In celebration of Earth Day — April 22nd — let’s chat about a few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. But before we dive in, why is sustainable living important? And how sustainable should you strive to be? Living sustainably is all about intentional choices. It’s about doing what you can, with what you have. Or if it speaks to you, making entire lifestyle changes. At the end of the day Anne Marie Bonneau said it best: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Why is sustainaBLE LIVING important?
Being a steward of the environment is vital for the longevity of our planet, our communities, and all living organisms. Simply put, it improves the quality of our lives. Being eco-conscious helps protect our ecosystems and preserves natural resources — especially for future generations. That said, sustainability is a complex, nuanced topic. Be it beliefs, perspectives, lobbying, or awareness, we all come from different vantage points. But if it’s of interest, there are a few simple ways you can live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Best of all, you can do it without feeling overwhelmed or pulling from your savings. In fact, being more sustainable will actually save you money in the long-run.
On a personal note: sustainability has been on my mind since our son, Wilson, was born. Our planet and our children’s futures are at stake. At times, it can feel so heavy. Rather than tackle everything at once, I try and focus on little things, every day, that can leave a lasting impact. A ripple effect, if you will. Within our means, my husband and I are constantly evolving our lifestyle, swaying our habits in a more eco-friendly direction. Together, we want to live simpler, be more mindful, and set a positive example for our baby.
Accessibility and Privilege
There is something incredibly profound about aligning with the earth’s cycles and rhythms. After all, it’s a beautiful, natural way to connect with something greater than yourself. However, sustainability isn’t a global priority. In part, due to accessibility. Accessibility is one of the most contradictory pieces of this puzzle. Access to eco-friendly household products, organic food, minimizing plastic, etc. is extremely polarizing.
While this 2019 study indicates that over 80% of Americans and Australians want to learn how to live more sustainably, it doesn’t speak to global populations that simply can’t prioritize it. These lower socio-economic communities have other imperative needs. Like, allocating expenses for food, water, and rent. Pursuing an eco-friendly lifestyle is a blip on their radar. In other words, there is a deep, deep inequity woven into the sustainability movement. As with other industries, inclusion and diversity are scarce. In many ways, being eco-friendly (to any degree) leaves out a majority of the world’s population. After all, it is a privilege to afford sustainable alternatives — especially in the fashion industry.
If you want to read more about creating equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities, you can read about various strategies here. We have a long way to go, but environmental justice is on the rise. One of the best ways to get started is to read, research, and share what you’re learning.
Easy eco-friendly tips
All of that said, if you have the means to make a few simple lifestyle changes, this is your nudge to do so. Rather than overhaul your entire lifestyle, do what you can, with what you have. And when possible, encourage others to do the same. Think about easy, realistic ways you can create a ripple effect. Here are a few ideas:
1. Unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Your households appliances are wasting energy, even when they’re not turned on, Instead of leaving things like your coffee maker and toaster plugged in, indefinitely, unplug them when you’re not using them. Same goes for unplugging / turning off lights. Speaking of, now might be the time to consider energy-efficient light bulbs.
2. Swap out your sponge. Not only do plastic sponges harbor a ton of bacteria, but they aren’t exactly eco-friendly, either. Here’s my favorite wooden dish scrubber. Another kitchen swap: organic cloth towels for paper towels. This is also a more economical option.
3. Turn off the facet. By simply shutting off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth, you can save gallons of water per day. Similarly, you can conserve water while washing your hands.
4. Let your dishes air dry. Instead of using the heat-dry function on your dishwasher, consider selecting an air-dry cycle to dry your dishes. This will save a percentage of your dishwasher’s energy use. If you don’t have this option on your dishwasher, just crack open the door to let your dishes dry once your load has finished washing.
5. Calculate your carbon footprint. Determining your carbon footprint is the first step toward minimizing it. You can calculate it here.
6. Choose animal protein, wisely. This point ties back back to my thoughts on accessibility. So, take this with a grain of salt. When possible, choose pasture-raised (or in the very least, organic) meat, eggs, milk, dairy, and seafood. Study after study shows that the conventional meat industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. For more on this, watch Kiss The Ground. This documentary covers regenerative farming and how we can help reverse climate change through our grocery shopping and farming practices. If budgeting for high-quality meat isn’t practical, fill your grocery basket with colorful veggies and fruit, canned beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Focus on unprocessed foods.
A bit more inspiration: Take a shorter shower. Start a small compost bin for your kitchen scraps. Reuse your aluminum foil (or switch to beeswax wrap). Add herbs to your windowsill. Research modern climate issues. Advocate for marginalized communities. Deepen your appreciation for nature. Spend time outside. At the end of the day, it’s not about doing everything — rather, it’s about doing one thing with intention.
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