Going Green(er): Reducing Your Carbon Footprint & Being More Sustainable

There is so much research out there about climate change and the effect that it is having on our world (no matter how many people try to deny it). The issue of climate change and sustainability may seem super out of reach to us as individuals; however, there are many small things that you can do in your everyday life to reduce your carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emissions that are created by an individual, event, company, etc. and there are steps that we can take to help reduce our personal carbon footprints. Therefore, I have decided to compile a list of small changes that we as individuals can take to help reduce our personal carbon emissions.

1. Reducing Consumption of Meat

There is plenty of research to show that diets high in meat consumption (specifically red meat) are contributing to climate change. Production of animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to global emissions and the continued high level of consumption of meat products worldwide is a large contributor to climate change. Some people choose to cut out meat altogether; however, this may be hard for some, and to reduce your personal carbon footprint you definitely don’t need to cut out meat completely! One option is to do a “meatless Monday” (or any day of the week that you prefer) where you do not eat any meals containing meat on that day. Reducing consumption of beef products is especially important because it is the biggest contributor to emissions from animal agriculture, so even switching a steak or ground beef for poultry products or fish can make a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint.

2. Shopping Smarter at the Grocery Store

I’m sure that most of us are aware of the insane amount of plastic that we create and use, especially in grocery stores. It seems like so much food is wrapped in an unnecessary amount of plastic these days! If you want to shop smarter at the grocery store, there are a few ways you can do so! The first, and one of the easiest ones, is to always bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping. This is a super easy way to cut back on your use of single-use plastic bags, and you can save five cents per bag! Another way to reduce your use of single use plastics is to use reusable produce bags. Amazon has mesh bags that are super cheap and easy to wash for you to put things like apples, oranges, carrots, etc. in instead of using plastic ones that will quickly get thrown out.

One other smart shopping tip is to buy items in bulk and use reusable containers. Bulk Barn, for example, has a reusable container program where you are able to bring in your own clean containers to fill bulk items with such as rice, pasta, or nuts (plus many more) - and you do not need to pay anything extra for the weight of your container! Although this is only one store, many grocery stores are generally willing to accommodate if you ask them to use a clean container from home instead of a plastic bag at places such as the butcher counter or bulk sections. Finally, if you can, shopping locally is one of the best things you can do when food shopping to reduce your carbon footprint. It is super hard in the winter in Ontario to find local produce; however, in the warmer months try and look around your neighbourhood for farmers markets or farms that sell their products directly, because produce from those places didn’t have to travel halfway across the world to get to your plate!

3. Reducing Your Fast Fashion Purchases

“Fast fashion” is a term coined for clothing products that are generally cheap and often quickly disposed of due to their relatively poor quality. Most of these products travel long distances to get to our stores, and are made overseas by workers who are often underpaid. There are many brands who are committed to creating their clothing in an ethical and sustainable many (many of which you can find through a quick Google search); however, some of these brands may be on the more expensive side for a student. One of my favourite ways to reduce my consumption of fast fashion is through thrift shopping. If you look carefully, many thrift stores have a ton of gems that can fit whatever your style is, and the bonus is that they are so cheap! I personally have found some of my favourite pieces in my closet at thrift stores and a plus is that they are often super unique. By buying thrifted items, you are upcycling clothing and not contributing to the constant new production of clothing in traditional stores; plus, I have found items that look exactly like things I’ve seen in stores like Urban Outfitters or Brandy Melville, for example. Fast fashion is something that is so easily accessible; it is not about completely cutting these products out of your life, but reducing your consumption of these can make a huge difference.


4. Avoiding Single-Use Plastic (as Much as Possible)

There are so many different options for us nowadays instead of using single-use plastic! One of the most popular ones at the moment is the use of reusable straws instead of plastic ones. Amazon has a ton of different kinds of reusable straws made from metal, silicone, or even bamboo, to name a few! If you don’t want to order online, try and find out which retailers near you sell reusable straws and pick one up for a quick and easy switch. Another option is to use a reusable water bottle - which may seem obvious; however, there are still so many plastic water bottles being bought and used. If you love coffee, use a travel mug or tumbler instead of plastic cups. At places like Starbucks, you get 10 cents off your drink if you bring a reusable cup, and many other cafes are willing to oblige if you ask to use your own container. Takeout places are also usually willing to package in a reusable container if you bring one to them before pick-up. If they serve their food in plastic containers, clean and re-use them for future food storage at home.

These are just a few of the ways that we as individuals can be greener in our everyday lives, and I’m sure that there are so many more that you can find through a quick search on the internet. Earth is our home. It is super important that we can take care of it, and you would be surprised how even the smallest changes can make a huge impact.