Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it comes to the bad habits that make our daily lives easier! Often these quick yet shortsighted fixes dump more complex problems on future generations. Here are some simple changes to consider making when traveling, purchasing, and making routine decisions in the home.
Transit accounts for a massive portion of greenhouse gas emissions and taking public transit is not the only option to ponder when attempting to reduce your own carbon footprint. Our personal circumstances can make the means by which we move from place to place unavoidable, especially those who need cars in rural settings. Rather than evaluating these issues at a surface level, take into account the long and complex journeys of the items we purchase from creation to consumption.
It's finally warm out and you understandably find yourself craving those juicy summer berries. Unfortunately, the drive to the grocery store is hardly the first or last leg of your produce's carbon emitting journey. The packaging alone must be manufactured and shipped to facilities across the country for these crowd pleasing berries to be distributed. All of that aside, the berries themselves must run through energy consuming machinery, be packed in that pesky plastic, and then shipped to grocery stores across the country, leaving a trail of carbon on the way. We'll save the environmental effects of industrial farming for another day! By the time you drive home, fruit salad ingredients in tow, the damage already done is hard to swallow. Consider the single-use plastic packaging either needs transport to a recycling facility, requiring further processing and energy, or straight to a landfill, and you’ve doubled down on the pollution.
So, how can you change this pattern of consumption? Look to your local farmer’s markets! You’ll be supporting local businesses whose transit to the market is minuscule compared to the journey of industrial farms. When you bring your own reusable bag for produce, your carbon footprint becomes even more shallow. The same principle applies to everything we buy! The more local, simple, and sustainably you make your purchases (and get them home), the less trash you leave for generations to live with.
Another way to turn things around is volunteering! Climate ecologists estimate there is enough space for another 1.2 trillion trees to be planted across the globe. The effects this would have on carbon absorption would be substantial and undeniable. Organizations such as New York Restoration Project have planted over one million trees in New York City alone, and continue to create green spaces in the city beyond this milestone. Change starts at the community level, and volunteering for organizations such as this can make all the difference!
For those who don’t have a local organization working on environmental initiatives, consider starting one of your very own. Public lands across the country are waiting to be filled with trees, and you are just the person to do it! Contact your local officials to see what can be done to make your community healthier and greener for everyone in it.
Some of the most important changes, and those most in your control, are the ones that can be made in your own home. Switch your washing machine from hot water to cold and efficient cycles. Turn the faucet off while you brush your teeth. And neither last, nor least, consider cutting your next 15 minute shower short. Reducing shower time by just one minute can eliminate up to 550 gallons of water consumption annually, and switching to an efficient shower head can reduce even more waste. These simple changes will not only lower your bills, but help preserve our dwindling natural resources in the process!