I learned a lot about the state of our planet while traveling through many countries in SE Asia.
In western society, we have this belief that everything we flush down the toilet, rinse down the sink, or throw away in the trash just magically disappears. In developing countries however, everything is all out in the open: the water is polluted and undrinkable, you can smell the sewage coming up from beneath the sidewalks, and people actually live on garbage dump sights.
All these realities exist in western societies too, and yet they are covered with chemicals and shuttered away, and so we may not realize the footprint our actions have on our world.
If you’re reading this, you are probably already interested in preserving our amazing planet. But beyond recycling, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are five EASY steps towards a sustainable lifestyle, with some statistics to inspire you and show you the difference just one person can make!
1. SHOP AT THRIFT STORES
We don’t need to constantly produce more and more and more.. the world already has plenty of amazing stuff to keep us well clothed and happy! Thrift stores are really a treasure trove of unique items, just waiting to be upcycled.
Need some inspiration? Check out our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
board on Pinterest for ideas. You could also host a clothing swap
, and get a new wardrobe without spending a dime! (I’ve both hosted and attended these parties, and really they are SO much fun!)
2. EAT LESS MEAT
Our consumption of meat puts a startling strain on the environment, especially beef production. According to CBC News, beef farming:
- Used 28 times more land, potentially destroying natural habitats where wild plants and animals live.
- Consumed 11 times more irrigation water for feed.
- Released five times more greenhouse gases, which are linked to global warming.
- Used six times more nitrogen fertilizer, which can pollute waterways, causing problems such as algae blooms that foul lakes.
(As compared to dairy, poultry, pork and eggs per calorie or gram of protein).
Additionally, our oceans are being depleted of many marine species faster than they can reproduce.
Many marine scientists now believe that overfishing is the biggest threat to the ocean environment, even greater than that of other human caused disruptions like increasing pollution.
Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is gaining widespread popularity as people become more aware of the environmental costs associate with eating meat. (Read this inspiring story by Richard Branson, activist and founder of Virgin Group, “Why I’ve Given Up Eating Beef“). Most people think that meat is the only source of protein, but that’s not true at all! Lots of foods have significant amounts of protein (feast your eyes on this post.)
The cool part is, eating mostly veggie is really fun, flavorful, and easy! Both my husband and I have cut our meat consumption down to just a serving each, once or twice per week. Need ideas for tasty and filling vegetarian or vegan dishes? Check out Oh My Veggies and The Veg Space blogs.
3. FILTER YOUR WATER (AND BUY A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE)
Did you know that 30,000,000 bottles a year end up as garbage or litter, where they take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade?? (Source
). We know this first-hand; after traveling throughout SE Asia for nearly five months, we realized we had purchased somewhere around 150 plastic disposable water bottles, even when we often refilled our bottles with filtered water where ever we could find it.
I wish we had researched and understood more before we left on our travels, because there ARE other options (which we will be using next time we go overseas). The Life Straw water bottle
is incredible, and has received world-wide acclaim and fantastic reviews.
And if you aren’t homeless travelers like we currently are? Buy a home filtration system like this one
4. SHOP WITH REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS
Again, plastic is a big concern. Worldwide about 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and plastic bags are the second most common garbage item found in our oceans (source
And here’s another little fact: The average plastic bag is used for five minutes to carry your purchases home, yet these single use plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down (source
). If we look at that carefully and really weigh it out… five minutes versus 1,000 years… we can make an easy choice here.
Most grocery stores now offer re-useable grocery bags for purchase near the check out line. They are really cheap. Keep them in your car, and make a habit of using them.
5. COMPOST YOUR DISPOSABLES
Biodegradable items such as food and newspapers accounts for close to 65% of the waste put into landfills each year! Woah. And that waste, which would easily break down in your compost pile, cannot break down in landfills because it is so tightly packed in (and covered in plastic) that it doesn’t have enough air, sunlight, and microbes available to help the process along. But composting is REALLY easy! You can make your own bin like these guys did, or you can purchase one pre-made. (One of our favorite sites, Eartheasy.com, has a huge selection of composting bins if you’d rather purchase one).
Some HOAs are picky about composting bins, but because the idea of composting is becoming so popular, many neighborhoods with HOA’s are outsourcing the solution, and for a subscription fee you will be provided with a specified bid that they pick up regularly, just like trash and recycling! Check with your neighborhood association to see if this is something that is already happening, or if it can be started!
Try these ideas in small bites: choose just one from the list and make a commitment to yourself to do it for the next 30 days. Let us know how it goes!
Which did you choose? Which are you already practicing? Let us know in the comments below!