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How You Can Help Stop Climate Change

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

The climate crisis is well underway. Some scientists argue that the warming of the planet has reached a point beyond return, and the full impact that we will see from this crisis has been underestimated. Reversing the damage that has been caused by human activity, if even possible, will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists. Many people are unaware of the impact that individual actions can have on the environment, and would prefer someone else to do something about it- namely their government. As is currently visible around the globe, the government won’t solve the problem of climate change, at least not without pressure from the public. It is normal to feel powerless, inundated daily with bad news of worsening carbon levels, biodiversity loss, melting ice, floods, forest fires, plastic oceans… the list goes on. Preventing these disasters from exacerbating requires radical transformations in the transportation, energy, industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors. As a citizen and a consumer there are two ways in which you can take action:

1.       Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want

2.       If you are fortunate to live in a democracy, you can vote to have a say as to what your country is doing for climate change

In addition to pushing for systematic change, there is a lot that you can do at your own will. It might not be possible to do everything at once, but over time you can integrate many of the following practices as part of your daily life:

Energy

Reducing your energy consumption can reduce your carbon footprint. You can save energy by:

·         Using energy-efficient lighting

·         Switching to energy-efficient appliances

·         Better insulating your home

·         Using renewable energy such as solar, or geothermal technologies

·         Switching to green electricity when choosing your electricity supplier.

Transportation

Transportation-related emissions make up a huge chunk of worldwide emissions. Depending on what is available to you and feasible, you can decrease your transportation-related footprint by:

·         Walking or riding a bike

·         Car sharing

·         Using public transport

·         Buying an electric vehicle if you need your own car

·         Avoiding air travel, which is by far the most polluting mode of transport.

Food

Animal agriculture is a huge source of greenhouse gases. Raising animals for food is highly un-efficient, unsustainable and damaging. Thus, drastically lowering the amount of animal products you eat or eliminating them from your diet completely is one of the single biggest ways that you can help mitigate climate change. Switching to plant based sources of protein instead of meat and incorporating more local and seasonal produce into your diet is not only is better for your health, but better for the earth. Food waste also contributes a lot to emissions, so plan your shopping in advance so that you don’t buy more than you need to. To ensure nothing goes to waste, freeze leftovers, unused vegetables and bread at the end of the week for later use.

Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (“The Five R’s of Zero Waste Living”)

Make simple zero waste swaps such as keeping a reusable water bottle and coffee cup on hand for daily use, have an extra bag with you to carry shopping, use cloth towels instead of paper, and wash and reuse containers, boxes, and jars for storage. Together, these drastically reduce the amount of waste that you end up sending to landfill, which can help lower carbon emissions.

Talk about it!

Many fail to recognize the urgency and gravity of the crisis in which we are living, and others simply ignore the crisis altogether. By bringing up the subject to the people around you, it raises greater awareness and concern. This, in turn, leads to motivation and encouragement towards individual actions for progressive change. Taking part in marches, peaceful protests and activism around the cause has the possibility of developing government policy that matches the scale of the challenges we face.

It can be overwhelming to tackle an issue of this magnitude. It’s hard to know which sources to trust, where to start, and it gets you to wonder if we really need to do something if no one else (like the government) seems to give a crap. The ideology of consumerism blinds us to the real drivers of destruction- government and big corporations- and traps us within a narrow circle of decision making. We need to utilize the power that we do have as individuals. As more people affirm their customer power by supporting sustainable businesses, significant changes can occur. Of course, the real drivers of destruction must be addressed, but this will require systemic and structural changes. Nevertheless, fundamental changes in personal behavior are urgently needed. Begin with the small, simple steps outlined above and eventually, it will lead us to more far-reaching and environmentally significant changes. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.  


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Salomé Savary

Is working as an intern for Zero Waste Club, writing blog posts on all things zero waste, from cooking tips to travelling hacks. She is passionate about encouraging others to adopt low waste habits in any and every aspect of their lives.



 

What is Renewable Energy?

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

Our energy system is a big contributor to the climate crisis. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, energy accounted for 72% of global manmade emissions in 2013, and a large proportion of these emissions comes from the electricity and heat we use to power our homes. 

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Energy is such a huge source of emissions because our current system relies on the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and gas. Using these resources as the basis of our energy system isn’t just bad because of the large amount of carbon that is released when we burn them, it’s also bad because we will inevitably run out of these resources, and because the process of extracting these resources causes water pollution, air pollution, and habitat destruction. 

Relying on this system will only become more problematic as our population grows, increasing our demand for energy. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that worldwide energy demand will increase by 50% by 2050. Luckily, there’s an eco-friendly, cost-effective alternative: renewable energy. 

Renewable energy is expected to grow alongside our population and energy demand. The EIA predicts that by 2050, renewable energy will be our predominant source of energy.

Renewable energy is a pretty straightforward concept- instead of relying on non-renewable resources like coal, oil, and gas for our energy, we rely on renewable resources like wind, water, and sunlight. Because they’re renewable, there is no fear of us running out. In addition, unlike coal, oil, and gas, these resources have very low rates of greenhouse gas emissions

Renewable energy accounts for 15% of current energy production worldwide. Hydropower is the most popular source of renewable energy, followed by nuclear, wind, and solar energy. 

