The steps to becoming more environmentally conscious and sustainable require a certain mindfulness and recognition that can take time to adapt to and develop! Each small change makes a difference in the long run and is well worth the effort.
The way we measure each of our individual impact on the planet is indicated by our carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) generated by our lifestyles and actions. China, the U.S., and India are the top countries contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. According to The Nature Conservancy, an estimated 16 tons of greenhouse gas emissions are produced on average by each U.S. citizen alone.
Curious about where your carbon footprint lies on the spectrum? The Nature Conservancy offers a helpful tool for you that calculates your footprint based upon the energy consumption of your home, the number of miles you travel by all modes of transportation, the composition of your diet, and your shopping habits. Click here to calculate your footprint and continue reading to learn how to take the steps to reduce it.
Thrifting isn't just a trendy way to shop, but a way to actually save the planet. Textile waste is a monumental issue that contributes to thousands of piles of clothing thrown away each year that, according to the BBC, a whopping 92 million tons of clothing are thrown away globally each year. The culprit? Fast fashion.
What is fast fashion? Fast fashion is clothing that is defined as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly in response to consumer trends. In other words, when a style of clothing becomes popular, fast fashion companies recreate it using cheap fabrics, in mass quantities, to meet customer demands and interest. When the trendy clothing style inevitably dies and dozens of others emerge, companies quickly shift to meet those demands instead. But really, the problem here isn't solely the cheap companies producing the clothing, but the discontent consumers have for the clothes they have already. Because there will always be something better, the craving to have newer and better will never go away.
We have more clothing circulating the planet than we could ever use, and yet, we can't stop producing more. Instead of shopping new, give some life and love to used clothing to make it your own.
Instead of jetting off to your dream destination with no thought to how your plans could be impacting the environment, do your research for more eco friendly travel options than the typical flight or cruise. A study found that a bus ride from New York to Boston produced a fraction of the CO2 emissions as a plane flight, and even less than a train ride. Walk when you can, go paperless with directions and tickets, map out your destination spots strategically, and get creative with the ways you get from point A to point B as minimally as possible.
When in the comfort of your own home, challenge your methods of travel. Rather than driving to the store that is less than a mile away, try walking or biking. We live in a world where convenience has taken priority over the environment, and so the nature around us suffers while we choose the quickest, easiest way to travel even the shortest distances.
We're big advocates for eating plant-based not only because it's better for our bodies, but because it's better for the planet as well. It's no secret that livestock production is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions at roughly 14%, although other studies have predicted higher. Additionally, livestock manure is responsible for 37% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation is also a repercussion for agriculture as a means of making space for the millions of animals the population relies on.
Going cold turkey might not be the most realistic in terms of helping you to stick to your new plant-eating ways. We recommend a slow transition into eating plant-based, because it's a life-long journey not a race. Take meatless Mondays for example, one day a week to eat completely plant-based is a great way to dip your toe in the water and makes a bigger difference than you think!
How can your appliances help you save the environment and reduce your carbon emissions? Simple, they release a reduced amount of harmful gases into the environment. Not only can you help to reduce air pollution, but you can also reduce your own financial impact with more efficient appliances that do the same job, but for less effort. Search for the ENERGY STAR certification on appliances such as clothes dryers and washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, and much more!
Choosing energy efficient appliances won't cost you any more than traditional appliances, and produce greater reward for you AND the environment. Sources report you could save between $50-$75 per year by using energy efficient appliances that also save 10-50% of the required energy compared to old appliances.
There's no excuse for not incorporating more sustainable practices and items into your life. Countless innovations and inventions have been created to reduce our impact on the environment and it's time we all start putting them to good use. Here are just a few examples of items you probably have that could be switched out with these more sustainable options:
Reusable bottles, silicone food bags, reusable shopping bags, k-cup filters, silicone or metal straws, bamboo razors and cutlery, wool dryer balls, reusable produce bags, organic cotton towels, greenlight matches, sustainable beeswax food wrap, eco-friendly soap bars, a steel compost bin, wood hangers, and so much more.
Chances are if something in your life has plastic, there's a better alternative, plastic-free version on the market.
Whether it's with the clothes you purchase or the food you choose at the store, there's always a way to go about shopping more sustainably. As previously discussed, shopping sustainably from second-hand stores and upcycling your current closet are some of the best ways to prevent clothes waste.
Avoid synthetic fibers like polyester that's made from an excessive amount of oil, water, and coal. Instead look for creatively designed clothing made from recycled water bottles, organic cotton, bamboo, linen and more. It's also important to shop from companies who demand safe working conditions and fairly compensate their workers.
All in all, simply buy less! Selectively pick your closet and make what you have count.
Perhaps the most impactful act you can do for the environment is enact change that directly changes the course of the wellbeing of the environment. Environmental politics often falls through the cracks with everything else going on in the world. Stay on top of potential laws and policies by following insightful social media accounts that give your all the information you need and push you in the direction you need to go. Get a start by following the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Sierra Club, and more.
It's never too late to start embracing change in your life when it's for the betterment of the great outdoors. Any small way counts and we would love to hear how you're giving back to the outdoors by producing less harm to it. Drop a comment below and head over to our Instagram and let us know there.