The vast destruction of our planet Earth is probably scaring you as much as it is frightening me. Every day we see pictures of oceans filled with plastic, starving polar bears, and destroyed rainforests, amongst others, and it can honestly feel like whatever we do won’t really help anymore.
But it will! If each of us makes a consistent effort to make a few small changes in our lives we can collectively make a huge difference. And teaching our kids how to be conscious of their waste and how it affects the planet from an early age is very important too.
Here are 5 easy ways to be more environmentally friendly in your home:
I’m not specifically telling people to immediately adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, but reducing our overall meat consumption will benefit the environment in ways that we can’t even imagine. According to research, worldwide livestock farming produces about 14.5-18 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. And these levels keep rising. If you think about it this way: if every single non-vegetarian cuts their meat consumption in half from today onwards we would start to see a real decline in the pollution caused by livestock farming within the next few years.
You can start by trying Meatless Mondays, or by replacing one or two of your traditional weekly meat dishes with a vegetarian version. Get the kids involved by taking them to the market to choose fruit and vegetables and looking at recipes with them. Once you get in the swing of things you may even want to try going vegan for a day here and there!
Reduce your need for plastic
Here in California it is now actually illegal to hand out single use plastic carrier bags at grocery stores. You can buy reusable ones or paper ones at the check-out if you forget to bring your own bags. I personally think this is a good first step towards making consumers responsible for the amount of plastic they discard every day, but we can do a lot more. Here are some simple ways to start reducing the plastic waste in your homes:
- Nix plastic bottles and use reusable water bottles. Go for soda in glass bottles if you have the choice.
- Bring your own reusable cup to the coffee shop (and pay less for your coffee too!)
- Use your own stainless steel straws rather than plastic ones usually offered in shops and restaurants. (Most of these reusable straws come with special cleaning brushes too).
- Stock up on tote bags and cloth shopping bags, and always keep some handy in the bottom of your purse, bag, car, and stroller.
- Use durable Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags: while you are still using plastic, your Tupperware can last for years, whereas a Ziploc is single use.
- Keep glass bottles and jars: they can be used to store other food items later on!
Don’t be afraid of thrift stores!
I have personally not bought anything new apart from underwear for the past two years: every item of clothing I have purchased has come from a thrift store. I’ve always loved to find a thrift shop bargain, but it wasn’t until we had children that I really started to rely on thrift stores for more than just the odd dress here and there. It is estimated that the average person in the US tosses 70 lbs of clothing away a year. And a lot of those clothes are man-made textiles that take years to decompose. But cotton also uses up huge amounts of the world’s resources: it takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE cotton shirt. So, between the amount of clothing that is trashed, and the amount of resources it takes to make all of the clothing that we buy, the textile industry has a huge impact on our environment.
So why not recycle our clothes too? About 95% of the kids’ clothes that we have are thrifted or donated, and once we move through them they are donated back to the thrift store, or given to other friends with kids. We “upcycle” a lot of things, and even buy household items like plates, dishes, furniture, bikes etc. from thrift stores. Our house is a bit of a mismatched haven of treasures, but it’s unique, and our children have a good understanding of why it’s important to recycle. And clothes that are just too old to donate? They become rags!
Borrow don’t Buy
I used to be so guilty of buying things I didn’t really need, especially books and clothing. Now that we have children and less disposable income I am a lot more mindful of what I purchase. Books are borrowed from the library (either print or ebook), and movies are streamed rather than bought as DVDs. And if we really want a DVD we look for it at the thrift store (I’m looking at you classic Disney movies).
There are so many other things we can borrow instead of buy too! Everyday items such as cars, tools and household appliances, as well as other items such as formal wear, sports equipment and baby gear.
Reduce energy and water in your home
I live in an area of California where rain is sparse and where ongoing droughts are common, so we are very careful with water. I also try to keep our energy consumption down too, but I am definitely not doing enough right now. Here are a few good ways to both reduce our bills and be more ecological:
- “Switch off when done”: this includes TVs, computers, coffee machines etc. Avoid leaving anything on standby, and switch lights off in the rooms no one is using in the house.
- Replace light bulbs with LED lightbulbs that use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Use power strips to group plugs together and switch them off in one go. Even when appliances are of, if they are still plugged into the wall they leak energy.
- Use a smart thermostat, or adjust your existing thermostat to summer and winter temperatures. Use dark curtains to keep out the hot sun in the summer, and keep the warmth in in the winter, and make sure all doors and windows are sealed correctly against draughts.
- Choose energy efficient appliances and use them only when you need to (there really is no need to dry that one shirt by itself or put the dishwasher on when it’s only half full).
There are many other ways that we can all work together to reduce our own carbon footprint on this earth. Can you think of any that you use?