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Why Your Small Changes for the Environment Matter

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Sometimes I get scoffed at for altering my lifestyle to be more climate friendly. Why should I change my lifestyle to only make a minuscule impact on a global issue that can really only be solved by a total restructuring of our businesses and governments? 

Yes, my impact, in the grand scheme of things, is tiny. Yes, I’m not solving the issue on my own. Yes, I know that governments and businesses have a much bigger role to play in this issue than I do. But does that mean I should throw in the towel and stop trying? I don’t think so. 

It’s an ethical responsibility. 

Climate change is leading to the destruction of ecosystems and the deaths of people worldwide, and it all started because of our current way of living. Our profit-hungry businesses, environmentally reckless governments and meat-rich diets have lead the planet into an ecological disaster. If I exist within this system and am privileged enough to make changes and make my voice heard, but I choose not to, am I not remaining complacent in the disaster? Just because my impact, whether good or bad, is small, it doesn’t make it ethically right to remain complacent. If I am privileged enough to make a positive impact, no matter how tiny, I should view that as an ethical responsibility. Nothing gives me the right to eat burgers and buy fast fashion, two unethical and environmentally irresponsible practices, just because my impact in avoiding those practices is small, if I have the means to avoid said practices.  

Think about other practices that are widely accepted to be unethical- lying, cheating, stealing. If you engage in these behaviors it still makes them unethical, even if it was done on a small scale. 

Changes gain power over time. 

Avoiding a $5 fast fashion t-shirt today could lead to avoiding hundreds in my lifetime. Choosing to go vegan just once a week adds up to 52 days in a year, leading to the aversion of nearly 1,000 pounds of CO2. Keep the habit up for several years, and you’re making a big impact. While our impact of our lifestyles on a day to day basis is small, when these changes are sustained over months and years, their impact can become huge. You shouldn’t get discouraged about the minuscule impacts your sustainable lifestyle has on the daily- you should be inspired by how your impact will compound over time. 

Power comes in groups, and those groups start with individuals. 

If I boycott a business or a product because of its impact on the environment, I am not doing much in the way of altering that business’s demand. They will still have thousands of other customers supporting them, so losing my business isn’t that detrimental. However, if I boycott a business, tell my friends and family why, and they get inspired to do the same, I am creating a ripple effect. My friends and family will start boycotting the business and telling their friends and family to do the same, and before you know it, the business has lost thousands of customers- an impact on their demand they will notice. 

This same principle applies to going vegan, using a metal straw, bringing a reusable coffee cup, or protesting. These movements of adopting environmentally-friendly behaviors all start with one person adopting the mindset of making change, and they then inspire others to do the same. 

In fact, mindset is everything. When we make these small changes in our daily life, we’re sending a greater message to governments and businesses that we are ready and willing to change for the sake of the environment. On a collective scale, our voices and dollars have power. Businesses want to make money, and will slowly but surely start becoming more environmentally and ethically sustainable if they start to lose demand and business on a large, collective scale- a collective scale that starts with the actions of one individual like yourself. 

It’s analogous to voting. A lot of people choose not to vote because they don’t think their vote matters. But, it’s the collection of individual votes that makes them powerful and that can bring environmentally-minded people into government, and this collection cannot happen without the initial action taken by individuals. 

Think of activists like Greta Thunberg. Her impact around the world in terms of climate action and protesting has been huge, and it all started with her small, individual action of sitting outside Swedish parliament. Even though her initial impact was minuscule, through inspiring people and being committed to change, her impact on the movement has grown over time to become a massive force. 

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
— Jane Goodall

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Kayla Guilliams

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.


 

How and Why to Reduce Your Water Footprint

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

As our population grows so does our demand for water, leading to tension surrounding our water resources. More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and 2.7 billion people lack access for at least one month out of the year. 

Water shortages aren’t just caused by an increasing population. Inefficient water use for crops, increasingly severe droughts due to climate change and pollution due to fertilizers and pesticides all contribute to water scarcity. 

While in more developed areas like the US and the UK where water is seemingly abundant these issues of water scarcity don’t seem prevalent, everyone around the world has a responsibility to treat water as a scarce resource. Here are 5 ways you can reduce your water consumption in your home and through your lifestyle. 

