Let's be honest about climate change and our individual ability to prevent a warming planet. When 100 companies are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, and just 10 companies create most plastic found in our environment, the biggest changes need to happen through government regulation and investment.
One of the best things you can do as an individual who wants to help slow global warming is call, write, tweet your state and federal representatives to demand action on climate change. And if you invest in stocks, do your research to find out if you're invested in one of these companies. If you are, move your money to more sustainable stocks (you might just get a better return).
Of course living sustainably is part of the solution. And if we add up all the little things we do to be less wasteful and then magnify those by millions of people, we can make an impact.
Read on for a few things we can do in our homes and our lives to help fight pollution and climate change.
Happy Earth Day!
COMPOST FOOD SCRAPS
When food waste is trapped without air in a plastic bag it produces methane - a potent greenhouse gas. Composting those food scraps helps put nutrients back into the earth and preserves the resources used to create that food in the first place.
EAT LESS MEAT
Buy local to reduce energy to transport food. Buy organic products that protect the land they’re grown in. And for the biggest impact on sustainable living, eat less meat. Meat grown for food is responsible for deforestation, creates soil and water pollution, is water-intensive, all directly contributing to climate change. It's also cruel and increases the risk of future pandemics.
RECYCLE THE RIGHT WAY
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Only 10% of plastic is recycled. The rest goes into landfill, is incinerated, or ends up in the ocean. Reduce how much non-renewable material you consume, try to reuse what you already have, and when an item is at the end of its life, recycle it. Reducing the volume of single-use stuff we consume will reduce the need for landfills and recycling (which also uses energy and creates waste)
It's important to only put truly recyclable stuff into the recycling bin. Clean your glass and plastic, bale your paper and cardboard as directed by your municipality to avoid contaminating recycling streams.
CONSUME LESS PLASTIC
So much stuff we buy is packed in single-use plastic packaging. Plastic does not biodegrade. It’s forecast that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean which is a direct threat to animal and human health.
Farmer's markets use a lot less plastic but there are a few things you can do to limit the amount of plastic you bring home from the supermarket: choose a single, unwrapped lettuce, over a plastic box of salad (If you're worried about germs, wash your unwrapped produce in a sink full of cold water with a little dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and wrap in a clean dish towel before storing in the fridge), go for glass or aluminum over plastic jars and bottles, remember your re-useable shopping bags
WHY SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS COUNT
Plant-based products are made with renewable resources and avoid fossil fuel consumption. Products that are 100% readily biodegradable break down quickly and completely in the environment leaving waterways clean. The best products avoid the many, many harmful chemicals used in the largely unregulated personal care and cleaning products industries.
You might buy organic food for your health but organic farming also protects the environment! Organic farming protects topsoil and soil quality, conserves water and keeps waterways clean, and protects animals and insects (pollinators!) because they don't use harmful pesticides.
USE LESS WATER
Conserve water by taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet while you brush your teach. Saving water at home helps municipalities reduce energy and ensure there is enough water to go around.
DON'T USE DISPOSABLE WIPES
Ditch disposable wipes which wreak havoc on water treatment plants. Even if manufacturers say they’re safe, they aren’t. Helping wastewater treatment services keep our water clean is just one way to ensure we have all the water we need.
UPGRADE YOUR TOILET PAPER
Switch to toilet paper from a company using 100% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) or renewable material like bamboo. Not only will you be using loo paper that is made from a readily renewable resource, they come packed in paper and cardboard rather than wrapped in plastic, and most donate a percentage of sales to good causes like improving hygiene in developing nations.
BREAK-UP WITH FAST FASHION
Avoid fast fashion. Clothing is very resource-intensive to manufacture. One pair of jeans is made from cotton that needs 1,800 gallons of water to produce. That cotton also uses fertilizer and pesticides which are toxic to aquatic life and can cause algal blooms. Instead of buying a cheap piece of clothing for one season, invest in pieces you’ll wear for years or buy vintage.
