Like most people, I make similar goals at the start of every year. You know, vowing to quit sugar, getting a promotion, focusing on self-care. But this year, I’m adding a different set of intentions.
I’d like to think I do my part as an eco-conscious citizen. For years I’ve been a stickler for recycling, buying locally, sustainably grown produce, and carpooling whenever possible. I won’t go to the store or farmers market without my trusty Lululemon reusable bag in hand. I replaced our conventional cleaning supplies with natural ones, made way for glass bottles and containers, and invested in clean beauty products. You get the picture. But I want to do more.
So, after doing my homework, I narrowed it down to five actionable steps I feel that I can realistically commit to to do my part in reducing my carbon footprint:
- Eat more greens (and less meat and dairy): Animal agriculture, namely red meat, requires gallons of water and emits greenhouse gases (we’re talking 5,000 gallons of water just for a single pound of beef and more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined!). Here’s some food for thought: a meat eater has, on average, twice the carbon footprint of a vegan! I’m not one for eating red meat or dairy, but I do eat chicken and turkey, so I plan to cut down the amount I eat to 3-4 times per week.
- Eat local and in-season: Buying fruits and vegetables that are in peak season and grown locally means the produce traveled a shorter distance to get to your plate and, therefore, has a smaller carbon footprint. The easiest way to check this off your list? Visit your local farmers market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)! You’ll be helping the environment while supporting local businesses (plus, all the samples!). I’d call that a win-win!
- Refuse single-use plastic: Plastic stays in the environment for up to 1,000 years, and in 2016, world plastics production totaled around 335 million metric tons! So, how can you make a difference? Go straw-free, opt for reusable water bottles, cups, shopping bags, containers, and utensils, and pass on products with excessive packaging. With Starbucks’ global commitment to replace single-use plastic straws with new recyclable strawless lids and alternative-material straw options by 2020, it’s expected that more than one billion plastic straws per year will be eliminated from Starbucks stores. Woohoo!
- Rethink your shopping habits: With big clothing retailers churning out the latest trends quickly and inexpensively (aka fast fashion), comes increased waste (15 million tons of textile waste to be exact!), contamination, and pollution. What can you do? Buy secondhand and locally made clothing, repurpose the clothing you already own, and do clothing swaps! Although the fashion industry has a ways to go when it comes to fair trade practices and sustainable production, there are labels that are paving the way. If you’re curious how ethical a brand you’ve been supporting is, check out the app Good on You (trust me, it’ll surprise you). Giving up fast fashion will likely be the hardest for me to implement, but baby steps, right? One thing is for sure, I’m going to think twice before I buy anything.
- Line dry your clothes: Running a clothes dryer is equivalent to turning on 225 light bulbs for an hour. Just by line drying your clothes, you can save 1/3 of your carbon footprint! Take it one step further and wash your clothes in cold water to save even more energy (90% of the energy used when washing clothes is for heating the water).
What’s more, committing to these five habits can seriously add up to more greens — in your wallet, that is!