By Hayden Davis
Becoming more environmentally conscious is on a lot of our minds as we think about what the next decades have in store for us. One of the most crucial steps in beginning an environmentally friendly life is to start reducing your carbon footprint. There are many ways to begin this process and we at AllPeople would like to help outline them!
#1 Recycling Paper and Plastic … Correctly!
The paper and plastic industry is a necessary one, but not one we have to entertain as much as we do. If you look around your home you could find paper and plastic items that can be replaced with something more sustainable and reusable. There are some things that are certainly harder to replace than others, but today we’d like to suggest some of the easy changes you can make to help.
While recycling is important, it isn’t enough. Most single use paper and plastics are small (like straws, lids, etc) and get lost or stuck in recycling plants. This means they will eventually make their way into landfills. Other times, these paper and plastics come soiled and have to be thrown out so as to not ruin the machines. Other technical recycling reasoning all culminate into your recycling not always being recycled.
The best solution is to replace wasteful single use products with sustainable and reusable ones. We’ll go through some common single use products you will likely encounter in your daily life, and how to avoid them.
When restaurant dining becomes frequent again, there are some things you can do to lighten the load of one time use products in our environment! First, you can bring reusable straws. There are many kinds of metal straws that come with special brushes to clean them out, but few make sense to carry around. There are reusable metal straws that are really handy though! Does a collapsable and keychain-able straw sound doable? Well, they have straws that now collapse to be just as long as your average key, and fit inside of a little case that can clip to anything! Not only do these straws provide peace of mind and allow you to turn down straws, they can be easily transported and cleaned.
Along the same lines, try using a reusable plastic cup for fast food drinks. A lot of places don’t mind if you pay for a drink and use your own to go cup. Both of these replacements will start reducing the amount of straws, lids, and cups going into landfills.
Anothing big issue is plastic shopping bags. A lot of stores know this too and try and offer reusable fabric bags as an alternative. These bags don’t come free with your purchase like plastic ones, but once you pay for them once they’re good forever.
Some states charge a mandatory plastic fee if you choose to use the bags. For a large shopping trip, you could be spending more than $5 extra just on bags. This is a great idea by those states to help transition more people into using reusable bags.
These fabric bags also have some variations, some are designed to keep your frozen goods cool longer. By sealing it up and having insulation on the inside, you never have to worry about your ice cream on the ride home again!
Home: Reduce Paper/Plastic and More!
The main thing homes see as the most wasteful paper/plastic product is plastic water bottles. There are many insulated flasks that make changing to reusable bottles much easier! There is reason to doubt the quality of your tap water though, and making this change can seem scary. An easy solution is a faucet water filter! They are easy to install and you change the filter about every three months. In the long run, this is likely cheaper than water bottles as well as more environmentally friendly. These insulated flasks stay cold much longer than a plastic bottle too, making them even more convenient in every situation.
This next option isn’t for everyone as it can be quite pricey. If you can afford it you could reduce your footprint substantially. There are online marketplaces that offer biodegradable paper and plastic products for the home. Garbage bags, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, gloves, etc. You could overhaul your entire home, nearly ridding it of every one time use product.
There are some more home products that you can easily find at any supermarket! We know that flossers are a lot easier to use than traditional string floss. Although, if you think about it, a flosser uses tons of excess plastic just to create a handle. There are now brands that offer compostable flossers, so once it goes in the trash, it will eventually biodegrade! We know that once the pandemic is over, there will be a lot of partying! Asking your guests to bring their own reusable straws, or providing one for everyone, can be awkward and expensive. There are brands of biodegradable straws that are only meant to be used once! Typically made from corn or rice, the one time use straws are good for the environment and don’t affect the taste of the drink!
Track and curtail your energy consumption! Make sure you and your family know to not leave on unnecessary lights and heating/AC. If possible, use fans instead of AC and plug in heaters instead of heating. The gas and electricity these take are miniscule compared to central heating and cooling. A lot of areas offer great benefits for switching to solar energy as well! At least looking into these options won’t hurt, and you may just find yourself switching!
Have some old clothes or furniture you don’t need? Consider having a yard sale or selling online(once it’s safe of course!) Something you don’t want usually holds some value to another person. Other options of getting rid of old things are thrift stores and donation centers. Adding clothing and furniture items, that will likely never biodegrade, to our landfills is extremely detrimental.
Sometimes cars are necessary, and not everyone can afford a new car to make the transition to electric, let alone live in a home that allows for easy charging access. There are many things you can do instead of driving your own car if possible. Ridesharing is a viable option, although many people aren’t comfortable with it. The services also require extra fees that can be annoying and start adding up. Instead, try to carpool with people you know whether that be work friends, shopping partners, or what that may be. Try to reach out to people you are comfortable with and save some emissions!
Many cities and universities are starting to offer zero emission busses. If you are able to ride these vehicles, that would probably be the best solution for long distances. Although, even a regular carbon emitting bus would be better than driving on your own. The bus emits far less than a car in the first place, and on top of how many people would be driving without the bus, the savings are exponential.
Obviously walking typically isn’t an option distance wise or in certain climates. Although, when it is warm out, many people’s destinations are not too far off by bike. If you have access to a bike, try taking it out and practice riding to a destination you frequent. You may find that your destination really isn’t that far on a bike!
If flying is something you do frequently, the best thing to do is fly economy. Although higher class flights may be a bit more comfortable, they share the carbon emission with less people. With the plane sharing emissions amongst the most amount of people, the carbon footprint of that flight reduces a bit since the emissions are more justifiable. Also if you can at all help it, try and choose a non stop flight. This will reduce emissions as taking off has a greater toll on the plane’s emissions.
Something that sort of goes with transportation right now are face masks and gloves. These are typically marketed as one time use items, although as we got further into the pandemic most people have a few reusable and machine washable ones. This is definitely the way to go! If you are still using disposable face masks please consider getting some that you can reuse! They aren’t a big investment at all and will provide less strain on the environment.
#3 Get Political!
The last way we recommend to reduce your footprint is to vote! Getting political and voting for people who are actively trying to help our environment will do nothing but good for our planet. Do some research and find people, parties, and campaigns that are actively for the preservation of our environment. When elections come up, whether it be local or presidential, you will be educated in who is going to save our Earth.
We understand that following all of these suggestions at the snap of a finger would be nearly impossible. Try adopting one or two of these every now and then, slowly adding more to your greener footprint. By the end, you may have acquired a more environmentally conscious life than you ever imagined!
We hope this helped you come up with some ideas on how you can help save our environment! Let us know on our social media if you will, or already have, made the switch to more friendly options!