Climate change is real, and more and more we’re seeing the negative impact it’s having on the world and our environment. Warmer temperatures are causing shifts and disturbances in nature, such as decreased water supplies and rising sea levels. The results are directly impacting humans and animals alike, threatening our habitats, health, and way of life. Needless to say, things need to change.
But how? After all, the idea that one person can change the world is pretty daunting, and it’s hard to imagine that choosing to drink water filtered from a tap rather than a plastic bottle makes a difference. But if everyone put in that effort, the change would be huge. It’s okay to make little changes, because even if they seem small to you, it adds up over time. Plus, if people see you making an effort, you can encourage others to do the same.
What is your environmental footprint?
Environmental footprint, or ecological footprint, measures how quickly we as human beings consume resources and generate waste in comparison to how quickly nature can absorb it - in short, it’s how much nature we have and how much nature we use.
5 easy ways to adjust your environmental footprint
1) Eat less meat
The meat industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. The global production of food alone is responsible for over one-third of all greenhouse gases, and meat makes up 60% of that. Plant-based foods, on the other hand, produce just a fraction of that amount. According to this article from The Guardian, 2.5kg of greenhouse gases are emitted to produce 1kg of wheat. However, for 1kg of beef, 70kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go full veggie - this isn’t a tip to not eat meat, but rather rethink eating it every day. Try to integrate ‘meatless Mondays’ into your weekly food calendars or even choose a couple of days for vegetarian meals.
2) Reconsider how you travel
Another big contributor to greenhouse gases has to do with travel, both domestically in our day to day lives and internationally for vacation. Vehicles and airplanes are huge culprits of emissions, so another easy way to adjust your environmental footprint is to consider how you utilize them. For example, do you need to drive 5 minutes around the block to get milk, or can you simply walk? For travel, can you maybe take a bus or a train for short distances instead of taking a flight? Again, this isn’t about not driving your car or not flying to take a vacation. It’s just reconsidering your options and adjusting your plans in a way that can be better for the environment but still allow you to reach your goals. While these changes might not be the most convenient, they also have added benefits. Walking instead of driving is better for your physical health, and train or bus travel might take a bit longer but can be more budget-conscious than flying.
3) Eliminate disposable plastics
Did you know that plastic water bottles can take 450 years to decompose in a landfill? Now think of how many water bottles people use and throw out on a daily basis. Scary, isn’t it? And that’s just one type of plastic. On top of water bottles, there are plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic packaging and so on, which also all add up really quickly.
So, what are some alternatives? When it comes to water, a reusable water bottle is your best answer. Granted, some places in the world don’t always have safe tap water for drinking, but for a day-to-day basis at home or at work, fill a bottle and take it with you for the day. Plastic bags can be eliminated in favour of reusable canvas bags. If you do have plastic bags, try to repurpose them for something else before throwing them out. As for plastic wrap for food, switch over to reusable containers or reusable beeswax wraps.
4) Reduce your water use
Fresh water is one of our most precious resources, but those of us in countries where fresh water is abundant often don’t consider how wasteful we can be with it. Cutting down on water use to conserve our fresh water resources is another simple way to help reduce your environmental footprint, and it can easily be done on a daily basis. Here are a few ways to help conserve water at home:
· Take shorter showers or shallower baths
· Don’t let the tap run while brushing your teeth or washing your face
· Only run the laundry machine when you have a full load
· Only run the dishwasher when you have a full load
· Use rain barrels to collect rainwater for garden and lawn maintenance
5) Shop local
Last but not least on our list of simple ways to adjust your environmental footprint is to shop local. After COVID-19, this has become a priority for a number of individuals. Not only does it help support your local community and businesses, but shopping local also helps reduce greenhouse gases by choosing to purchase products that are close by and don’t have to travel to get to you. One example would be shop for your fresh fruits and vegetables based on what is in season from your local farmers market rather than going to the grocery store to buy something imported from abroad.
Climate change can be pretty scary when you think of the long-term repercussions, but taking these easy steps to help adjust your environmental footprint - and encouraging others to do the same - makes more of a difference than you think. It’s never too late to start being more environmentally conscious.
Hannah Logan is a Canadian travel writer who dreams of being just like Indiana Jones. You can follow her travels on her personal travel blog Eat Sleep Breathe Travel where she shares her travel tales and (mis)adventures around the world.
Hannah Logan is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.