If you’ve ever tried to adjust your lifestyle to become more sustainable, you’ve probably found yourself getting overwhelmed. The internet can make it seem like you need to overhaul your life overnight in order to save the earth, or that you need to throw out everything you own and start fresh. Lucky for you, it doesn’t have to be that extreme. You can start with easing in sustainable swaps, like a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one, and from there, you can incorporate sustainable habits into your everyday life. Here are 5 everyday things that you can do to make sustainability more of a habit and less of an overwhelming feat.
Reduce Your Food Waste
Worldwide, ⅓ of food that is produced goes to waste. In the U.S, this wasted food accounts for 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases. You can reduce your food waste in two ways: behavior change and composting. Behavior change consists of being more conscious of the food you buy, freezing excess produce and always eating leftovers. Composting consists of putting the inevitable food waste you create (like the peels of fruits and vegetables) into a composting system instead of into the landfill. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves soil health, which helps the soil to sequester more carbon. To start composting, collect your food waste in the freezer or in a tabletop bin (I prefer the freezer because it prevents odors). When it’s full, take it to a composting drop-off at a local community garden or farm, or have it picked up curbside by a service like CompostNow. You can also establish an at-home composting system to turn your food waste into nutrient-rich soil right in your backyard, but most people don’t have the time or space to dedicate to this.
Switch Up Your Commute
The transport sector is growing to be one of the biggest contributors to climate change worldwide. In 2010, transportation was the source of 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions. A lot of these emissions could be curbed by everyone buying an electric car and charging it using renewable energy. However, that’s not a feasible option for most people. Luckily, there are other easy ways to curb your transportation-related emissions that won’t cost you a dime- in fact, they’ll probably save you money.
Ride the bus: One study in the U.S. estimated that riding the bus results in 33% fewer emissions per mile than a car. It’s also cheaper and allows you to read or check your email while commuting, rather than just driving.
Carpool: One car is better than four as far as the environment goes, so collaborate with your coworkers to set up a carpooling system. This will save emissions (and gas money).
Walk: Not everyone has the luxury to live close to work or school, but if you do, consider walking your commute. Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s a great way to get in your daily exercise.
Bike: Biking, like walking, incorporates exercise into your commute, but in a more time-efficient way. If you have bike lanes or greenways along your commute, try taking advantage of them by biking to school or work.
Make Everyday Meatless Monday
It is estimated that animal agriculture contributes to 14% of global emissions. This means that while going vegetarian isn’t the silver bullet of the climate crisis, if everyone incorporated more meatless meals into their diet, a significant amount of emissions could be saved. Eating more plant-based meals is also healthier, more ethical, and tastes great! To ease into meatless eating, try replacing meat with plant-based meat substitutes or with whole foods like beans or tofu.
Create a Zero Waste Kit
Creating a zero-waste kit that you can grab when you head out the door is one of the easiest ways to prevent creating waste when you’re on the go. Include things like:
A reusable water bottle
A reusable coffee cup
A reusable straw
A reusable napkin
A reusable container
A reusable bag
When putting this kit together, try to use things you already have, like a glass jar as a coffee cup or water bottle, and an old fabric scrap as a reusable napkin or handkerchief. If you need something for your kit and you have nothing at home that will suffice, try to either buy it used or from a sustainable store like Zero Waste Club.
Vote With Your Dollars
Every time you buy something or use a certain service you are sending a message about what kind of businesses and organizations you support. When you buy gas or plastic water bottles you are supporting the petroleum industry, and when you buy a top from H&M or Zara you’re supporting the fast fashion industry. As you go about your everyday life, remember that you’re voting with your dollars every time you make a purchase, so try to only support companies that are committed to being ethical and sustainable.
What habits make your life more sustainable?
Is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.