Reducing Your Eco Footprint in 2020
Between plastics filling our oceans, and diminishing top soil, there is no denying we could all tune in to how to lessen our impact on the planet. What can we do on a day-to-day basis to help reduce our personal eco footprint? Some suggestions like riding your bike more may be of no surprise, but have you stopped to consider how fast fashion or dietary choices might be affecting the planet?
1. CONSIDER YOUR METHOD OF TRANSPORTATION:
As you can see, transportation takes up the majority of Greenhouse Gas Emissions at a whopping 29%. How we choose to get around is a big deal.
· Invest in a hybrid or electric car if possible.
· Ride your bike more.
· Participate in ride shares/carpool.
· Fly less.
· Walk more (you’ll live longer!)
· Take public transportation once a week.
2. HOUSEHOLD ADJUSTMENTS:
· Heating/Cooling: Watch the A/C and heating thermostat.
· Lighting: replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs.
· Enable the power management features on your computer.
· Wash your clothes in cold water.
· Use clothes lines or drying racks during warmer months.
· Wear clothes (like pants) more than once before laundering.
· Consider replacing appliances for more energy efficient models.
· Ditch your lawn. Not only do they displace native ecosystems, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
· Up-Cycle your furniture. Buy lightly used furniture from thrift stores or re-stores or repaint/ reupholster.
· Use washable cloths over paper napkins/paper towels.
· Install solar panels if possible.
3. CUT DOWN ON PLASTICS
· Start being more aware on all the single use plastics you use in a day: plastic to-go cups/ lids, straws, single use food containers, plastic bags… These things do not get recycled and inevitably end up in the landfill, (or in the ocean).
· STOP DRINKING BOTTLED WATER. Please.
· Read: Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes
· Invest in re-usable or non-plastic items like stainless steel Tupperware.
· Re-fill liquid soaps and shampoo bottles at the grocery store.
· Bring your own bags to the grocery store.
· When you shop, look for products that package in glass or metal over plastic.
· Watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix to get inspired. Her method is to focus on what to keep based on the simple question: does this make you happy?
· Try living with less stuff. Do you need an extra storage unit? Storage companies make millions each year simply because we Americans have too much stuff to keep in our own houses.
· Watch The Story of Stuff on YouTube.
5. STOP SUPPORTING FAST FASHION
· Consider the “TRUE COST” of an item when you buy something new. Is it cheap for a reason?
· Read the book Fashionopolis: The Price of Fashion and the Future of Clothes, by Dana Thomas. Today, the clothing industry churns out 80 billion garments a year and employs every sixth person on Earth. The fashion industry is designed to make us think we need new clothes on a regular basis, (story of stuff).
· Creating cheap clothing is a strain on resources and water. A huge portion of those clothes end up in the landfill every year.
· Buy clothes made from natural, renewable materials: think wool, silk and organic cotton.
· Shop at thrift stores or do clothing swaps with friends.
6. SUPPORT LOCAL, ORGANIC FARMS
Experts estimate that we have about 60 harvests left at the rate we are going with conventional agriculture. In this time it is more important than ever to invest your dollars in small-scale, local farmers. Plus, local means it traveled less which translates to more nutrients and less GHG emissions from transport.
· (If possible) Plant Your Own Vegetable Garden.
Here in California, lettuce, chard, kale, radishes, and herbs are all relatively easy to grow in your back yard.
· Shop the Farmer’s Markets on weekends to stock up on local produce.
· Subscribe to a local CSA (Homeless Garden Project here in Santa Cruz has a great one!)
7. INVEST IN REGENERATIVE, GRASS FED MEATS
Our soils are rapidly deteriorating due to erosion, nutrient depletion, and loss of organic
carbon. We desperately need new methods of restoring healthy soil, and regenerative, holistically managed livestock is a time-tested and proven method. This means converting cropland used for livestock to grassland and allowing livestock to graze there. Grass-fed cattle can actually sequester carbon from the atmosphere, meaning they can be either net-carbon neutral or even act as a carbon sink.
One of the ways that Meatless Monday has criticized beef production is through a misleading infographic claiming that it takes 10 bathtubs of water to produce a ¼-lb. burger. What the infographic does not disclose, however, is that 94% of the water “used” to make typical beef and 97% of the water used to make grass-finished beef is naturally occurring rainfall - in other words, rain that would have fallen whether or not that animal was grazing the grass.
Reducing our food system’s dependence on monocropping may provide the greatest impact when it comes to water inputs. The fact that crop irrigation takes roughly 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals (blue water) is largely ignored in discussions of sustainability. Globally, 30% of groundwater intended for crops is used to produce rice, followed by wheat (12%), cotton (11%), and soybeans (3%).
8. CHECK YOUR SEAFOOD CONSUMPTION
We tend to think of the ocean as this infinite resource, when in fact fish populations are struggling.
· Eat lower on the food chain: smaller fish like sardines and anchovies are a better choice for the environment and you won’t be getting large amounts of mercury due to bio-accumulation.
· Eat less shrimp: more mussels. Most shrimp is farmed overseas under repulsive conditions, (destruction of native habitats and implementation of slave labor).
· Skip the Bluefin Tuna. By some estimates the Pacific population of this fish has declined more than 90 percent. It’s smaller cousin the Mackerel however is still thriving and makes a better choice.
· When buying canned tuna, stick to sustainable brands like Wild Planet and Raincoast who implement line-caught fishing techniques.
· If you take a fish oil for omega 3’s, make sure it comes from a reputable source. About 20-25 million metric tons of fish are reduced every year, (about 25% of the world’s catch). These fish are boiled down into fish oil supplements and animal feed.
· Do not consume krill oil- krill are a keystone species for whales and other animals.
· Support your local fishermen! If you live near the ocean, seek out local products in the store or check to see what else may be available directly. Here in Santa Cruz we have an amazing fish CSA company called Ocean2Table who provide seasonally sustainable wild caught fish.
9. COMPOST/ STOP FOOD WASTE
Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, (if food waste was represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter!!)
· In the US alone, we waste up to 40% of our food. This amount if recovered and redistributed would feed up to 190 million people.
· The average American family loses over $1500 a year in wasted food.
· We currently grow enough food to feed every human on the planet.
· Buy only what you need at the grocery store.
· Embrace ugly produce: imperfect produce is a huge source of wasted food.
· Cook at home: The energy it takes to process, package, and transport food to a restaurant is more than double the energy it takes to grow it.
· Save vegetable scraps for stock and bones for bone broth.
10. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE
· Pick up trash when you are out and about, (it will end up in the ocean otherwise).
· Elect candidates with good climate plans.
· Encourage the youth to get involved.
· Talk about climate change and lessening our eco footprint.
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes
Fashionopolis: The Price of Fashion and the Future of Clothes