In 2021, more than 40% of Americans were living in places with unhealthy levels of pollution. This equates to more than 135 million people.
As consumer demands increase, so do the factors that influence climate change: the emissions of toxic pollutants into our air, the release of thousands of gallons of chemicals into our oceans, and damage to countless wildlife populations.
With these disturbing facts, you might think there’s nothing you can do. But by taking small steps, we can collectively reduce our environmental impact and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Below are 8 small and simple steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact without changing your lifestyle too much.
1. Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Avoiding single-use plastics is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. These days, many stores offer the option to carry your groceries home in a paper bag.
Even better, you can opt for a reusable bag. You can either bring one from home or buy one at the grocery store.
Many of the reusable bags you get at the grocery store cost less than a dollar, and they’re often made of recycled materials like old plastic bottles.
You can also avoid single-use plastics by choosing what you buy at the store. For example, salad sometimes comes in a plastic box. Instead, you can choose to buy a regular head of lettuce or any other vegetables that don’t come in plastic containers.
For clothing, avoid clothes that come with single-use plastic hangers or that come in packages of plastic.
2. Eat Sustainable Seafood
Since catching wild fish contributes to overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing practices, many sustainability websites suggest getting farmed fish instead.
But many fish farms have unsustainable practices, which contribute both pollution and disease to local wild fish.
This is why it’s important to choose sustainable seafood. This means that the seafood is harvested ethically, that the fish are fed hormone-free food, and that the fish farm doesn’t damage the local environment.
If you’re a bluefin tuna fan, for example, it’s important to make sure that the fishery is sustainably managed and that the supply chain is transparent. You can view more info here.
Familiarize yourself with sustainable seafood certifications and how you can find them on the packaging of your favorite fish. Also, be on the lookout for these certifications on the menus of your favorite restaurants.
3. Save on Water
Since many of our habits are so automatic, you might not even realize how much water you’re wasting daily. For example, you might leave the water on while brushing your teeth, even if you’re not using the tap.
An easy way to conserve water is to turn off the tap/shower head when it’s not in use, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing your hair.
You can also make sure that your dishwasher is full before you turn it on and that you have a toilet that doesn’t use more than two gallons of water with each flush.
4. Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances
Many new appliances these days have energy efficiency ratings, such as Energy Star.
Take stock of which appliances need replacing in your home. Then, when you shop for new ones, make sure to look for those labeled as energy efficient. You’ll likely save on your future electricity bills, too.
If you’re still unsure about your carbon footprint, you can try a carbon footprint calculator. This way, you’ll be able to identify habits that you can start changing right away.
5. Reuse and Recycle
Before you decide to get rid of something, try to figure out if you can re-use it. For example, you might want to hold on to glass jars if you make many preserves or salad dressings.
You can also give away old things like furniture, clothes, and electronics like old TVs. You’d be surprised at how quickly someone responds to your online ad when you give things away.
Nowadays, you can also recycle things that your building or home doesn’t have recycling bins for. Many office or electronics stores have electronics recycling programs, and it’s as simple as dropping everything off.
6. Buy Local When Possible
Next time you buy produce, take a look at where it comes from. Sometimes, your groceries travel thousands of miles to get to you.
The rise of farmer’s markets means that you can get fresh produce without having to travel too far.
You reduce your carbon footprint because the farm only uses one or two trucks to drive all the produce to the market (rather than every customer driving to the farm). You also support local farmers so that they can continue to provide your community with fresh produce.
7. Reduce Paper Use
Not only does paper require cutting down trees and chemicals to bleach it, but you have to keep buying more.
You can cut down on paper use by writing down your grocery lists on your phone or tablet. You can also try using a digital calendar to keep track of your time instead of buying a paper planner.
If you have to use paper, consider using recycled paper, which is more eco-friendly and uses fewer chemicals for production.
8. Install Renewable Energy
If you live in a house, consider installing renewable energy sources. These include solar, hydro, and wind energy.
Depending on your state, you may be eligible for tax incentives that can help you save money on installing renewable energy in your home.
If you live in an apartment, consider asking your manager what building complex can reduce its carbon footprint and increase renewable energy.
Reduce Your Environmental Impact With These Small Steps
While reducing our environmental impact may seem overwhelming, there are easy steps that each of us can take to help.
By following small steps like saving water and avoiding single-use plastics whenever you can, you can reduce your environmental footprint.
And when thousands of people do the same thing, we can decrease our footprint together.
For more helpful articles and lifestyle content, be sure to check out our other blog posts.