The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly more evident: Recurring heat waves are sweeping the country and the hurricane season gets longer each year. Instead of planning for the worst, maybe we should be asking ourselves how we can protect the environment and play our part in putting a stop to the climate crisis.
Every single one of us can take a stand against climate change by making small but pivotal changes to our daily consumption habits. Smart and sustainable everyday decisions can make a difference. Here are 15 ways you can protect the environment on a daily basis.
1. Waste Less
“One way to quantify environmental impacts is by estimating how many Earths would be needed to sustain the global population if everyone lived a particular lifestyle. One study estimates it would take 5 Earths to support the current human population if everyone’s consumption patterns were similar to the average American” was stated in the U.S. Environmental Footprint Factsheet from Michigan University from 2018.
We witness such shocking emissions and consumption statistics quantified through the U.S. environmental footprint primarily due to wasteful habits within our daily consumption routines – and that’s with absolutely everything we use. One study published in the journal for Environmental Science and Technology cites food waste as a major catalyst of climate change. Lots of food goes to waste due to improper storage practices. Check out these 7 Easy Tricks to Avoid Food Waste to ensure it doesn’t happen on your watch.
An additional contributor to global warming is our wasteful approach to consumption through convenience goods such as single-use plastics. Plastics are everywhere and undoubtedly make our life easier, but we can easily do without them. We’ll show you how to eliminate plastic from your daily routine in Life without Plastic: Easy Tips for Everyone.
2. Share and Reuse Resources
The production of consumer goods requires vast amounts of energy and resources. Americans on average are responsible for around 2.75 tons of carbon emissions every year solely through consumption of non-food items.
We could cut these sky-high emissions in half if we only shared every second product with a neighbor, purchased goods secondhand or rented tools and repaired things ourselves instead of rushing out to the store the second something stops working. Check out Utopia’s guide featuring 10 Everyday Green Living Ideas: Sustainability on a Shoestring Budget for more.
3. Buy Organic Products instead of Foods laced with Fertilizer and Pesticides
Organic food production avoids the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and agricultural chemicals (pesticides). The result are approximately 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming. Through humification – the formation of organic matter decomposed from plant remains – greenhouse gases are contained in the ground. Now that’s going green. This saves greater than 0.1 tons in resulting carbon emissions for every additional 1,234 pounds of food produced.
4. Save Energy instead of Wasting it
What if putting a stop to climate change was simple and everybody could pull their weight without breaking a sweat? We all use devices that feed on electricity, and using electricity still burns coal. If we all save energy, we save the environment.
Here’s an everyday tip: Whenever you’re not using a device, unplug it. These continue to eat up electricity even when turned off. Regularly unplugging your phone charger from the wall isn’t a tough task to take up into your routine. What about multiple devices? Buy power strips (or surge protectors) with standby modes, plugs with on/off switches, timers and remotes.
We also use a good deal of energy to heat the water we use at home. Check out our guide on saving water at home for some advice on sustainable energy (and money) saving practices.
5. Buy Locally Produced Foods in Season
Emissions on average: Carbon emissions for every kilogram of fruit or vegetables from overseas total up to approximately 10 kilograms of CO2. Foods cultivated in (heated) greenhouse settings are responsible for ten times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as open field production.
Better for the climate: regionally and seasonally field-harvested vegetables.
6. Public Transportation
Taking public transportation saves a whopping 2.5 tons carbon emissions per person per year (compared to regular sized vehicles driven 10,000 kilometers within the same timeframe). City and intercity buses, trains and trams are remarkably more efficient: they are capable of transporting far more people at a time while using far less energy.
Another pro tip for daily changes for climate protection: car sharing and ride sharing.
7. Bike instead of Drive
The gas-guzzling car – no matter the size – burns fossil fuels (gasoline or diesel) and is not the optimal choice when it comes to reducing your own environmental footprint. Electric cars show long-term reductions in carbon emissions. Currently, there are quite a few small and affordable options on the market, but not everybody is in the market for a new electric car. If larger investments like these aren’t right around the corner, leaving your car in the garage and hopping on your bike once in a while will do the trick.
