We tried to keep this short. But the list of things we can do as individuals to help stop the climate crisis, reduce our environmental impact, and make us all healthier, is quite long. This is good news! It means there is so much we can do to ensure the sustainability of our planet.
Some are very simple, others will require tremendous effort. The moral of the story is, though, you are a powerhouse and can help save the planet.
In this article, we’ll be covering the following ways you can incorporate sustainability into your life:
- VOTE EVERY DAY
- SUPPORT REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
- GROW SOME OF YOUR FOOD
- BE CONSCIOUS ABOUT YOUR WATER USAGE
- USE NON-TOXIC CLEANING SOLUTIONS AT HOME
- USE NATURAL BODY CARE PRODUCTS
- DRESS AND DECORATE RESPONSIBLY
- REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, REPEAT
- SAY “NO” TO PLASTIC
- GO GREEN WITH YOUR ELECTRICITY
- UPDATE YOUR COMMUTE
- TURN YOUR FINANCES GREEN
- CREATE AND BUILD WITH SUSTAINABILITY IN MIND
- DON’T STOP LEARNING!
Some key takeaways from this article are to consume what you really need, repurpose, reuse and recycle what you can, and be conscious of your consumption. Above all, be present.
We need to protect our future. It’s going to take all of us – not some of us – to create a sustainable future. We’re doing this for us, our children, our children’s children, and all future generations.
VOTE EVERY DAY
Your voice and your dollar are powerful. Make a difference by making conscious decisions to support sustainable companies. Purchasing their goods and you’ll help to further their mission. And when an election comes around, vote for candidates that share your sustainability values.
The purchase decisions you make allow you to vote with your dollar. Buy products from companies that are leading the way in creating a sustainable supply chain, empower communities all over the world with fair trade practices, and distribute fair wages to their employees. Take an extra few minutes to google the company.
In a recent article, we highlighted five senators who are leading the climate crisis battle. Your local leadership can be powerful in deciding the future of your community, so take great care by paying attention to who is running and why.
With the 2020 election right around the corner, we have the opportunity to elect someone whose approaches to sustainability (economic, social, and environmental health) align with ours. Not to mention the ability to implement common-sense practices such as protecting wildlife and public lands, water resources, and beyond. Picking a candidate is a decision you should be proud to make, so we recommend reading up on their full policy platforms before voting. It matters, and so do you.
SUPPORT REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
To put it simply, we have to change what we eat, how our food is produced, and limit food waste as much as possible to put a stop to climate change and get ready for the population of 9.7 billion people who will be on earth by 2050.
Humans, as a species, have drastically changed how they look at food since we stopped hunting and gathering, and started farming 10,000 years ago. Rather than consumption being instinctual (remember, we’re animals, too) and food simply being a source of energy to optimize our daily functions for survival, it is a source of entertainment and an unhealthy solution to a variety of emotional states.
This leads us to consume foods that are very, very bad for us (and highly addictive) and overeat, which is making us very sick.
We have lost our connection to food and nature and industrialized agriculture, which now accounts for nine percent of total annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. We’re buying too much and throwing away 40 percent of what we buy in the United States.
Agricultural scientists say we only have 60 years of healthy topsoil left, which means we have to switch to regenerative and organic farming practices immediately if we are going to be able to cultivate food, feed 9.7 billion people and reverse climate change.
“With the use of cover crops, compost, crop rotation and reduced tillage, we can actually sequester more carbon than is currently emitted, tipping the needle past 100% to reverse climate change.” – The Rodale Institute.
The time to shift our perspective on food is now. We have to look out for our children and figure out how we’re going to feed the global population sustainably.
To do our part, we’ve stepped back and changed the way we look at how we eat, and why we’re eating what we’re eating. We’re doing this for our health and the health of the planet.
Buy biodynamic and organically-grown whenever possible to support farmers using healthy-for-the-earth agricultural practices
Try to budget your food to reduce waste and cost.
Be conscious of what you’re consuming – don’t eat plants or animals that are on the endangered species list like bluefin tuna
Finally, grow your own food if it’s feasible!
GROW YOUR FOOD
One of the best ways you can reduce your impact on the planet is to grow your food, or at least a portion of it, and bring more plants into your life.
Think about everything it takes to get that perfect peach to your local grocery store: energy and material inputs on the farm, the transportation costs, and the marketing and sale of the produce. By growing produce in your backyard, you can reduce those secondary and tertiary effects, sequester carbon, and create what will likely be more nutrient-dense foods (as opposed to mass-produced vegetables that are not organically-grown).
