Glance at the news on any given day, and it can sometimes feel like the entire world is coming to an end. Climate change, pollution and fossil fuel use are just a few of the issues that are on the minds of many environmental advocates and scientists. It can feel overwhelming to hear about all the things we as humans are doing wrong that hurt the planet. But what can we do? Going completely carbon-neutral, eating a total plant-based diet and never buying anything new again might be the best way to help the planet but is an impossible goal. You may also feel like small changes are doing nothing to help the planet. Well, that is where you are wrong. Those little changes are actually what can help change the world, and most of them you can do with little effort and virtually no change in your daily routine. Listed below are some easy lifestyle changes that the planet will thank you for.
Use energy efficient, long-lasting light bulbs
This is a simple fix that will literally have no effect on you at all. Almost every hardware and appliance store sell energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LEDs, that last longer so you don’t have to change them as often. They also use up to 75% less energy than regular light bulbs. In 2017, LEDs were responsible for 500 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Here is a 4-pack of LED light bulbs from Home Depot.
Participate in community cleanups
This is a great way to volunteer your time in the community and do something beneficial for the planet at the same time. Littering has a large impact on the environment, from blocking sunlight from plants and animals in the water to harming or killing animals when ingested. Keep Alachua County Beautiful is a local organization that puts together clean-up and beautification events. Check out their website to sign up for the next clean-up. Can’t wait? Grab some friends and have a clean-up in your neighborhood.
I know what you’re thinking: Composting is for farms and people who live in the country, not apartment living. Well, that is where you are wrong. Composting is easy and can be done from any kitchen. It might seem weird and even a little gross to keep food scraps in a bucket and not throw them away, but that’s the beauty of composting. All those food scraps are eventually turned into something that can be used. Check out Abigail Weinberg’s article on how to get started with composting. It may take some effort in the beginning, but Earth will be a little greener in the end.
Only eat red meat once a week or twice a month
Not ready to go totally vegan or vegetarian yet? Then this change should be pretty manageable for those who want to help the environment but don’t want to throw out their whole diet. Many animals used for meat consumption, especially cows, are responsible for many types of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Over 25% of the world’s land is used to grow food for animals and for grazing, which results in deforestation and higher levels of carbon dioxide being released. Just limiting your red meat consumption to once a week or twice a month helps lower your carbon footprint.
Check out a thrift shop when you need a clothing item
Fast fashion contributes to more landfill trash, massive amounts of untreated toxic wastewater and is responsible for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. Sure, having the newest wave of fashionable clothes is awesome, but if you’re buying a shirt new for less than what a latte costs, you are probably contributing to the problems of fast fashion. Instead, look in thrift stores and consignment shops when you need a specific clothing item, or try websites like ThredUp, where you can shop from hundreds of used clothing items and accessories. Remember to donate any clothes you don’t wear anymore so they don’t end up in landfills.
Soap bars instead of bottles
When you buy new shower products every month, you are contributing to more single-use plastic ending up in Earth’s waterways and protected areas. More and more companies are now offering shampoo and conditioner bars that are like a bar of soap. In bar form, there is less plastic waste being thrown away, as most bars come in paper or cardboard packaging. Another benefit is that many shampoo bars are less stripping to your hair because they are typically not made with harsh ingredients such as sulfates. Here is a list of tried and true shampoo bars to get you started.
Additionally, here are some other easy changes:
- Using the cold water setting on your washer
- Using beeswax paper over cling wrap
- Turn the sink off when brushing your teeth
- Only running the dishwasher when it’s completely full
- Use reusable grocery bags (and reuse the plastic ones)
Helping the environment doesn’t have to mean going completely vegan and getting rid of every single-use plastic item in your home. That type of goal, though commendable, is most likely not realistic. Small, consistent changes in your lifestyle help to lessen your impact on the planet, and the more people that start, the smaller our impact and the bigger the benefit.