Living a clean, eco-friendly life in today’s world can be a serious challenge, but there are some simple, surefire ways you can enhance the environmental friendliness of your lifestyle. Check out these 9 ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Buy Local Ingredients
Some people claim that buying locally actually does nothing for the environment, and the entire idea of “food miles” is a myth. Others believe that buying local can make up for carbon emissions throughout the production process of food products, thinking that fewer food miles = eco-friendly. In truth, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Buying locally does, in fact, save on carbon emissions, requiring fewer travel miles by transport vehicles in order to get the food from the farm to your table. Where doubters of this practice have it right is in how proportionally impactful buying locally can be in terms of carbon emissions. We’ll get deeper into what you can do to reduce your food’s carbon impact more in tip #5.
Though the actual carbon savings of eating local may not be jaw-dropping, buying local has plenty of other positive impacts that make it a worthwhile practice. Buying local supports local businesses and the local economy, supports the preservation of land and natural resources, and ensures you are getting the freshest ingredients available.
2. Install Solar Panels
Some media outlets and clean energy opponents would have you believe that clean energy is a thing of the distant future, an unrealistic idea that won’t be ready to be put into practice for centuries. Don’t believe the hype: clean energy is here and ready to go, and if you want to, there are plenty of resources to get you started producing your own, emissions-free electricity.
Solar panels are a relatively easy and accessible clean energy source that can be installed in most residential areas. Solar panels are an extremely efficient method of producing energy, with a single residential solar panel system being capable of powering an entire home at 80% lower rates of carbon emissions than fossil fuels.
3. Learn What Can and Cannot Be Recycled
Even the people with the best intentions can accidentally contribute accessively to global waste and pollution, and unfortunately, one of the top sources of accidental waste comes from your home recycling bin. Recycling regulations around the world vary from county to county, city to city, and country to country, but one thing stays the same: some people simply never learn the rules.
While some countries like Japan and Germany have extremely strict recycling policies with enforced penalties for wrongfully placed materials, countries like the U.S. are a little less stringent when it comes to countrywide recycling. With every state and city following their own specific recycling policies, it can be hard to learn what can and cannot be tossed in that blue bin.
Though every state has their own policies, and you should check with local sanitation authorities to learn more about the specifics of your area, there are a few items that most people are shocked to learn CANNOT be recycled:
- Pizza boxes
- Coffee cups
- Paper plates
- Plastic phone cases
- Plastic toothbrushes
- Plastic wrap
- Plastic straws
- Plastic bags
4. Compost Scraps and Your Phone Case
When you toss scraps or old items in the garbage, their final destination will be a landfill. Landfills are large areas of land designated for the dumping of consumer and industrial waste. As layers of waste are added to the landfill, layers of dirt are added to eventually fully bury and cover the mountains of garbage.
While some of the garbage sent to landfills eventually disappears into the soil, the majority will take hundreds or thousands of years to begin the process of decay. Plastic items, like plastic phone cases, will never fully disappear, spending centuries slowly turning to microplastics and leaching chemicals and toxins into the surrounding soil and water.
At Pela, we have made it our mission to do our part to reduce plastic waste, which is why we offer a fully compostable phone case that can be composted along with your food scraps to reduce your household waste. Rather than sending food scraps and unwanted phone cases to the landfill, make a small compost pile in your yard and create your own nutrient-rich compost for your garden!
5. Eat Vegetarian
Remember how we mentioned that buying local wasn’t the best way to reduce your carbon footprint at the grocery store? Well, here’s where the real savings happen. While reducing your food miles is a decent way to reduce your carbon footprint, opting to eat vegetarian is actually a far more impactful way of saving on emissions when you shop for groceries.
Though the transportation sector does account for a large portion of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions, the production period of food products is overwhelmingly more wasteful than post-production transportation. The good news is, some foods and ingredients require far fewer resources than others.
The meat industry is responsible for more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions produced by the food industry, while vegetables, fruits, and grains make up less than 6% collectively. By choosing to eat vegetarian even just once a week, you can significantly reduce your personal carbon footprint, and impact how the meat industry operates as a whole. Though it may not feel like much, if more people chose to eat vegetarian once, twice, or three times a week, demand for meat products would drop along with production.
Eating vegetarian is also a great way to encourage friends and family to engage in topics concerning the environment and their personal impact on the planet since no conversation is better than one had over a delicious meal. Use your weekly vegetarianism to discover more sustainable food and beverage options, and you’ll be well on your way to reducing your carbon footprint.
