The world’s leading climate scientists say we have until 2030 to reverse global warming. Even as much as 0.5ºC more can dramatically increase the risk of floods, drought, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
In fact, global warming is already happening. The world is currently 1ºC higher than pre-industrial levels. Proof of it lies in the devastating hurricanes in the US; the record droughts in Cape Town and the forest fires in the Arctic.
As someone living in Portugal, I have witnessed ravaging wildfires spreading uncontrollably through forests in 2017, ending with the deaths of hundreds of people. One may argue that global warming wasn’t the root cause, but the temperatures were at an all-time high.
And if we want to prevent these catastrophes from getting even worse, we must become more conscious of our environment and take measures to reduce waste and live a more sustainable life.
Here are 10 impactful eco-friendly concepts you can implement in your life to help reverse the global warming phenomena:
#1 – Make Food From Scratch.
Are you a fan of dijon mustard? What about ketchup?
There are a great number of sauces (and foods) you can create from scratch with just a couple of ingredients. Instead of recycling jars of mustard or bottles of ketchup, you can easily make some of these ingredients at home in just a few minutes.
If you look at the label on a jar of mustard, you’ll notice how basic and inexpensive it is to make mustard from scratch. Water, mustard seeds, vinegar, and salt is all you need.
By creating your foods, you can dramatically reduce the amount of waste by refilling whatever jars and bottles you already have at home.
As a vegan, I’m trying hard to pick up the habit of creating tofu from scratch, so that I can avoid the plastic wrapping that comes with the tofu bought in the supermarket.
Plus, let’s think about it. There’s an added benefit for creating foods from scratch.
Making your food from scratch can give you a sense of control and reassurance because you know exactly what is in your food. And with the easy access, we have to information nowadays, it’s easy to google an easy recipe of dijon mustard.
#2 – Eliminate The Disposables In Your Kitchen.
The premise of single-use products lies in the idea that you can save time because time is an important commodity you have. But are disposable items beneficial?
Why is (1) ripping open a package, (2) carrying a package and cups out to the curb with your trash, (3) bringing that container back from the curb, (4) going to the store for more, and (5), transporting them back from the store multiple times, save more time compared to (1) grabbing reusable cups from the cupboard, (2) throw them in the dishwasher, and (3) putting them away?
There’s no benefit in using single-use products. You’ve just been manipulated into thinking multiple trips to the supermarket and recycling your disposables is the single best thing you can do to save the environment.
When in fact, you’re being manipulated by marketing propaganda into helping the disposables industry collect their billion-dollar paycheck every year.
There’s more than just reusable cups. You can replace (1) paper towels with microfiber cloths, (2) plastic bottles with stainless steel bottles, (3) freezer bags with canning jars, (4) tea bags with a tea strainer, (5) coffee filters with a coffee press and (6) toothpicks with turkey lacers.
And some disposables can be simply eliminated because you have no use for them. For instance, my coffee machine already comes integrated with its filter:
Other times, you will have to make an up-front investment, but it will pay itself in just a few months because you won’t have to buy disposables ever again.
#3 – Adopt A Composting System
Composting basically consists in the recycling of organic materials. It’s essentially nature’s way of recycling by allowing organic discards to decompose over time and return their nutrients to the soil.
Composting at home provides the ideal environment for kitchen and yard waste to be broken down more quickly. Whereas diverting waste to the landfill will inhibit natural composition and contribute to air and soil contamination.
A third of household waste is organic, therefore composting makes sense as an effective measure to waste reduction.
For some people, it might be satisfying to observe the composting process, for others, not as much. The most common option is having a worm bin, where any organic waste you have is given to worms, and then the worms transform that organic matter into nutrient-rich material that can be re-used or returned to the soil.
A picture of a “worm bin”.
Organic matter also exists in the form of compostable wooden material, which is pretty handy if you need to throw away your bamboo toothbrush. Just beware of the bristles, since you might have to remove them beforehand.
This being said, there are different methods for composting, and you may have to choose a method that favors your current lifestyle.
Things to Take Into Consideration
There’s a composting system out there that will meet your needs. But there are a few things you need to take into account, before making that choice.
- Location: Do you have a yard? You might want to adopt a composting system that accepts yard waste. On the other hand, if you live in an apartment you may have to adopt a system based on the particularities of your location.
- Cost: While some systems are free to set up, from homemade materials you have available; others may require you to spend money by acquiring commercially available devices for composting.
- Aesthetics: I don’t think a system like the one in the picture above would blend well with a zen-like garden. Therefore, based on your space, you may want to search for a system that is compact or is camouflaged. Sheet and trench composts work well in places where you’re not allowed to create exterior composting structures.