Plants can also help sequester carbon in the atmosphere while helping you purify the air. Take a glance at our article 5 Plants You Need In Your House Now for more detailed descriptions of five lovely plants to add to your family.
If you are so bold, take it one step further and collect rainwater to water your houseplants and garden.
GIVE YOUR FOOD ANOTHER LIFE
Humans produce an average of 475 pounds of food waste every year. There are several problems with this. Food thrown in your garbage can’t break down properly in landfills, so it significantly contributes to the methane emissions that go into our atmosphere.
By taking the not-as-convenient route of composting, you’ll end up producing less polluting waste and creating healthy soil for your plants around the house and in your garden.
What’s cool about the day and age we live in is innovation and advancement is happening even in the area of composting. Cities are making composting programs more accessible, and now some bins will make rich soil from your food scraps in hours, not days – all from your kitchen.
You can help save hundreds of pounds of food from going to landfills every year, conserving your GHG emissions, and create healthy soil for your garden. There is an option out there that fits your needs, such as a small, low-tech bin that’s under $20 like we have in our apartment, a BPA-free compost tea maker, or a high-tech FoodCycler.
BE CONSCIOUS ABOUT YOUR WATER CONSUMPTION
Water is life. But most of us don’t think of it, value it, and care for it like it is.
In Flint, Michigan, however, they know what it’s like to not have clean drinking water available. Residents are living off of bottled water – and that, friends, is not sustainable. In Cape Town, South Africa, drought conditions got so bad the municipal water supply nearly ran dry.
Being conscious about how much water you use, what you put into the water supply (like household cleaning products), and making a few changes can significantly contribute to the conservation of this vital natural resource.
Here are a couple of the everyday things you can do around the house to conserve water:
You can install a dual flush into your home toilets to only use the water you need for going number one and number two
Invest in a water-saving showerhead like this one that also has negative ion mineral stones and balls for dry skin and hair
The less you use water and contaminate it, the healthier our collective resources will be. Tossing toxic chemicals down drains can pollute local water tables, which no one wants. This leads us to our next point…
USE NON-TOXIC CLEANING SOLUTIONS AT HOME
Cleaners like 409 and Drano are quick and easy fixes for cleanups and clogged drains. However, good things take time, and those are bad, bad things for the environment. If you have a bottle of 409 in your house, look on the back. Does it say something along the lines of “If ingested, call poison control”? Hmm…
Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, according to the EPA. Toxic chemicals commonly found in conventional cleaners and other products introduced into the air can be oh-so-harmful to your health. Side effects can range from irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, to respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, according to the American Lung Association.
We’ve got to start protecting the air we breathe.
Manufacturers aren’t obligated by law to list all ingredients in consumer products, which means there are all kinds of things in traditional cleaners that are harmful to your health, and you don’t even know they’re there!
Make sure you’re in the mood to make your grocery store run a fun one so you have time to read the labels on each cleaning supply before you buy. Look for the EPA’s Safer Choice label and make sure they do not contain or have reduced amounts of VOCs, fragrances, irritants, and flammable ingredients.
You could also go all-in on your natural pathway and make your own from simple ingredients. Warm water and castile soap will often do the trick. Baking soda can be used for scrubbing, and you can make your own infused vinegar solutions for all-purpose and glass cleaning. Repurpose citrus peels and make your vinegar cleaner smell more pleasant.
USE NATURAL BEAUTY PRODUCTS
When it comes to beauty and baby products, there are some simple, sustainable swaps you can make that have substantial positive outcomes. Voting with your dollar by buying ethical, organic, and natural products goes a long way in creating a more sustainable economy.
Oftentimes, there are harmful chemicals like formaldehyde lurking in your nail polish or known cancer-causing toxins in your kitchen cleaners.
By choosing biodegradable soaps, you can save harsh chemicals from entering into our water system. By choosing organic bamboo makeup remover pads, you can keep harsh chemicals away from your skin and out of the water table.
Here are some non-toxic products we switched to and love:
All-purpose Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (choose a gallon-size bottle to reduce your consumption of packaging) in place of single-use soap bottles, laundry detergent that can be toxic – we’re looking at you, Tide – and more. You can use this soap for just about anything.
Plastic-free, plant-based shampoo bar (no more plastic bottles!)
