Make Every Day Earth Day: How You Can Help Protect Our Planet
Our world is beautiful, diverse, and dying. Over the past few hundred years, we (as a human species) have made decisions that place profit over the wellbeing of the planet and the economy before the wellbeing of our environment. The consequences of these decisions are now impossible to ignore as our air and water are polluted, global temperatures rise, the Antarctic ice melts, and biodiversity in our oceans and rainforests diminishes. It’s often overlooked that Earth is the only habitable hope we have for survival, and unless Elon Musk gets his commercial spaceship up and running (which is not going well as of late), we will die out with our planet. So, love your Mother, and do something to protect her this Earth Day and every day thereafter. Below are four small—and often overlooked—ways you can help to heal our home.
Contrary to popular belief, shopping sustainably doesn’t have to mean missing out on popular trends or boycotting all of your favorite brands. All it really requires us to do is think a little differently about how and why we shop. Here are the top tips for curating a more sustainable wardrobe:
- The 30 wears test: When shopping for a new piece of clothing, ask yourself if you will wear it 30 times. If the answer is yes, buy it! If not, consider shopping for something more versatile that you will get more use out of. While statement pieces are fun in theory, they often end up as textile waste—which includes clothes, shoes, bedding, and accessories that people throw away after purchasing. Currently, only 15% of textile waste is recycled and is a massive contributing factor to the municipal solid waste generated in America every year.
- Shop secondhand: The clothing industry has a substantial carbon footprint attached to it; buying used clothing is an easy way to help minimize that impression. Secondhand shopping has evolved massively in recent years. While thrift stores are still a great option, for those who find that environment overwhelming (like me) you can shop secondhand online using apps like Poshmark, Mercari, ThreadUp, and/or Depop; this can also be a quicker way to secondhand shop as you can search exactly what you are looking for. Secondhand doesn’t have to mean thrifting though, you can also use sites like Rent the Runway and/or Nuuly which allow you to rent higher-end clothing for short periods of time.
- Don’t trash, donate: It’s natural (and important) to purge our closets of unwanted or unused items when trends go out of style, the seasons change, or our bodies grow or shrink. However, next time you do so, consider donating your clothes instead of throwing them away. Giving your clothes to a thrift store or shelter is a great way to help make clothing more accessible to those in need, however, if you’re guilty of buying that statement piece that you had to have but never wore, you can also consider reselling at a local consignment store or on the prior mentioned apps (e.g., Poshmark, Mercari, ThreadUp, and/or Depop). Not only does this help you make some spare change, but it also helps cut down on the textile waste that I mentioned earlier and create a more sustainable future.
Eat less meat (including seafood) and dairy products
While meat consumption is not evil in and of itself, the way that the industrial agriculture industry has evolved has detrimental impacts on our environment (think deforestation, climate change, and destroying natural and necessary ecosystems). The UN estimates that the meat industry generates about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than all emissions from planes, trucks, ships, cars, and all other transportation put together. While transferring to a diet that avoids animal products altogether seems unattainable for many, here are some tips for reducing meat and dairy consumption:
- Start small: This may seem like a daunting task if you are someone who loves meat, seafood, and/or dairy, so take it one step at a time. Even if you decide to only cut animal products out of your diet for one day a week, you can still make an impact.
- Try a meal kit delivery service: Companies such as Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and Daily Harvest will deliver pre-portioned fresh food to your door weekly. While these services are not necessarily cheaper than shopping at the grocery store yourself, they produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than grocery store meals, cut down on food waste, and can help give you a sense of direction when trying out a new lifestyle or diet (such as vegetarianism or veganism).
- Look for alternatives: As our societal awareness of the impact of the meat industry has grown, faux meat and cheese manufacturers have really stepped up their game. While many vegan “meats” are (unfortunately) processed they can still help to cure your meat craving. Furthermore, fast food stores like Chipotle, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, and Carl’s Jr. offer meat alternatives on their menu.
Avoid single-use plastic
Remember that sea turtle with the plastic straw in its nose that started the world war against single-use straws? Well, straws aren’t the only plastic killing our planet and its wildlife. According to the UN Environment cigarette butts, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, and foam take-away containers are commonly found in our oceans, forest, and other environments. The same report found that “plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste globally, and much of it is thrown away within just a few minutes of its first use.” Because only 9% of plastic is recycled, it is much more sustainable to reuse alternatives. Use the links below to shop for plastic substitutes.
Send fewer emails
If you’re anything like me, emails are a necessary evil; they feel neverending yet they are my main sources of information for work and school. What you might not know, however, is that emails actually have a huge impact on our environment. This might not make sense at first, but if you think about it you have to use your computer (or phone) to send and receive emails—which requires electricity—and in order to send a message, you need to utilize a high-energy server and the cloud, both of which also require large amounts of electricity. A study commissioned by England’s leading energy supply company, OVO Energy, found that if everyone sent one less email a day we could reduce our carbon footprint by 16, 433 tons; that’s equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road or flying from London to Madrid 81,152 times. So, perhaps the easiest thing you can do to protect our planet is unsubscribing from those pesky emails newsletters you get from stores you don’t shop at, deleting old emails (or old email accounts), and actively try to cut down on how many email messages you send a day.