- Organic matter: Most composing devices accept fruit and veggie scraps, as well as other common sources of waste like coffee grounds, eggshells and more. More advanced devices can even process meat, dairy, and bones, which is useful if you want to make an impact despite not being vegan. (I always recommend going vegan though)
- End product: Depending on your location, you might find a need for the compost you create. If you don’t have any need for the compost, you can always give it to someone with an interest in gardening.
- Science: Composting is a science. In traditional composting, there’s a specific ratio of brown (carbon) to green (nitrogen) materials. A 2:1 green to brown ratio enables you to create a well-balanced compost pile.
- Pests: This is relevant for people with a carnivore diet. Meat waste will attract rodents, foxes, and other furry fellows with a taste for meat. Homemade composters may not suffice if you want to decompose meat. However, manufactured composters are engineered to speed up the composting process to keep the rodents away.
- Capacity: Depending on your level of involvement, as well as the size of your household, you may want to consider the least or the most powerful option available. The low temperature in homemade composters will slow up the composting process. But the high temperature in commercially available composters will significantly speed up that process. Take that into consideration when choosing your composting system.
Additional Benefit To Composting
If you’re into gardening, composting can act as a fertilizer and boost the growth of your houseplants. As a result, you improve the air quality around your house, by letting the plants absorb pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
Plus, if you’re not into donations, you can also sell your compost for a few bucks. Once you have a system up, it costs you nothing to produce compost. And then you can make money from it.
Composting Can Start in a Kitchen
The most important part of composting is gathering compostable materials. It’s really easy to set up a system in your kitchen and start collecting composting materials right away.
Here’s what you need before getting started:
- Large enough container: A large enough container will reduce the times you need to go to your composter. Most people turn their kitchen trash bin into a collector and empty it once a week. Note that a composter will only smell bad if you mix organic materials with non-biodegradable ones because the latter prevents the former from decomposing properly. Personally, I think you should get a stainless steel compost bin, as it keeps the smell way.
- Should look good: For many, the idea behind composting revolves around this “dirty” process that will make your house look like a scrapyard. No-no. If you keep your compost collector under your counter, you can keep it out of sight, and still be mindful of what you need to do.
- Easily accessible: Make sure you can easily access the compost receptacle so that it feels less like hard work. Some people have a slide-out container under the sink, where you can easily throw in veggies and other stuff.
But first, make sure your composting system can actually process the things you’re planning to put in your receptacle. Here’s a list of organic waste and biodegradable materials:
- biodegradable wood (bamboo)
- coffee grounds
- expired food
- stale bread
- among other stuff.
Other stuff like paper plates and towels are things you can avoid buying in the first place… but if you have them, you can throw them into the composting device anyway.
If you wish to learn more about composting, check out this guide on vegan composting.
#4 – Recycling & Upcycling
The number of things you currently recycle will change based on the measures you adopt from here on out. If you remove single-use plastics from your house, then your recycling process will eventually feel effortless.
This being said, search for ways to properly recycle every type of material you can. Figure the particularities of your community, by learning what is actually recycled.
In the best of cases, you might belong to a community that recycles plastics (1 through 7), glass, paper, aluminum, and cans. In Europe, we generally have that theme nailed down, but I understand that in the US each state operates differently.
This might be relevant to your location, but also try to find ways to keep the recycled waste out of the landfill. There are companies like Terra Cycle that accept recycled waste and then sell them to companies that use that waste to create brand new products. This is known as upcycling. Using recycled materials to create new products.
I live in a small town here in Portugal, and while we don’t send recycled waste directly to a company like Terra Cycle, there’s a shoemaker nearby that collects everyone’s plastic lids and redirects them to an upcycling company.
#5 – Should You Buy In Bulk?
There are two types of bulk shopping. One you should avoid, and one that might prove beneficial to your wallet. On one hand, you have the appealing membership warehouses of retailers like Costco Wholesale, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club.
Their business model is the following: Limiting profitability for customers to reap the savings, and then make back the bulk of the profits from membership fees.
Financially, this is a formula for success… but what about the environment? Imagine buying a colossal tube of margarine, and seeing bits and pieces of bread mixed with jelly before you reach the bottom. The sight of it will turn your stomach sideways, and then you send it to the landfill because it’s no longer appetizing.
You spend money on stuff you don’t finish. Which leads to more waste, and consequently more pollution.
THIS BEING SAID, there’s a type of bulk buying you can do.
Every time I got to the supermarket with my wife, there’s a section in the supermarket where you can scoop out legumes, grains, beans, or herbs with a spoon, and put them in a paper bag (like the one illustrated in the picture).
This allows the consumer to match purchases with true food needs and storage space.
I usually visit the supermarket above, and if you bring along a reusable paper bag with you — you can weight it on a scale that provides you with the price tag.
This has been immensely useful because it helps us cut back on plastic, and we’re only buying stuff we need. It helps us think more consciously about the things we’re buying because it takes a little bit more effort to do it.
#6 – Zero Waste Shopping.
