You’ll hear the term “sustainability” a lot these days. And for a good reason, the Earth is going through significant changes due to a changing climate. The onus falls on us to slow down climate change and hopefully preserve our planet for future generations.
[And yeah, it’s not just the planet going through changes. We are, too, it seems, and it’s really confusing at times. Some days you wake up and don’t know wtf is going on. Or, you do know exactly what’s going on; you just can’t make any sense of it. Reality is a bit wonky right now … hang in there.]
What does sustainability actually mean?
The term sustainability is often used to describe environmental conservation efforts, but it can encompass a much broader range of issues.
In essence, sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of current generations without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This includes issues like environmental protection, social justice, and economic development.
To achieve sustainability, we need to find ways to balance these three areas. For example, we might use renewable energy sources to protect the environment while also providing economic benefits and social justice.
It is a complex issue, but finding ways to achieve sustainability is essential for the long-term health of our planet.
And more importantly, what can we do on an individual level to live more sustainable lives?
Everyday sustainability tips
Here are eight everyday sustainability tips that you can commit to today:
1. Bring your own reusable bags to the store
Next time you’re headed to the store, bring your reusable bags! It may seem negligible, but using reusable bags instead of plastic bags can make a big difference to the environment.
Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in landfills or as litter, where it can take centuries to break down. And that’s if it doesn’t end up in the ocean, where it can do serious damage to marine life.
When you use a reusable bag, you’re helping to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and oceans. Plus, it’s often easier to carry your groceries home in reusable bags since they’re sturdier than plastic bags.
2. Drive less, walk or bike more
Walking and biking are two of the easiest and most pleasant ways to get around, and they’re also good for your health and wallet. According to a report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, people who walk or bike to work are, on average, sick fewer days than those who drive.
They also save money on gas, car maintenance, and parking. In addition, walking and biking help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Moreover, they give you a chance to get some exercise.
3. Save energy by unplugging electronics or using smart plugs
If you’re looking to slash your energy bill and save money, unplugging electronics and using smart plugs is a great place to start.
Even when turned off, many devices continue to draw power, known as phantom energy or standby power. Phantom energy can account for 5-10% of your total electricity use, so you can see a noticeable difference in your energy bill by unplugging devices when you’re not using them.
And if you’re really looking to automate your energy savings, invest in a few smart plugs. Smart plugs allow you to control devices remotely and on a schedule, so you never have to worry about forgetting to unplug something again.
Plus, many smart plugs come equipped with features like alerts and energy usage reports, so you can further optimize your home’s energy efficiency.
4. Buy locally grown food whenever possible
The average meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate. Food transport accounts for 10% of the United States’ total energy use.
Reducing the time food spends in transit is one way to have a smaller carbon footprint. Another is to choose food that is grown locally.
Seasonal and regional foods have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than those shipped long distances. When you buy locally, you also support the farmers in your community and help to keep farmland from being turned into housing developments or shopping centers.
In addition, local foods are often fresher and tastier than their long-distance counterparts.
5. Avoid disposable items whenever possible.
In our throw-away society, it’s easy to forget that we’re creating pollution every time we use a disposable item.
From the paper cup we use for our morning coffee to the plastic forks and knives we use at a picnic, disposables add to the waste and pollution problem.
Disposables are made from petroleum-based products, which means they’re not biodegradable. They’ll sit in landfills for centuries, leaching toxins into the ground and water. In addition, the production of disposables creates pollution in the form of smog and greenhouse gases.
The next time you’re reaching for a paper plate or a plastic bag, take a moment to think about the environmental impact of your choice.
6. Recycle any plastic, glass, or metal containers
You might not think that recycling your soda cans and water bottles would have much of an impact, but it makes a big difference.
Recycling any plastic, glass, or metal containers helps to minimize waste and pollution while protecting the planet. Millions of tons of plastic end up in landfills or are incinerated, releasing harmful toxins into the air every year.
Glass can be remade endlessly without losing its quality, so recycling your bottles and jars helps to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. And recycling aluminum cans uses 95% less energy than making new ones from scratch.
7. Compost food scraps instead of throwing them away
Did you know that you can compost your food scraps instead of throwing them away? It’s true! Composting is an excellent way to reduce your impact on the environment and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden.
Plus, it’s really easy to do.
All you need is a simple compost bin or pile. You can even make your compost bin out of an old plastic container.
So what can you compost? Just about anything organic will decompose, including fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, and even paper towels.
Basically, if it came from a plant (sometimes animals), it can be composted.
Composting is a simple and easy way to reduce waste and help protect the environment.
8. Conserve water at home
There are many ways to conserve water at home, and every little bit counts! Here are a few easy things you can do:
- Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving. This can save up to 4 gallons of water per day!
- Fix any leaks in your faucets, pipes, or toilets. A slow drip can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day.
- Don’t let the water run too long while doing the dishes – fill up one side of the sink for washing, and the other for rinsing.
- Water your plants during the cooler hours of the day rather than in the heat of the afternoon. This will help to reduce evaporation.
- Invest in a rain barrel! Collecting rainwater is a great way to water your plants while conserving water.
- Only wash full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher. These appliances use a lot of water, so it’s best to make sure they’re full before turning them on.
By following these everyday sustainability tips, you can make a big difference in how much water you use each day.