It's clear now more than ever that the future is in our hands, but it's easy to start feeling hopeless when a good portion of what's deteriorating our world is out of your hands. Changes to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly life can be more expensive and take more time. Especially in college, with little money, little space, and lots of other things to worry about, changes to lessen your carbon footprint can seem like a challenge to face some other day. So, I've compiled a list of 5 things I'll be doing in the new year to live a more sustainable life.
1. Bar soaps
Replacing bottled soap with soap-free bars cuts back on plastic consumption, but many of the chemicals in bottled soap that can be harmful to wildlife are also skipped in these body, hair, or face bars. Many bars are also produced without water, which is a common theme among Eco-friendly hygienic products. Without water, companies can ditch the toxic preservatives and skip out on wasteful packaging. The result is a product that's also more concentrated, so you get more bang for your buck.
2. Less meat
Eating less meat, or even taking up a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, has an appeal to many people for a variety of reasons. While also good for your health, cutting way back on my meat consumption comes mainly from wanting to lessen my carbon footprint. Meatless Mondays are now a thing of the past. Instead, my focus is more on percentage. My personal goal is 50% vegetarian, 30% vegan, and 20% or meals containing meat. I'm sure I'll eat more meat sometimes than others, but the percentages are more for giving me a goal to work towards. You don't have to go completely vegan to limit your impact, as long as you cut back on the meat you're eating.
3. Less food waste
Cutting back on food waste requires a lot of learning, watching, tracking, and effort. We live in a wasteful society, and I see it every day in my food-service job. A great start is composting things like banana peels and coffee grounds, but it's also important to figure out what you're wasting the most of. If you buy a lot of heads of cauliflower or containers of spinach and never finish them and end up throwing them out, a simple fix would be adjusting what you buy so you can finish it. You could also work towards finishing what you have. With my example, this could help with your plant-based diet and get you the nutrients and fiber from your vegetables and leafy greens.
There are plenty of websites, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks dedicated to helping you produce less food waste, which makes this change for the New Year a rather easy one.
4. Reusing household items
This switch covers more than reusable grocery bags. Finding other uses for things you'd normally throw away, like coffee cans, can greatly limit what you're throwing away while also making you think about what you're throwing away. This new level of consciousness about your consumption habits can help you cut back on your waste before it becomes your waste, which leads me to...
5. Swap out single-use plastics
Swapping out single use plastics and using more reusable household items go hand in hand, but I separated them on this list because a lot of the time I'll buy things from the store covered in a plastic bag or I'll buy things in plastic bottles when I could buy something with biodegradable packaging (or no packaging) or find drinks in glass bottles instead. While this last switch will be more time consuming and more expensive, cutting back on plastic on every front is vital to keeping our planet clean.
At the end of the day, any amount of effort towards a cleaner, more sustainable future is a great step. Don't congratulate yourself too quickly, though, because it is important we keep striving to do better. There is always work to be done, whether it's using shampoo bars instead of bottles or contacting your relatives so they can live sustainably too.