The planet is in need of our help, but can what we do as an individual really make a difference? Don’t give up hope with these 3 eco-friendly ways to start now.
BY: TAYLOR WOLFRAM, MS, RDN, LDN
We know the planet is in trouble. According to NASA, carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in 650,000 years, thanks to deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
Earth’s polar ice sheets are losing mass and 6.4 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year. We also know many animal species are on the brink of extinction, and an alarming number of animals are exploited and slaughtered for food and clothing.
It has been reported that up to 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions may come from livestock and their byproducts.
With staggering numbers like these, it can feel overwhelming to help the planet and its inhabitants. In a world of nearly 8 billion people, can what we do on an individual level even make a difference?
The answer is yes, and here’s how.
1. Shift to a plant-based or vegan lifestyle
Not only does a plant-based or vegan lifestyle reduce harm to animals, but it also reduces your carbon and water footprints. Livestock requires land and is a major cause of deforestation, which is detrimental to the environment as trees help trap carbon.
And what about all the waste produced by the 56 billion animals killed each year for food? It pollutes waterways and can cause foodborne illness.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of going vegan, remember that making small changes over time will add up. Begin by replacing meat, fish and eggs with beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh. Consider trying vegan milks, yogurts and cheeses, and eat more vegetables and whole grains.
When your personal care products run out, replace them with products that do not contain animal products or test on animals. There are many ways to switch over to a more compassionate lifestyle along with many delicious vegan options.
2. Choose sustainably and ethically produced clothing, shoes and accessories.
Not only is the fashion industry incredible polluting, it’s also riddled with human rights violations. By choosing ethical, you’re supporting fair labor. And by choosing sustainable, you’re supporting eco-friendly materials and practices.
As consumers, we’ve gotten used to paying low prices for cheap clothing and it’s time for a dose of reality. Yes, ethical and sustainable clothing tends to cost more, but that’s because you’re not exploiting people or the planet. And high-quality pieces last a lot longer, which means more bang for your buck and less crowding in your closet.
Before buying new clothing, check out secondhand options. Take a trip to your local thrift store and see what you find. Online resale marketplaces including Poshmark and ThredUP offer gently used clothing, shoes and accessories at a fraction of the cost as well as eco-friendly brands.
3. Reduce your plastic consumption.
Starting paying attention to how much plastic you throw away or recycle for a week. I did this and it was incredibly eye-opening. Plastic doesn’t degrade. And “recycling”, in many ways, is a myth when it comes to plastic and is incredibly resource-intensive. The best option is to avoid it as much as is possible and practical.
Much of the plastic we consume is related to food packaging, so here are a few easy ways to start cutting down on plastic:
- Shop in bulk and bring your own containers.
- Consider purchasing produce that is imperfect.
- Use cloth grocery bags and reusable produce bags.
- Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug.
- Add a bamboo cutlery set, metal or glass straws, and cloth napkin to your bag
- Choose glass and metal bottles over plastic when possible.
Also look at the products in your bathroom. How many of them are in plastic containers? “Green beauty” and sustainable personal care items are becoming more accessible, and there are more eco-friendly alternatives on the market that you can consider.
By being more conscious of your everyday decisions, you can feel more empowered to make a difference in the fate of the environment through your lifestyle and consumption choices.
While perfection does not exist (and striving for it can lead to burnout and unnecessary anxiety), know that your actions do make a difference.
You can be the change you wish to see in the world.
Adapted from the original post.
HEADER IMAGE: NATALIA KLENOVA
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN is Chicago-based Registered Dietitian who helps others lead a life of compassion that improves their overall relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. As an expert in eco-ethical and vegan lifestyles, she’s passionate about helping individuals end their struggle with food and live an unrestricted life in the kitchen. Learn more about Taylor at Whole Green Wellness.