1.) Calculate your water footprint

Calculating your water footprint is the first step to take in your efforts to conserve water. Understanding what aspects of your life require the most water can help you make the most effective changes to reduce your water use. Calculate your footprint here: https://www.watercalculator.org/

2.) Change your diet 

While all food products require water, some require more than others. Meat and dairy are the top consumers- especially beef. One Beyond Burger requires 99% less water than a traditional beef burger. A good rule of thumb is to eat lower on the food chain- opt for plant-based foods like vegetables, legumes and fruits, and avoid meat dairy and eggs. However, this rule of thumb doesn’t always apply, with nuts, coffee and wine all requiring a large amount of water. 

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3.) Install water-efficient appliances and fixtures 

According to the EPA, if every household in the U.S. installed a low-flow showerhead, 250 billion gallons of water would be saved annually. According to EnergyStar, WaterSense faucets use 20% less water than conventional ones, and high-efficiency clothes washers use 30-50% less water. These appliances and fixtures will shed cents off your water bill and liters off your water footprint.  

4.) Use less energy 

Power plants are high consumers of water, so reducing your energy use can reduce your water footprint. Installing efficient appliances, turning off your lights when you leave the room, unplugging appliances when they aren’t in use and making sure there are no air leaks in your windows and doors are all great ways to save energy in your home. 

5.) Buy used clothes and electronics 

One new t-shirt requires 2700 liters of water to produce and one new pair of jeans requires over 8,000 liters. Buying used clothes in charity shops or from online platforms or simply opting to swap clothes with friends rather than go shopping can offset this water demand and decrease your water footprint. Buying used electronics can do the same, as one iPhone takes around 240 gallons of water to produce.


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Kayla Guilliams

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.


 

How You Can Help Australia

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Australia has been ravished from devastating fires that have been roaring through the country since October. 15.6 million acres have been burned, destroying homes and businesses and killing 25 people and an estimated 1 billion animals. Here’s where you can donate to help Australia. 

But first, let’s talk about climate change. 

via Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

via Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

Experts say that Australia’s dry season was particularly lengthy and detrimental this year due to impacts from climate change. Climate change is going to increase both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters like wildfires by increasing temperatures and lengthening the dry season. 

It is vital that we take climate action now to mitigate the future impacts that climate change could have on our world. Cut your meat consumption, buy secondhand and push for climate policy at the local and national levels. If action isn’t taken now, these fires will become the new normal. 

Where to donate: 

  • NSW Rural Fire Service 

    • The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is a volunteer-based agency that is on the front lines of fighting the fires. All donations go towards supporting the volunteer brigades.

  • The Australia Country Fire Authority 

    • The CFA is promoting four different avenues of giving to support their firefighting efforts. You can either donate to help communities in need through the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, support volunteer firefighters through the Volunteer Welfare Fund, or directly to the CFA or their Brigades. 

  • Port Macquarie Koala Hospital 

    • Donations to the Koala Hospital are being used directly to support the rehabilitation of koalas harmed in the fires. The website is facing unprecedented demand due to donations, so they ask to try again in a few days if transaction time is particularly slow. You can also donate to their GoFundMe here

  • The Australian Red Cross

    • The Australian Red Cross is using donations to deploy trained volunteers to impacted communities and is issuing emergency grants to those who will need financial assistance to recover from the fires.

  • The World Wildlife Fund

    • The WWF is planning to help reforest the area faced with disaster when the fires subside and are committed to long-term conservation efforts in the region. 

  • GIVIT

    • GIVIT is a non-profit using 100% of the money they receive to provide victims of the fire with the items they need most, such as backpacks and clothing.

  • WIRES

    • WIRES is a wildlife rescue group in Australia that is working tirelessly to rescue injured and orphaned animals that were impacted by the fires. All donations to their emergency fund go straight to their rescue efforts.


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Kayla Guilliams

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.


 

35 Eco-Friendly New Year's Resolution Ideas

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

The dawn of the new year is a perfect time to press reset and set goals and resolutions. While everyone’s goals will be different, we should all have the goal of being more eco-friendly in 2020 for the sake of our planet and human health. Here are 35 eco-friendly resolution ideas that will help you become more sustainable in 2020.

