6 Simple Ways to Live a More Sustainable Life
By: Anika Wadhera
1. Eat Less Meat
Livestock accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than what is produced by all forms of transportation combined. A UN study1 found that livestock uses 30% of the Earth’s land surface and generates 65% of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2. Transitioning into a vegan or vegetarian diet will help reduce food-related emissions by up to 70%, as one-third of the fossil fuels produced in the U.S. go toward meat production. To learn more about the benefits of vegetarianism, read our blog post, and for some ideas on vegan recipes you can make at home, visit Bon Appetit.
2. Improve Energy Efficiency
Energy can be conserved by turning off appliances when not in use and by improving energy efficiency. To assess your energy usage, you can get an energy audit, which provides you with cost-effective solutions to lower your energy bill. Another simple solution is to replace traditional bulbs with LED bulbs, which use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.2 To further reduce energy consumption, you can weatherproof your windows and use smart power strips to automatically shut off power to electronics when not in use.
3. Use Cleaner Forms of Transportation
Transportation is the largest emitter of carbon in the US3 and is thus a major area to tackle when considering the reduction of greenhouse gases. Electric vehicles are excellent alternatives to gas-powered vehicles, and increased public transportation could reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. Using bikes or walking are ideal for local travel since they don't contribute any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. When choosing air travel, prioritize direct flights to reduce the amount of takeoffs and landings, which are the most fuel-intensive parts of the flight.
4. Compost and Garden
Composting is an easy way to divert food waste from the trash and reduce the amount of methane released from landfills. According to the EPA4, yard waste and food scraps make up more than 30% of what is thrown away, when alternatively, they can be used to create nutrient-rich compost to help plants grow. Cultivating your own vegetables at home is an effective way to use compost since it requires less pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment.5 For more information on composting and gardening, check out our video guide and this article.
5. Shop Local and Zero-Waste
Shopping locally allows you to support small businesses while simultaneously benefiting the environment. Local produce is free of pesticides, fresher than industrial foods, and have not traveled thousands of miles to reach your plate, reducing your carbon footprint. Visiting farmers’ markets rather than larger grocery chains makes it easier to shop zero waste as well. Check out our article to learn more about sustainable shopping.
This last method may seem unexpected, but it is the most important way we can combat the climate crisis. Electing politicians who have the best interests of the environment in mind can implement policy with large-scale impacts and provide more benefits than the sustainable actions of one individual. For example, the Green New Deal proposes to shift to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030, which will create millions of jobs and reduce societal inequities.6 The power of voting cannot be understated – it is the only way that the radical change needed to save the environment can be effected.