Conditioner bar by the same company
Any products by our favored cocokind all-natural beauty company
Organic essential oils instead of room freshener (dilute in water, then voila!)
Bambaw reusable makeup remover pads in place of disposable makeup wipes
Organic tampons, which are much better for the environment and your body
Organic cloth baby diapers in place of disposables
There are numerous opportunities to make sustainable home swaps. We’ll continue the list in a new article. In the meantime, visit our sustainable shop!
DRESS AND DECORATE RESPONSIBLY
My mom loves to tell me how, when I was three years old, I told her I wanted to start dressing. I’ve always loved fashion and communicating what I’m feeling on the inside with what I’m wearing and how I decorate my space. However, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters and contributors of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. That I’m not cool with.
It is essential to take care of what we already have so we can consuming less (fast fashion and fast home decor). When we buy, we help steer the industry and capital directed to it in a positive direction by voting with our dollar. We’re not saying that you should stop buying new products, but to be conscious about their origin and who is creating them.
Big companies like Adidas are leading the way in innovative solutions to recycling materials and creating more sustainability in their supply chain. Others like Patagonia have decades under their belt in sustainable production methods. They understand that if we don’t mitigate the effects of climate change today, there will be no consumers in the future.
Buy ethically-made goods that use resource-conscious materials, upcycle by hitting your local Buffalo Exchange, Goodwill, or swapping with friends, and repair your clothing as much as possible. A little sewing can go a long way. Heck, you can even make clothing new-to-you by modifying it to be unique with an embroidered patch or hemming your jeans.
Repair what you have, if you can
Upcycle by swapping with friends and visiting a consignment store or thrift store
Help create more demand for sustainably-made products by buying from brands that have a sustainable supply chain and fair-trade production methods
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, REPEAT
Reusing and recycling items like glass bottles, plastic boxes, etc. that your food comes in will significantly help you reduce your impact on the environment. Just being aware of what you’re buying and the container it comes in can help you be more mindful of that consumption. If you can, purchase glass or aluminum instead of single-use plastic containers.
Frequently, the containers are not recyclable or reusable, so you might opt for a different brand while grocery shopping knowing what you’ll be able to do with it after. Google “local recycling” to find out what you can throw in the blue bin and make sure to dispose of your recyclables properly, so one thing doesn’t contaminate everything.
At home, our tupperware is always going missing. I love to repurpose as much as possible, so I’ll keep any jar or container I can. Will knows how much I love to reuse glass jars for everything from storing coffee grounds I use to make scrubs, to batteries that we’ll recycle, and more.
We don’t use single-use products such as paper plates or plastic utensils anymore, but if we have to, we’ll use compostable products free of dyes and BPAs.
On another note, there are many activities that you can do with kids where upcycling materials can be a blast. Recycle the toilet paper rolls to make a giant telescope. Use the other side of the paper and always print two-sided if you can. Arts and crafts are a great way to stimulate your baby’s imagination and to find a second life for items found around your house.
SAY “NO” TO PLASTIC
Come on, friends! Let’s do something about this mess.
Three hundred million tons of plastic are produced every year – half of which is for single-use purposes, according to Plastic Oceans International. And more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. Think of all the life in our oceans that are ingesting microplastics (i.e. the fish you eat) and getting tangled in our waste.
Bring the following items and help lead the plastic revolution:
- Plastic-free straws
- Water bottles
- Shopping bags
Continue learning about this topic in our article 5 Reusable Items That Will Help You Save the Planet.
GO GREEN WITH YOUR ELECTRICITY
The easiest thing you can do to reduce your energy consumption is to turn off the lights whenever you’re not using them – and it’ll save on your monthly bill.
You can also increase the efficiency of your home’s electricity consumption and take control of your resource consumption by doing the following:
- Install a Nest thermostat or a similar device
- Replace traditional bulbs with LED lights
- Regularly clean and replace air filters
- Seal up any leaky faucets or ductwork
- Install smart dimmers or light bulbs to control the brightness and put lights on timers, and do it all from anywhere on the app (What, whaaat… so cool. We love our wifi light bulbs)
- Use rechargeable batteries (and go one step further with batteries made from recycled materials)
- Turn down the temperature on your water heater
Install solar panels to decrease your dependence on the electrical grid, if that’s feasible. You could even make more energy available through renewable sources if you produce more than you consume. We don’t have solar yet because we’re in a condo, but we will in our next house!
There is so much more information on going green with your electricity that we highly recommend you open up a new tab after you’re done with this article to learn even more ways you can make your home more energy-efficient.