HYDROPOWER:

Hydropower harnesses the energy that is within moving water. Electricity is created by collecting water in a reservoir, controlling the output of the water from this reservoir with a dam (or a series of canals), and then using this water to turn a turbine that generates electricity. The water within this reservoir can be reused.

Hydropower results in very little pollution or emissions, aside from when the infrastructure is built. The construction of this infrastructure can cause pollution, and the infrastructure itself can disrupt habitats and fish migration patterns if not done with the environment in mind. 

Hydropower accounts for around 17% of worldwide electricity production, and there is potential for growth into areas in Latin America, Africa, India and China. The main barriers in using hydropower are the money, time and construction required to build the reservoirs and upstart the system.

NUCLEAR:

The creation of nuclear energy requires splitting a uranium atom through a process called nuclear fission. This process releases a lot of energy that is then harnessed in nuclear power plants, resulting in a steady stream of energy. These power plants have low levels of emissions, create a lot of power, and are relatively inexpensive once they’re up and running

The downsides of nuclear energy include the high cost of plant construction and the fact the plants create radioactive waste that has to be carefully disposed of. In addition, there is always the potential for nuclear disasters as a result of an accident or terrorist attack, although the chances of this are slim. 

Nuclear energy is often considered to be renewable because of the low levels of emissions, but many argue that it shouldn’t be considered renewable because the amount of uranium that we have on earth is finite. Others argue that the amount of uranium we have available is so large that it shouldn’t matter. 

WIND:

Electricity is created from wind through the use of wind turbines. These turbines spin as the wind blows, creating mechanical energy that then spins a generator to produce electricity. These turbines can be large or small and can be located on land or offshore. This process of electricity generation results in very few emissions, is cost-effective and can be built on existing farms and ranches.

There are very few downsides and challenges to using wind power as long as the turbines are installed in the proper locations to avoid harming wildlife and disturbing local communities. The main challenge in using wind power is garnering the public desire to install the turbines, instead of using the land for alternative purposes.

There is also concern that because the presence and strength of wind is variable, that wind turbines won’t provide a consistent source of energy. There are ways to store excess wind power generated for later use, which solves this issue of intermittency. However, the technology for this energy storage is still being developed to be applied on a large scale.

SOLAR: 

Solar energy is created by using solar panels to capture the sun's energy and then turn it into electricity. These solar panels are made out of silicon solar cells. 

Solar panels are sustainable because of their low rates of emissions and their use of the sun, a renewable source of energy, rather than fossil fuels or oil. Solar panels can also allow homes to be independent and self-sufficient energy producers, as the panels can be installed on rooftops. The price of solar is also rapidly declining as it becomes more popular. 

The drawback of solar is its issue with energy storage. Currently, most panels are poor at storing the energy is harnesses for the sun, meaning they only produce energy when the sun is actually shining. This becomes an issue on cloudy and stormy days. However, a lot of development and research is being done to develop the technology of solar batteries that will allow the panels to store energy, so this will no longer be an issue in the near future. There is also some concern about the environmental impacts of creating and disposing of a solar panel. 

All of these renewable energy sources have their pros and cons, but the important thing to remember is that they’re all better in the long run than our current energy system. Transforming our energy system to run on renewables like these rather than oil, gas, and coal will drastically reduce rates of greenhouse gas emissions, and could even result in job creation and economic development.


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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.


 

5 Ways to Repurpose Food Waste

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

It’s no secret that food waste is a huge issue around the globe. Roughly of annual global food production goes to waste, and if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the U.S. and China. These emissions account for the emissions created from growing and processing the waste food, as well as the methane that the food releases when it sits in a landfill. Luckily, food waste is an issue that consumers can play a big role in curbing. Meal planning, freezing surplus produce, buying single bananas and composting food scraps are all effective ways to reduce food waste and cut related emissions. There are also ways to repurpose your food waste into valuable beauty, cleaning, and food products. Here are our top five ways to repurpose your food waste at home. 

Donate it

According to the NRDC, ⅔ of the food we throw away is potentially edible. This is because a large amount of food waste stems from consumers overbuying and overpreparing, leaving them with too much food to eat. If this ever happens to you, donate your excess food to your local food bank, or create a free pantry in your neighborhood to give back to your community. If you have extra funds, go to the grocery store and buy up food that is on the brink of going bad, and take it to a food bank or put it in your free pantry. Just make sure the food is 100% edible before donating. 

Use citrus peels in cleaners

If you’re looking to live a more eco-friendly life, you’re probably going to want to make your own cleaners. Traditional household cleaners are chocked full of toxic ingredients and are packaged in plastic. To make your own, combine your citrus peel scraps with ⅔ cup of white vinegar and let it infuse for at least a week. Then, put one part citrus-vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle, and use it as you would a normal house cleaner. This is a great way to repurpose your citrus peels, and a great way to avoid using toxic cleaners. 

