Worried about global warming? Want to make a change? I’ve figured out 10 things you can do to lessen your carbon footprint and lower your impact!
Okay, so I’m anticipating a really sticky summer ahead and I’m kind of freaking out. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive on your own.
1 – Public Transport
This should be pretty well-understood by now. Take the bus instead of driving, because buses are usually more energy-efficient than a single vehicle and carries more people! If a car is unavoidable, try ride-sharing to take a second car off the road by giving someone a lift, or make sure your car is fuel-efficient by investing in one that has a large miles-per-gallon ratio, an electric vehicle, and keeping your tires well inflated.
2 – Switch to Eco-Friendly Appliances
The biggest drains on electricity are things like Televisions and Refrigerators. Lower your electricity bill AND help the environment by making a switch to a LED TV that consumes less power (and one that has a self-timer to switch off if left unattended for too long), and a Fridge that’s well insulated and requires less energy to run!
Other things you can switch (and which make a lot of sense, particularly to people like myself who live in small, old apartments) are eco-friendly washing machines, which only take 5 minutes AND use a smaller amount of water! (Plus they’re portable, so when I move I can take it with me).
3 – Reduce your Plastic Consumption
Switch instead to a cloth or re-useable shopping bag. There are heaps out there now, like IKEA’S handy satchel (with a life-saving pocket near the handle so you don’t lose your keys!) and insulated bags to keep your cold items at a safe temperature while you take them home.
Other considerations to reduce your plastic consumption are also better for your health! Going to markets or smaller grocery stores to do your shopping not only lets you use your trendy grocery bag, but also allows you to select the freshest fruits and vegetables direct from the farmer! I have a local Italian store that sells most of my groceries; I get the double benefit of produce that’s grown without unnatural pesticides and chemicals, AND it’s cheaper! (Avocados for $1 in Australia? I’m in).
And, think about it. What’s more enjoyable than buying your fruits, veg & cheese from a great local business while you search for authentic Italian recipes from the local Nonnas that also shop there? I’ve been taught how to make fresh, homemade gnocchi, lasagna, AND sugar-free pasta sauce that’s delicious and easy to do. It’s a win-win.
4 – Consume Less
“What!?” I hear my little sister yell from her room full of outdated, ill-fitting clothes, “Consume Less? That’s stupid.”
What’s stupid is buying fast fashion that serves little purpose other than to cover your body with patterns and fabrics that are itchy, uncomfortable, and thrown out the following year. Sure, not everybody has the finances to purchase bespoke clothing – but that’s not what I mean. I mean save up a little more, and buy clothes with a little more thought if you can. Fast fashion is usually made by women in sweatshops while corporate giants fleece you for at least 150% of the price they paid. Chinese seamstress gets paid 10 cents per dress, you pay $40 for the same dress. Unfair city, that’s what that is. To make matters worse, transporting those ridiculously marked-up outfits from their country of production to you can also put tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Consider instead buying clothes with longer-lasting materials, direct from the producer – the seamstress will thank you for it. You can also help your delicate clothes last longer by washing them in a laundry bag, or washing them in the eco-friendly washing machine I linked above.
Fabrics like denim, wool, cotton and linen are hard-wearing and naturally produced; and items made of denim and wool have been proven to require less washing to maintain a clean smell. These little facts have proven to be lifesavers for me when I travel, as access to laundry facilities can be limited, but can also contribute to less time spent washing and drying and more time spent living life. No need to spend hours buying a new pair of pants every 6 months when you invest in a good quality pair to begin with!
No, seriously. I have a pair from Just Jeans that have lasted 3 years so far, while my pair of ‘denim pants’ from Target barely make it past the winter.
To round off this point, identify your body type and aim for classic, versatile wardrobes (one colour palette, clothes that flatter your shape, and items that mix and match well). Fads like the capsule wardrobe might be hard to imitate, but keeping your clothing options limited by function and versatility might save you time in the mornings, and a LOT of space. I’ll write more on this topic later.
5 – Make the Switch
Can you afford to put solar panels on your roof? If not, how about finding a solar charger for your phone? …More achievable? Great!
Every small step towards lowering your carbon footprint has a long-term impact, as carbon emissions accumulate. Small changes like a solar power bank for your phone (RRP around $15 from eBay) and a solar source of energy for laptops and tablet PCs that run on battery power for half the time, (RRP $60 – $100 AUD) thus consuming half the energy of a traditional desktop computer, are great steps towards a long-term goal.
Pairing a solar panel charger for your laptop/phone/tablet means that you can truly take your work anywhere. There are even backpacks that have a solar panel on the front, so you can charge your devices while you’re on the go!
In a modern society where mobile working is becoming increasingly popular, these little alternatives will ensure that you become a reliable, independent member of a global society.