The goal of Zero Waste Shopping is to reduce packaging as much as possible. As an alternative, you can use cloth bags, reusable bottles, and glass jars when shopping to avoid plastic as much as possible.
Here’s a list of alternatives to bring along on a shopping spree:
- Tote Bags: There’s a wide array of reusable bags, and some are even provided by your supermarket. However, I prefer investing my money in a sturdy bag that will last me years, as opposed to a one-dollar reusable plastic bag. Heavy-duty tote bags are among my favorites.
- Cloth bags: Use cloth bags to buy vegetables and fruit — but make sure you have a tare imprinted on them so that the cost of the vegetables doesn’t include the weight of the cloth bag.
- Mesh bags: You can use mesh bags for produce instead of cloth bags because the see-through feature of a mesh bag allows the cashier to read produce codes. I also suggest choosing more bags made from hemp or cotton, instead of synthetic material.
- Glass jars: Jars are also pretty useful, as long as you permanently mark the tare on them. They’re awesome for things like pasta, rice, grains and more. It’s a wonderful alternative to plastic, once again.
- Reusable Bottles: I don’t know exactly how it works in the United States, but in Portugal, we have a water refiller in the supermarket, which is essentially a big machine that allows you to use specific bottles (see below) to attain water. This is a matter of taste because we don’t like tap water that much.
- Pillowcase: A pillowcase can be useful to carry bread from the bakery. Or you can also rely on the totes to do that.
In certain countries, bringing your container might feel uncomfortable, because you’re doing something different, and most people don’t do it.
But you have to hang in there and stick to your ideals. Eventually, that feeling will fade, especially when you find that one store that is open to more eco-friendly ideals.
#7 -Declutter Your Bathroom
The bathroom is the second biggest source of recurring waste in our house, but that can be avoided by decluttering and implementing reusables.
Frankly, I’m the type of person who spends 20 minutes at most inside a bathroom.
However, for some (especially vain people), those 20 minutes can become one hour very easily. Some individuals are attracted to products that speak to their desire to feel young, and the need to cover up imperfections. As well as the wish to attract the opposite sex through sexualized aromas and the erotic red lipstick permeated on fleshy lips.
The very same products that cost hundreds of dollars… but gather dust for the most of the year before ending up in a trash bin.
Decluttering a bathroom implies looking beyond the physical self, and realizing what is important. Most of the things you buy, you don’t need them.
- Hair-bleaching kits
- Hair-coloring kits
- Fake eyelashes and nails
- Expired medications
- Waterproof Mascara
- Wonder Creams
- And a series of other things.
Other than toilet paper, you have no use for single-use products, as it’s just added waste. If you can’t let go of most things, try adopting reusable or package-free alternatives.
#8 – Organic & Sustainable Clothing (Or Second Hand Clothing)
There are various reasons why you shouldn’t be wearing non-sustainable clothes.
Non-sustainable clothes are typically clothes you can find on stores like H&M, Zara, Bershka and other stores known for their ludicrous output of clothing at ridiculously cheap prices.
And when you buy a piece of clothing at such price, you’re buying something that is filled with chemicals that threaten your health. In addition to that, that piece of clothing was crafted by a precious soul in a third world country who’s paid peanuts for their effort.
This blog post isn’t about social justice, but about different ideas to help you live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. And yet this isn’t something I can skip.
The non-sustainable clothes we wear today are awful for the environment. There are two types of materials we find abundantly in pieces of clothing today:
- Conventional cotton: A non-organic cotton crop relies on 10% of pesticides worldwide. According to the WWF, that’s 55 million pounds. I’m talking about carcinogenic chemicals that pollute our lakes, rivers, and other waterways, affecting plants and wildlife worldwide.
- Polyester: While the use of synthetic fibers makes clothes durable, it doesn’t change the harm it causes. Each time you put polyester-made clothing in the washing machine, you’re releasing microfibers that flow through urban waterways and end up in the ocean. They’re not only harmful to our oceans, but they end up killing marine life as well.
- Nylon: The manufacturing process of Nylon releases nitrous oxides that are discharged into the atmosphere as waste. Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas is known to contribute to the destruction of the stratospheric ozone.
So… what’s the best solution? Well, the best solution is to NOT buy any clothes. The second-best solution is to buy clothes made from sustainable fabrics. These include:
- Organic cotton
- Linen (Flax)
- And Organically grown bamboo.
And in my opinion, the third-best solution is to buy second-hand clothing. You can find them in thrift stores, vintage shops, consignment boutiques, or flea markets.
You’re not fueling the creation of a new product. You’re just acquiring a product that would otherwise go to waste. There’s a massive difference. For many people, this solution is better than buying organic clothes, and I agree unless the existing clothes are made from harmful materials and chemicals that affect your health and the environment.
#9 – Eating a Plant-Based Diet.
