By Samantha Torre
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
There is no Planet B.
Although 71% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are the responsibility of just 100 of all the companies in the world, there are some things the average person can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. Daily sustainable swaps can reduce plastic use and waste, as well as support local artists, farmers and small business owners.
Unfortunately, solving the ongoing issue of climate change will take more than the efforts of an individual, but together we can at least help a little bit.
In no particular order, here are some ways you can make a difference and become more sustainable and do your part for the Earth.
Plastic bags are a thing of the past. They’re flimsy and often rip under the pressure of heavy groceries, resulting in having to use more on an average grocery trip. Worst of all, most are not biodegradable and will sit on the Earth for many years to come.
Some states, including New York, are on the right track banning the use of plastic bags in grocery and other retail stores. Although many people are reluctant to change this method of carrying their purchases, a quick swap can have a lasting effect on the environment. Reusable bags are handy, reliable and stylish. More importantly, they won’t land on the side of the highway or in our oceans harming marine life. Reusable bags are a simple way to reduce your single-use plastic use and won’t break the bank.
The best part about reusable bags is that they are easy to create on your own if you’re looking for a DIY project. If you have T-shirts laying around that you don’t wear anymore, turn them into reusable bags by following this quick and easy tutorial: How To Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag In 10 Minutes.
Buying local produce is a great way to lower your carbon footprint and support your local community in the process. Most of the produce found in grocery stores starts on farms that use harmful pesticides and, in the case of out-of-season or not locally grown produce, travel many miles across the country to land on the shelves. This trip emits a large amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and may, unfortunately, become food waste if the produce is damaged in the process.
Grocery stores are a large contributor to food waste, as many customers neglect produce that does not look “perfect.” Because of this, the produce goes bad, and the grocery stores end up throwing most of it out.
Instead of contributing to this practice, a local farmer’s market will do the trick. Produce is locally grown and in season and doesn’t include the plastic packaging found in grocery stores.
Growing your own garden is also a fun and rewarding way to reduce waste and help the environment in the process. Turning some unused yard space into a small garden each summer is a great sustainable practice.
Short on yard space? No worries! Produce such as tomatoes and peppers grow great in large pots that you can put on any porch or patio.
Growing your own garden reduces any plastic waste, food waste and is also much cheaper in the long run. Check out this list of fruits and vegetables that will grow the best in your garden: Top 10 Vegetables to Grow in Your Home Garden.
Single-use plastic is a thing of the past. Today, there is a more sustainable and reusable alternative for almost anything. From plastic straws and silverware to plastic packaging and consumer goods, it seems like everything we consume as humans contains plastic. But for every plastic item, there is a reusable and more sustainable option available.
Some simple swaps that can reduce plastic waste can be found in this video: 100 Zero Waste Swaps You Have To Try.
There are some great companies working to help consumers reduce their waste, including Bite Toothpaste Bits, a plastic-free toothpaste and floss company; and BlueLand, a company that offers eco-friendly cleaning products.
Small swaps like these can have a large impact on reducing individual waste and working toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
The meat and dairy industries are often seen as unethical and environmentally harmful. Factory farms contribute around 10% of total gas emissions according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Cutting these animal products out of your diet would drastically reduce this number. Going vegan or vegetarian is often a privilege to those who have the money and resources to do so, but even cutting out animal products a few days a week can help. These days can be used to support a local farmers market or eat your homegrown produce.
There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian recipes that are simple and easy to make.
The most important way to be more sustainable is to commit to learning more about ways you can contribute to creating a better, plastic-free planet. Research the effects that single-use plastic and other unsustainable practices have on the plant and look for companies that are working toward alleviating them. Follow influential people in the field to learn helpful tips and expose yourself to the lifestyle.
Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by change! Any change, big or small, is a step in the right direction. It is easy to get overwhelmed at the big picture, but starting with small habits will eventually grow into standard practices. Undoing the many years of climate change is a learning process, but it is worth it.
There are many ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but these are just five simple things you can start doing today. A good-faith effort is all you need to change your future.
Remember, there is no Planet B.
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