Switching to re-chargeable batteries, unplugging your console gaming systems when not in use, and using LED lamps to provide a little light when you don’t need the ceiling light on, can also make a big difference to the environment and your power bill in the long run.
Just check that you can bring your solar panels with you if you’re travelling through international customs.
6 – Stop using wasteful disposables.
You know what I mean. Pod capsule coffee machines, disposable razors, ink cartridges… the little bits of plastic you use, and then toss, at your convenience. Switch to a coffee plunger (alternatively referred to as ‘french press’, and often much better quality coffee), a non-disposable razor, or other eco-friendly options to plastic disposables.
Have you tried recycled paper? It’s surprisingly exactly the same as non-recycled paper.
7 – Natural Air Cooling Systems
I will be the first to admit that on a 40-degree day, the air conditioner is on. However, there are energy-efficient systems and evaporative air conditioners that use less energy and cool the room just as well.
For people like me who grew up without any form of air-con in their lives (A 36 degree Queensland summer without air conditioning was pretty rough), there are natural ways to cool the room without spending too much!
Make a linen sheet/cloth damp, and hang it across an open window. As the air breezes through your window, the water will evaporate and cool the room!
For a faster result, secure the DAMP (not wet!) cloth to the safety grill of a free-standing fan and turn the fan on.
Another option is to stay damp yourself. As sweat cools the body through evaporation, frequent dampening of your skin with a wet towel before you sit in front of a fan works just the same. Just keep an eye on your skin becoming dry in the process – as the day cools down, consider using moisturizer to stop painful cracking from the frequent wind and water exposure.
Alternatively, find a basement and hang out there. Heat rises, so search for a place on the bottom floor/underground for a cool respite.
8 – Stop Drinking Soft Drink and Bottled Juice
“Wait, what? How is this eco-friendly?”
Did you know that companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle are draining the world’s water resources to make unhealthy, plastic-covered beverages that dehydrate your body and ruin your liver?
Yeah. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid all fizzy drinks. If you’re desperate for some carbonation, try a Sodastream instead. At the very least, you consume less plastic and control how much sugar is in your beverage.
The same concept goes for bottled water. If you’re in a country with safe drinking water, use a re-usable bottle for tap water instead.
9 – Recycling and Reusing
- Water used to boil pasta has proven benefits to the health of your garden. On the same note, used bath water (provided you’ve bathed in a natural soap and not one made from chemicals) can also benefit your eco-friendly washing machine or your lawn.
- I’ve made sure that my recycling bin at home is larger than my waste-bin, and as a result my home has experienced less wastage and more opportunities to recycle! It can’t always be helped when the packaging for my food comes in tins and cardboard boxes, so into the recycling they go.
- Buying a re-usable coffee cup also improves your global impact immensely. Coffee cups are another one of those pesky single-use things that end up in landfill, even when the shop promises to recycle them.
- There’s not always a need to use a dryer, unless it’s been raining all week, so use a clothes line instead! If you don’t have outside space, a tip I picked up from Japanese apartments is to set up a drying rack in the shower and ensure that there’s good air flow (open the window, etc). Stick a de-humidifier in the room and voila!
- Get rid of chemical cleaners. Surprisingly, popular brands of shampoo and conditioner are not only bad for the environment, but they also damage your skin and your hair! Opt for natural products, usually containing coconut oil and lavender, to wash yourself and your home instead. I’ve got many useful recipes for cleaning with bi-carb soda and vinegar, and for using beeswax and/or soy candles for a nice scent.
- Don’t use the light bulb, use the natural light whenever possible! It’s not only more energy-efficient, but it’s also better for your circadian sleep cycle to be exposed to sunlight during the day.
- Find hobbies that don’t use electricity or unsustainable resources. Walks, digital photography and cycling are healthy alternatives to video games, sports car racing and watching games of football on your TV. Watch the local football live at a school or club! The extra activity and interacting with your community is not only good for the environment, but also for your mental health, physical health, and safety of the community! (If everyone knows everyone, crime is less likely to occur and mentally-unwell people can receive support before their condition worsens).
- Make one day a week ‘errand day’ if you can. If you have to drive to post the mail, get the groceries (that aren’t sold at your local markets, like toilet paper and katsu curry sauce), visit the dentist and see the bank, try to make it so that you’re only visiting one centre on one day. I’ve identified two large shopping centres that have all of my errand-amenities in one place, so that’s where I go for ‘errand day’ about once a month.
10 – Look around, I’m sure there’s something!
Do you print more than you should? Could you have a few plants around the home to improve your air quality and brighten up a ledge? Are there clothes you can donate, things you can switch, or better ways of working? If so, go for it! There’s no time like the present.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment to walk to this afternoon.
Have a great day!