Living an eco-friendly life doesn’t start and end with canvas bags, reusable coffee cups, and metal straws. While switching to sustainable alternatives is a start, there are still other things that you can do.
We’ll show you some ways to make your life more environmentally friendly.
Avoid Single-Use Plastic
Using single-use plastic items like straws, bags, and utensils only once and then throwing them away—imagine all the unnecessary waste produced. The plastic waste often ends up in our oceans and harms marine animals or takes up space in landfills, and contributes to pollution. In the US alone, 51 million tons of plastic were discarded in 2021, with 95 percent ending up in landfills or oceans. Only 5 percent was recycled.
By reducing our use of single-use plastic and finding reusable alternatives, we protect the planet and create a positive impact. To start, ditch bottled water and plastic bags and opt for eco-friendly swaps.
Think Before Checking Out
“Think before you buy” is a helpful mantra as you take a more eco-conscious approach to life. It applies to everything, from clothes to gadgets. Ask yourself these questions before you click to check out or stuff your cart with more things. Do you really need it? Can you make one yourself? Can you borrow it from a friend? Is this available secondhand or for rent?
The environment suffers when we consume too many goods. From extracting the raw materials and manufacturing, to transport and doorstep delivery—it takes a lot of energy and resources for a single product to reach you. Of course, energy is spent, and pollution is also emitted when we dispose of these goods.
As simple as resisting the urge to impulse buy (and actually not buying) can help you reduce your carbon footprint. When you need to buy something, look for durable and sustainable swaps with the least amount of packaging.
Reuse and Upcycle
Reusing and upcycling are also simple ways to reduce waste and conserve resources. By reusing items, we extend their useful life and prevent them from ending up in landfills. For example, use old jars to store spices and small food items instead of buying new containers.
Upcycling is a step further from reusing because it requires some work. You basically transform old or discarded items into something new and useful, which reduces the need for new materials and resources. For example, making pillowcases from torn blankets or aprons from flour sacks. Moreover, reusing and upcycling can help us save money and allow us to get in touch with our creativity. So, it’s a win-win for the environment and our wallets too!
Fix Before Throwing Away
Fixing things can help the environment in a variety of ways. To begin with, repairing rather than replacing items extends their useful life, requiring fewer new products to be manufactured and less energy to create them. This reduces waste generation and conserves natural resources, thereby lowering the carbon footprint.
Trying to repair some old items encourages us to be responsible consumers. It also helps create local jobs and support small businesses specializing in repair, contributing to the local economy and building community resilience.
Commute If You Can, Drive If You Must
Commuting rather than driving alone can be more environmentally friendly in several ways. For starters, commuting means fewer private vehicles on the road, helping you minimize carbon emissions. This also reduces air pollution, especially in urban areas.
The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that passenger vehicles emit an average of 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Moreover, automobiles also release methane and nitrous oxide from their tailpipes and hydrofluorocarbon emissions from air conditioners, contributing to global warming.
With fuel consumption, public transport can be more efficient, which helps you reduce your carbon footprint. Aside from commuting, you also have other options. You can carpool to work or go biking and walking when running short errands.
Eat less meat and dairy
Reducing dairy and meat consumption is a step up in your eco-friendly life. For starters, dairy and meat production requires a lot of resources, including land, water, and energy.
Raising animals for food causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a major contributor to deforestation, as forests are often cleared to make way for grazing land or to grow feed crops.
By consuming less meat and dairy, we can contribute to reducing fossil fuel use, greenhouse emissions, and deforestation.
Buy Local Produce
Buying locally grown produce lowers the carbon footprint of your food. When you purchase food from local farmers, it doesn’t need to be transported long distances, which means reduced carbon emissions. Plus, local produce may have a higher nutrient value because it is fresher and hasn’t traveled as far.
Buying locally also benefits the local economy and aids in preserving farmland and local agriculture. You help create a demand for local products, which can help community farmers stay in business.
The US Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2019 that food waste in the country reached 66.2 million tons. About 60 percent of this waste went to landfills. Moreover, “30 to 40 percent of the food supply is never eaten, wasting the resources used to produce it and creating many environmental impacts.”
Composting at home helps you reduce your environmental footprint. Plus, you can create nutrient-rich soil that will make your houseplants thrive.
You don’t need fancy equipment or vast amounts of land, which is understandably a concern for those who live in apartments. What you do need is a container; a five-gallon container can even work. Of course, you must also follow a few simple steps to make at-home composting work.
Find Ways to Save Water
By saving water, we can safeguard our precious freshwater reserves. With climate change and population growth endangering our clean water resources, every drop counts. Here are simple ways to save water:
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Fix any leaks you find in your home.
- Use a broom rather than a hose to clean outdoor areas such as driveways and patios.
- Only use your washing machine and dishwasher when you have a full load.
- To save water, install low-flow showerheads and faucets.
- Collect rainwater and use it to water your plants and lawn.
Go for Eco-Friendly House Products
Make a switch to green cleaning products made from natural and organic ingredients. Not only will you feel better about your cleaning routine, but you’ll be doing your part in creating a healthier environment for all. Here are a few examples:
- Mulesing free wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
- The baking soda and vinegar combo is an all-around cleaning solution
- Combining washing soda, baking soda, borax, Castile soap, and essential oils is a commercial laundry detergent alternative.
Switch to Green Energy
Switching to green, renewable energy is every eco-conscious person’s dream. Some inspiring folks have managed to stay off-grid, relying only on solar panels and other energy-efficient resources. The thing is, not everyone has the opportunity or is privileged enough to make a quick switch. But you can take small steps, starting with:
- Using solar panels for emergency lighting instead of a generator during power outages.
- Saving energy with LED bulbs and energy-efficient appliances.
- Using a smart thermostat to save energy and control your home’s temperature efficiently.
- Opting for public transport or going walking and biking instead of driving a car to reduce your carbon footprint.