10 Ways to Change Your Environmental Impact

Last Friday, millions across the globe took to the streets to protest the lack of action against Climate Change. The remarkable thing that most of them had in common – they were students. Millions of middle schoolers, teens, and even kids as young as 10 were out on the street, outside of public buildings, or even in their own schools. These kids are now schooling their parents on the climate crisis in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which begins today.

Every Day is Earth Day

But while government leaders and lobbyists debate and argue over the best way to address climate change, here are 10 things we can do to help save tomorrow, today;

Eat Less Meat

This doesn’t mean become an overnight vegetarian or vegan. You don’t have to give up steak or fish tacos or fried chicken or anything at all really. It is what it says on the tin- eat less meat. There is actually a word for this – Reducetarian.

Cutting down the amount of meat in our diets, whether that is steak or chicken or seafood or pork, is also better for our overall health. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be hard.

Try making a pot of bean chili for lunches for the week. Or experiment with a few Indian recipes. Check out BBQ Jack fruit sliders, just to see if they really are as good as everyone says (hint – they really are). You don’t have to swap steak for tofu or drink soy milk to make this world more sustainable, maybe just go for the eggplant Parmesan instead of the chicken the next time you go out for Italian. Or choose Sofritas in your next Chipotle bowl instead of carne asada.

Don’t Drive

With millions of cars on the roads every day all around the world, is it really any surprise that carbon emissions are on the rise? Now for some, reducing your amount of driving time is easier than others.

Cities like New York, Atlanta, and Chicago are built on an infrastructure that fosters public transportation. Other areas, like South Florida, are a little less known for reliable public transportation and are typically either too hot or have unreliable weather conditions for biking.

So maybe don’t swap your car in for a ten-speed bike. But how about picking up your shopping on your way back from work to save yourself the extra trip. Looking for new jeans? Check out stores availability online to save yourself hopping from shop to shop looking for one particular item. Visit shopping centers that contain several different shops without the need for an extra trip. And, on a day when the weather is nice and you feel like going out, maybe go ahead and pull out the bicycle for a spin…

Turn off that Screen!

Screen-time is a massive problem most often discussed for kids, but is a very real problem for adults as well. How many of us have ever had our computer running, the TV on, and our cell phones in our hands all at the same time? Perpetual distraction is the problem of the age, but those screens are doing more than frying your brain, they are also sucking up a lot of juice.

Consider unplugging chargeable accessories whenever they are not actively in use. Plugs continue to draw power from the walls, even if they are not being actively used. Over time, that builds up to a lot of power that is literally going to waste.

Single Use Plastics

It’s not all bamboo spoons and hydro flasks. Although really if you are not already using a reusable water bottle what is stopping you? Bottled water isn’t just a waste of plastic, but also a waste of money as most bottled water is just tap water anyway.

Sometimes, it is as simple as buying a pair of scissors. Often times smaller items, like scissors, will come packaged in multiple layers of molded plastic and cardboard, most of which will, ironically, require a pair of scissors to even get INTO anyways. Other times, the same product will be sold with only a price tag and a plastic stopper for safety. That packaging is just one less thing to end up discarded in a landfill somewhere.

Whenever possible, choose the item that uses less packaging and consider buying in bulk for items you use repeatedly. Hand soaps have refills, goldfish come in barrels, and reusable dishwasher safe zip-top bags are readily accessible.

Say No to Express

Modern problems beget modern problems. These days, ordering something online is as easy as a click of the button. And who wouldn’t say yes to the immediate convenience of next day shipping? But all those trucks re-routing just to bring you new leggings a few days sooner adds a lot of excess miles on the road.

If it isn’t something you truly need urgently, choose the regular shipping option. It might be annoying waiting a few extra days, but your purchase will be here before you know it. Avoid other services that rely heavily on expedited or excessive shipping as well. Things like boxed meal services, which require both speedy shipping, and a whole lot of individual packaging for each and every ingredient. ‘Style’ boxes are another big culprit. The biggest advantage is your ability to return things, but that just means a truck brought something all the way to you just for you to send it back. Hardly eco friendly.

Skip the Trends – Don’t Buy It

The biggest contributor to environmental pollution is consumerism. Buying things for the sake of buying them.

When it comes to fast fashion, what was hot one minute and an absolute ‘must-have‘, becomes an embarrassing out of date trinket in the next breath. Most of us have, at one point or another, bought something which we thought would be useful but then never even end up using!