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  1. Drive less- walk, bike, or use public transit instead 

  2. Start a compost bin 

  3. Go vegan, vegetarian, or embrace Meatless Mondays 

  4. Use Ecosia to help plant trees in deforested areas 

  5. Carbon offset your travel 

  6. Embrace zero waste swaps

  7. Start buying seasonal produce from local farmers markets 

  8. Call or write your politicians once a month about the climate crisis 

  9. Avoid fast fashion- try to only buy secondhand clothing

  10. Start plogging 

  11. Become a conscious consumer- try to only buy from ethical, sustainable brands

  12. Start repurposing your food waste

  13. Stop buying palm oil 

  14. Unsubscribe from physical and digital junk mail 

  15. Find more joy in experiences- not things 

  16. Start a community garden 

  17. Invest in your local economy by supporting locally owned businesses 

  18. Participate in your local climate marches 

  19. Become educated on environmental issues and the environmental impacts of large corporations 

  20. Switch your home to run on renewable energy

  21. Swap your faucets and showerheads for water-saving ones 

  22. Switch to a green bank 

  23. Hang dry your laundry 

  24. Be a tourist in your own city instead of hopping on a plane for vacation 

  25. Start attending your local government meetings to give input on local sustainability projects 

  26. Host a clothing swap or two 

  27. Create a pollinator garden 

  28. Take shorter showers 

  29. Start monthly donations to non-profits solving environmental issues 

  30. Learn how to mend clothing 

  31. Volunteer at local river clean-ups, recycling events, farmers markets, etc. 

  32. Start unplugging (some) appliances and electronics when they aren’t in use 

  33. Try having a no-buy month

  34. Invest in renewable energy projects, green businesses, and other sustainability initiatives

  35. Inspire others to be sustainable through your actions


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Kayla Guilliams

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.


 

Why You Should Veganize Christmas Dinner

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Christmas dinner is arguably the most important part of Christmas. However, because the meal is traditionally filled with meat and dairy, it comes with a cost. Here are the 5 main reasons why you should veganize your Christmas dinner. 

Energy and Water Use 

Plant foods require a lot less energy and water to grow, harvest and process than their meat and dairy counterparts. According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef and 500 gallons for one pound of poultry. This is a highly inefficient use of water considering, according to the WWF, 1.1 billion people lack access to water. Plant foods, like potatoes, can use water much more efficiently. One pound of potatoes requires 100 gallons of water- 20x less than beef and 5x less than poultry. A study done by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition also found that diets more heavily based on plants require a lot less energy than diets based in meat. 

Greenhouse Gases 

Cows are notably high emitters of greenhouse gases like carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane. One beef patty has a 10x higher global warming potential than a substitute like a Beyond Burger, meaning it has a much higher rate of greenhouse gas emissions, and according to the Food Climate Research Network, 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock alone. While plant foods are also guilty of emissions due to fertilizer use and necessary transportation, it’s at a much smaller scale than livestock. A vegan diet has a carbon footprint of 1.5 tons of CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent), whereas a meat-lovers diet has a footprint of 3.3 tons. 

Antibiotic Resistance 

Livestock is being pumped with antibiotics at unprecedented rates. These antibiotics are being used as growth stimulators, not in an attempt to cure disease. Humans are exposed to these antibiotics through eating meat, and by being exposed to these antibiotics at low levels for a long period of time, humans could become resistant to their effectiveness, and antibiotics could no longer be effective at killing off bacteria in humans. While research is not 100% conclusive, it is clear that antibiotics need to stop being used on animals at such rates, and people can protect themselves by avoiding meat. 

Pollution 

Manure that comes from livestock is a cause of dangerous water pollution. Rains and wind can drive manure into bodies of water, and this nitrogen-rich manure causes a process called eutrophication to take place. Eutrophication is where an excess of nutrients, notably nitrogen, ends up in a body of water and leads to the growth of plants like algal blooms. These plants use up a lot of the oxygen in the water, causing animal life to die due to oxygen depletion. Manure leaching into the water is also problematic to human health, as it can cause many health problems if ingested. 

Deforestation 

Earlier this year the Amazon Rainforest experienced a highly destructive fire that was said to be caused by deforestation. This deforestation was a direct result of Brazil’s growing agricultural sector that is largely driven by soybeans. These soybeans are being grown at a higher and higher rate to be used in livestock feed- not to be fed for humans. Livestock require such high amounts of feed that vast swaths of land have to be deforested just to grow their feed, when this land could otherwise be used to directly feed humans.

Are you convinced to try out a vegan Christmas dinner? Check out our recipe for sweet potato and mushroom wellington:


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Kayla Guilliams

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.