5 Easy Ways to Live a More Sustainable Life
By Melissa Lipari
As we live through uncertain times, one way to make our future a bit more concrete is to take care of our planet. Sustainability has been a hot commodity in recent years, particularly because it’s seen as “trendy” from people who drink Matcha lattes and carry around reusable totes for grocery shopping. However, not every sustainable person is a Birkenstock-wearing, Free People-clad, gentrified-city-living hippie - that is just a stereotype. Sustainability is more than just a trend, it is something that is going to perpetuate our Earth’s resources. Reducing our ecological footprint is actually quite simple and doesn’t require as much money as many might think. Today, I’m going to break down five easy ways to live a more sustainable life.
If you live in a city, walking or grabbing a CitiBike can be the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life. Calling an Uber or driving your car can be expensive. Not only do you have to pay money towards a fare or for gas but you might have to pay extra fees or for parking. If it’s convenient, try walking to work, the grocery store, or to any place that is a reasonable distance. This might sound like an obvious tip but we often look for convenience over sustainability, which is why we are depleting our planet at a rapid rate. According to EPA.com, “A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.” That is an insane amount of carbon dioxide that is put out from just one car. Get your exercise in and reduce your environmental impact by staying away from gas emission.
We all know it’s important to avoid using paper and plastic bags at the grocery store - hence the surge of reusable totes. But, what about the plastic bags that we use for produce? Enter: the Muslin bag. Muslin bags are inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk - a perfect way to store your produce without having to utilize plastic. Simple Ecology explains that “Muslin Produce Bags replace plastic bags and are great for both produce shopping and storage. [They are] perfect for storing delicate greens like Lettuce, Spinach, Chard, Kale, Basil, Parsley, Herbs, Green Beans, ect.” Not only can these bags reduce plastic, but they are also perfect for drying your veggies. Simple Ecology continues by saying “Spray your greens and place them into a damp bag for fridge storage (this replaces wrapping produce in damp paper towels).” Both of these uses for Muslin bags are a great way to up your sustainability starter kit for an affordable price.
If you have the space, even if you live in a studio apartment, you can grow your own produce. This is a great way to become a more sustainable food consumer on a budget - since all you need is sunlight, some seeds, soil, and water. The process of preparing fresh fruits and vegetables for supermarkets is very hazardous to the environment. Bio Friendly Planet writes, “First, there are environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers used to actually grow these foods. There’s also the machinery needed to plant, grow, and harvest crops. Then, there are the toxic fuel emissions that come along with actually transporting the vegetables to the store via truck. And, you also have to think about the plastic coverings and bags used to protect these foods until you buy them.” This type of fuel emission and harmful pesticides actually contribute to ¼ of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world. If you have the time and space to upkeep a small garden, even if it’s just on your windowsill or terrace, grow your own produce! It’s extremely satisfying, inexpensive, and reduces your trips to the grocery store.
Thrifting is one of my favorite hobbies and it’s one of the most ethical ways to shop. I previously wrote about the impacts of fast fashion while giving some alternative “slow-fashion” or ethically sourced options in an attempt to cut out fast fashion retailers. However, one thing I didn’t mention as much, is the amazing finds you can get from purchasing items secondhand. But, please be cautious about where and what you are thrifting. Try to stay away from thrifting in less affluent neighborhoods as some people often look towards stores such as Goodwill as a main location for purchasing clothes. Aside from this, have fun and browse some shops for unique and one-of-a-kind finds. Some of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe are from thrift stores.
We all know about the importance of reusable water bottles and metal or paper straws but there are even further steps we can take to say goodbye to plastic. A perfect example is utilizing wooden products. Bamboo toothbrushes and hair brushes are a great alternative for the environment in terms of everyday hygiene. If you or someone you know has a toddler, buy them wooden toys instead of plastic ones. Wooden bowls or kitchen supplies are also an aesthetically pleasing and helpful way to revamp your cooking tools from basic plastic ones. Plastic is just all around horrible for the environment, as EarthHero.com writes, “Plastic is derived from substances like natural gas, petroleum, and coal. It is composed of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine. Other additives are included as well, most of which are toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, and benzene. These toxins are often synthesized in a lab, but in order to get the original organic elements, we must extract them from the Earth, which is anything but safe.” No wonder plastic is banned in so many states!
We don’t all have to be zero-waste experts, but taking the small steps to reduce our ecological footprint can make a big difference if we all do our part. As we can see, many of these options are easily accessible and don’t cost much. We only have one planet, so let’s take care of it together.
For more ways on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, check out https://greenamerica.org/