Wednesday, December 13, 2023
It can sometimes feel like what we do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Our planet, the universe itself, are such massive entities that our own individual impact seems insignificant when you take that scale into account. That couldn’t be further from the truth: each of us contributes to the whole. What we do on this earth impacts our environment in a myriad of ways. How we use energy, what we eat and where we get it, how we move through the world: all these actions make up our carbon footprint. Our carbon footprint correlates how our habits and personal choices affect the environment.
As we get closer to the New Year, it’s time to make resolutions for the new year. Consider making a resolution to become more eco-friendly in 2024. Here’s a few small steps you can take to lower your ecological footprint.
Bus It Up
If you live in a city with a robustmass transitsystem, taking the bus or light rail to get around can save you money AND help reduce your footprint. You don’t have to worry about gas or wear and tear on your car when you use mass transit. While mass transit isn’t free, the cost of a monthly bus pass or lightrail tickets is significantly cheaper than what you’d spend on your car.Studieshave found that areas which heavily support and use public transportation show reduced levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Footpower Over Horsepower
While public transportation is a great way to get around, an even more ecologically friendly approach is to cut gas-guzzling vehicles out entirely. If you live in an area where it’s practical to get around bywalking or riding a bicycle, consider hitting the pavement before putting rubber to the road. A bike ride or long walk can help ward off the negative effects of asedentary lifestyle, so the added exercise is an additional benefit to not driving everywhere.
One of the simplest ways you can live a more eco-conscious existence is to shop and eat locally. Transporting exotic foods and fruits and vegetables that are out of season is a major contributor to our species’ carbon footprint. By eating foods that are locally sourced, you’re helping to reduce the demand for shipping food while also supporting your local agricultural workers. An added benefit is that eating local means the food tends to be fresher, which has health benefits: most fruits and veggies begin tolose nutrients after they’ve been harvested, so the less time it takes to get to your plate the more nutrient-rich your food will be.
One option to consider is getting aCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. With a CSA you pay a monthly fee in exchange for receiving a regular delivery of fresh produce sourced directly from your CSA's farm. It can be a very beneficial arrangement for both parties: the farmers get more funds to purchase seeds and other supplies for their next season, and you get a steady supply of farm-fresh fruits and veggies.
More Beets, Less Meats
Another way to help make your lifestyle more ecologically friendly is to cut back on eating meat (or give it up entirely). An estimated40% of greenhouse gasses come from agricultural efforts that help support the meat industry. Deforestation to create grazing land, the emissions of methane from cows, the annihilation of local wildlife and oxygen-giving plants to create more room for our cattle: all these things play a dramatic role in our environment. Reducing the amount of red meat you consume can help mitigate the insatiable demand for meat that keeps the industry growing.
Much like eating local produce, cutting back on red meat is an environmentally sound lifestyle choice that can yield healthy dividends.Too much red meat in your diet could lead to health problems that include higher cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and increased risk of diabetes and heart problems if consumed in large quantities over time.
Green Your Thumb
Gardening offers a host of benefits: it’sexercise; it gets you plenty of outdoor time (perfect for getting your daily dose of vitamin D); it can be done alone or as part of a groups Studies have shown it canreduce stress and anxiety, and it’s work that yields tangible results in the form of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits.
“A great way to make sure you give your crops the best chance of flourishing is to use a local planting calendar,” saidMichael Hodgins, Rio Salado College's Interim Associate Vice President. “For those in Maricopa County, theMaricopa County Planting Calendar is an invaluable tool ensuring that you are planting seeds and transplants at the right time of year.”
In addition to being a satisfying hobby that can help feed you and your family, gardening is also an eco-friendly pursuit. By cultivating your own humble set of crops, you’re reducing the demand for out-sourced food. Personal gardens also help boost localbiodiversity, creating terrain that pollinators and other beneficial insects and birds can use to sustain themselves, spread pollen and other nutrients, and eat pests.
“Another way to promote biodiversity is to use local seed conservation groups or seed banks likeNative Seeds/SEARCH,” said Hodgins. “Not only does this help to preserve species native to the area but since the seeds are cultivated locally, they are able to better tolerate local conditions.”
