Making your daily life more eco-friendly and sustainable is a big mission, but it does not have to be a burden. There are so many things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment surrounding you. If some steps ask for big sacrifices, others will simply require some basic changes of your lifestyle habits. Be reassured, none of them will make your day to day life more complicated, trust me.
Step 1: Understand The Issue At Stake
In order to reduce your carbon footprint and eventually live a more eco-friendly life, you must, first of all, understand what it is all about. The term footprint is a metaphor that stands for the impact that something has, whilst the term carbon refers to all of the greenhouse gases that play a part in the climate change phenomenon. Therefore, your carbon footprint is the total impact you have, through your life choices and habits, on global warming. A good way to start reducing your carbon footprint is to actually know how big it is. Many websites and organizations offer simple tests and quizzes that measure it for you, like Global Footprint Network (Worldwide), The Nature Conservancy (US only) and WWF (UK only). Answer a few of them and then compare your results, it will give you a better idea of your real impact.
Step 2: Check What You Eat
A big part of our impact on the planet is held by what we eat, as when and where we eat it from. The good news is, you don’t have to become a vegan to have a more eco-friendly diet. Some simple changes can do the trick. Since meat is associated with much higher carbon emissions than plant-based food, moderating your meat or fish consumption would be a good thing, so would be choosing meat products that are responsibly managed. As for the rest, you could choose to consume foods that meet credible certified standards, such as organic and fair trade. Trust you nearest farmer who grows local and fresh products and maybe even delivers organic baskets right to your door.
Step 3: Drink Water, Don’t Waste It
Conserving water and using it more wisely prevents water pollution in local lakes, rivers and watersheds. For starters, you can take shorter showers and turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Buying a water-saving shower head and using your dishwasher and clothes washer for full loads only also helps. If you like having a clean driveway or sidewalk, you can use a broom instead of a hose to clean it, just like you should water your lawn only when it needs it. And how about buying your own reusable water bottle or camping mug instead of spending money on disposable plastic ones?
Step 4: Save Your Energy
The energy we use daily makes up for a big part of our carbon dioxide emissions. Look up the electricity providers in your area and choose one that produces clean and renewable energy. You can also cut your consumption by unplugging devices when fully charged or turning off lights when they are not needed. By doing so, you will not only save energy, but also money! You can also think of checking your house for insulation and double glazing and turn down your central heating by something as low as 1°C/1.8°F: it could reduce your heating usage by up to 10%. Furthermore, when your appliances start getting too old, look for new ones that are low on energy consumption (look for the HE logo on them).
Step 5: Drop fuel…Or Share It
We all have to get around in order to sustain our lifestyles. The thing is, all transportation accounts for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions globally. Maybe, then, we could all do a little more in order to not use cars or planes all the time. There are so many ways to move around that have lower greenhouse gas emissions : carpooling, walking, cycling, public transit, etc. Choosing not to drive during rush hour and to go on vacation closer to home also helps. If your old car breaks down and you need to buy a new one, look for the electrical, hybrid or low fuel consumption options on the market. Moreover, why not use Skype, Facetime or your cellphone for your next international meeting, instead of flying to another city?
Step 6: Consume More Wisely
Large amounts of water and energy go into producing the stuff we use - or not. Consuming more wisely begins with not over-consuming. Think of buying second hand or to support a local company that takes sustainable business decisions. Keep an eye out for labels that tell you what you are buying has been sustainably sourced or uses clean energy. Remember that fixing things has a much lower impact than making them from scratch. Some companies offer lifelong warranties or repairing and recycling programs, some use organic and recycled materials, others have sustainable policies, etc. The key is to think about your options before buying something. Have you ever thought of Patagonia or Houdini for your sustainable outdoor clothings, of Danner for your forever recraftable hiking and everyday boots, of Louve for your upcycled everyday clothes? Being green and fashionable is so much easier these days.
Step 7: Get Outside
Take a break, schedule a weekend getaway in the country, spend the afternoon by the lake, go take a walk outside : living a more eco-friendly life also means reconnecting with the outdoors. So, get outside and see by yourself all that you are trying to protect. Reconnect with your yard and plant a garden full of delicious vegetables, hold a bbq party, you could even bring your friends and family apple picking! Nature is beautiful and should hold an important place in your daily life. Consider spending at least 30 minutes a day outside, whatever you do during those 30 minutes.
Step 8: Generate Less Waste
What we throw away does not just disappear into thin air when the garbage truck comes by our house. The process for dealing with our waste is very energy-intensive. Be sure to use your local recycling and composting services for food scraps, plastic, metal, paper and glass. Stop buying over packaged goods and bring reusable bags, mugs or bottles when you go out. Also, internet now gives us easy ways to recycle and dispose of our electronic wastes better. Check out some websites like Recycle Your Electronics (Canada) and US Environmental Protection Agency (US) for some e-waste recycling programs in your area.
Step 9: Choose Cleaner Products
Get rid of all your toxic, tested on animals and polluting cleaning products. Look for eco labels on your soaps and cosmetics. Buy them in bulk or from local soap makers. It is also quite easy to make them yourself, with simple recipes available online that only require a few natural ingredients like baking soda, lemon or vinegar. The David Suzuki Foundation’s website provides simple tricks to make your own stain remover, mirror cleaner or laundry detergent. Making cleaning products yourself generates less waste and helps conserving water, plus, it is way cheaper.
Step 10: Be Creative And Keep Up The Good Work
Now that you reached this point, you probably reduced your carbon footprint considerably. You definitely should be proud of yourself. Although, the work is not entirely done. There is still a lot of things you can do to lower your daily impact on the environment surrounding you, but we can not give you all the keys to success, can we? Follow leaders and organizations that advocate sustainable living on social media, keep learning and spread the information you gather with your circle. You now have all the tools in your hands to be the change you want to see and to inspire people around you.
One Last Thing...
Making your daily life more eco-friendly does not have to be something you regret getting into after a step or two. Sure, the process can take some time, but who said it could not be fun? The key is to really commit and make it into something light and pleasant. Maybe include your family or friends in the process and make a challenge out of it. After all, the whole point is to make your lifestyle better, for yourself and the planet.
Start small, go at your own pace, but most importantly, be creative and have fun!- Marilou Sirois