You can’t ignore that our planet is in serious “hot water” right now. Carbon dioxide levels in 2020 were the highest in recorded history. Global temperatures continue to break records, arctic ice is melting, and sea levels continue to rise.
Is all lost then?
If you think it’s too late to make a difference, think again! You can begin reducing your carbon footprint one step at a time.
Begin at Home
The path starts with your personal lifestyle choices. Modifications to your diet, recycling habits, and even your wardrobe can significantly reduce your environmental impact.
Diet for a Hot Planet
Eating less meat will reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. According to a study in Nature, cows, pigs and all animals raised for food are responsible for 57% of food production GHG emissions.
Cows are especially troublesome because they belch and fart methane gas,
which is around 80 times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. But it breaks down in around a decade, much quicker than CO2, which hangs around for centuries. Curbing our methane emissions by eating less meat is low-hanging fruit you can grab.
If we all eat less meat, we decrease demand, and in turn, production will decrease.
Take an Important Leap – Choose Organic.
Studies from The Organic Center demonstrate that organic farming practices have fewer negative effects on the climate and foster healthier ecosystems, generating healthier soils and better water quality while creating fewer GHG emissions. The big news is organic soils take more carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it in the ground.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
An easy way to make a difference at home is to recycle and make sure to understand what can be recycled at home and what items need to be recycled elsewhere.
Educating yourself on resin identification codes—the numbers on the bottom of plastic items— and what they mean is beneficial in understanding where products get recycled.
Reducing waste at home will decrease your carbon footprint. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, eat with metal/reusable utensils instead of disposable plastic. Don’t grab so many paper towels, and use cloth towels whenever possible. The U.S. alone produces over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste each year.
Its also important to recycle your used electronics. They contain dangerous minerals like mercury, lead, and arsenic to name a few. If they get up in a landfill or an unprotected waste facility instead of a recycling facility, these metals can ultimately end up in the water supply.
What’s Inside Your Closet?
One of the most underestimated sources of waste is hanging in your closet. The EPA reports that Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year. That is just in the U.S. alone!
Consider buying secondhand clothes before purchasing new. Thrift stores, secondhand stores, and consignment shops have incredible deals on high-fashion items.
You save money, look fabulous and extend that item’s life cycle. This reduces the waste created by both items that are thrown away and the waste created during new clothing production.
What is Carbon Neutral?
Carbon neutrality basically means that the amount of carbon emitted is offset by the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by investing in green energy such as wind farms, solar panels, or even planting trees. There are a wide variety of carbon-neutral products on the market, anything from eco-friendly baseball hats to sustainably packaged contact lenses. You can search and learn more about other carbon-neutral companies here.
Landfill-free or Zero Waste.
Zero waste means exactly as it sounds—there is little to no waste created in production. Zero waste companies are practicing what is called ‘slow fashion,’ which is the sustainable alternative to the widely known ‘fast fashion’ brands that are popular today. These zero waste companies are repurposing existing items and stimulating a circular economy to reduce the textile waste in landfills.
Open-loop Recycling. Like the principle of slow fashion,this form of recycling is when one product is turned into a different product. In the textile industry, a current trend is clothing or accessories made from recycled polyester derived from plastic bottles. These companies are taking part in sustainable fashion and giving purpose to the growing amount of plastic waste found in landfills or the ocean.
By filling your closet with sustainable products, you can feel good about what you’re wearing while also reducing your carbon footprint and personal impact on the environment.
It’s easy to think you can’t make a difference as just one individual taking on a global problem. But I leave you with this. In the U.S. alone, 1 million plastic water bottles are purchased every minute. If those people made the small conscious decision to use a refillable water bottle instead of single-use plastic, that would reduce nearly 28 tons of plastic waste in 60 seconds.
Always look at the bigger picture and realize the steps you take—when combined with others— will reduce our carbon footprint and turn the tables on climate change.
To quote U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, “The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet & placing billions of people in danger. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe.”