Good News in Daily Habits
If you’re looking for the best way to combat climate change and save the planet, here’s some good news: the habits you’ve already incorporated into your life make a difference since many are part of a sustainable, low-impact lifestyle.
Committing to a sustainable lifestyle is easier than many people think, and the best methods for reducing your impact on the environment can often enrich your health, well-being, and even your wallet. The warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll get by contributing to a better future for the planet is just icing on the cake.
Some of these habits are so simple to incorporate into your daily life, it’s a wonder everyone isn’t already doing them. These are the easiest sustainable lifestyle choices to adopt if you’re looking to maximize your impact and minimize your effort.
1. Investigating Your Impact
If you’re making a conscious effort to be a better steward to the earth, you’re already ahead of the game. Being aware of how you contribute to climate change gives you the ability to do something about it.
Measuring your footprint is a good place to start. A carbon footprint calculator can quantify the impact of your lifestyle in metric tons of carbon. These calculators combine the known average CO2 production of different activities in different regions to estimate your total contribution to air pollution levels. Don’t be discouraged if your carbon footprint starts out high; each action you take to reduce your impact will shrink this number and help you track your progress.
2. Healthy Diet Shrinks Green House Gasses
If you’re a healthy eater, your diet is already contributing to a greener planet. Food production accounts for 19–29% of humanity’s carbon footprint. And organic food isn’t just related to less pesticide risk in humans, it also use 30 to 50% less energy to produce.
Conventionally raised beef is one of the main green house gas offenders in the American diet—a United Nations study found that cattle alone could represent as much as 14.5% of global anthropogenic emissions. If your a fan of the healing properties of animal fats, the Paleo diet, or Weston A Price, there is some happy news. There is research to suggest that even beef can be raised green and thus reduce the overall carbon footprint when fed a truly natural diet of grass, raised on small, organic farms with well-managed pastures. This kind of meat is also higher in beneficial fatty acids and are free from the antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, and pesticides of conventional meats. [It’s also more expensive, learn how to save money while shopping green and how to avoid organic scams where it counts in the Green Mama Organic-ize Your Diet Handbook.]
What’s better for the human is better for the planet: mostly vegetables most of the time; animal products should always be pastured and organic; and seafood small and wild.
3. Keeping Your Car Parked
Bike commuters and lovers of public transportation everywhere, rejoice! Driving is a major emissions source for most Americans—it accounts for a fifth of America’s total footprint. If you’re a bike commuter or a mass-transit user, your fuel-saving frugality is already helping you save the planet.
The added benefits of avoiding time spent behind the wheel add an additional reason to reduce your driving as much as possible. A study conducted by Portland State University found that bike commuters and people who walk to work are, on average, more satisfied with their commutes than solo car users. Incorporating a bike ride or a walk into your daily commute is all upside because you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and turn a normally dreary part of your day into an active and less stressful endeavor.
4. Kicking Your Home’s Energy Addiction
Energy use in homes and businesses is a major driver for climate change. The commercial and residential environment accounts for around 11% of America’s total emissions. If you’re already trying to minimize your utility bills, you’re actively reducing a major source of CO2.
There are lots of ways to reduce your home’s energy footprint. Simple actions like turning off lights and appliances when you’re not using them are an obvious first step and are already common practices for many people. If you recently upgraded any larger appliances like your refrigerator, dryer, or washing machine, you may be passively contributing to an even bigger reduction: replacing an outdated appliance will generally cut down on its energy use.
5. Keeping Your Dishwasher Full
If you’re in the habit of filling your dishwasher to the brim before running it, you’re minimizing your appliance’s associated energy use. Your dishwasher doesn’t care if it’s full or empty. The footprint remains the same no matter how many dishes are in there, so there’s no reason not to cram it to capacity before each cycle.
A dishwasher might seem like an unnecessary luxury for the eco-conscious, but there’s good news here too. Using a dishwasher is more water-efficient than handwashing dishes in the sink. In fact, an ENERGY-STAR-rated dishwasher can reduce your yearly water use by up to 5,000 gallons when compared to handwashing.
6. Letting Your Robot Help
Home automation is the next big trend in technology, and your smart home products are primed and ready to help reduce your carbon footprint. Using an Amazon Echo (or other smart hub) to link smart lightbulbs, power strips, thermostats, and Wi-Fi connected appliances can help you curb your energy use automatically.
Programming an energy-saving routine into a smart home is simple. Once you’ve installed a smart hub, you can program your smart devices to power down automatically according to a set schedule. Some devices are smart enough to learn your routines over time and power down whenever they’re not needed. Smart thermostats can help reduce your home’s energy use even more; 66% of smart thermostat users report a reduction in their energy use by optimizing their heating and cooling.
If you don’t have wifi in your home—good for you! Studies suggest reducing EMF exposures can help your health—and you can still benefit with a programmable thermostat, using power strips for all your stand-by electronics, and remembering to manually turn-off your power strips, computers, and televisions at night. Learn more about reducing wifi exposure in The Green Mama article Seven Steps to Protecting Children from EMF Radiation.
7. Thrift Shopping
Secondhand clothing is this generation’s vogue, and this style is naturally complementary to a sustainable lifestyle. Shopping at a thrift store for used clothing, shoes, and home goods is helpful for the environment since you redirect unwanted products away from a landfill. Giving clothes a second life helps reduce the production of new goods because these purchases have a lower net impact over their life cycle.
Your thrift store treasure hunts provide a lot of additional benefits for you and the planet. Buying used clothing is almost always cheaper than buying new, and used clothing avoids unnecessary packaging and waste. Since used clothing was already produced, there’s no additional pollution costs or resources needed, other than the gas you might have used to get to the thrift shop (see Tip #4).
8. Working from Home
Telecommuting is more popular than ever before. Access to digital communication tools, cloud-based work environments, and increasingly digital work-related tasks has allowed many traditional office workers to free themselves from their cubicles. If you have a job that gives you the opportunity to work from home, you’ll be able to reduce your footprint by avoiding your commute and the energy needed to run your office space.
Telecommuters that work at Dell, Aetna, and Xerox saved their companies 95,294 metric tons of CO2 in 2014, the equivalent of decommissioning 20,000 passenger cars. Adding in the energy cost reductions of reduced office space, reduced paper usage, and lower electricity use makes telecommuting extremely sustainable. Employees who telecommuted also benefitted from higher job satisfaction and increased work/life balance. If you’re already working from home, these benefits are compounding over time.
The Triple Bottom Line
Since many of these sustainable habits incorporate additional benefits like cost savings and health benefits, in addition to ecological benefits, it’s easy to picture these simple tips spreading broadly over time. Through your actions, you can serve as a role model for the people around you, leading the way toward a greener future.
There’s still a long way to go if we’re aiming to save the planet from climate change. Even the most eco-conscious Americans might still have double the carbon footprint than the global average. These issues won’t be solved overnight, but small lifestyle shifts are a key part of finding a global solution toward reducing energy and resource consumption.
What other sustainable choices are you making in your everyday life? Share your favourite tips with us and with each other. Community’s inspire change!
This article is by Krystal Rogers-Nelson. Photograph by Manda Aufochs Gillespie. Every felt like you just got more from a book than reading on-line? Studies say, you likely d0. The Green Mama is the author two beautiful, easy-to-read and research-packed books published by Dundurn. Browse the actual books today, or sign-up for the newsletter to be reminded that you meant to do it tomorrow.
Krystal is a freelance writer from Salt Lake City, Utah with a passion for people and the planet. She specializes in green living, parenting, safety, and tech.