The new year is a great time to make some small yet impactful steps towards a greener lifestyle. This year, pledge to do your part to help conserve and renew the environment. Here are some attainable goals you can aim for!
A huge part of having a sustainable lifestyle is investing in reusable alternatives. Kitchen and bathroom products produce the most plastic waste, so target your efforts there. Use metal or wood utensils instead of plastic, tupperware instead of plastic wrap, and washable cloths instead of paper towels. Try diy-ing some basic beauty products, like scrubs or lip balm, which can be stored in glass jars instead of single-use containers. Buy or sew produce bags for grocery trips, which can be washed to eliminate Covid-19 worries unlike plastic bags.
Reduce your carbon footprint by lowering temperatures in the shower and laundry. Washing clothes at slightly lower settings saves energy and doesn't make a significant difference in the cleanliness of the garments. Try hanging up clothes to dry for bonus points! Taking shorter and colder showers is not only great for the environment but also your skin—cold water increases circulation and doesn't dry you out.
Plant a Garden
Cheer up your quarantine days with a small garden! Gardening helps soothe stress and allows you to establish a routine. Choose a small plot first if you have little experience and put down some bulbs. They will come up in the spring and are relatively easy to maintain. Plant pollinator to attract flowers and milkweed to help dwindling bee and butterfly populations (and check out deer-resistant plants here). Herbs and vegetables are a good step towards shrinking your food waste and going organic.
An easy and proactive way to cut down food waste is to compost your vegetable scraps. Anything from coffee grounds to banana peels can go towards cultivating nutrient-rich soil, which can then be used in your new garden! Learn more here.
Shop Local and Second-Hand
Supporting small businesses has become a catchphrase of the pandemic, but doing so also is good for the environment! Shopping local reduces "food miles." This term refers to the distance your food has to travel before you buy it. Produce can travel thousands of miles before it makes it to your plate, meanwhile contributing to carbon emissions. Even just purchasing U.S.-made items saves air traffic demand from places like China and South America where environmental regulations are often nebulous. Shopping second-hand or thrifting also tackles the enormously wasteful fashion industry. Check out local businesses here.
Ditch Plastic Water Bottles
With most of us staying home more often, this is an easy switch. Although single-use plastic water bottles are technically recyclable, 86 percent of bottles used in the U.S. end up in landfills or are littered. Production of bottled water also involves extensive use of fossil fuels and is far more expensive than tap water. Even if you just drank one bottle a day (far less than the recommended amount), you would spend over 150 dollars a year per person. Get a reusable water bottle, and fill up at the school's filter stations, or consider investing in a larger home filter. Long Island has poor water quality, so getting a Brita Filter, or a more heavy-duty filter that won't break easily is a must.
Warning! While some manufacturers like Poland Spring may put "sustainable" on their bottles, most likely they are referring to the purification process of the water itself and not the bottles.
With restricted travel and more time at home, take this opportunity to explore your neighborhood. Pair this change with your New Year's fitness resolution for extra motivation! Instead of getting a ride to a friend's house, see if it's within walking distance. Not only will you be saving gas, but also avoiding home activities that might use electricity and increasing your appreciation for nature.
While going vegetarian or vegan might be a bit intimidating, taking one day out of the week without meat adds up. Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, both through maintenance and transport. This practice will also allow you to explore the rich and flavorful world of vegetarian cooking. Check out some recipes here.
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