Buddhist Climate Action Network

Buddhist Climate Action Network

Recognizing that addressing climate change is very much a part of Buddhist ethics and right action, Still Mind Zendo decided in 2015 to join the Buddhist Climate Action Network. We are now connected with other sanghas and Zen centers throughout the U.S. and the world that care about this issue, which affects us all.

At Still Mind, we come to climate practice not from a secular point of view, but from the spiritual imperative to follow the Buddha's dictum, Do no harm. We encourage attention to mindfulness around everyday personal choices that impact the climate.

Roshi Janet's essay "Plastic, Zen, and Mindfulness," published in the 2016 book What's Wrong with Mindfulness (and What Isn't), illustrates how paying attention to ecological issues in daily life can powerfully impact not only the world, but one's Zen practice, too.

Below is a list of some daily choices we can make to lessen our harm to the natural world.


Compiled by the Still Mind Zendo chapter of NY BCAN
The Buddhist Climate Action Network

Each of us must take responsibility for the world, as if the world's fate depended on our words and actions. And whether we know it or not, it does. -- Hozan Alan Senauke (San Francisco Zen Center)

Here are 10 steps you can take to reduce the impact of your ecological footprint. They are simple, personal, daily actions that incorporate the Zen practice of mindfulness and attention to the present moment. Choose which ones you are best suited to undertake, always remembering that changing old habits is often difficult and uncomfortable. It requires patience and commitment - a perfect description of practice. If you're already doing some of these actions, may this be an encouragement to do even more.

1) Meditate: Meditation is the basis of all right action. A greater commitment to stilling the mind of greed, aversion, and ignorance common to us all will allow the lessening of these Three Poisons in the one mind which connects us all.

2) Recycle: Recycle glass bottles, plastic containers, aluminum containers, and paper of all kinds, both at home and at work. When in public spaces, search out recycling bins or bring items home to recycle.

3) Use fewer (or no) plastic bags: Reusable grocery bags are widely available. Commit to always bringing such bags with you when you shop. Carry a small, fold-up cloth bag in your bag or briefcase, ready to use when you purchase items on the go. If you do use plastic bags, be sure to bring used ones to the plastic bags recycling bins found in nearly all supermarkets. It takes about 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade.

4) Light bulbs: Replace your light bulbs at home with compact fluorescents or other energy efficient lighting.

5) Turn off lights/computers/AC: Develop the mindful habit of turning off unnecessary lights at home or at work whenever possible. Don't use the air conditioner unless really necessary. Let us all strive to pay attention to this in the sangha room whenever at the zendo. Set your computer to go into sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity.

6) Use biodegradable cleaning products: One good company is Seventh Generation, but there are others.

7) Water: Limit your use of water. Be mindful and turn off the faucet while shaving or brushing teeth. Take shorter showers. Climate change will severely limit access to fresh water, and in some places already is.

8) Mindful transport: Take mass transit rather than drive, whenever possible. Use fuel efficient vehicles. If a trip is under a few miles, walk or bike there instead of driving. If you have to drive, plan your route with care so as to use as little gas as possible. Oil is one of the worst contributors to climate change.

9) Food waste: Food production requires many energy inputs (oil for tractors, gas to transport the food, etc). By wasting less food (and thus buying less) we save on energy. In addition, it is estimated that 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from decomposing food in landfills. Consider composting too.

10) Educate yourself about climate change: View the powerful video "An Inconvenient Truth," produced by Al Gore. We also recommend the book "A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, published by Wisdom, with essays by leading spiritual and environmental teachers from both Western and Asian traditions. Two copies are in our library, one as reference and one to borrow. Read print and online articles about climate change. Education is the tool that opens the mind. Consider interacting more with nature, as well. Take a walk in the park, observe animals (domestic or wild), look up at the sky.

Further action you can take:

Become a member of our SMZ BCAN group: We connect by email so that long distance members can join. Our aim is to be the core of the Still Mind BCAN effort and decide, together, how best to address the climate issue within our sangha. If you are a member of SMZ and are interested in joining our BCAN group, please send an email to info@stillmindzendo.org.

Other organizations: Join an environmental group dedicated to climate change work, such as 350.org or the Sierra Club. Or there might be smaller, more regional groups you could join. Fit in where it feels right.