It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when reading about ways to make your daily life more sustainable. If you’re taking your first baby steps towards eco-friendly practices, there’s so much information out there that it’s hard to know where to start. It would be amazing if everyone immediately made all the necessary changes to reduce their carbon footprints, but even small steps count when enough people make them. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start for everyday ways that you can lessen your impact on the environment. Start small, then aim big.
1. Eat less meat
In an ideal world, we’d all be vegan, but we know not everyone is going to drastically change their diet overnight. If you’re not ready to completely give up animal products, consider going vegetarian or pescatarian, or think of ways that you can reduce your meat intake. Try cooking vegetarian meals at home, start to see meat as a treat rather than the base of every meal, or declare weekdays meat-free. Cattle farming is one of the leading contributors to climate change, as the Independent reported, so choosing dairy-free options when they’re available and completely cutting red meat from your diet can make an impact.
2. Pick fresh flowers
Store-bought bouquets usually carry a high carbon footprint, as Scientific American noted, with flowers picked as far away as South America or Africa. If you love admiring fresh flower arrangements in your home, carefully cut stems from your own garden or seek out a florist who uses locally-sourced blooms. You could also opt for dried displays, which look just as stylish, but will last much longer than fresh flowers.
3. Switch up your beauty routine
Swap out the plastic throw-away items in your bathroom and replace with more eco-friendly options such as a bamboo toothbrush, metal razor, and reusable bottles that you can top up with shampoo and body wash. Do research into more sustainable options for the skincare, haircare, and makeup products that you use, staying clear of items tested on animals or containing harsh chemicals. Choose vegan products with natural ingredients and look for glass rather than plastic bottles.
4. Buy clothes that are made to last
Consumers throw away an average of 70 pounds of clothing each year, further contributing to the massive amounts of waste produced by the textile industry. To reduce your personal wastage, choose to shop from ethical and sustainable brands, only shop when you need something, and buy garments that you will wear over and over again. Stay clear of fast fashion and fads, buying well-made, quality garments that will stand the test of time. You don’t have to become a minimalist overnight, just detach yourself from the notion of shopping as a hobby.
5. Organize a clothes swap with friends
Rather than buying new clothes and throwing away unwanted garments, organize a clothes swap with friends. Your unwanted items could be someone else’s treasure, and you’ll get joy out of seeing a friend wear an old favorite dress that perhaps you’ve grown tired of. Arrange to meet at the beginning of each season and donate any unwanted clothes to a local thrift store.
6. Vacation closer to home
You don’t have to completely give up your vacations to be more sustainable. Think of all the places that you could visit by train, car, or boat. It’s easy to forget to visit the places that are right on your doorstep. Plan a fun road trip across several states or travel someplace accessible by boat or train. If you’re planning a far-flung adventure to the other side of the world, think about how to get around when you get there. It’s cheap and easy to travel around Europe by train, for example.
7. Don’t contribute to over-tourism
So many places around the world are struggling with an influx of visitors that the local environment can’t cope with. Stay clear of places that you know have problems with too many tourists and instead step off the beaten path and visit new and exciting destinations. Don’t tag exact locations on social media posts — you don’t want your undiscovered gem to become full of queues of selfie-stick wielding tourists.
8. Take public transport to work
Leave your car at home and take the train or bus to work. Better yet, walk or cycle if possible. If you commit to taking public transport each day, not only will you lower your carbon footprint, but you’ll be able to enjoy your journey by reading a book or listening to a podcast rather than focusing on the road. If you have to drive to work, consider carpooling with colleagues or friends who live nearby to help to reduce the number of cars on the road.