It’s easy being green.
Becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of your daily choices has a lot of benefits, both big and small. On a large scale, you can help slow the ever-growing climate crisis and preserve natural resources. On a personal level, it can also help you save money, protect your health, and make it easier to eat healthier.
But like a lot of things in life, rigid thinking can lead to failure. Doing a few tiny things with an environmental mindset is better than doing nothing at all. A multitude of “small” changes add up to a huge difference. Stemming from your values and goals, switching up a few of your regular habits can help you have a more positive impact on the planet and help improve your life overall.
Wash your clothes less often
Okay, hear us out. Of course, some of your clothing — like sweaty gym gear, underwear, anything you wore while frying a large number of onions — probably needs to be washed right away. The rest of your clothes might not.
82% of a garment’s energy use comes from the electricity and water it takes to wash and dry it. One of the easiest ways to conserve that energy comes from washing your clothes less often. Here are some tips:
● Don’t mindlessly toss clothing into the hamper after one wearing. Unless it’s an undergarment or very soiled, take a sec and give it a look. Items like jeans, sweaters and leisurewear are usually good for several wears before they truly need to be washed.
● Spot clean with a natural stain eraser you can whip up at home with hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and your favourite dish soap.
● When using the washing machine, run it on cold water cycles instead of warm or hot. And, of course, only run it when the load is full.
Make using less water automatic
Water is a precious, finite resource. There are quick ways you can set up your home to save water automatically, so you don’t need to think about it:
● Install a water-efficient showerhead. You’ll conserve water, save energy and lower your utility bills all at the same time.
● Toilet flushing makes up 25% of all household water use. Replacing older models with various new, high-efficiency models can save litres of water for every flush.
● Get in the habit of turning the faucet off when you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, or hand-washing dishes in the sink. Any time water is gushing down the drain, you should be aware of it. Put sticky notes next to your toothpaste, razors and dish soap to remind you. Fill the sink to wash dishes and shave, and turn the water off when you brush your teeth.
Eat (more) plants
How we eat is personal and based on many factors, including our budget, personal tastes, and values. Vegan and vegetarian diets have gotten a bad rap in the past for being strict, difficult to follow and less tasty.
Like many things in life, a rigid approach makes a lifestyle habit harder to follow. Flexibility is key. Think of eating more plants and fewer meats as a type of dish and not a full-on diet.
● Each week, switch one meat product for a plant-based equivalent — especially if you’re a fan of beef or lamb, which have by far the highest environmental impact.
● Add more beans and pulses (like lentils and chickpeas) to your daily diet. Not only are they packed with nutrients, but while growing pulses are especially good at converting nitrogen from the air into a form that other plants more easily use. They’re good for the planet while they grow and great for you when you eat.
● Good greens! You’ve probably heard about how leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula and lettuces are great for your health. They’re equally good for the health of the planet — sustainability superstars, they require minimal resources to grow massive quantities and are relatively efficient to produce, store and distribute.
Make eco-smart substitutes for your favourite foods
Don’t panic if greens and beans aren’t your thing. Eating more (literally) green things isn’t the only way to reduce your environmental food footprint. It’s essential to be aware of how environmentally taxing some of your other favourite foods are and the best ways to swap or buy them so that you have a less negative ecological impact.
● Cut the cheese. Sorry to say it, cheese lovers, but dairy cow cheeses are #2 for harmful environmental effects after red meats. It takes a whopping amount of water and energy to raise cows. Cheese from smaller animals — like goats and sheep — is easier on the environment. And it lets you have your cheese and eat it, too.
● Coffee is another culprit. Emissions caused by farming, packaging, and the overall drastic effects on farmland can make your morning cup more of a downer than a buzz. The good news? With a bit of research, you can find fair trade and ethical coffee options.
● It will seem like we’re coming for all your faves here, but we also have to talk about chocolate. (“Just leave the chocolate alone!” you might want to scream.) Again, just like with coffee, you need to be aware of the impact your sweet treat might be having on the planet. Chocolate production has been shown to contribute to climate change, shrink rainforests and emit considerable amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Look for less-processed, fair trade and ethically produced options. They might cost a bit more, but it’s well worth it.
Jeremy Elder is a Toronto-based content marketer and copywriter with over a decade’s experience telling stories for some of the world’s biggest brands. He’s an expert at finding WiFi wherever you least expect it.
Jeremy Elder is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.