Onto what we can’t control completely – energy companies. Some electric companies are like Xcel Energy that we have in Colorado. Others are PG&E. Nowadays, more electricity companies are giving consumers the option to choose renewable energy sources like solar and wind. We know you might not have a feasible option, but it’s worth looking into.
We recommend contacting your energy provider to ask what options you have available in your area. If there’s nothing, ask where you can provide the feedback that it should become available.
UPDATE YOUR COMMUTE
There are currently more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S, based on figures from Statista. According to the EPA, transportation accounts for 29 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s no joke!
Walking, biking, taking public transportation, carpooling, and investing in an electric vehicle are ways to reduce your carbon impact on the climate. The good news is, electric vehicles are getting more advanced, and more car manufacturers are entering the market. This means that prices are coming down to compete for market share.
Generally speaking, we’re incredibly passionate about how advancements in technology can enhance our daily experiences, stimulate economies, lift third-world countries from poverty, and create a global connection between all of us.
In our article Electric Vehicles for Every Budget, you’ll learn about five super cool options ranging from a scooter to a full-size sedan. We know it’s not every day that you buy a new electric bike or car but, when you do, research all the options you have available to you in today’s technologically-advanced economy. Also, take advantage of the electric vehicle incentives offered on the state and federal levels.
TURN YOUR FINANCES GREEN
First thing’s first. Opt into electronic bills and go paperless whenever possible. Unsubscribe from as many mailers that you don’t need. There is so much waste when it comes to the (toxic) ink and amount of paper that is used, not to mention the transportation costs associated with mail.
Now let’s get into the fun stuff…
As consumer demand for corporate social responsibility increases and markets evolve to meet it, financial institutions, planners, and platforms are becoming more aligned with values of sustainability. When looking for your next bank, consider one that incorporates green practices, is a B-Corp, and is forward-thinking in their strategies (i.e., one that will say you can’t buy that coastal home because it won’t be there in 30 years).
Divest from companies that have shares in fossil fuels. There are plenty of other options out there that provide sustainable returns. Divesting is ultimately what led to the end of Apartheid.
If you’re in the business of investing directly in companies, consider a sustainable and climate-smart investment. There are many companies racing to save the planet from a climate catastrophe, and your dollars could go a very long way. Green markets are rapidly expanding for savvy investors, such as yourself.
Learn even more by taking the Sustainability Training and E-Learning Program (STEP) from the International Finance Corporation that has been designed for managers and staff of financial institutions. “This free e-training aims to help [financial institutions] better understand sustainable finance, social and environmental risk management and explore sustainability-related business opportunities,” according to the website.
IF YOU BUILD IT (GREEN), (A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE) WILL COME
We are all aware of the dramatic impacts that construction can have on the environment. It “uses resources, generates waste, emits potentially harmful atmospheric emissions, and fundamentally changes the function of land and the ability of that land to absorb and capture water into the ground,” according to WBDG.
According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, there are six fundamental principles of sustainable building design, which seek to use an integrated approach to creating “win-win-win” design solutions.
The principles are as follows:
- Optimize site potential
- Optimize energy use
- Protect and conserve water
- Optimize building space and material use
- Enhance indoor environmental quality
- Optimize operational and maintenance practices
While it’s not every day that you’ll be fixing your home or making improvements, you can help you make your home a more sustainable and healthier environment by doing the following:
- Use natural clay paints or zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, so fewer chemicals are being painted on your walls… surrounding you every day
- Install solar panels like the Tesla Solar Tiles (we die…)
- Install energy-efficient electric appliances so you can reduce your natural gas and electricity consumption (if you’re renting, look for these as descriptors in listings and LEED-certifications)
- Use natural materials such as bamboo, straw bales, CLT, and wool that are sustainably sourced
- For larger projects, find a local builder that incorporates sustainable practices in all steps of the building process
NEVER STOP LEARNING
Finally, never stop learning.
New research is continuously coming out. Scientists are always learning more about our world and how it functions. And new content is being created that lets humans see how beautiful our planet truly is.
Documentaries like Our Planet, Ice On Fire, Before the Flood, An Inconvenient Truth, and many others can help inspire and educate you on the effects of climate change. They will help you learn more about why all of the above actions – no matter how big or small – are incredibly important.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne Marie Bonneau
You’ll also be able to help inspire your tribe by educating them about their impact on the planet and the steps they can take to create a sustainable future.