6. Ride Your Bike or Walk
Everyone knows that driving a car requires gas and oil and that cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and the degradation of the ozone layer. Despite the broad spread of knowledge regarding cars and carbon emissions, millions of Americans still own cars and utilize them even for short-distance errands.
In an effort to reduce your personal carbon footprint, make an effort to reserve the use of your car for longer journeys only. Need to pick up a jug of orange juice from the store down the street? Grab a comfortable pair of shoes, toss on your earbuds, and enjoy your favorite album or podcast on your walk to the store. Going a little further than you think is walkable? Consider riding your bike rather than going right back to the car.
Self-powered, fossil-fuel-free, and great for your personal health, walking and biking are the ultimate alternatives to gas-powered vehicles. With warmer weather approaching, get the whole family involved and make use of local businesses and entertainment by walking whenever the mood to go out strikes.
7. Buy Secondhand Clothes
In the U.S. alone, more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated every year. Scraps, industrial runoff, defective items, and last season’s jeans are unceremoniously tossed into landfills, abandoned in favor of new materials, new designs, and next year’s trends. Though it may be tempting to succumb to the fashion trends advertised by popular media, mainstream obsession with constant wardrobe renewals is actually wreaking havoc on the environment.
The majority of discarded clothing is only lightly worn, usually in perfectly good or near perfect condition despite being tossed in the trash. This endless fashion loop results in a lot of high-quality fabric going to waste, and a ton of resources being used every year to produce new fabric and clothing that won’t last 12 months on the shelves or in consumer closets. The demand for new clothing is so high that the fashion industry now accounts for 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
To reduce your personal carbon footprint and avoid falling into the endless fashion loop, consider donating your lightly used and unwanted clothes to local charity organizations, second-hand stores, and recycling centers. Your clothes can likely be worn many more times, and donating them will ensure they live out their full lifespan. Once you are ready to update your wardrobe, pop into your local thrift or consignment shop to look for items from your favorite brands at remarkably low prices.
8. Say ‘No’ to Single-Use Plastic
Though plastic, in general, poses a threat to the safety of our planet and its environment, single-use plastic items make up the majority of global plastic waste and are seemingly impossible to avoid. Everywhere you look there are single-use plastic products, whether you are buying groceries, treating yourself to coffee, visiting the dentist, or preparing for your child’s birthday party, single-use plastic can seem inescapable.
Single-use plastic items are items that are not intended for reuse and are purposefully made to be relatively fragile and easily damaged. Coffee cups, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils, and many other single-use plastic items are quick to succumb to regular wear, meaning you couldn’t reuse them if you wanted to!
Unfortunately, the majority of these single-use plastic items are also non-recyclable, either made from mixed materials or made too light to be processed by most recycling facilities. As a result, all single-use plastic items eventually find their way either to landfills or are left to pollute natural ecosystems like lakes, rivers, oceans, parks, and so on. Readily mistaken for food by fish, seabirds, and other marine creatures, plastic has begun to pose an increasingly serious threat to the health and safety of most marine species.
Though it can be tempting to succumb to the convenience of single-use plastic items, simply saying ‘no’ to single-use plastic and opting for reusable options instead can make a world of difference. Reusable eco-friendly alternatives exist for virtually every kind of single-use plastic item, from reusable coffee mugs and straws to reusable grocery bags and water bottles. Besides being more environmentally friendly, reusable options are also often more economic; after an initial investment, you’ve got a reusable product for life!
9. Commit to a Green Life
On the topic of ocean pollution, we’ve got to mention one of our favorite causes: saving the whales! Whales are just one of the many types of marine creatures at risk due to plastic pollution and global waste, struggling to survive in oceans that continue to take on more and more pollution each and every year.
With more than 8 million tons of plastic entering our oceans every year, there is no better time than the present to commit to reducing plastic pollution and protecting our oceans. As in landfills, plastic items littered or swept into the ocean spend hundreds or thousands of years slowly breaking down into microplastics which then mix with micro-nutrients consumed by millions of marine creatures throughout the ocean.
Plastic water bottles, phone cases, toothbrushes, and all manner of plastic items have invaded the homes of ocean dwellers like the whales, and pose a serious threat to the health and future of our planet. By committing to investing time, energy, and resources into eco-friendly practices and products, you commit to helping fight pollution. Reducing your personal carbon footprint may seem like only a drop in the bucket, but if everyone contributes their drop, true change can be made when we need it the most.
Want to be environmentally conscious in style? Pick up your first Pela Case today and discover the cutest way to live green!