The world is witnessing extreme weather patterns that may cause many in society to revisit humanity’s impact on climate change. The need to live more sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint is weighing heavily on the population. What can individuals do to make an impact on the fight against climate change?
There are steps people around the world can make towards sustainable living. Here are seven ways small lifestyle changes can make a large impact on the environment.
1. Consider Your Shopping Habits
As consumers, we vote with our money. What we choose to purchase and support sends a powerful message to the marketplace of consumer demand. Think carefully about the items you feel compelled to buy and what their lifecycles are.
Ask yourself the following questions before you buy:
- How long will the item provide value or usefulness?
- Will it end up in a landfill in the future?
- What materials were they produced from?
- What is the company’s history with regard to environmental and social issues?
- What type of packaging did they come in?
Being more conscious about purchases rewards producers and manufacturers committed to sustainable practices.
2. Buy (and Eat) Local
Raising livestock and mass crop farming waste a large portion of our natural resources, such as water and habitats. And the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from commercial agriculture production and transport is significant. Make conscious choices every day of what you choose to eat and where it comes from.
Reduce your meat consumption and replace it with vegetarian alternatives made from locally grown, seasonal produce. Your local farmer’s market connects you with your neighboring growers and provides you with sustainable food that isn’t transported from half a world away.
3. Eliminate Plastics
One of the most significant changes you can make is to eliminate as much plastic from your home and life as possible. Plastic does not break down. Nearly all plastic ever produced still exists. And much of it is in the ocean, affecting our marine environment.
There are several steps you can take to reduce your plastic consumption:
- Use glass or metal food storage containers instead of plastic ones
- Carry and use reusable shopping bags
- Avoid single-use plastic bags, straws, water bottles, and packaging
- Don’t buy items pre-packaged in plastic
4. Choose Renewable Energy
The more people rely on renewable resources, the less they rely on energy sources like fossil fuels or coal. The United States currently draws 81% of its energy from fossil fuels. Thanks to the advances in sustainable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and wind energy, this number can be reduced.
Choose a utility provider for your home or company whose energy is partially or completely sourced from clean sources such as solar or wind. Take it one step further and consider installing solar panels and/or geothermal heat in your home. Doing so could reduce your carbon footprint and save you money on your utility bills.
5. Create a Greener Home
Improve your home’s energy efficiency to reduce your intake. While greening your home, eliminate and avoid the use of volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and finishes, plastics, and chemicals like flame retardants. Removing these materials from your home improves the air quality.
To improve your home’s energy efficiency, ensure your home is adequately insulated using sustainable materials. Programmable thermostats, energy-efficient certified windows, and eco-friendly lightbulbs are some good ways to create a home with less of a carbon impact.
6. Conserve Water
Our growing population is placing increasing demands on natural water sources. There are small but practical steps you can take around your home to conserve water. Something as simple as switching to a water-conserving toilet can save up to 4,000 gallons of water each year.
Make the following improvements to your home to conserve water:
- Fix or replace leaky faucets and toilets
- Choose low-flow showerheads and take shorter showers
- Replace older appliances like a dishwasher or washing machine with new low-water ones
- Replace lawns and plants with drought-tolerant options
7. Consider Your Driving Habits
The car is a necessary evil. We need to get around, but we can reduce our carbon footprint by making more thoughtful choices on how. If riding a bike or public transportation isn’t an alternative, consider a more fuel-efficient car like a hybrid or electric vehicle.
If the latest eco-friendly vehicles are out of your budget, make changes to your driving habits. Plan to group all your errands to do them in as few stops as possible. Carpool when you can. And consider emissions — large vehicles idling their engines are responsible for 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the environment. Reducing your engine idling by avoiding commuting when there’s heavy traffic or by turning off the vehicle if you have to wait longer than a minute or two can make a large sustainable impact.
Sustainable Living Requires Lifestyle Changes
If you’re serious about reducing your impact on the environment, you’ll need to make small but important lifestyle changes. Small steps are the path to a sustainable and conscious lifestyle. Avoiding plastic bags or cutting down on meat consumption may not seem significant, but these small acts can create sweeping changes in society as others around you follow your example.
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