For all of us, 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year. We’re facing a global health crisis, an economic recession, and civil unrest. Things may feel bleak--but there are some silver linings to this highly unusual time.
For the last century, burning fossil fuels, widespread agriculture production, technological advancements, and fast fashion (just to name a few) have significantly contributed to global warming. But in 2020, as far fewer people are commuting to work, carbon dioxide emissions have decreased drastically. Though working from home can come with its own challenges, it’s doing wonders for our planet.
In these challenging times, it’s important to realize the impact we have on this earth. Here are 10 ways you can become more sustainable while spending more time at home:
Educate yourself! The first step towards becoming more sustainable is becoming aware of how your consumption patterns affect the environment.
- Research how you can change your habits as a consumer. Here is a great website on 100+ ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle!
- Get involved with local environmental organizations; they all want your involvement, input, and support! Sustain Charlotte has webinars for anyone to join to learn more about the work we do in Charlotte for the transportation industry; learn more at sustaincharlotte.org/events.
- Support local businesses, restaurants, and farmers. Buying products locally is the best way to reduce your product’s “carbon miles.” If the product is made and sold locally, then it does not have to travel as far as conventional products do. Think about the cluster of bananas in your local grocery store; 94% of them come all the way from Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Honduras. Consuming local products also boosts your regional economy, supports local business owners, and decreases your carbon footprint. Ask yourself some simple questions: Where is my product coming from? How far does it have to travel? Am I supporting ethical and environmental businesses? Etc.
Redirect your purchases towards more sustainable brands and products. Your purchasing power has an impact and a little research goes a long way! Look for companies that make organic and fair-trade products in order to support businesses that are environmentally and socially conscious. We need to support small businesses in this time of need. Pro tip: keep an eye out for companies with a B-Corp certification, fabric certifications (such as OEKO-TEX and GOTS), and other organic/fair-trade certifications.
Check out these websites:
- Fashion: Pact, Everlane, and Able
- Low waste living: The Earthing Co and Zero Waste Store
- Home Goods: The Citizenry and Medley
- Etsy always has great sustainable items with everything from jewelry to reusable home goods, while also supporting small business owners and artisans.
- Lastly, buy from second-hand stores; after all, that is the most sustainable way of purchasing anything!
- Of course, these are only a few websites out of hundreds online. With a little research, you can find essentially anything you are looking for that is made in an ethical, sustainable way while also catering to your personal taste and style.
- Check out these websites:
- Consider ways to reduce your household waste. Products such as reusable napkins for your dinner table, plastic-free household cleaning products, dish rags instead of paper towels, metal straws and utensils, and reusable grocery bags go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint.
- Avoid single-use plastics. Although it may seem tough to switch, most products are made online with a plastic-free version. Back to the idea of a little research goes a long way! Not buying plastic water bottles is probably the easiest switch of all. Buy a water filter and reusable water bottle instead!
- Walk or bike to the store, especially now that more drivers are off the road! Sustain Charlotte works towards making bike paths and walkways more accessible and safe for our local Charlotte community. If you walk or bike to the store, only buy products that you need so you can carry your goods home.
- Start a garden or compost bin in your backyard! Growing your own food is the most sustainable and healthy way to support your lifestyle. If you compost, you can use it in your garden to add nutrients back into the soil and also reduce your food waste. If you are in an apartment or other space without access to a backyard, try a window box or planter!
- Adjust your thermostat, open a window, and maximize natural sunlight in your home. By using less energy to power your home, not only will the environment be happy, but your wallet will be too!
- Turn off and unplug appliances when they are not needed. Even if appliances are turned off, they can still use a significant amount of energy. That means after your morning cup of coffee, unplug the machine until its next use!
- Incorporate a "Meatless Monday"--or eliminate your meat consumption altogether! A good way to spend your time in quarantine is to cook a delicious meal. Learn how to make a protein-filled meal without actually consuming meat! For your next “lunch break” consider eating a meatless salad or veggie bowl. Raising livestock contributes around 18% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is more than all emissions produced by mass transportation (airplanes, trains, cars, ships, etc.). By switching to a vegetarian option, you will get a healthy meal, save money, and protect the environment.