Sustainable living starts with sustainable alternatives

Illustration of a green apartment complex
Betsy Siegal/Staff

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With the ongoing global climate crisis, temperatures are rising and natural disasters are occurring at a rapid pace. It’s unfeasible for any individual to make significant contributions to help create a better environment on their own, but everyone can do small things to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Practicing simple, sustainable habits will help to reduce our carbon footprint, and the integration of easy and eco-friendly habits add up to make a difference.

For most activities and tasks, there are sustainable alternatives and environmentally conscious ways of going about them. One example is the moving process, which can involve massive amounts of unnecessary wrap film, single-use boxes and so on. Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about its impact on the environment, considering how much waste is generated with moving boxes and packing materials. To combat excessive waste during this process, less tape should be used to seal moving boxes and movers should consider renting reusable plastic bins instead of solely using cardboard. Additionally, one way to downsize without creating more waste is by simply donating unused or unwanted items to a local charity. Keeping excess “junk” and waste out of landfills by donating or by giving things to friends and family is a great way to protect our earth while helping others in the process. Donating to local thrift stores and charity organizations would also be a good place to start.

It’s important to prioritize sustainability when it comes to gardening as well. Instead of continuously purchasing chemical fertilizers or using organic material when tending to a garden, consider composting. Composting reduces the amount of methane that goes into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming, and it’s a wonderful source of natural fertilizer. In contrast, organic material doesn’t completely decompose in landfills and releases harmful gases into the atmosphere. When choosing to compost at home, healthy nutrients are being provided to plant life while methane emissions are reduced and the amount of waste in local landfills decreased. It’s an easy process that can put leftover vegetable scraps and coffee grinds to use!

Our diet is also strongly connected to the wellbeing of our planet. Even for individuals who are not vegan or vegetarian, we can all do our part to reduce the harmful effects of animal agriculture by reducing our meat consumption. This can be done in small increments, such as skipping eating meat at least once a week or even during one of the daily meals. Having “meatless Mondays” can help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in factory farming. The meat industry is detrimental to the environment because animals need a lot of land and water to thrive, which can cause severe problems such as deforestation and harm to watersheds. By consuming less meat on a daily or even weekly basis, we can all do our part in decreasing the total volume of meat consumed within the human food supply chain.

A reduced use of plastics can also define an environmentally conscious lifestyle. From shopping bags to disposable coffee cups, plastic is a common, non-biodegradable material used in packaging and more. Every plastic cup on earth releases a small amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Some plastics also contain harmful chemicals and toxins that can leach into the soil, air and waterways. Instead of using plastic bags when shopping or purchasing single-use plastic coffee cups, opt for using reusable bags and coffee mugs instead. This simple lifestyle change is easy to implement, and it’s a great way to start a sustainable lifestyle without making significant changes to your daily routine. It’s also an actionable way to reduce the amount of trash produced in general while reducing your daily expenses.

Other than these simple alternatives, there are plenty of others that can be implemented in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Paying attention to energy consumption can start with turning the lights off when they are not necessary or adjusting the thermostat slightly higher. Water can be conserved by taking shorter showers or by only running appliances such as the dishwasher or washing machine when they’re full. Instead of driving to the library or coffee shop, riding a bike or walking places can help to reduce our carbon footprint. While these small actions and alternatives may seem insignificant, they could have a lasting impact if more people practiced them on a regular basis.

While big corporations and agricultural industries exert the largest impact on the worsening climate crisis, we all have a responsibility to be environmentally conscious. If more people begin to practice sustainability in their daily lives, we can start seeing positive results. Our world and the environment are finite, which is why it is so important to start fighting against the threat of climate change now. Only then will we have a hopeful future for humanity, the environment and the animals that inhabit it with us.

Dirce Guerra is a writer for Contact the opinion desk at opin[email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.