USE LESS WATER
A high efficiency (HE) washing machine reduces the amount of powerand water you’re using to do your laundry. Water is becoming scarcer in many places in the US and HE washing machines are one of the major things you can do to conserve water in your community.
LINE DRY CLOTHES
Many of us live in apartments where it can be hard to "line-dry" laundry. A folding clothes rack is a great investment. You'll save electricity and clothes will last longer. If you're luck enough to have a clothes line, sunlight is a natural whitener! Line dried linens smell the best!
Turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees or even as low as 60 degrees when you’re sleeping. Low temperatures are healthier to sleep in and reduce energy. Energy which is often supplied by a power plant that is using non-renewable resources.
Get an organic mattress from a reliable brand. Conventional mattresses can be full of toxic chemicals like PVCs and flame retardants which off-gas into the air in your bedroom. They can cause a whole host of issues from respiratory irritation to cancer.
Bedding made from organic cotton, bamboo, or eucalyptus is better for the environment because it avoids pesticides and fertilizers which negatively affect waterways and pollinators. Many alternative bedding materials are more water-efficient to grow too.
When you invest in an organic products, you're not only looking after yourself, you're supporting forward-looking companies who protect the environment by growing and manufacturing sustainably.
Use natural paint. Traditional house paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are a class of chemical that evaporates at room temperature. The off-gassing is that “new paint smell” and can cause a range of health problems from nausea to organ damage, to cancer.
Bringing house plants into your bedroom can help purify your air in lieu of an electric air purifier that runs on electricity. Choose plants that produce a lot of oxygen overnight like snake plants and the ever-popular fiddle leaf fig.
Living & dining room
SWITCH TO LED BULBS
Replacing traditional lightbulbs with LEDs is an easy way to save energy. Not only do LED lightbulbs last up to 40 times as long as an incandescent bulb, but they are also 60% - 75% more energy efficient.
GO GREEN WITH FURNITURE
Invest in natural furniture and furnishings you will keep for a long time. Furniture is resource-intensive to manufacture so it’s important that it’s used for a long time. Traditional furniture uses renewable and non-renewable resources as well as a host of toxic chemicals like polyurethane, glues, paint, flame-retardant and stain resistant coatings, which can be bad for your health and persist in the environment for many years. Look for manufacturers who use sustainable raw materials, do not contribute to deforestation, or use toxic chemicals.
Vintage furniture is a great way to avoid the problems associated with new conventional furniture.
Unplug electrical devices and chargers when not in-use. Even small appliances like toasters and phone chargers suck energy just by being plugged into the socket. Stand-by and sleep mode don’t reduce the amount of electricity your computer is drawing by being plugged in. Unplugging these things is the only way to stop the “vampire energy” waste in your home. It accounts for 15% - 20% of your total energy cost so it’s worth making unplugging a habit.
APPLY THE 3 R'S TO THE OFFICE
Bring your reduce, reuse, recycle habits into the home office. Reduce how much printing you do (or eliminate printing altogether), buy refillable pens, and if you do use ink cartridges or batteries, make sure to recycle them appropriately.
Garden & garage
RIDE A BIKE
Cars burn fossil fuels also known as greenhouse gases into the air. These gases build up and trap heat in the atmosphere which is otherwise known as climate change. Instead of driving, ride a bike or if you have to drive, try to carpool.
Plant trees. There are so many benefits to planting more trees. They trap CO2, one of the major greenhouse gases, give out oxygen, reduce the need for air-conditioning by providing shade to houses, and provide habitats for birds and pollinators.
DO AWAY WITH LAWN
Replace lawn with native plants. Lawns require a lot of water, pesticides and fertilizer to thrive in most environments. Replacing lawn with native ground covers, shrubs, and flowers removes the need for chemicals (and mowing) and creates a bird and bee-friendly garden that requires much less water.
Conserve water by incorporating native plants in your garden. Water the garden at night to minimize evaporation. Consider setting up a rainwater tank or grey water system which recycles household water into the garden.