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“Earth Day should encourage us to reflect on what we are doing to make our planet a more sustainable and living place.” – Scott Peters
Earth Day is definitely a time for us to think about our habits and what we can do to take care of our planet. It definitely arouses my inner hippie, and I can gladly say that I’ve slowly taken on more sustainable habits throughout the years. But the truth is that I have so much to go. We all do.
Living sustainably does not mean giving up luxuries by any means. In fact, I personally believe that living an eco-friendly lifestyle leads to improved mood and happiness and can even save you money. Like many, I stumbled upon the Minimalism documentary when it was still on Netflix and can attest that the tweaks and changes I made to my lifestyle have benefited my mood, my wallet, and my relationships with people, things, and the environment.
A Southern Cross University survey reveals that 77% of people want to learn how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Discovering ways to minimize your impact on the environment and go green has never been easier. Here are some simple ways to start living more sustainably in 2020.
9 Simple Ways To Live A More Sustainable Lifestyle This Year
Cut down on food waste.
Did you know that 40% of the food produced in the United States goes to waste? From uneaten portions to leftover food spoiling in the fridge, we have a bad habit of throwing food away. That’s a startling statistic when you consider that so many, not just in this country but around the world, go hungry and malnourished every day.
Reducing your food waste is good for your wallet as well as the planet. Not only are you no longer throwing your hard-earned money away, but practicing sustainable habits like meal planning and detailed shopping lists means you’ll be spending less because you only buy what you need. Less thrown away food also means less greenhouse gas emissions (food waste accounts for 8% of our total emissions).
Fun ideas to help you cut down on food waste:
- Shop in your fridge and pantry first! Create meals based on what you already have before making a trip for more.
- Learn how to properly store food so that they last longer. For instance, some produce do better on the countertops, others in the fridge.
- Use old foods to make yummy creations (turn stale bread into a sinful bread pudding, use broccoli stems for cheesy broccoli soup, transform brown, spotty bananas into the moistest banana bread ever)
Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
Most of us are good at turning off our appliances before hitting the bed at night. So, it may come as a surprise to you when I say that your electronics may still be sucking up some juice even when it’s powered down. They’re called phantom loads, the energy your appliances use when they’re plugged in but not in use, and they can add to your bill and carbon footprint.
Up to 10% of your energy bill can be attributed to phantom loads, which adds up to $100 per year. While that sounds small on a “per household” scale, it amounts to 100 billion kWh and $10 billion every single year in energy consumption and costs.
Cut back on wasteful spending and energy use by powering off and unplugging your appliances where you can. It’s seriously as easy as pulling a cable from a socket. Even if you use a power strip with a switch, turning the power off completely cuts off the power supply, so you’re good to go.
Easy tips for unplugging:
- Prioritize power culprits like TVs, sound systems, and modems. While unplugging your coffee maker and toasters are great starts, they contribute little to your bill.
- Plug your TV or computer appliances to a power strip that has a switch so that you can easily switch off the power at night.
Did you know there’s a term for people who eat exclusively, or almost exclusively, locally? They’re called locavores. Luckily, having lived in coastal Florida and various parts of California, fresh local food has always been around, so I guess I’m one by default. I currently live in Salinas, the salad bowl of America, which is pure heaven for a fresh foodie like me.
Eating locally is a sustainable habit everyone should try if they have the opportunity. I’m certainly one of those who believes that the more local food is, the better it tastes. Plus, it’s more nutritious. It travels less, so there’s less time for nutrient loss between harvest and preparation. When I’m cooking in the kitchen and something comes out bomb (like it tends to), I always credit it to cooking with love, followed by sourcing for local ingredients. Your local farmers and producers are taking that same approach.
Every farmer, co-op owner, etc., that I’ve met at various farmers markets love and take pride in their ability to serve their local communities. So, it’s incumbent upon us to give them love back and support sustainable agriculture and local business.
How to start eating locally:
- Do your food shopping at the local farmers market (don’t forget to practice social distancing!)
- Eat foods when they’re in season and stock up on your favorite fruits and veggies for the winter.
Grow your own food.
Nothing says eating locally like planting, harvesting, and preparing the food that’s grown in your backyard or home, and it’s a great and easy way to start on the sustainable lifestyle train. Growing your own food has numerous benefits, not just for the environment, but for your physical wellbeing too.
Some of the biggest motivators for growing your own food are health-driven. Having just one tomato plant can diversify a diet, and the addition of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies in their purest forms will do wonders for your health. However, harvesting foods like strawberries, cilantro, or kale from your own garden cuts down on reliance on mass transportation of produce that adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, you’re less likely to use pesticides or other toxic chemicals on the stuff you’re growing.
One of the best perks about growing your own food is the learning that it requires. I’m starting my own herb garden soon and can attest to this. To yield the best fruits of my labor, I have to learn about the soil I’m using, the amounts of sunlight my herbs will need, and figure out an ideal temperature for my apartment since the mornings are still on the cool side. It’s broadening my horizon, requiring patience, and allowing me to lean on new communities to make sure my Thai basil will be ready for some basil fried rice in a few weeks.
Easy ways to grow your own food:
- Try beginner-friendly produce like herbs if you’re new to growing your own food.
- Start a mason jar garden or grow indoors in a growing pot if you don’t have a yard or patio space. You’ll be shocked to learn that you can grow a citrus tree inside!
Conserve water where you can.
Saving water is an easy way to start living a more sustainable lifestyle and one that should be practiced even if you live somewhere that doesn’t face scarcity or shortage. Water is a unique and abundant resource and makes our planet livable. But while 71% of the planet is covered in water, only 3% is fresh water and 0.5% is available for use. Plus, with our growing population and demands for the resource and its uneven distribution, we continue to face widespread and unprecedented drought.
