Now more than ever, the idea of going green and being aware of humanity’s impact on the earth is at the forefront of the human existence. Sometimes it’s a matter of not knowing where to start that prevents people from enacting the changes to their lifestyle that they want or feel they should do. The good news, however, is often all it takes is the first step to begin the process of evolving into the change they desire. This following list is a great starting point with minimal to no expense, and in some cases could actually provide financial incentives, aside from the existential benefits of being a better consumer. The final change will be a “stretch goal” for those looking to go the extra step toward healing the environment.
Reusable grocery, produce, and Ziploc baggies
Americans use billions of plastic bags each year, and now evidence of micro-plastics are showing up everywhere. Reusable cloth or non-plastic grocery bags will save money at many grocery stores, when considering the plastic bag tax, and they typically hold much more and make transportation much easier. You can even toss in a few mesh bags for produce that otherwise would need a plastic bag. Reusable Ziploc bags will help cut down on all the disposable sandwich and gallon baggies wasted. Amazon is a great resource for finding these types of specialty items; it’s even better if you can find second-hand grocery bags.
Reusable water bottles
Plastic water bottles definitely fall under the single-use plastics, but they deserve their own special consideration and problem solving. Most households have reliably safe drinking water at home, and all workplaces should absolutely provide safe drinking water. Despite these facts, many people prefer the convenience of grabbing a bottled water because it’s easier and faster. This issue is really the essence of the overall challenge: realizing that living with minor inconveniences can save people money and make massive, positive impacts to the environment. There are countless reusable water bottles on the market. Something already owned at home is the best option, and most people have at least one bottle in the cupboard, so it really comes down to building new habits.
A good rule of thumb for most “green” decisions is to use stuff already owned, or already owned by someone else. Clothing is particularly important because of the fair-trade implications, or lack thereof, for the overwhelming majority of merchandise. Working conditions and wages found throughout the supply chain of, say, a t-shirt would make the average person feel sick to their stomachs. The massive amount of emissions used in producing and transporting this t-shirt could be eliminated by simply buying second hand at thrift stores or online. When you do need to buy, consider fair trade and something that’s made with strong quality so it doesn’t breakdown quickly.
It doesn’t really matter what item you’re buying; getting it locally makes a tremendous impact on reducing a personal carbon footprint. The meats and vegetables found in grocery stores may look the same, but many have traveled thousands of miles to get to that shelf, so buying products within the same area or region will be fresher and less impactful. A simple look on labels, packages and tags will reveal the produced state or country.
Stretch goal: Reducing/eliminating red meat
This is particularly challenging for someone who loves the taste of steaks or burgers, but in the end, there are too many negatives to consuming red meat, with taste being the only positive. Red meat isn’t particularly good for you, especially fattier cuts of steaks and ground beef, and serving sizes at home or in a restaurant are well above the recommended portions. The amount of energy and carbon used to produce beef, from the beginning of the cow’s life to when it gets on your plate, is a significant portion of overall greenhouse emissions. Beef stands out above all other meat or vegetable production impact on the environment because of the size of the animal and the sheer amount of it that’s produced. If someone needs more convincing, the meat packing industry, across the board, implements deplorable conditions that treat the animals barbarically.
There are endless ways to reduce human impact on the environment, and the effort is not as demanding as initially thought. Most ideas stem from an idea of respect for life, and an understanding of how dangerous overconsumption is at this point in existence. In addition to improvements to the environment, many ideas can have positive impacts financially, physically, and personally. All it takes is a first step toward the change!