You may have been inspired to become more open about sustainability and sustainable living as a New Year's resolution this year or you may be interested in reducing your carbon footprint. If you don't know where to start, here are 10 ways you can become more sustainable and eco-friendly every day:
1. Reduce Reuse Recycle
If you recall this motto, these three R’s are the first steps in achieving the goal of saving our environment. So how can we do these from home? You can, for example, use old glass bottles as a new pen holder that could spice up your aesthetic room, or possibly, an old carton box which could be transformed into a brand-new closet divider! In simple terms, we should reduce the amount of waste we generate, reuse items as much as possible, and, wherever possible, recycle reusable items. Living by these three steps would bring us closer to achieving our goal of finally keeping goods and materials out of landfills.
2. Go thrifting
Find it frustrating to find new, affordable clothes to keep up with the latest trends? Then thrifting is THE perfect match for you! Thrift stores often contain preloved clothes that may fit in with your own personal style! But how does this support the idea of sustainability?
According to Thrift World, there is an average of 80 pounds of textile waste that ends up in landfills every year in just America alone. As these clothes decompose, they emit greenhouse gases and release toxic chemicals into the environment. As stated by the Sustainable Campus of Florida State University, the fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry in the world, using around 79 billion cubic meters of water. How insane is that?
Instead of purchasing new clothes from fast-fashion industries, we can take the alternative of repurposing old clothes. By thrifting, we can reduce our carbon footprints and save up to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to minimize our carbon emissions in order to stop climate change. And if you still need more convincing, some of your favorite social media influencers such as YouTube phenomenals, Emma Chamberlain, and Haley Iraelov create most of their outfits through thrifting as well. Picking between sustainability and fashion shouldn’t be an option when you can have both!
3. Turn Off Lights and Running Water When Not Needed
In doing so, it can help reduce carbon emissions and other harmful greenhouse gasses. Turning off your lights is an easy way to contribute to environmental protection and the preservation of the planet.
Sometimes you may be talking to a friend on FaceTime in the middle of the night and as time passes by, you become too sleepy to turn off the lights. Now, because of your decision, you may have potentially wasted 90% of your light’s energy throughout the night. When it comes to turning off your lights, it is critical to follow the general rules of thumb. According to Astral Energy, "if you use incandescent bulbs, it is critical to turn off the lights if you leave your room for more than one minute. For fluorescent bulbs, you can leave the lights on if you’re out of your home for 15 minutes or less, and turn them off when you leave for more than 15 minutes."
Turning off your lights will also help to reduce the use of nonrenewable, environmentally harmful resources. During the day, you can turn off the lights if you don't need them. By turning off our appliances when not needed, it would bring us one step closer to further protecting our planet.
4. Use A Reusable Water Bottle
In my country, many people tend to drink from single-use plastic bottles and just leave them wherever, without having any second thought of where these bottles would go afterwards. Hydration Anywhere states that "more than 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce an estimated amount of 50 million single-use plastic water bottles in the United States each year." According to Biofriendly Planet, the production of single-use plastic bottles emits 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. A simple way I believe we can solve this issue is by using our own reusable water bottle!
In my own personal experience, using a reusable bottle really motivated me to stay hydrated throughout the day and can even leave a mindset for you to take better care of your body. By using a reusable water bottle, we can aid in slowing down an excessive amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. The more you use your bottle, the lesser its impact on the environment!
5. Bring Metal Straws When Going on a Coffee or Boba Run!
We all remember when “VSCO Girls” were trending, with their scrunchies, Hydro Flask, and that “sksksk” noise they made. I think that we should maybe leave that phase in 2019, BUT bringing back metal straws will indeed help us “Save the Turtles”.
