I doubt that you need to hear more dire predictions about the ongoing destruction of our natural environment in order to be motivated to work to save it. In fact, too many dire predictions can make us throw up our hands in despair. So I’m not going to tell you how many species a day are becoming extinct, or how soon your home will be covered by melted polar ice. You already know it’s too many and too soon.

Lists of practical things we can do for the environment are helpful tools to keep us from wallowing in anger and despair. And we also need help with our deep conviction that we needmore stuff and we need it quick. This is where Buddhist teachings can give us succor. If we take Buddha’s advice, we may find we actually want less stuff, and we want it slowly.

The following are five simple—and not so simple—everyday practices to benefit the Earth.

1 First and foremost, cultivate joy

This whole save-the-planet project is not about sitting in a cold dark room shivering while you cut your hands up trying to get the metal rings off the tops of the glass bottles for the recycling. You don’t have to do that anymore! You can put the bottles into the bin with the rings still on them. The Metta Sutra says: “May I be easily contented and joyous.” And one of the practices the Buddha called the Four Immeasurables is mudita,sometimes translated as “sympathetic joy.” Your joy is my joy. The more joy we have in our lives, the more likely we are to think Yes! We can keep this planet green! And we can have a good time doing it, too. Also, the less likely we are to find ourselves driving somewhere to buy something shiny and electronic, and then driving somewhere else to buy something sweet and greasy, and then driving home to eat it in front of the TV. So consciously, deliberately, make room for what gives you joy in your daily life.

Every morning, I say, “I vow to be grateful for the precious opportunity of human birth.” And I don’t let myself use the excuse that I don’t have time. It doesn’t take much time to be grateful. It doesn’t take much time to notice the way the shadow of the tree outside the window flickers on my bedroom wall. About two or three seconds. Wow!

Liberate this article!

This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.