Most people eating a plant-based diet do it for three reasons. The animals, personal health, and the environment. As you may have noticed, I’m all in for a plant-based diet.
I’m not a preacher by any stretch, but I certainly don’t appreciate the role animal industry plays in the world, and the harm it is causing our planet.
Every year, 56 to 70 billion animals are raised for meat, eggs, and dairy. Whereas 99% of the animals raised for food (in the US) come from factory farms.
This industry is responsible for an estimated 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In addition to that, the animal industry is also responsible for 35-40% global methane emissions and 65% global nitrous oxide emissions caused by men. These are the two most potent greenhouse gases on our planet.
Greenhouse gases prevent heat from escaping the atmosphere, which contributes to the rise in temperature — an effect that negatively affects Earth in the form of natural catastrophes — like the ones we’ve witnessed in the last few years.
Furthermore, creating meat and dairy takes tremendous amounts of water to sustain. It takes 683 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk; while it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In hindsight, it takes 244 gallons of water to produce one pound of tofu.
There’s just too much waste.
This is especially saddening when 785 million people are still living in absolute poverty, and don’t have access to enough food to lead a healthy lifestyle.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is a highly nutritious diet that revolves around eating whole, minimally processed foods. These foods include vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts.
This diet also avoids animal products entirely, and refined ingredients like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils.
There are many benefits to a plant-based diet. In fact, it’s proven to be:
- Particularly effective for weight loss.
- Extremely beneficial to your health.
- A solid solution to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive decline.
However, switching to a plant-based diet is also highly beneficial to the environment, and is revealed to leave radically lower environmental footprints.
In fact, a study shows that adopting a plant-based diet could reduce greenhouse emissions and land use by 70%, as well as reduce the use of water by 50%.
Here are some of the foods you commonly eat on a plant-based diet:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
- Brown Pasta
- Olive Oil
- Black Beans
And of course, there are more.
Scientists consider a plant-based diet to be the most effective way of having a positive environmental impact on the planet. If you want to learn how to properly set-up your diet for success, I highly recommend this vegan starter kit.
Humans are driven by unhealthy habits and most are not willing to just simply let go of meat and dairy. THEREFORE, as an alternative, what you can do is at least reduce the consumption of those ingredients.
#10 – Conserving Energy & Water
Not as effective as changing your dietary and purchasing habits, but there’s great value in reducing your energy and water consumption at home.
By adhering to this specific tip, you take care of the environment and you can save money. And I’m not asking you to stick to everything I’ll be mentioning here, but try to at least make a few changes, and you will notice the difference.
Let’s start with the things you can do to save energy:
- Turn off the lights: I’m sure you’re aware, but sometimes when leaving a room, we sometimes leave the lights turned on for no reason. This happens a lot with kids. They go to the toilet, and when they come they a) didn’t flush the toilet, and b) didn’t turn off the light. Be more conscious in that regard.
- Use natural light: Try to rely on natural light as much as possible. Don’t pull the blinders down when it’s a sunny day outside.
- Unplug unused electronics: Leaving electronics plugged in can account for 10% of an average household yearly bill.
- Reduce the use of electronics: I’m big on coffee and toasts. But both the coffee machine and the toaster spend unusual amounts of energy. With the coffee, I try to make as much as possible and then heat it using the stove on low-output.
- Switching from desktop to laptop: My love for video games made me buy a desktop. However, when compared to a laptop, a desktop spends more energy because it needs to be plugged in. I’ve changed to a laptop, and I’ve noted a difference in electricity spend.
- Hang dry your laundry: Instead of using your dryer to dry your clothes, use a clothesline.
And here are some tips to help you save water:
- Take short showers: My wife sometimes spends 10-15 minutes in the shower. That’s way too much! 5 minutes max is all it takes. Plus, you don’t need to keep the water running when you’re applying shampoo or soap.
- Be mindful of water: Every time you wash your hands or brush your teeth, you don’t need to keep the water running. Only use it when necessary.
- Be mindful about flushing your toilet: When you use your toilet to dump tissues or cigarette buts, know that one flush costs 5-7 gallons of water.
- Check for any leakage: Ensure your toilet and faucets are not leaking. As that may save up to 100 gallons of water a day.
- Only use your washing machine if it’s fully loaded.
- If washing the dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing.
As you see, the tips are endless and quite easy to implement if you give yourself some time.
These small changes in habits can significantly help our planet, and I’m glad you’re reading this article — because it means you have the compassion and will to fight for something that is bigger than all of us.
Step 1 is done, so pat yourself on the back.
All you have to do now is slowly implement some of the ideas, and help us steer the planet in a new direction, where your children and grandchildren will be able to live freely and securely without the fears of a potential disaster.
There are many ways we can contribute, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, so send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can add some more ideas to the list!
Thank you very much for reading this blog post and I hope you’ve liked it!