Think about your average day — what you eat, where you go, and what you do. Consider the individual impact your average day has on the Earth and its environment. Don’t really see how your impact is significant?
Now think about this — what if everyone on the planet lived like you for a day? Doing the same commute, using the same resources, and creating the same waste. Not sure what that would look like? Well, there is a way to find out. According to the Global Footprint Network’s Footprint Calculator, given my average daily habits, we would need 4.8 Earths to sustain 7 billion people (and counting) living just like me. With that perspective, our individual impact doesn’t seem so insignificant anymore.
Those seemingly harmless acts of buying single-use plastic or letting the faucet run while not in use really add up. However, just a few small steps everyday can help reduce your environmental footprint.
Keep reading to tips on how to reduce your environmental footprint.
Say no to single use plastic
The environment is greatly impacted by the slow decomposition of plastic, which is estimated to take between 500-1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. Completely refraining from all forms of plastic is difficult, but try to take steps to avoid single use plastic and recycle the plastic you use. Even Starbucks is making moves to eliminate plastic straws globally by 2020. Next time you are ordering a drink, think twice about the straw. There is no need for the environment to suffer for something you only used once.
Every minute, one million plastic bags are consumed around the world — that is over 500 billion plastic bags consumed in one year. Instead of contributing to the plastic bag problem, bring reusable shopping and produce bags when shopping.
Less meat, more vegetables
Beyond the ethical reasons, eating less meat is important as red meat is a very emission-intensive food. These emissions are produced from growing feed, creating pastureland, and the methane gas generated from livestock. It also uses a huge amount of land and water resources. Instead of red meat, swap for vegetables! It can cut your emissions footprint in half.
Eat local, in season, and at home
Support your local farmer’s markets and avoid the supermarket’s plastic wrapped fruits and veggies. By shopping at farmer’s markets, you can create recipes with seasonal and locally sourced foods in mind. Not only can cooking at home be fun, but it also saves you $$!
Limit food waste
Every year, the US throws away 40% of it’s food, which equates to 1.3 billion tons of food. Cutting back on food waste is easy if you plan your meals ahead of time and shop for those ingredients accordingly. If you have leftovers, store the remaining food in a container with the date so you can remember to eat it later. Also consider donating food to your local food outreach programs!
Drought disasters are becoming more common around the world. Recently, Cape Town mandated residents and tourists to live on only 50 liters per day. As a result, a severe water crisis was postponed for a few years because of the collective efforts communities took to conserve water. So take shorter showers. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until it is full. Grow your greenery collection with water-wise plants. Remember that water is our most important resource.
Switch paper for cloth
If you used one napkin at every meal (at three meals a day), you would roughly end up using 1,095 napkins a year. That’s a lot of napkins to go to the landfill for only one use. Instead of consuming paper towels, use washable clothes to clean up messes and spills.
Choose clothing with a small environmental footprint. When possible, look for eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton and hemp, or products made from re/upcycled materials. Shopping brands that are locally made and ethnically sourced is important too. Don’t forget to purchase items with longevity in mind!
Step into your nearby thrift store, and you’ll be surprised how many hidden gems you will find that other people wanted to get rid of. Even better, most things bought secondhand are cheaper than those bought new! Secondhand shopping it good for your pocket and keeps old items out of the landfill.
Don’t like it? Swap or donate it.
Have a pile of unwanted clothing? Instead of throwing it out, use swap sites or start a swap shop with your friends to trade your unwanted items for new pieces. If that sounds like too much work, donate those clothes to charity!
Recycle, recycle, recycle
Do not make the mistake of assuming that all materials you send to recycling are getting a second chance at life. That’s why it is best to minimize use (especially with plastic materials), reuse, and then upcycle before depending on recycling. Sort through your waste and recycle everything you can including plastic, cardboard and paper, aluminium cans, bottles, and glass. Recycling is always better than sending items to the landfill!
Living a more sustainable life is not about perfection, it takes small steps for actions to become habit. Every effort counts!