With all this talk lately about global warming, pollution, deforestation, etc. Most average americans are overwhelmed by all of the information they are fed every day. I personally believe that many people want to help and contribute to the efforts to control these issues. But we all work, or go to school, we lead busy lives and tackling on global warming on top of our busy daily schedules is overwhelming, and basically impossible. But what many people don’t know is there are little things that you can do everyday to make a hugely positive impact on our environment.
Reducing car emissions: yes, i know what you are thinking right now. I have to drive to work, to drive to my child’s school or after school activities, etc. Of course, driving is inevitable especially when you don’t live in a major city that offers public transportation. However if that is the case for you, definitely do your best to take advantage of it, not only does it decrease air pollution , it’s also cheap and convenient. However, if you practically live in your car like me, there are still ways to tackle the issue of car emissions
- Combine errands– For many of us, one of the biggest benefits of having a car is being able to do whatever we want, when we want. Many people report that they do not have a specified “errand” day and they just sprinkle them throughout their week. But taking one big trip to pick up groceries, drugstore items, and dry cleaning instead of making each a separate adventure is one easy way to cut down on gas emissions. Perhaps surprisingly, taking multiple short trips starting from a cold engine can use twice as much fuel as one longer trip with a warm engine.
- Shop Online- For me, online shopping is my preferred method anyway, the package comes right to my door, and with amazon prime it can get to me in less than a day sometimes. Online shopping also helps our environment by eliminating extra emissions from you driving to the store to pick up your items. One survey found as many as 70 percent of online shoppers say they prefer to buy from their favorite retailer online. Kudos to them, since buying online almost always involves less energy use and fewer carbon dioxide emissions than in-store shopping.
Next up is food waste. Everyone knows that America eats a lot of food, but we hear less about how much food they don’t. In the United States, we throw out about 40 percent of our food every year. In fact, the amount of global food waste produced each year is more than enough to feed the nearly 1 billion hungry people in the world. Instead of filling empty plates, that wasted food usually ends up in landfills and eventually turns into a destructive greenhouse gas called methane. Even worse, wasting food means squandering the resources (like water and energy) that went into the production of that food. Luckily there are many easy ways to be more careful about our consumption and reduce the amount of food waste we produce on a daily basis.
- Make lists/ Meal prep: Making a weekly grocery list or weekly meal plan can help not to waste food by eliminating those unnecessary impulse buys at the grocery store that end up going bad and having to be thrown out. Just simply plan your meals for the week in advanced, figure out what ingredients are required for each and the portions needed and write them all in a list. The meals do not all have to be prepared at the beginning of the week, but if you stick to your plan, no food should be wasted!
- Expiration dates do not always mean throw it away. It’s important to understand what expiration dates on food products actually mean, so that you don’t end up throwing away a perfectly good product. Expiration dates actually refer to the product’s quality, not safety. And there’s a difference between the “sell-by” label (the deadline for retailers to sell the product) and “use-by” (the date when the product starts to lose its quality and flavor.) Most foods can long outlive there expiration dates, seeing as manufacturers actually purposely make them earlier so that you will throw away that can of soup and go out and buy a new one. Of course there are exceptions, such as produce, but pretty much all processed foods follow this rule. Just use your discretion when it comes to tossing food, don’t go solely off the label.
- Create a compost pile. No, this does not mean keep a pile of stinky garbage in your home, even though there are ways to keep an indoor compost with no odor. Composting helps recycle nutrients from your food back into the soil. Some communities have local composting programs, or you can do it right in your own backyard.
Next up is packaging, food packaging makes up almost two thirds of total packaging waste in the United States. That means a whole lot of waste ending up in landfills, which means more methane released into the air.
- Reusable cups. This is such an easy task to contribute to helping reduce waste. The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups per year, this number can easily become 0 just by switching to a reusable cup/ bottle. Also, some establishments even offer discounts if you bring in a reusable cup instead of using one of their paper ones, such as Starbucks.
- Buy in bulk, I know what you’re thinking, “but you just told me to be more conservative with food!” Yes, you are correct, however with products that do not go bad such as rice, or pasta, One big bag is less waste than 5 small bags. If they are stored properly, you should have no issues with the food going bad, and you have reduced the amount of packaging that will end up in a landfill
- Choose to reuse. It may be tempting to toss those takeout containers and peanut butter jars, but that plastic and glass can easily be saved and reused for other purposes, like storing all those bulk goods that you stocked up on, Or you can use packaging for more crafty and creative DIY projects or for simple storing all across your home, not just in the kitchen. Jars, bags, and boxes can all be repurposed very easily, and can actually save you money. Just be sure to check the number on the bottom of the container to make sure it’s safe for reuse with food products, since some plastics can leach toxins when they’re used for too long.
- Forego the forks. If you’re ordering takeout at home, there’s no need to use plastic forks and knives. One of the easiest ways to be more eco-friendly is simply to ask the restaurant not to include napkins, utensils, or condiments with your order.
- Start an herb garden. Herbs are one of the easiest and cheapest plants to grow and take little effort and management. This will save you money at the grocery store, and also make your food taste better with those fresh herbs, instead of bought, processed ones.
- Savor the season. One of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to eat locally is simply to eat the fruits and veggies currently in season where you live. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by minimizing the distance the produce has to travel to get to your plate.
The day to day. Here are some really quick/ easy things you can also do to help:
- Use reusable bags at the grocery store instead of plastic ones
- Pick up trash on the street if you see it and dispose of it properly, not only does litter cause those methane emissions we discussed earlier, but many animals are continually being hurt and even killed by humans litter habits. Animals can mistake packaging or trash for food and this can cause major damage to our ecosystems. This also includes chewing gum, as birds often times mistake gum for worms and will choke and die when trying to ingest it,
- Always try your best to recycle, if your office or home does not offer recycling, save up all of your recyclable products and take them to your local recycling center once a month or so.
- Reduce your shower time by just 1-2 minutes a day, this can save gallons of water a week, therefore saving you money, while also saving the environment.
- Always make sure to turn off all lights and electronic devices before leaving your home or work and save money on your electricity bill and contribute to helping our energy consumption problems
Overall, saving our environment seems like a big task that takes a lot of work and dedication, although we as humans definitely have a long way to go when it comes to reducing pollution, deforestation, and many other major problems. The small things that each of us have the opportunity to contribute every day are what makes the biggest impact. This is our planet so the power is in our hands to make sure we take care of it the way it takes care of us.