As information about climate change and the damage it could cause our planet continues to be discovered, more and more people are realizing the importance of minimizing their carbon footprint.
The truth is that each of us has a role to play in the environment and there are simple (but significant) ways to reduce our ecological footprint. It is the socially responsible, ethical thing to do. In this short article, I’ve collected 15 tips that should help you in your quest to reduce, reuse and recycle.
So without further, here are some easy things we can do together to make Earth a little greener.
1. Resist New Gadgets
Before you upgrade your next iPhone, you may want to consider replacing the battery instead. And think twice before buying that new laptop if yours is still working fine.
Although appealing to replace your gadgets every couple of years, consider the environmental impact this is having on Earth. The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry.
Smartphones are particularly insidious as building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. Besides, they are becoming a disposable item with an average two-year life cycle.
Keeping your smartphone for three years instead of two can make a considerable impact on your own footprint.
2. Replace Single-Use Items
Single-use plastics like plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws, cups and utensils are the most common items found on the beaches worldwide. These type of products have to end in 2020 and there are a lot of countries already banning some of them completely.
As a conscious reader, I’m sure you’re already using reusable items, such as a reusable water bottle, reusable shopping bag, and reusable cups, but it’s never too much to keep this point as number one due to the dimension of the waste caused by single-use items (50% of all plastic created!).
Refuse single-use plastic items as much as you can, every day.
3. Buy Less Clothing and Better Quality
The fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting and has terrible impacts on the environment and the lives of several communities. Decreasing the amount of waste and negative impact of fashion it’s easy and “wallet-friendly”.
First of all, buy less and choose better quality items. By investing in reusable quality products you will reduce output into landfills that are already crowded.
Consider your purchases. Do you really need it? Do not buy unnecessary items. If you absolutely have to buy something new make sure you choose something durable and good quality.
Adopt a timeless wardrobe. Trends are always changing and when you buy a trendy product you tend to get tired of that item faster. Those baggy jeans, that 80’s pattern, those oversize jackets,… they won’t be trendy forever and soon the brands will replace them with something else. Adopt your own style. Create a timeless wardrobe with durable items that you can mix and match however you like and you won’t have to keep changing your closet every season.
Last but not least, opt for brands that support fair trade whenever possible and use environmentally friendly materials.
4. Reduce Meat and Plan Your Diet
Reducing your meat intake will help you reduce your ecological footprint since the meat industry is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, along with its other issues such as animal welfare, water-use, and land degradation. The carbon footprint of a heavy meat diet is considered to be about double that of a vegetarian so consider taking a vegetarian meal once in a while.
Another step you can start right away is planning for how much food you actually need to buy and cook in order to minimize over-consumption and waste.
5. Reduce Energy and Water Consumption
We use energy and water for everything in our lives, so there are literally hundreds of ways to reduce our footprint in terms of electricity and water consumption. I’ll leave just a few: switch to renewable energy, turn off the lights, buy eco efficient appliances, watch out for heating and cooling systems, hang your clothes instead of using a dryer and change your bulbs to CFLs and LEDs.
Reducing water consumption is also fundamental to decrease our footprint so consider reducing the time you spend on your daily showers, check regularly for pipe leaks around the house and make sure you only start your washing and dishwasher machines when they are full.
6. Drive Less and Carpool
Whenever possible, consider using public transportation, walking or riding a bike instead of using your car.
Car travel isn’t great for the environment, but if it’s the only option try hitching a ride with someone going the same direction as you.
7. Reduce Food Packaging
To reduce food packaging buy fresh food from the bulk section. Not only will you drastically reduce waste but you will also be forced to eat much healthier.
Bring a reusable bag and fill it up or place it directly in your cart. Look for unused card boxes on the store and use those for your items. If you have to use a store bag, try to fit as many products as possible.
Avoid individually packaged items at all cost and go for brands that use recycled and eco-friendly packaging.
8. Shop Local
The things we buy travel more than we do. Whether it’s clothes, food or house supplies, many items have a huge ecological footprint. You can reduce your footprint by supporting local, transparent companies and farms. The food at local markets is fresher, there will be less packaging and you know where it comes from.
Besides reducing the ecological footprint you will also support your local economy, create more local jobs and support small businesses.
9. Kitchen Towels instead of Paper Towels
We use too much paper and we need to start reducing this waste. You can save lots of trees if you start replacing paper with towels. Replace your napkins by cloth napkins as well. And when you’re out, use the air dryer instead of paper towels in public bathrooms.
10. Reuse Glass Jars
Be creative in your house and give a new life to the glass jars. Jams, pickles, beans, they all come in glass jars that can be reused for packaging, storage of items or decoration. To name a few ideas, a jar can become a vase, a candle holder or a piggy bank. The same applies to any “single-use” glass or plastic item. Be creative!
11. Unplug the Appliances
Appliances that stay plugged into an outlet around the clock can account for 10 to 20 percent of your electric bill since they continue using energy. Consider turning them off as soon as you stop using them.
12. Travel Less and Travel Coach
If you are a fan of traveling be aware that flying has a huge impact in the environment. If the destination is accessible by train or boat, consider those options instead. Try to fly less and, when you do fly, do it in economy class to reduce your carbon footprint.
Whenever you’re looking for hotels, search for green hotels or accommodations that have made important environmental improvements to its structure to minimize its impact on the natural environment.
13. Embrace a Minimalist Life
Living a minimalist life is embracing the mindset that “less is more”. It is a conscious choice not to consume excessively, to bring consumption down to the bare necessities. This lifestyle is also an opportunity to open your time and energy to other things, like relations, career, writing, creating and other hobbies.
14. Plant a Tree
If each of us plants a tree the world would be a better place. It costs almost nothing, it’s therapeutical and requires no skills. A young tree absorbs roughly 13 pounds of CO2 per year and a mature tree can absorb 48 pounds. After 40 years, a tree will have sequestered 1 ton of carbon that would have otherwise contributed to global warming. If you do not want to get your hands dirty there are a lot of organizations that you can donate and will plant a tree for you.
Voting in your local or country elections is essential to make sure that your ideals and values are listened to in the government and are part of the country debates. Read a newspaper once in a while and make sure you are aware of the world that surrounds you and take action. Don’t let others decide for you.
Let me know if you have any questions, in the comments below.
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