Use coffee grounds in exfoliating scrubs 

If you drink coffee every day, your morning ritual probably consists of throwing away coffee grounds. If you’re like me, you store them in a mason jar in your fridge, because coffee grounds feel too expensive to throw away. Lucky for me, these coffee grounds don’t just sit in my fridge with no use- there are a ton of ways to repurpose the grounds into valuable goods. My favorite? An exfoliating scrub. Exfoliating scrubs can be relatively expensive, so making my own with a waste product I inevitably create is a win-win. All I do is combine two parts coffee grounds and 1 part oil (olive, coconut, or avocado), and then use it in the shower like I would any other scrub. You can also add essential oils or vanilla extract. Don’t use this scrub more than once a week- it could hurt your drain. 

Make veggie broth

Vegetable peels, seeds, tops, stems… food waste from vegetables really adds up. But, instead of throwing them away, store them in your freezer and use them to make veggie broth! All you have to do is collect your veggie scraps, and then combine them in a pot with water, garlic, and any other seasonings you see fit. Simmer it, strain it, and voila- you have veggie broth!

Make Croutons

Making croutons is a great use of stale bread or bread that you won’t otherwise eat. All you have to do is cut the bread into cubes, drizzle it with olive oil and seasonings, and bake it. Easy and delicious.

How do you repurpose food waste?


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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.


 

5 Everyday Habits for a Sustainable Life

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

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, 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 

  • Reusable silverware 

  • A reusable straw 

  • A reusable napkin 

  • Reusable handkerchiefs 

  • 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?


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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.


 

Zero Waste Travel Essentials

Posted by Pawan Saunya on

I love to travel. Seeing the world and experiencing its beauty is an incredible privilege. But, if we want to keep experiencing Earth's breathtaking natural state, we need to help the environment and improve our zero waste game, don’t you think? Traveling zero waste is challenging, but totally doable. 

I want to share with you my zero waste travel tips, but before we go further, I just want to state that in general, I travel on a low budget, eat plant-based, and would consider myself “low maintenance”. So, these tips are all based on my personal experience.

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My zero waste travel essentials:

  • Bamboo coffee cup.

You know what is this for- I carry it around everywhere I go if I know I will want a coffee or tea on the go.

  • Glass bottle.

I personally use this as water bottle, but you could also use a stainless steel flask, for example.

  • Cotton tote bag.

This comes with me at all times to carry any snacks I get when I’m out and about, my bamboo coffee mug and my glass bottle. Or, I use it for grocery shopping while traveling.

  • Bamboo lunch box. 

I bring this just in case I need to carry lunch with me or buy lunch on the go.

  • Wooden cutlery.

If you know you will be eating on the go, this is great option to have instead of plastic ones. You could also just bring whatever silverware you have sitting at home. 

  • Bamboo toothbrush.

 This one is quite obvious- I don’t use a plastic toothbrush.

  • Shampoo bar.

Shampoo plastic bottles take up so much space, and since I travel lightly, meaning I only carry bag that can go with me in the airplane, this is a problem. A shampoo bar is a FANTASTIC easy zero waste option for travelling because they’re plastic-free and they usually come in a little aluminium jar. Cute.

  • Plastic-free deodorant. 

I only use natural deodorants and those usually come in cardboard or glass packaging. They probably can’t be found in your local supermarket, but with a little planning, you can always order a new one right before you run out and be sure to have some when you go traveling.

  • Loofah. 

This might be weird for some, but I don’t use a shower gel. I shower only with water and a loofah and use a coffee scrub (when I’m home) once a week.

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This is my usual go-to list of zero waste travel essentials, but there are some other suggestions I have that I would use if I traveled for a longer period of time, or if I was traveling for a specific occasion.

  • Bamboo or steel straw.

This is quite straight-forward if you are a straw user. Just have your awesome bamboo or steel straw in your zero waste travel kit.

  • Menstrual cup or Thinx.

If you are a woman, the natural cycle cannot be re-scheduled, so if you plan to travel and happens that your period at the same time, I would pack my menstrual cup or Thinx period underwear. I do not use single-use pads or tampons anymore, so these would be in my zero waste travel essentials if travel date falls with that special time of the month.

  • Coconut oil or shea butter.

If I needed a moisturizer, this would be it. Little glass jar and good to go.

  • Stainless steel razor. 

I use stainless steel razor in general and if I needed to use it on longer travel trips, I would definitely take it with me (or not shave at all, single-use shaving razors are out of question for me personally).

These would be my zero waste travel options, depending on needs and length of travel. It’s understandable if your travel looks a little or a lot different, your zero waste travel kit doesn't have to be the same as mine. The point is we can all reduce our plastic use when we travel by preparing a little in advance and making plastic-free choices.

What would be in your zero waste travel bag? Share some of your ideas- I would love to hear them.


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Monta Musinska

Hi! I’m a full-time mom to two amazing boys. In between chasing them around, homeschooling and all other things, I really enjoy nature, reading, meditating, self-development, travelling, capturing moments on camera and, in general, trying to be a considerate and compassionate human being and teaching the same to my boys. Minimalist, zero-waste, and healthy plant-based living is my passion and my way of living, and now as an intern blog writer for Zero Waste Club, I’ll be writing about these things and spreading the message. You can find me on Instagram @montamusinska