Between free online information and the growing mindfulness movement, it has never been easier to be eco-friendly. It has also never been so critical for the health of our planet. Now’s the time to adopt new habits that will make you part of the solution, not the problem.
In my experience, drastic changes to a lifestyle rarely last. But little, easy ways to live in a greater state of awareness can become second-nature before you know it. Here’s a list of ways to become more eco-conscious on the daily.
What is easier than going local? For most of us living in urban areas, all you have to do is open your eyes and get to know your local shops and markets. Whether you’re buying clothes or produce, buying locally cuts down on shipping costs and reduces your carbon footprint. When it comes to food, if you cannot buy directly from farmers, sign up for a locally-sourced box of produce delivered to your doorstep. You’ll get the freshest vegetables available, and this is from the comfort of your home! You’ll also be eating seasonally, which has been found to regulate moods and boost general health.
For a step higher on the eco-conscious ladder, sign up for a service like Imperfect Produce that brings you produce that is too “ugly” or misshaped for store standards. Did you know 20% of the fruits and veggies grown in the United States goes to waste? In numbers, that’s billions of pounds discarded purely on the grounds of aesthetics. “Ugly” vegetable and fruit boxes bridge the waste gap. As with many eco-conscious tips, you’ll save money. Preventing the egregious waste that currently plagues the food industry can reduce your grocery bill by 30%.
I’m not going to try to convert anyone to veganism here. But I will point to facts. Another way to reduce both your spending and your carbon footprint is eating less meat, namely beef. Manure is the source of most nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 296 times worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to its GWP (Global Warming Potential). 296 times! That’s a whole lot, and the damaging number doesn’t even take into account the amount of water it takes to raise cattle. A pound of beef calls for 1,799 gallons of water to produce. To compare, a pound of chicken comes to about the same as a pound of rice: 468 gallons for the former and 449 gallons for the latter. Beef is about 26% more wasteful than chicken, yet their protein content averages to the same.
With so many meatless alternatives like Impossible Foods on the market, there’s probably a vegetarian option that pleases your pallet. Start with skipping meat one day a week. Slowly but surely—you can do it! For the planet!
Buy in Bulk
On the topic of buying food, bring your own containers and bags to stores. Buy in bulk—again, you’ll save money adopting this eco-friendly practice. Stay away from excessive packaging and plastic, especially in its 100% non-biodegradable form: Styrofoam. After all, plastic takes two of our most valuable resources to make: water and fuel. This is true of PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic that water bottles are composed of. Producing even just one water bottle is responsible for serious greenhouse gas emissions.
The good news is eco-conscious brands are tackling the plastics problem. A quick google search can inform you about the manufacturing practices and mission statement of any given brand. Ecological practices often beget ethical decisions, so you’re in good company with green companies. Known as upcycling, this eco-movement upgrades materials for reuse.
One of the most sophisticated and successful transformations is turning water bottles found in the ocean into apparel, like fleece and shoes. You don’t even have to sacrifice style, with brands offering the most enviable models around, like Rothy’s round toe women’s flats. By investing in an eco-friendly company like Rothy’s that is committed to the betterment of the planet, you’re putting your money where your mouth is. And looking great doing it.
Use Public Transportation
The ecological impact of transportation doesn’t only apply to food or apparel shipments. How you get around on a daily basis has an impact. Trade your car for a bicycle from Stinner, at least for distances you can cover without too much effort. You’ll hit two birds with one stone: get fit as you take action for the planet and future generations. If you enjoy getting down and dirty, and biking isn’t offsetting your carbon impact as much as you would like, planting trees is an effective way to make a difference. You can do it yourself, or you can donate funds to an organization to do it for you.
With so many ways to move forward in an ecological trajectory, these tips are just skimming the surface of possibility. But they are a great place to start. Changing your lifestyle for the better is always a balancing act. Be kind to yourself. I suggest investigating your local coop’s bulletin board or Facebook page to get to know more eco-conscious ways to get involved in your community. It takes a village!