Sustainability: Small Things to Make a Big Difference

In our consumer based society, we do so many things in our day to day lifestyles that hurt our planet and home more than we realize. Climate change experts calculate that at our current rate we will reach the point of no return on climate change before 2050. The time to act was many years ago--putting us way off schedule. But we MUST do something now. Future generations are counting on us. The change starts with all of us as individuals, and truth be told, a lot of it is not that difficult. Below I have proposed a list of simple steps to make in your daily life that could have a huge positive impact on the planet’s future if we band together: 

1. Reusable Shopping Bags

The thin plastic bags at grocery store checkouts often go into landfills and oceans, causing pollution and the death of various aquatic life. Carry reusable bags with you when you go shopping and fight against this issue. 

2. Reusable Straws

Most of us (especially here at Coastal) have heard about the dangers that plastic straws cause for sea turtles as this trash ends up in the ocean. The simple change of carrying a reusable straw with you could fight against this problem. 

3. Reusable Utensils

While you’re at it, carry reusable utensils with you to avoid throwing away plastic forks and spoons that go to landfills. 

4. Reusable Coffee Cups 

If you’re going to get coffee from your local coffee shop, carry a reusable cup or mug with you to avoid throwing away a plastic or paper cup. If you’re an avid coffee consumer (like myself), this could add up to as many as 10 cups a week you’re no longer putting into a landfill. That’s a lot! Also, many companies give discounts for bringing in your own cup. Starbucks on campus reduces your charge by 20 cents and Einstein’s has a refill program where you can get hot drip coffee in their reusable cup for $1.29 which is about half of the regular price. 

5. Reusable Water Bottle 

Chances are, especially in the heat of South Carolina, most of us drink water constantly. Carry your own refillable water bottle and use refill stations and water fountains on campus to fill it up rather than tossing multiple plastic bottles a day. It’ll save you a nice chunk of money, too, to stop buying single use water bottles. 

6. Buy Local Produce

Local produce grown in our area avoids the harmful fossil fuel emissions created by produce shipped on boats and large trucks that we find at grocery stores and thus reduces its carbon footprint dramatically. Plus, it usually tastes much better!

7. Thrift Shop

Who loves new clothes? Now that we’ve all said yes, let’s consider the waste we create by buying new clothes all the time and tossing our old ones. Reduce your impact by donating old clothes to thrift shops and buying clothes that have been previously used.

8. Recycle

Being careful to throw things in the appropriate bin and not to trash recyclables is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. However, better than recycling is buying reusables and creating less waste all together. More recyclables does not always equate to more environmental benefits.

9. Skip Out on Animal Products

Not everyone will ever be a vegan or vegetarian, and that’s okay. However, animal products and foods have a high carbon footprint because of the transport of these animals on fossil fueled vehicles and the large amount of agriculture they consume in order to speed up their growth and in a sense, be mass produced for human consumption. Skipping meat in some meals or for a day a week can make a big difference or even just switching the type of products you consume. Like using plant based milk instead of cow’s milk. (To find the best milk for you personally, check out this article on plant-based milk types.)

10. Use Less Energy

Last but not least, use less energy. Unplug products you aren’t using. Use less electricity and gasoline whenever possible. Carpool. Use energy efficient products. 

Overall, these steps aren’t hard. They just take a little bit of thought. Share the news--Mother Earth depends on it.