It’s a new year, making it the perfect time to set and achieve goals around eco-minded behaviors. Of course you can go big, like converting your house to run on renewable energy or buying an electric car. In fact, those are two of the top ways to slice through carbon emissions, according to this report by USwitch. However, if those goals are outside your financial reach, there are still many small eco-resolutions you can set to tip us all in the right direction.
Cumulative efforts result in a massive impact. For example, one person coming up with one million dollars seemed insurmountable. Even two people contributing half a million or four individuals donating $250,000 is a lot to ask. However, one million people contributing a single dollar achieves the same end result with very little effort or individual financial impact. The same concept holds true when it comes to lowering our cumulative carbon footprint. We can all do something, or some things that, when combined, will lead us towards the goal for the world to achieve net-zero status by 2050.
Change your commute
Daily transportation is estimated to be responsible for over a quarter of total carbon emissions. In order to achieve our goals, we must replace combustible engines on the road. While you may not be ready to invest in a fully-electric car yet, there are many micro-steps you can take, starting today. If you are in the market for a car, pay attention to fuel efficiency and at least buy a hybrid model if you can. Walk, or ride a bike for short distances instead of taking your car. Carpool with a neighbor, friend or co-worker. In the city, rely on public transportation and leave your car closer to home.
Reduce energy consumption
The goal here is to move to renewable energy wherever possible, but if you’re not able to equip your home with solar panels or geothermal systems right now, reduce your energy consumption in other ways. Put lights on a timer or convert to smart fixtures or, even better, solar lights. Install a programmable thermostat to turn down the heat at night or when nobody is at home. If you’re replacing an appliance, make sure it’s an Energy Star rated model.
Mark the dates on your calendar and vote for the environment. Vote for issues and candidates that set us on the right course. This will be a bumpy road ahead and we need clearly defined leadership to get us there. The decision made now can mean the difference in reaching our carbon goals or not. For example, even if you can’t afford an EV today, voting for the advancement of technology and infrastructure in the electric vehicle industry now will result in more affordable cars with better charging station availability in the future.
Get involved locally
There are countless ways you can use your passion for the planet in constructive ways at a local level. Set up information booths about recycling programs. Organize a neighborhood cleanup event. Help classrooms participate in the Crayola marker return program. Attend meetings about urban development issues. Plant trees. Adopt a park or stretch of highway. Join Blue Sky or a similar local program to support investments in renewable energy in your community.
If you see a problem, start a petition. This can be at a local, state or federal level, but is often most well-accepted when it’s something that affects the local community. When the city plans to cut down a grove of oak trees to put in a parking lot, or the new road design fails to consider bike lanes, or a development threatens to endanger wildlife, take a stand. Gather all the information you can find and inform everyone you can contact. Send emails, hand out flyers and gather signatures.
Change your shopping habits
Instead of heading to your favorite discount clothing store, reroute to the secondhand store instead. Give used clothing a new life rather than encouraging fast fashion, which is a massive source of pollution and waste, as well as a top consumer of water and electricity. Take a look at your wardrobe and make the decision to invest in a few quality items (made with natural materials) rather than cheap items that cost the planet.
When it comes to food shopping, skip packaging whenever possible. Bring your own produce and shopping bags. Combine trips to the store with other errands. Shop at the farmer’s market or local co-op. Bring containers to refill in the bulk foods department. Buy meat at the butcher counter or from a local farm instead of prepackaged options at the store.
Reduce food waste
In addition to conscientious shopping, reduce food waste by creating a meal plan so ingredients don’t go to waste. If you do have food approaching expiration, freeze it, dehydrate it or incorporate it into a meal. If nothing else, give it to a neighbor or coworker.
Join the Buy Nothing movement
This is a movement that was started to encourage communities to get to know their neighbors. The idea is to share and support each other by requesting items you may need before buying them, or offering things to your community you no longer want. It’s a beautiful exchange of giving and receiving that keeps waste out of the landfill and minimizes unnecessary consumption. Check Facebook for a local Buy Nothing group or start your own.
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