By simply alternating from single-use plastic straws to metal straws we can reuse after each coffee run, it can reduce a significant amount of plastic present in our environment. What’s even better is that metal straws are BPA-free, meaning that they reduce your exposure to these harmful toxins. In case you may be worried about cleaning these after each usage, metal straws are surprisingly very easy to clean! They come with these long bristle cleaners, perfectly made to clean the inside of the straw, in order to get rid of any remaining beverage you had from that day! Also you may be worried about how you can bring a metal straw around with you, but in case you do not have space anymore, there are actually collapsible metal straws you can purchase on any of your popular, online stores, such as Amazon. Try it for yourself! I found it very convenient for me, and I’m sure it would be for you too.
6. Look for Environmentally Friendly Volunteer Opportunities
Contributing to organizations that support environmental causes could help ensure the long-term survival of a tropical rainforest or an endangered species. This is due to the fact that you are actively involved in the conservation of that area or species. Your involvement as an environmental volunteer can have an indirect impact as well. You can also further develop skills that may be helpful in the future, such as experience, leadership, teamwork, among many others.
When looking for organizations to apply to, try including causes that are most important to you in the keywords of your search. For example, if you want to lean more towards preserving the environment, you can look for organizations that host beach-clean ups or a local river-clean up. Identify if these organizations are a match with you, in terms of location and hours of volunteer work you are available to do, based on your schedule.
7. Walk If You Can!
If you’re going on a road trip, don’t tell your parents it was me who suggested for you guys to go hiking to another state. You can definitely opt to carpool if it is most suitable to your family’s situation. However, if you only need to go to your local grocery, or perhaps a local cafe to meet up with friends, then maybe it’s time to switch to walking.
Motor vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution, accounting for nearly 80% of carbon monoxide emissions and 55% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States. Although individual cars are cleaner today than they were in the past, if total traffic continues to increase, overall air quality will deteriorate. Walking or cycling is an easy way to help protect biodiversity. It reduces traffic noise, air pollution, and emissions that contribute to global warming. It allows people to slow down, reflect, and enjoy nature, which is especially beneficial in today's fast-paced society.
By walking, we can make up for the time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic that could’ve been spent outside. And another good thing about walking is that it is the easiest and most convenient form of exercise. So whip out that Apple Watch and start counting your steps! Let’s beat your dad’s total score from their walk-a-thon the other weekend!
8. Support Environmental Friendly Businesses
Choose to support businesses who truly believe in saving our Earth. Buy from local shops or farmers' markets. Eco-friendly businesses put in a lot of time and effort into researching alternative materials that could possibly help slow down the harm that is being placed on our environment. Instead of plastic bubble-wrap, they resort either to dissolving packing peanuts or paper cut in a way where it can be stretched and still protect the item inside. There are also many of these eco-friendly businesses that make use of water-activated tape, instead of the typical plastic packaging tape.
9. Lessen Usage of Paper
Minimizing your consumption of paper could reduce your impact on forests, energy used, climate change emissions, limited supply of water, and waste (as it accounts for 25% of landfill waste and 33% of municipal waste). Using less paper also helps ensure that we are only using a fair share of the planet's resources.
Alternatively, what you could use for paper in your day-to-day life could be a digital tablet, such as an iPad for taking notes in class, or stone paper, which is waterproof paper that can be reused as many times as you wish! You can also choose to keep most of your files online rather than printing them directly on paper. Or if you’re the type to be messy in the kitchen, you can minimize your use of paper towels to clean up your messes by using a washable cloth/rag. We can still live our day-to-day lives, but in a much more paper-friendly manner.
10. Donate Pre-Loved Items to Charity
When you choose to donate your clothes, you are preventing a lot of harm to the environment. According to the EPA, the average cost of dumping waste in a landfill is $45 per ton. When clothing decomposes in a landfill, it emits toxic greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane into the environment. Producing new clothes requires hundreds of gallons of water, and accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions on the planet. By donating clothes, you can potentially give someone their go-to outfit of the day. So don’t be shy! Share that fabulous skirt of yours with someone else!
By implementing these 10 steps to change your old habits, it is safe to say that you are practicing sustainability to the max! Placing efforts into these new ways shows enough what kind of a person you are and to what lengths you are willing to not only preserve our planet, but also our future. Just as the Dalai Lama once said “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”