It’s an ongoing conversation with the same kernel of truth at the center – we are in the midst of a serious waste management crisis, and we need to change our behavior, our ideas, and our attitude. It was just 30 years ago that we learned the word “recycling,” and yet, its importance has grown so quickly, we have hardly had time to acclimatize to the consequences of our own actions.
The plastic and other solid waste generated by humankind’s actions continues to grow and can often seem overwhelming, especially for those countries with limited infrastructure and financial support. But in the US, where funds can be allocated towards waste management issues and people are exposed to education on the subject, one might expect a greater sense of urgency at the government and community levels.
As scientists continue to study the effects of climate change, and the media regularly shares the ongoing facts related to pollution and the many ways human actions impact natural environments, it can be tempting to turn off the noise and ignore the problem. What can one person do, anyway? But wait. Before you go out and buy that super-enticing Nespresso maker, remember there are, in fact, a number of ways you can make your daily routine more eco-friendly.
And the good news is that being environmentally conscious does not have to be a burden. It can actually save money, time, and the planet all while giving you a sense of accomplishment for doing the right thing. But don’t we already know all the tricks to being environmentally conscious? Of course, conserving energy and reducing water consumption are great strategies, but there are some less obvious lifestyle changes you can make that will also make a real difference.
Ditch Your Car
Yes, you can. In most cases, it’s possible to think about alternative modes of transportation. Not only will it save you money and keep you fit, but it can do wonders for the planet. By ditching your car and the greenhouse gases it emits into the atmosphere, you are helping to solve the problem of climate change. If you already have an eco-friendly vehicle like a hybrid, you are headed in the right direction. But you can also consider biking, walking, carpooling, or taking public transit whenever possible. And don’t forget to maximize your time away from home by making as few trips as possible. The less time you spend in your car, the more time you have to do other things.
Put Less on Your Plate
In the US, we throw away about 40 percent of everything we put on our plates. That’s almost half! If this food were preserved somehow, it could feed the nearly 1 billion starving people around the world. But instead of filling bellies, this food ends up in landfills, where it eventually produces a greenhouse gas called methane. Not only is this irresponsible, but it is a waste of all the resources, like water and energy, put into making the food in the first place.
This does not mean you have to finish everything on your plate even if you’re stuffed. It is just an invitation to think more about how you behave around food. It’s never good to hit the supermarket hungry, so remember to take a list with you when you go. After meals, look at how much food is being thrown away and make some alterations next time you go. If you find you are throwing away one-third of the meat you prepare, consider buying and making a bit less next time.
Noticing these patterns can empower you to make better decisions in the future. Slow down and take your time while shopping for food. Look carefully at expiration dates and always make efforts to extend the life of the food you do buy. This will save you money and create eco-habits that foster sustainability. And always put those leftovers to good use!
Even if you don’t have a local farmer’s market, there are plenty of other ways to generate less waste when you shop. As we know, consumerism is a major contributor to climate change and the destruction of the ecosystem. Greenhouse gases are abundant as merchandise is trucked around, and the amount of plastic used in product packaging has skyrocketed.
Bringing your own bag to avoid unnecessary plastic is one strategy, but there are other unexpected ways to “buy” for the planet. Using non-toxic or homemade products around the house can boost your sustainability efforts significantly. Because the FDA doesn’t regulate many of the ingredients found in personal care products like shampoo and makeup, it’s worth considering exactly what you are putting on your body and into the environment. Always take a look at the ingredients and safety information labels before spending money on any products. And when buying paper products, buy only what you need and recycle what you don’t.