by KAT FITZPATRICK '23
Many of us strive to harm the planet less in our daily lives and be more environmentally friendly. However, this broad goal of sustainability oftentimes feels unattainable. There are so many ways to be more eco-conscious in your everyday life that it can feel overwhelming. This list compiles some of the most effective and simple ways to be more sustainable.
Rethink your transportation. According to a study done by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2018, the transportation industry is the greatest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the United States. Everytime you get in the car or on a plane you are contributing to this statistic. However, there are many simple ways to reduce your environmental impact while commuting. The best way to do this is to walk or bike as much as you can. These methods are not only eco-conscious but also promote a healthier lifestyle. If walking or biking is not feasible, taking the bus or carpooling reduces the number of individual vehicles running at once.
Reduce your meat consumption, or eliminate meat from your diet entirely. Raising livestock is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and for the use of 31% of our planet’s freshwater. The negative impact animal husbandry has on the environment is tremendous, meaning that reducing your meat consumption is a great way to live more sustainably. If you can’t imagine cutting back on meat, try and consider where your meat is sourced from before purchasing it. Buy locally sourced meat, from a farmer’s market or a butcher and talk to vendors about where the meat is sourced from. Buying grass fed and organic meat is another way to ensure that the production of the meat was as sustainable as possible.
Reduce energy consumption in your household by
Turning off and unplugging appliances when you are not using them
Using natural light whenever possible
Turning off lights in rooms you aren’t in
Use compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs
Air drying clothing on a clothesline instead of machine drying
Turn down the heat and bundle up to stay warm in the winter
Take shorter showers and stop taking baths
Buy only what you need. Overconsumption leads to overproduction which depletes the earth of resources and contributes to pollution and toxins in the environment. Many industries have seen the consequences of overproduction first hand by producing more product than people can afford to buy. These industries include fashion, agriculture, manufacturing, and automobile. Studies have shown 80% of the world’s natural resources are used by only 20% of the world’s population. Buying only what you need and abstaining from buying unnecessary products is a simple yet effective way to live more sustainably.
Abstain from fast fashion. Fast fashion is a term that refers to the industry of manufacturing high volumes of clothing at a rapid rate using low-quality materials to market fashion trends to the public at a low cost. According to studies from the House of Common Environmental Audit Committee, clothing production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. Instead of buying into fast fashion, thrift as much as you can. Thrifting does not create any demand for clothing production as you are purchasing clothing that has already been made. If this is not feasible, buy from sustainable brands. Good On You is an easy way to check the sustainability of a clothing brand. https://goodonyou.eco/
Compost. Composting prevents organic materials from ending up in landfills where they would break down into a gas called methane. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas and by composting it can be used to benefit the environment. Around 50% of municipal garbage is compostable, meaning that material that could be turned into nutrient rich soil is instead sent to landfills. Visit https://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home to learn how to compost at home.
Grow your own food. While being transported to your local grocer it is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is traveled before you consume it. This large-scale, long-distance transportation of food is heavily dependent on energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels. According to CUESA, it is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food. By growing your own food you create less demand for the transportation of produce, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burned in order for you to eat.
Use less plastic. Instead, invest in reusable storage bags, water bottles, shopping bags, containers etc. to reduce the amount of plastic you use. Currently, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year. If this continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. It is estimated that plastic can take at least 400years to break down, meaning that any plastic on the earth right now will outlive you. Furthermore, around 4% of world oil and energy production is used to create plastics. Reducing the amount of plastic you consume, especially single use plastic, is a great way to save the earth and to save you money.