You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. — Jane Goodall
Today is Earth Day, and now more than ever, it’s vital we demonstrate support for environmental protection. Our planet is under threat; exploratory fracking has been approved in the UK, rainforests are being destroyed for palm oil plantations in Indonesia, endangered animals continue to be poached for the illegal ivory trade, severe coral bleaching has hit two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef, and Donald Trump plans to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement which could have devastating effects.
Reading the news, it’s easy to become disheartened and believe that your efforts will be insignificant against these factors, but if everyone implemented a few small changes into their daily lives, it could make a big difference. Today I’m sharing just a few of the ways I’m trying to reduce my impact on the environment, and ways you can too – not just this Earth Day, but every day.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint with minimal effort is to walk or cycle wherever you need to go. Where this isn’t an option, opt for public transport – and if you really must drive, try lift sharing. Journeys are always more fun if you’ve got company (and an aux cord.)
Another simple way to reduce the waste you produce is to invest in reusable products. My must-have items are a stainless steel insulated water bottle (I have this one by the brand Oasis and I don’t go anywhere without it,) reusable drinking straws, sturdy fabric tote bags for food shopping, and my all-time best investment – although obviously only relevant for the female readers – a Mooncup. Not only have all of these products reduced the waste I create, they’ve been big money savers in the long run – I haven’t bought sanitary products in a year and a half and I almost never buy bottled water.
I’m also looking into buying reusable produce bags (like these) because supermarkets have got to be the worst offenders when it comes to unnecessary plastic packaging. By buying your produce loose and with reusable bags, you can reduce your plastic consumption even further. The ones above are made from breathable mesh, which means you can even wash and store your fruit and veggies in them.
Of course, it is virtually impossible to live an entirely waste-free life, but where I do produce waste I try my best to recycle as much as I can. Choose paper, cardboard and glass packaged products where possible as these are more widely and easily recycled – or even better, go for products made from recycled materials in the first place, as they take much less energy to produce.
I’m also making a conscious effort to buy less fast fashion, and seek out more ethical brands or buy second hand, since reading about the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. Trends come and go so quickly that fashion has turned into a throwaway commodity, and this is a serious drain on the earth’s resources and our bank accounts.
According to Greenpeace, about 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced every year and a typical pair takes 7,000 litres of water to produce. A t-shirt takes around 2,700 litres which is the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days. For people like me, living in developed countries, it’s just a t-shirt, but for people living below the poverty line, that water could be the difference between life or death.
However, 2,700 litres of water is nothing in comparison to the animal agriculture industry. Raising animals currently takes up half of all water used in the US alone and most shockingly, you’d save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would if you didn’t shower for six months. Personally, I’d stick with the showers.
Producing meat isn’t just wasting water, it’s polluting it too; the Environmental Protection Agency claims animal agriculture is the number one cause of water pollution, and it’s responsible for more water pollution than all the other industries combined. Don’t forget the deforestation, the soil erosion and the greenhouse-gas emissions.
According to PeTA, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and ate vegan food instead, it would be like taking 500,000 cars off the road. Every meal you choose not to eat animals products, you’re making a positive change, and minimising your consumption is the best way to start. (Of course, if you want to go vegan, that’s even better.)
Another product we as consumers need to actively boycott is unsustainably sourced palm oil. It’s the most widely used vegetable oil and it’s hidden in so many of our everyday products it can be hard to avoid if you don’t do your research. If I’m ever unsure, I refer to a Palm Oil Scanner app on my phone, which tells me whether a product contains palm oil, and whether or not it’s sustainably sourced. The easiest way to avoid palm oil, however, is by buying unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
Finally, my last tip for the most simple way you can help the environment, and from the ease of your sofa, is by changing the search engine you use. The obvious solution is to rely on Google, but I try to use Ecosia; a search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue. They are aiming to plant a billion trees by 2020 and each search you make through their website helps them achieve that goal.
What are your favourite ways to help the environment, today and this Earth Day?
I’m vegan and am now trying to not buy fast fashion and only shop in charity shops, I’ve found so many bargains recently and I’m loving the experience. Next thing I need to tackle is zero waste which, as a student could be the hardest one, but I am cutting down. Palm Oil is such a sneaky lil’ so and so because it is contained in most vegan junk food, so when you’re having a bad day and just want something a lil’ bit more unhealthy as a snack like a 30p chocolate bar from Lidl, it contains palm oil and it’s so annoying, I try to avoid it as best I can. Also I’ve never heard of ecosia before that’s an amazing idea! I’ve now set it as my main search engine, thank you!