6 Small Ways to Start Living Sustainably

It has become harder to ignore climate change’s devastating impacts on the world. You may have heard of people making drastic changes to their homes and lifestyles toward carbon neutrality — reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While these are important acts, they are often pricey and difficult for the average person to implement.

If you want to live sustainably, there are small things you can do that will make a difference.

Why Live Sustainably?

Living sustainably isn’t just good for your conscience — it’s vital to preserving our planet. Significant impacts of climate change are already here, such as rising ocean temperatures, increasing human health risks and removing water sources for all creatures.

Thankfully, there are five easy ways you can help combat climate change.

1. Get a Reusable Water Bottle

Making and using single-use plastic water bottles annually releases more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They’re also a significant contributor to land pollution because plastics are light and can travel in oceans and end up on beaches, especially if the user doesn’t dispose of it properly.

Recycling reusable bottles helps, but a more sustainable option is to purchase a reusable bottle. One reusable water bottle can replace around 160 single use bottles each year, helping you slice your carbon footprint.

2. Change Your Eating Habits

Your eating habits impact the world more than you might think. The food you get at the grocery store likely traveled thousands of miles in carbon-emitting vehicles to get to you. You can make a difference by buying your regular meat and produce locally.

Animal products can be an excellent source of nutrition, but they also heavily contribute to carbon emissions. Cows need land to graze on, which often means large companies must cut down trees. They release copious amounts of the greenhouse gas methane throughout their digestion process. Shrimp farms often take up land previously covered with carbon-absorbing mangrove trees, leading to substantial climate change contributions. Cutting back on red meat, dairy products and farmed shrimp are some dietary changes with a lasting impact.

Growing your food is another great option to reduce the environmental impact of your food. You can research what plants are native to your area to have the best success. Many vegetables are simple to grow, but even some flowers, like violets, are edible and can used to make jam, tea, syrups and more.

3. Travel Sustainably

Travel can have a significant impact on the environment. Planes produce massive amounts of carbon emissions, so reducing your air travel can be a simple but effective way to help the planet.

You don’t have to cut travel out altogether, but you can find ways to make your trips more eco-friendly. When you’re planning your next destination, try choosing a place within driving distance, or take a train. You might be surprised by how many amazing destinations are right in your own city or state.

The U.S. is home to countless state parks, with Adirondack Park in New York and Smith Rock State Park in Oregon being the two largest. Explore your home’s natural wonders before taking flight to another country.

4. Bring Your Grocery Bags

Plastic grocery bags are a huge environmental problem — so much so that many grocers no longer provide them. You can carry your food, toiletries and treats confidently by using reusable bags. Many stores sell reusable bags, and you can find totes and other options in stores and online.

Typical plastic bags take around 300 years to degrade, releasing harmful chemicals and emissions in the process. Replacing them with reusable bags lets you clear up kitchen space with confidence knowing you’re making a difference.

5. Utilize Natural Light

Having lights on during the day can create a devastating impact on the environment. A study by British company Utility Design found that if 6.5 million people left their lights on during the day, it would lead to 37,440,000 kg of carbon emissions every day. That’s the same amount of a plane flying around the world 62 times.

While you need light to see, there are other ways to get it when the sun is out. Embracing your windows can greatly reduce your carbon emissions. The sun is a free source of light and warmth that many take for granted. Movements for green construction encourage builders to create buildings to optimize natural light.

Using natural light to see during the day will also save you money, since the sun doesn’t charge for its use. In comparison to artificial sources, natural also has many health benefits that make it worth using.

6. Avoid Fast Fashion

Research shows that the fashion industry produces around one-tenth of annual carbon emissions worldwide — most of that is thanks to fast fashion. Worse, experts project that amount will nearly double by 2030.

Many clothing companies sacrifice quality and sustainability for quick mass production, and that’s along with the human rights concerns. If you can afford it, consider purchasing locally-made clothing, reducing the number of items you purchase overall or buying from companies that have a proven sustainability record.

If you don’t have the time or money to invest in these products, you could choose to purchase some of your clothes secondhand. Shopping this way helps you avoid supporting new unsustainable clothing production. It also lets you find unique, low-cost alternatives that keep perfectly-good garments out of landfills.

Making Small Efforts for Big Changes

Making small, simple changes to your lifestyle turns you into a warrior in the fight against climate change. It’s not too late to change the world, and we can all do it one step at a time.

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