Let’s talk sustainability! What the heck is it and why is it important?
Sustainability is, at its core, balance. It’s the lifestyle choices that we can make in order to reduce unnecessary waste in our day to day lives. Given the current state of the planet and the direction it continues to be heading in, being educated and aware of how your daily choices can impact the environment is of the utmost importance. And yes, your diet can also play a part in contributing to environmental waste!
So here’s the thing. Consumerism leads to more waste. The awareness of reducing plastic is trending right now, and although people have the right intentions, their choices often actually go against what is considered a sustainable lifestyle. ‘Greenwashing‘ is a marketing tactic that companies are using to prey upon people’s good intentions to do better by the planet. The sea turtles aren’t only choking on straws, they’re choking on every conceivable variation of plastic out there. But that doesn’t mean that you need to go out and spend a thousand dollars on different “sustainable products” because some influencer told you so. The big thing is to use what you have, and if you can’t use it anymore, then make your purchases with sustainability, and the environment, in mind.
Of course, nobody’s perfect. You can’t expect to undo years of habit in one day. And I am well aware, especially as a college student, that living a sustainable lifestyle is, at first glance, an intimidating and potentially expensive venture. In addition, people have different medical conditions, religious practices, and financial burdens that make leading a sustainable lifestyle impossible, and that is OKAY!! Every person must do what’s best for them. But if you can commit to being mindful about what we do that impacts the environment, then it continues to get easier. The first step is educating yourself! Here are my top 10 easy sustainable tips to help get you started.
1. Eat the food that you buy
It’s that simple, folks. And this one is SO important. Just think about how much waste would be eliminated if we were a little smarter with our leftovers, meal plans, and grocery visits. Seriously, check out the link below. It’s got some mind blowing facts.
“Just how much food do Americans waste? Here’s some “food” for thought: The United States is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year.1 That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion2, approximately 219 pounds3 of waste per person and 30-40 percent4 of the US food supply. Most of this food is sent to landfills; food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills.”https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/
In tandem with food waste, learning how to compost will keep food scraps out of the landfill, and therefore minimize the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that arise from their decomposition. Here are some helpful links to get you started:
3. Plant-based diet
The fewer animal based products you consume, the less you are supporting an industry that uses an abundance of resources to put meat on the table every day. Eliminating meat from your meals even once a week (Meatless Mondays!) can drastically reduce the demand for these animal products and therefore reduce the massive amounts of resources it takes to sustain such a huge livestock industry. Even better, try to eliminate unsustainable animal products from your diet altogether. I digress…here is another link to an article with some more facts.
4. Reusable grocery bags
Easy-peezy. They don’t even have to be fancy-trendy grocery bags. Just refrain from using plastic bags at the grocery store. I also like to use these (linked) reusable produce bags for, you guessed it, my produce. There is no rule-book that says you must purchase reusable bags, either. I have a bunch of plastic bags from grocery stores from before I had my reusable ones, and I will sometimes bring those to the grocery store too. Waste ~managed~.
5. Buy food in bulk
There are a bunch of great options to buy your dry goods in bulk! You can look up a good bulk store near you. All you have to do is bring your own vessels. They even discount the weight of your jars or bags in the weigh in at checkout. This is a great alternative to buying a bag of rice, beans, quinoa, etc. that often come in plastic bags. As a bonus it’s also often more affordable!
Yeah I know, it’s been drilled in our heads a billion times. But seriously, recycle anything you can. Aluminum cans, glass, paper, anything.
Yup. Whenever possible just hitch a ride with a buddy. Or ride a bike. Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that you are contributing to the atmosphere.
8. UPcycle/secondhand clothes
A lot of resources are allocated to making clothes, and that process is also associated with a lot of emissions. Fast fashion brands like Shein and H&M are just a few examples of companies that produce more than they sell in order to keep up with consumer fashion trends. Instead of contributing more toward that industry, do research to make sure the brands you buy from use sustainable practices in making their clothing, or purchase secondhand clothing.
9. Reusable water bottle
I try to avoid recommending things for people to buy because that is not the point of my blog. However, a reusable water bottle I will always recommend. It is a great thing to have and will save you so much in the long run as opposed to buying plastic bottled water.
10. Avoid single use plasticware
As much as you are able to. Again, it will be different from person to person, and each individual will have to use their own judgement and make their own choices. For example, if I need to get takeout one night because I haven’t had the chance to get to the grocery store, I will ask them not to put plastic utensils in the bag. It is a little thing, but I have silverware at home, and the decrease in demand for that single use plasticware matters the more people start doing it.
Of course, there are a bunch more things you could do to help reduce waste in your every day life. But I think the ten above are a great place to start, that I have personally tried and am satisfied with. Think big picture and just keep doing your best! If everyone does a little bit every day, pretty soon we’ll start seeing some real progress.
Visit https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ to calculate your own personal carbon footprint