green your trade or even your office.
For instance, criteria for “going green” in my industry comes from the nonprofit Environmental Media Association (I’m a longtime Board Member). Working directly with all the major production studios in Los Angeles, EMA maintains a set of standards for sustainable production that covers everything from refillable water stations that reduce plastic bottle use to nontoxic paint options for sets. Productions that comply with the standards earn the EMA Green Seal — which can also help movie and television consumers make more informed choices.
I’m actually producing a feature film right now, so I can say from firsthand experience that having guidelines makes it easier to make sustainable choices that don’t add costs to the budget — a must for indie filmmakers.
And, the EMA also encourages productions to include environmental messaging within their storytelling. For instance, if a production is looking to give a character a little more depth, the character could volunteer at an organic community garden on the weekends — the perfect setting for romance.
Part of helping save the environment is doing the work, but it’s also modeling the work that others could do. So, by being green in your workplace, you could inspire your co-workers to do the same and their green work-life habits might even follow them home.
Recognizing the connection between the health of our planet and the health of our families can motivate us to live green all of the time. Every sustainable choice we make, whether it’s at home, the gym, the grocery store or at work helps us create a healthier world for our children.
Malin Akerman is an actress and environmental activist who sits on the Board of Directors for the Environmental Media Association. She will be among those joining the EMA IMPACT Summit on May 21 & 22 in Los Angeles.