If you live in anapartment, don’t feel that you have to miss out on gardening! Check your building rules to see if you can put some planters on your balcony. You can very easily cultivate a herb gardenwithout needing a front or backyard. Want to get your hands dirty with some fresh soil? Look forcommunity gardensin your area. Most community gardens are always on the lookout for new volunteers to help maintain them. You may be able to get a little plot of your own to cultivate in exchange for helping the community’s garden grow.
Shopping locally isn't just for food. If you're looking for new threads, check your localvintage and secondhand stores. Avoid buying "fast fashion." A lot of big box stores offer cheap clothing that, while trendy, are poorly made, will release methane into the atmosphere when they get landfilled, and most of it is made in China and Bangladesh so it requires immense reservoirs of fossil fuels to get those clothes over here. Vintage clothes are often made of better and more durable materials, so oftentimes you’ll end up with an outfit that can outlast anything you buy at retailers today.
Stake Your Energy Vampires
Did you know your house is full of vampires?"Vampire energy" is a term that's used to describe the energy loss houses experience from all the unused appliances drawing energy while they remain plugged in. While the energy impact of each of these energy vampires is relatively low, when you combine them all and chart that energy loss over a long period of time, the environmental impact it has is nothing to sneeze at.Studiesestimate that the amount of energy used up each year by these vampire appliances to be equal to the output of 300 natural gas-fired power plants. And if you’re wondering if these “energy vampires” are costing you money, the short answer is yes. So there’s an economic incentive to put a stake in these vampires before they bleed you and the atmosphere dry.
Get in the habit of turning off appliances that you aren’t using. If you have appliances that you only use once or twice a week, unplug them while they’re idle. Get power strips for your home entertainment: the amount of energy that your TV, desktop computer, game systems, stereo, and blu-ray/dvd player take up when they’re “asleep” makes up a signature portion of the vampire energy drain. Putting them all on power strips makes it easy and less time-consuming to switch them all off.
Article by Austin Brietta
As an environmental enthusiast with a deep understanding of sustainable living, I am thrilled to delve into the concepts presented in the article dated December 13, 2023. The piece emphasizes the importance of individual actions in reducing one's carbon footprint and contributing to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. The evidence-based suggestions provided align with established principles of environmental science and sustainable practices.
Mass Transit and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The article advocates for the use of mass transit systems to reduce individual carbon footprints. This aligns with studies that have consistently shown a correlation between increased public transportation use and decreased levels of greenhouse gas emissions. By relying on buses or light rail, individuals not only save money but also contribute to a cleaner environment by minimizing reliance on personal vehicles.
Active Transportation - Walking and Bicycling: The suggestion to prioritize footpower over horsepower emphasizes the eco-friendly aspect of walking or biking instead of using gas-guzzling vehicles. This aligns with the broader concept of promoting active transportation as a means of reducing carbon emissions and promoting healthier lifestyles.
Local and Seasonal Eating: The article underscores the significance of eating locally sourced and seasonal foods to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods. This concept is well-founded in environmental science, as the transportation of out-of-season and exotic foods contributes substantially to carbon emissions. Supporting local agriculture not only reduces environmental impact but also ensures fresher, more nutrient-rich produce.
Reducing Meat Consumption and Environmental Impact: The article discusses the environmental impact of the meat industry, highlighting deforestation, methane emissions, and biodiversity loss. This aligns with the well-established understanding that reducing meat consumption, particularly red meat, can contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Gardening for Biodiversity: The promotion of gardening as an eco-friendly pursuit aligns with studies that highlight the benefits of personal gardens in promoting biodiversity. By cultivating local crops and supporting seed conservation groups, individuals can actively contribute to preserving native species and supporting local ecosystems.
Sustainable Fashion Choices: The article suggests avoiding "fast fashion" and opting for locally sourced or vintage clothing. This aligns with the principles of slow fashion, emphasizing durability and reduced environmental impact. The environmental consequences of the fast fashion industry, including methane release and reliance on fossil fuels for transportation, are well-documented.
Energy Conservation and Vampire Appliances: The concept of "vampire energy" and the impact of unused appliances drawing energy while plugged in are well-supported by studies estimating the annual energy consumption of these appliances. The recommendation to unplug appliances not in use and use power strips aligns with established practices for reducing household energy consumption.
In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive guide to adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, drawing on scientific evidence and established principles in environmental conservation and sustainable living. The suggestions encompass transportation choices, dietary habits, gardening practices, fashion choices, and energy conservation, all contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious way of life.