It is well known by now that reducing personal waste is essential for safeguarding the future of our beautiful planet. However, it is hard to know where to start and which items can be reused or recycled. Often those things we consider “disposable” actually have a lot of life left in them and can be used over and over again rather than being thrown immediately into a landfill. Take a look at your life and find ways that you can reduce waste and do your part to improve the environment. Start by learning to reuse these “disposable” products.
Not so long ago, it was common practice to use plastic plates, cutlery, and straws when hosting a party, and throw them all away afterward to reduce clean-up. Bottled water was in vogue, and everyone had a huge stash of grocery bags stuffed in the cupboard below the sink. Tupperware, saran wrap and Ziploc bags were the go-to kitchen conveniences, and washing and reusing a red Solo cup was simply unthinkable.
As you seek to lower your environmental impact this Earth Day and do your part to preserve the planet, you have probably begun to eliminate waste in your life such as a plastic waterbottles, Ziploc bags, and personal hygiene products with microbeads. You go to work proudly carrying your reusable thermos and your glass tubberware container. However, there is one huge area that you may not have considered in your quest for a more sustainable lifestyle…your clothes.
As you scroll through Instagram, you’ll see plenty of brightly colored sushi dishes and the happy, eager faces that go along with them. It’s no secret that the world, particularly Asia, the Americas, and Europe LOVES sushi, but at what cost?
When you think of the word pollution, what do you think of? Car fumes? Burning fossil fuels? Although these are undoubtedly common causes of air pollution, the word itself is defined as any presence in the environment that has harmful effects. This includes everything from water pollution to light pollution, and of course, sound pollution.
Taking care of the environment helps to ensure that nature will be around for us to enjoy all of its many benefits. When we take care of the world around us, it does a better job taking care of us. Here are five simple ways you can love the environment and your health too!
Kill energy vampires
One easy but significantly positive step is to get rid of all of those energy vampires. You’ve probably left lots of things plugged in that you aren’t using without even thinking about it, like your cell phone charger. But the average charger consumes .26 watts of energy, and that’s when it isn’t being used. If a fully charged device is plugged into it, it uses 2.24 watts.That unused, but constantly drawn power is considered to be vampire energy – it increases your utility bill as well as wasting lots of energy. Think about all of those appliances and electronics you keep plugged in all the time but aren’t always powered on, like the TV, coffee maker, and stereo. If they’re turned off, but a light it still on, that means they’re in “standby” mode and drawing energy. You can easily avoid this by plugging those items into power strips. Then, when you’re finished using them, just switch the power strips off.
Eat less meat
Eating less meat is not only good for your health, but it’s important for a healthy planet too. One of the reasons is that raising livestock like chickens, pig, and cows, generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks and other vehicles combined. Cattle ranchers have clear cut millions of square miles of forests for grazing pastures, which decimates natural “carbon sinks,” which is anything that absorbs more carbon than it releases. By limiting meat consumption and shifting to more plant-based foods, you’ll be contributing to essential factors necessary to combat climate change, air, water and soil pollution, ocean dead zones and the host of other problems caused by industrial livestock production. Recent research has revealed that giving up red meat in particular would reduce an individual’s carbon footprint more than giving up driving cars. You don’t even have to give up meat entirely, consider the Meatless Monday movement, which aims to get people to give up meat just once a week, on Mondays, to reduce carbon footprints, along with reducing the risk of preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Drink less milk
You’re probably well-aware that you should limit your personal water use, by not leaving the water running while you’re brushing your teeth or taking a long shower, for example, but those are actually not the most effective ways to reduce your water footprint. What is especially effective, is cutting dairy consumption. Surprising by true, you could actually save the same amount of water by not showering for an entire month as you could by just skipping one gallon of milk. That’s because the average dairy farm uses 3.4 million gallons of water, every day. Global water footprint of animal agriculture is 2,422 billion cubic meters of water, 19 percent of which is related to dairy cattle. All that water is needed to hydrate the cows as well as clean floors, walls and milking equipment. Milk is approximately 87 percent water, which means a cow that is constantly producing milk must stay sufficiently hydrated and can drink 23 gallons of water every day. Just imagine a facility that has 700 cows! It would need 16,100 gallons of water just for the cows to drink – that doesn’t include water needed for cleaning the facility, or to produce the feed the cows eat. Just by giving up cheese, you could keep over 400 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year
Milk is approximately 87 percent water, which means a cow that is constantly producing milk must stay sufficiently hydrated and can drink 23 gallons of water every day. Just imagine a facility that has 700 cows! It would need 16,100 gallons of water just for the cows to drink – that doesn’t include water needed for cleaning the facility or to produce the feed the cows eat. Just by giving up cheese, you could keep over 400 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year.
Ban yourself from plastic bags and only use recyclable, reusable plastic.
Many communities throughout the U.S. have banned the use of plastic bags and for good reason. They harm the environment in many ways, getting into the soil and slowly releasing toxic chemicals. The bags have also caused many animals to die, as they eat them and choke to death. Frighteningly, the sheer number of plastic bags used around the world is estimated to be between 500 million and one billion. These bags are also causing serious damage to our oceans and the creatures that live in them. Plastic debris in the water degrades marine habitats and contributes to the death of many marine animals. As the floating plastic often looks like food to the sea turtles, marine birds, and marine animals, they often choke or starve because their digestive systems become blocked when they eat it. Paper bags aren’t the best option either – the only real option is a reusable cloth grocery bag.
Start a compost pile
Composting is one of the greenest things you can do. It’s nature’s way of recycling, and it gets for the land as everything you compost becomes a thriving habitat for entire populations of worms, bugs, fungi, bacteria and the like – and, what they leave behind becomes nourishment for your plants. There is zero methane emitted through a well-managed compost heap too. Traditional waste methods leave that waste lying stagnant in landfills, where vital oxygen is necessary to facilitate the decaying process and cannot reach it. Landfill material also releases greenhouse gases that further contribute to climate change; Methane gas escapes during the building process, and incineration leaves toxic ash waste as well as releasing an astounding amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Composting requires very little work and resources while providing a massive positive impact on our environment. If you aren’t sure how to begin, Rodale’s Organic Life offers simple steps for getting started in its article, The Easiest Way to Compost.