There are a ton of compelling reasons to head to work on two wheels instead of four. Riding your bike prevents you from getting wound up while stuck in rush-hour traffic and avoids the subway rush at peak travel hours. The ride to and from work also gives you time to concentrate on yourself. Plus, there’s no gas or electricity required: The only energy you’ll need to burn is your own. Mobility doesn’t get any more minimalist than that. 12 Practical Tips for Minimalist Living: Make your Life easier will fill you in on the rest.
8. Make the Switch to Green Energy
Save the planet and protect the environment by switching to clean power sources: Green energy accounts for a reduction of more than half a ton of CO2 per person every year (based on a four-person family with energy consumption of 4,500 kilowatt hours per year). Certified green energy results in less CO2 emissions since it originates from sustainable and renewable energy sources.
9. Swap Banks: Find your New Sustainable Bank
Such a change may sound somewhat off the beaten path; however, the switch does indeed make a difference. In contrast to conventional banks, sustainable banks make clear-cut investment decisions that do not involve weapons, food speculation or energy sources which are harmful to the environment. “Eco-banks” invest in sustainable projects and renewable energies in the name of climate protection. They’re helping to build an eco-friendly and fiscally realistic economy for the future.
10. Use Energy-saving LED Lamps
Save on CO2 emissions totalling 0,4 tons per year (in a four-person household). Energy-saving lamps only require around a fifth of the energy required by conventional lightbulbs and last far longer. This is a small but essential step in limiting our personal impact on the global warming.
11. Travel by Train
Of all the numerous ways to travel, airplanes are by far the most detrimental to the environment – at high altitudes emissions become particularly dangerous. According to the RFI (Radiative Forcing Index), you’d have to multiply carbon emissions by a factor of 2.7 in order to calculate the real climate impact (=0.67 tons). Travelling by train is much less harmful to the climate.
Tip for longer journeys: Take the night train instead of flying.
12. Eat Less Meat
Meat and dairy products have the greatest climate impact of all foods. Eating and drinking less is the key to playing your part in combatting climate change. Through the consumption of meat and cheese alone, every American is responsible for the equivalent of 560 kg in carbon emissions per year. Vegetarians can half these numbers. Vegans bring this total down to 75 kg yearly. Total savings: half a ton!
This in no way means we all need to turn to veganism. Simply consuming less meat makes an impact: Check out these 5 Simple Steps Towards a Vegan Diet.
13. Proper Home Insulation
Properly insulated homes do wonders for the climate. Depending on the building type and the number of occupants, emissions can be cut by up to 3 tons per year!
Renters should also be proactive in keeping things airtight and properly sealing windows. This not only saves energy, but puts money back into your pocket.
14. Create More Yourself
Putting your hands to work more often makes you think twice about wasteful consumption. Making and repairing things yourself is a rewarding, sustainable and wholesome practice.
Rushing out to the store (or mall) during various times of the year can also be daunting. Homemade is always better: The Utopia guide DIY Holiday Gifts for Everyone on Your Nice List is sure to ignite your creative inspiration and impress your friends with a variety of homemade gift ideas for the holiday season.
15. Keep Tabs on Sustainable Companies
Companies still pose a serious threat to the climate – but they don’t need to continue do so in the future. Large scale business growth and sustainability can indeed go hand in hand and those companies that do take the initiative deserve our attention.
Inform yourself and make the switch to a sustainable company today. Take a critical look at the products you consume and the companies you offer your business. Have a read on company websites, explore their corporate pages as well as outsider reviews and perspectives – if they’re sustainable, it’ll show. Conscious consumption is key to the success of sustainable companies in today’s economy. Let them know: cutting corners doesn’t pay.
Sustainable living is often falsely equated with “expensive living”. Going green won’t break the bank – more than likely it will actually end up saving you some green in the end. This first involves cutting expensive (and unsustainable) items from your shopping list – 8 Things to Eliminate from Your Home will get you started.
This article was translated from German by Evan Binford. You can view the original here: Klimaschutz: 15 Tipps gegen den Klimawandel, die jeder kann.** Links to retailers marked with ** or underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.
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