Conserving water in your household isn’t hard, and a little goes a long way. Practicing water-saving habits will reduce the amount of water that needs to be removed from natural habitats and help eliminate water shortage in the city. Along with it being better for the environment, cutting back on water can help you save money on water and energy bills.
Easy ways to cut back on water use:
- Run your laundry and dishwasher machines less (only when they’re full).
- Turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth or washing dishes.
- Take shorter showers.
Limit your use of single-use plastic.
When it comes to combating the rampant use of plastic, I think education is the best weapon. There are so many gross statistics surrounding plastic that I think if more people were aware of them, they’d feel compelled to reduce their plastic use or give it up altogether. For instance, a staggering 35.4 million tons of plastic were generated in the United States in 2017, and only 8.4% of it was recycled. Recycling plastic is somewhat of a myth. I tell people that every single plastic toothbrush they’ve used still exists; that usually gets their attention.
Reducing how much plastic you use isn’t just an awesome way to live more sustainably. Every little part does wonders for the environment. In fact, experts say that limiting how much plastic you use is the best way to reduce plastic waste. Along with being a major go-green effort, it can save you a bunch of green too, especially if you’re one to make your own beauty products and cleaning supplies.
Reusable products you can use to reduce your plastic use:
- Reusable straw
- Reusable water bottle
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Glass storage containers
- Reusable shopping and produce bags
- Safety razor
Go vegan… or eat less meat.
Did you know that going vegan is the single most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and make an impact on the environment? Researchers at the University of Oxford found in a recent study that plant-based diets reduce emissions by up to 73%. That’s massive. And we all have heard the horror stories animals endure to become available for human consumption. The meat and dairy industries are gruesome, to say the least.
Going vegan for just one month can save 30 animals. That’s literally one animal every single day. As someone who eats mostly vegan (I live with my Nigerian mom; the struggle is real), I can assure you that eating plant-based can be absolutely delicious and so not boring, especially if you know what you’re doing.
No judgment whatsoever if you don’t see yourself going vegan anytime soon. My sister went vegan cold turkey. It was a gradual process for me. Everyone is different and should do things in their own time. An excellent alternative to going vegan is the flexitarian diet, and you can kind of guess what it is based on the name. It’s a more flexible plant-based diet, allowing for the occasional animal product from time to time. The goal is to focus on getting your protein from as many plant-based sources as possible.
Here are some of my recipes to get you started on a meatless journey:
- Creamy Coconut Chickpea Curry
- Ramen With Creamy Sesame Sauce
- Chipotle-Style Burrito
- Vegan Fried “Chicken” & Gravy
Use a menstrual cup or menstrual underwear.
Getting a menstrual cup is one of the first eco-friendly swaps I made way back when I was a premed student in college. While I’d love to attribute my reasons for getting one to a desire to be more green, the truth is that I was a full-time college student with a part-time retail job. Tampons are bloody expensive. On average, women spend $1,773.33 on tampons in their lifetime. Menstrual products should be free, but that’s literally an argument for another day.
Sanitary pads and tampons are a no-no for multiple reasons in my opinion. Firstly, they can affect your health. Both products contain elevated levels of harmful chemicals that can lead to developmental and reproductive issues. Plus, like plastic, menstrual products take centuries to breakdown. Considering the average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, waste from menstrual products is monumental.
Thankfully, there are so many menstrual products available now for you to choose your way of going eco-friendly. I’ve been a cup user for nearly a decade and all I can say is I wish these were a thing when I was a varsity volleyball player in high school. They’re comfortable, great for the plant, and a one-time (or once in like 5 years) investment, so your wallet will approve.
Products for a zero-waste period:
Shop less and ditch fast fashion.
When it comes to shopping, the secret to sustainability may be in shopping less rather than buying green. People bought 60% more clothes in 2014 than they did in 2000, yet they only kept them for half as long. The culprit? Fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to cheaply made and inexpensive clothing that mimics the latest styles in fashion to capitalize on trends.
The problem with fast fashion? It comes with a host of problems. The nature of the industry is very anti-sustainable in itself. It depletes natural resources, consumes massive amounts of energy, water, and chemicals, and emits a lot of greenhouse gasses. And because of the low quality of the clothes, they’re often hard to sell or donate. So, you guessed it; they’re thrown out instead. Americans throw away a staggering 85% of their clothes per year. As for the brands? It’s not uncommon for them to burn excess material, which pollutes the air.
Millennials and Gen Z want sustainable fashion, and I only see that trend continuing to trend in an upward direction. Thankfully, there are a number of green brands to choose from. I’m on a mission to find sustainable black brands. I’ve recently become a fan of Besida after snagging some of their pieces in a pop-up shop in Tampa. They’re an ethical brand making an impact in the industry by employing local tailors in Benin City, Nigeria, and are committed to using solar panels to decrease their carbon footprint as a brand.
Here are some ways to be a sustainable shopper:
- Thrift or shop at consignments rather than going to a mall or department store.
- Buy quality items that last longer.
- Look for sustainable clothing items and brands.
Here’s To A More Sustainable Lifestyle In 2020
Living more sustainably doesn’t have to be difficult by any means. It’s easy to see a list or make goals and overwhelm yourself with what needs to be done, but the truth is that adopting even just one of these habits will make a tremendous impact on the environment. We need to make changes soon to slow down and possibly reverse the effects of climate change. But it all starts with one changed habit.
I hope you found this list helpful! I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to be eco-friendly and reduce your carbon footprint. Make sure to leave your comments below!
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