Unfortunately, when it comes to sustainable choices, our fossil fuel-based economic system sets us up to fail. But don't despair! There are a few simple, budget-friendly ways to reduce your carbon footprint -- with every day, approachable changes like investing in a stainless steel water bottle and sticking to reusable bags.
In fact, cutting down on everyday plastic consumption is a great place to start. Not only does plastic pollution affect the oceans and other bodies of water, but it also accelerates climate change. As Kerri Major from WWF-Australia explains, “At every step in its life cycle. . . Plastic creates greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the warming of our world.” According to the Center For International Environmental Law, the effects of plastic production on the world's climate in 2019 was the equivalent of 189 coal-fired power stations.This NuRich guide will walk you through some things you can do to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but first let's understand :
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing, and food.
You can start the process by calculating your carbon footprint here. You will need to know the following:
- Approximately how many miles you travel by car, bus, train, and plane.
- The energy usage in your home.
- How much you spend shopping.
- The composition of your diet.
No matter how you scored, here are some things that could help you lessen your personal environmental impact.
1. Plant a garden:
Many fresh vegetables and fruits come in plastic bags. And it's the single-use plastic that does the most damage to the environment. One way to fight this everyday problem is by growing your own food. If you don't have a green thumb or a yard, there are several affordable hydroponic systems available that are specially designed to help anyone become a backyard, windowsill, or balcony farmer. And when it comes to healthy and flavorful eating, fresh is always best.
2. Cut Out Sodas and other Plastic Bottled Drinks:
It might be difficult to say goodbye to your favorite drinks, but it's healthier not only for your body, but also for the planet. If you like bottled juice, try eating fresh fruit instead. The flavor will be fresher tasting and the juice naturally non-pasteurized, giving you the full amount of vitamins and nutrients. Soda is another major source of plastic, and many brands contain a significant amount of sugar, which is known to lower your immune system and cause weight gain. But if you're having a serious craving for a fizzy drink, look for sodas that come in glass bottles; it will probably taste better, and you can also reuse the bottle or recycle it.
3. Use a Stainless Steel Water Bottle:
Another single-use plastic and major pollutant is the plastic water bottle. It might be convenient when you're out and about, a plastic water bottle that you use once could end up polluting the Earth for hundreds of years. Plastic also affects the flavor of the water, especially if you have sensitive taste buds. We recommend a stainless steel water bottle and lid made with premium materials that don't contain harmful chemicals like BPA, making it a smart choice for both the environment and your health.
4. Carry Reusable Utensils & Straws:
As we've mentioned before, single-use plastic products are among the worst contributors to climate change and pollution. A simple fix for this everyday problem is to carry a set of reusable utensils and straws in your purse or in the glove box of your car. It might not seem like a big deal, but just remember that poor turtle on Instagram that had a plastic straw lodged in its snout (and thankfully removed!). Those cute little turtles and other marine mammals have enough issues; let's give them a chance by simply investing in some inexpensive utensils and straws made with sustainable, biodegradable materials such as bamboo.
5. Reconsider your personal skin care routine:
Personal care products are a significant contributor to single-use plastic. A solution is to buy bar soap along with specially formulated shampoo and conditioner bars, which are available from Lush Cosmetics and other companies. The best thing about bar soap is that it minimizes plastic waste and also lasts much longer than traditional shampoo and body washes. Store it in a container can, and you're one step closer to a near-plastic-free personal care routine.
6. Supporting environmentally sustainable companies:
Considering the state of global politics today, making major policy changes to save the planet may seem like a losing battle. But remember: As a conscientious consumer, you can vote with your money, and there's a long list of companies that strive to protect the planet. Corporate Knights presents a list of the world's 100 most sustainable corporations for 2019, so take note and spend your money wisely.
7. Drive Less, Fly Less:
Giving up using your car for a year could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide, according to a 2017 study by researchers at Lund University and the University of British Columbia, which is more than a round-trip transatlantic flight. How can you stop using your car? Try taking the train, the bus or, better yet, cycling.
Do you fly often? Taking one less long round-trip flight could significantly reduce your personal carbon footprint. Think of it this way: If you use public transportation frequently and fly home to visit family only occasionally, your carbon footprint might still be relatively sustainable, but if you drive and fly a lot, your emissions will be higher.
If you can't avoid flying, one way to offset the emissions caused is to donate money to sustainable projects, such as providing efficient stoves to rural households, or projects that help farmers in India sell crop residues as biomass.
8. Eat Less Meat:
While food systems are complicated, and research is still evolving on what the most environmentally-friendly diet is, experts mostly agree that cutting down on meat, and red meat in particular, is a better choice for the environment. This is because the production of red meat uses a lot of feed, water and land. Cows themselves also give off methane emissions (a harmful greenhouse gas).
For that reason, eating a vegan diet is likely to be best for the environment, say experts. According to a study published in 2017 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, red meat can have up to 100 times the environmental impact of plant based food.
Overall, eating low down the food chain as often as you can is a probably good way to reduce your carbon footprint and stay healthy, say experts. That means filling your plate with vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans.
Americans generate about roughly 258 million tons of trash a year, 169 million tons of which ends up in landfills and incinerators, according to a 2014 report from the E.P.A. That year, American’s recycled and composted 89 million tons of municipal solid waste — this saved the same amount of energy as generated by 25 million homes.
10. Dress Sustainably:
According to the World Resources Institute, 20 items of clothing are manufactured per person, per year. This is because of “fast fashion”: clothes that are produced quickly, cheaply and unsustainable. As the price of our clothes drops, the environmental (and human) costs increase.
♻ Here are some tips to minimize your impact when you purchase clothing:
- Look for a Fairtrade, or similar logo. This indicates your clothes were made sustainably. Take a look at this transparency index from the organization Fashion Revolution.
- Shop vintage. You’ll be saving money, and the environment.
- Consider the fabric. Different materials have different environmental impacts, so that’s something to take into consideration too. Think wool over synthetics.
- Donate old clothes. Better yet, use those too old to be donated for other purposes, like sewing projects or cleaning rags. Some animal shelters will take old sheets and towels for bedding material as well.
- Shop Sustainably:
* Take a reusable bag to the store.
* Skip the packaging.
* Invest in quality products that last.
🌍 How do you think you are contributing to the planet to reduce your carbon footprint?
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