The next time you consider making a purchase ask yourself if this is something you could see yourself owning in 2 years’ time. Buy quality items that will last, and thus not require replacing. Check out your local thrift store the next time you need a new outfit – after all, the ’90s are in again. Your wallet, and the environment, will thank you.

Recycle

The fact that this even needs to be included on this list is a testament to just how much work still needs to be done. While most private homes, school campuses, apartments, and shopping centers have access to regular recycling services, this isn’t always the case.

If your apartment or place of work doesn’t have recycling pickups available, find out what it would take to make that happen. Sign a petition, get your neighbors talking about it. And, in the meantime, find out where your nearest recycling center is. There might be one closer than you think.

Do Your Research

Beyond just regular purchases, when it comes to ‘Green Products’ there can be a lot of misinformation out there. It is an ever-growing industry, but sometimes seeing the wood through the trees first requires taking a step back. As public interest in more environmentally friendly options increases, manufacturers and stores are continuously looking for new ways to market purchases, regardless of their actual impact.

When looking at buying a ‘Green Product’ ask yourself these 3 questions;

  • Does this item replace something I already use or need anyway?
  • Will this product last longer / get more use than a traditional option?
  • Are the components or ingredients of the product more environmentally friendly than the traditional counterpart?

If you said yes to all three, then go ahead! You are in the clear. But if the ‘Green’ alternative is not something you need, will need to be replaced sooner, or contains suspect ingredients or components, just keep walking. Buying something for the sake of buying it, as mentioned up above, does nothing to reduce our overall impact.

Consider Gardening

Consider taking up gardening. I know not all of us are blessed with green thumbs (mine are more like the black hands of death) but most of us have enough space for a small window bow or a few potted herbs.

There are guides for what grows best where and in what conditions, but really trial and error are the best teachers. Pick the herbs you use the most (for me that’s cilantro and chives) and just give it a shot. For green onions, you can use the leftover stems to grow new plants. Leaving in a cup of water for a few days prior to planting helps encourage the roots to grow. This will not only save on your initial gardening costs but also save on your next trip to the grocery store.

With cilantro… well, I’ll let you know if I ever manage to make mine live for more than ten days.

Don’t Stop Pushing

Don’t stop pushing. Is there a restaurant you love that doesn’t have any vegetarian options? Go anyways and ask if they have any. Is there a business that uses Styrofoam cups? Ask if they have any alternatives. If they don’t, just ask them to refill your travel mug instead. Don’t stop going, don’t shut them out. Keep going, keep the conversation happening, and just make your voice heard.

These kinds of practices are already having an effect as places like burger fi and shake shack offer meat alternatives and lettuce instead of buns. Make them listen by hitting them where it counts – their bottom line.


The Greta Thunberg Effect – Editors Notes

I must admit, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the Greta Thunberg situation. It is slightly odd for me to watch my friends fawn over this 16-year-old girl as she calls out adults, companies, and even nations on their lack of action in the climate crisis. Because, just a little over a year ago, I saw this same little girl standing alone, holding a sign outside of her school on the Swedish local news.

The debate then wasn’t on the importance of climate change. Everyone in Sweden had accepted the reality of climate change for decades, and the laws, policies, and intense recycling culture reflected that. The debate then was on whether it was appropriate for her to be skipping school.

Color me surprised when, a year later, all my friends know her name, she has sailed across the ocean blue and is addressing the United Nations Climate Change Conference for the second time.

Since then, Greta Thunberg has become the darling role model activist that I could only dream of. My generation had Emma Watson. Now, my baby sitting girls will have Greta.

Bold, well spoken, unabashed, informed, and unafraid to speak her mind. She is passionate about climate change and isn’t about to let anyone stop her. For all the kids, girls especially, who are told they aren’t able to do something, she is the one that proves that they can. In what is already one of the most pro-active generations in decades, she is a lens with the power to focus raw numbers into an unstoppable force.

But it’s not just the 15 year old behind the movement we should be focusing on, but the conversations she is inspiring. To take a look at our own ways of living and adjust.

I get it, no one wants to be made to feel bad for their life choices, it’s why people dislike vegans and feel wary about people who use hemp. But the fact of the matter is that the global climate is shifting at an accelerated rate, one at which we will soon not be able to adapt to. Waiting for the politicians just isn’t an option anymore. We have to keep pushing them, but we have to push ourselves too.

Before it’s too late.


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