Among other general categories of New Year’s resolutions, sustainability is one that’s often top of mind and unfortunately one that really can’t wait until next year. Every year that goes by without governments, corporations, and individuals committing to managing climate change, we get closer to unavoidable climate catastrophe. However, bringing your own bag to the grocery store can feel pretty futile in the grand scheme of climate change. It’s easy to feel defeated and like you can’t possibly make a difference, but every small step towards being more eco friendly is a step in the right direction.
While we do need widespread action to combat climate change, it’s unrealistic to overhaul your entire life this January. Rather than feeling the weight of the world literally on your shoulders, be realistic with yourself and work on finding small ways to be eco friendly that can lead to larger lasting change. Start with these eco friendly tips for small ways to reduce your carbon footprint that will lead to larger lifestyle changes one, five, and ten years down the line.
Offset your carbon footprint
Living more sustainably is hard, because most strategies involve intentionally altering your lifestyle to be kinder to the planet. However, offsetting your entire carbon footprint is a lot simpler and affordable than it may sound. Simply take a quick quiz that will ask you questions about your lifestyle (think diet, transportation, energy consumption, etc.) and find out what your carbon footprint is. Then, purchase carbon offsets, which is a term for putting money towards projects like tree planting that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to counteract the carbon you emit.
While you can certainly choose your own funds to donate to, GoClimate has made it incredibly easy to offset your footprint by providing you with a quiz and then putting your money towards Gold Standard certified climate projects. If you’re thinking that it sounds expensive, I’m able to offset my entire carbon footprint for about nine dollars per month, making this one of the most affordable eco friendly tips.
Once you take this step, you’ll be living a carbon neutral lifestyle. If you continue making the same contribution but work on slowly lowering your carbon footprint through lifestyle changes as well, soon you may even be able to live a carbon negative lifestyle, meaning that you’re removing more carbon from the environment than you’re putting in.
Make product swaps
There is an eco friendly swap for almost every product that you can think of, but overhauling your entire wardrobe, cleaning habits, and beauty routine overnight is sure to result in frustration and failure. We each have different needs and preferences when it comes to our products, so which products are easy to switch out for a zero waste or sustainable alternative will vary from person to person.
To get started, take a look at your bathroom and kitchen, as these are the rooms where the biggest chunk of your waste probably live. Identify any products that may be using excess packaging, especially plastic, and slowly look for alternatives as you run out. If you’re like I was when I started living more sustainably and have no idea where to start, EarthHero and Package Free Shop are great places to start.
Eat more plants
I know I’m not the first person to tell you that eating animal products takes a major toll on the environment. Meat, especially red meat, has a huge water footprint when compared to plant based alternatives, agricultural practices of producing meat produce tons (literally) of greenhouse gases, and a shocking 99 percent of animal products produced in the US are produced using incredibly unethical factory farming practices.
If this bothers you, try shifting at least part of your diet to be more plant based. If you’re already vegetarian or vegan, you can still look at the impact of your diet on the climate by learning about the environmental footprint of your diet staples. Things like shopping local and eating in season can reduce your carbon footprint even further.