With the deluge of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and global warming increasing the number of droughts and famines that affect people across the world, it can feel like Earth is crumbling at the hands of humans. But there are many small things that can be done to decrease your carbon footprint and help to restore Earth to something resembling its former glory.
Cut down on the use of disposable plastic
Australians alone purchased more than 726 million litres of bottled water in 2015, as reported by Business Insider. Not only is this habit far from cost effective, but the process of bottling water involves the release of 60,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Recycling used water bottles does help a little, but simply abstaining from buying bottled water has a much greater effect.
Installing a high quality water filter in your home will help give you the peace of mind that the water you’re drinking is always clean, and purchasing a reusable water bottle to take on the go will help cut down on plastic waste significantly. Additionally, try to avoid pre-made food items packaged in plastic.
Eat an Earth-friendly diet
Raising livestock for meat and other animal products contributes to 51 per cent of all carbon emissions. It also contributes to greater consumption of land and water. Going vegetarian is best, but even reducing your consumption of meat to two days a week could cut carbon emissions and land and water use by 45 per cent. Not eating so much meat can be made easier by eating fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables.
Growing an organic vegetable garden is also a great way to live a greener life. The availability of delicious produce right in your backyard means fewer trips to the shops, fewer pesticides entering the ecosystem and zero plastic packaging. If you don’t have the space or time to grow a garden, select organic produce wherever possible, avoid items packaged in plastic, and seek out local and in-season produce.
Adjust your transport habits
Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have increased by almost 60 per cent since 1990. Transport is now Australia’s third-most significant source of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Cars alone make up about half of all transport-related carbon emissions. Despite a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2030, emissions continue to rise, especially from cars and air travel. Although it may seem like one person cannot have a big effect on bringing these numbers down, every little contribution helps.
Carpooling, public transport, cycling or walking whenever possible can all contribute in some way to reducing your carbon footprint. If it is possible to purchase groceries nearby, try walking to and from the shops instead of driving. Although this might mean smaller loads and more frequent trips, it will significantly cut down on your transportation emissions as well as boosting your health and fitness.
Alternatively, try buying in bulk and get everything you need in one trip to limit the frequency of driving to the shops.
Cut down on waste
As organic materials such as food and paper products break down, they release methane into the atmosphere. Methane has 21 times more impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. Not only that, but waste that ends up in landfill takes up precious earth that could be used much more productively. Too many bits and pieces of our rubbish end up in the oceans, threatening the lives of many aquatic animals. To counteract this, the best thing to do is to purchase fewer consumable products such as paper materials, plastic and fabrics. Say no to the notion that your furniture needs to be “updated” to avoid putting still-functional items in landfills. When getting rid of unused or outgrown belongings, try donating anything still in good condition, and recycle everything else. Additionally, cut down on food waste by making careful shopping lists and buying only what you will actually use in a reasonable length of time.
Increase energy efficiency
The use of household appliances makes up about 30 per cent of all residential energy consumption, while lighting adds another 12 per cent. Energy efficiency standards have improved, resulting in reduced household electricity usage over the last decade. However, this is not cause for complacency—energy usage can still be decreased. Turning off and unplugging all lights and appliances not in use can reduce household electricity consumption by 20 per cent.
If you haven’t already, switching old-style incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient ones like LEDs and fluorescents, will lower the impact on both your wallet and the earth. Finally, do some research into switching your energy provider to one that uses clean renewable energy.
Staying informed about the environmental impact of products and services you consume and adjusting accordingly is the most effective way to lead a greener lifestyle. Simply tweaking a few small habits can have a large impact on improving the world we live in, and creating a better future.
Alicia Rennoll is a freelance writer specialising in health, science and lifestyle.