There's no denying it—our habits have seriously injured our planet. Deforestation, rising oceans, ozone-layer depletion...you name it, we've caused it. The problem is big, and it will take a collective global effort to fix what we've done and help the Earth heal.
Some issues, like the Great Pacific garbage patch, can't be fixed by one person. It's just too big. Even if you can't single-handedly clean up the world, you can make little changes to your lifestyle that will reduce your carbon footprint.
Here's how you can help:
Turn Everything Off
Lights, faucets, gadgets...if you aren’t using it, turn it off! Switch off lights when you leave the room, don’t leave the faucet running when you’re brushing your teeth or washing dishes, and unplug electronics that aren’t in use. All of these things use up energy, so turning everything off is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
Everyone needs water to live. If you only make one change in your life, make it this. This will cut down the need for single-use plastic bottles.
Carpool When You Can
Going somewhere with a group? While it’s more comfortable to have tons of room in the car, it’s more environmentally-friendly if you carpool. Instead of meeting up at your destination, travel together to keep a few cars off the road.
You’ve heard it before: “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” Well, do it! It takes two seconds to separate papers and plastics from trash. (Bonus points if you compost, too.)
Bring Reusable Bags to the Store
Reusable bags aren’t just for groceries—any time you go to the store, bring reusable bags with you. Unless you want a specific store’s packaging or branding (I love reusing Sephora’s tissue paper for gifts), have them put your purchases into a reusable bag.
Use Tupperware Instead of Plastic Bags
Whether it’s your lunch or you’re packing food for a picnic, use Tupperware instead of plastic baggies. Ziploc bags are great, but produce a lot of plastic waste. Put your sandwich and chips into a container and save yourself a trip to the trash can.
Save Glass Jars and Plastic Containers
When you finish a jar of pasta or a container of sauce, rinse it and wash it well, and keep it. You can reuse glass jars and plastic containers as Tupperware, or use it to store other food products. You can find a million uses for a jar instead of throwing it away.
Make Your Own Personal Hygiene Products
Toothpaste, deodorant, scrubs, lip balm, face masks, shampoo...you name it, you can make it! You’ll consume less plastic and cut out transportation used to ship beauty and hygiene products. Plus, this will put those containers you’re saving to good use! Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest for some easy, DIY products.
Use Cloth Products in the Kitchen
Use cloths instead of sponges to wash dishes and wipe up spills. Instead of throwing away a dozen paper towels away, use one cloth and wash it. If you take care of them, kitchen cloths can last for a long time.
Eat Less Meat
It’s no secret that animal agriculture is a problem. It leads to deforestation and pollution, which are big causes of climate change. You don’t have to cut meat from your diet completely, but going meatless even a few days a week can make a difference.
Hang Clothes to Dry
Dryers use up a lot of energy. You don’t have to hang up everything, but if you can hang a few things on a line or in your closet, you can save a little energy.
Pick Up Litter
Next time you go to the beach or the forest, bring some gloves and a bag to pick up litter. Sure, you didn’t make the mess—but that doesn’t mean you can’t clean it. Pick up when you can so the planet stays clean.
Try to get coupons and bills online, when you can. Everything can be done on the computer or through an app now, so why not go paperless to pay your monthly bills?
Get a Reusable Straw
Many places are banning plastic straws to reduce their waste, so buying a reusable metal straw is a great idea. Keep it in your purse or pocket, and bring it with you wherever you go. If you’re offered a plastic straw, just use your own!
Educate Yourself (and Others)
The best way to be eco-friendly is to educate yourself. In today’s modern world, you can’t completely get rid of your carbon footprint, but you can reduce it. By learning how your habits impact the environment, you can make changes to your life and teach others to be more mindful.
This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a start. Try challenging yourself to making one or two of these changes in a week. If you can do it, push yourself to do more.
If we all pitch in to reduce our carbon footprints, we can help our planet survive!