6 Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint
7 Minute Read
Ever feel like no matter what you do, you’re not doing enough for the environment?
That’s exactly how I used to feel. Like all the time.
Eco-guilt is a very real thing. And it sucks.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I wanna give you a few ideas to think about as you try to lower your environmental footprint and move towards a low-waste lifestyle.
Remember, these are just suggestions. They’re not the be-all-end-all. Living a sustainable life that’s good for the planet can look one way for one person and totally different for another. This is your journey. And you get to choose what it looks like.
Here are 6 ways to reduce your environmental footprint:
1. Use what you got.
This will always be rule #1. Even though Marie Kondo might tell you to get rid of something if it doesn’t bring you joy, if it’s something that you can get a lot of use out of, then it’s best to use it for as long as you can, instead of just swapping it out for a more eco-friendly version. Yea, you could go out and buy a winter coat made from recycled plastic water bottles, but if you have an existing winter coat that’s made with synthetic fibers [or even animal fur], then its best to use that coat for as long as you can. And if it eventually falls apart beyond repair, you can go out and get that sustainably made winter coat.
2. Buy less and buy used.
For the most part, we have everything we really need. And the less ‘things’ we have, the less resources we need to extract from the planet. But if you really do need something, first see if you can get it secondhand or make a trade for it.
Here are some resources for finding secondhand items:
- shop on craigslist (you can get everything from couches to cameras, bicycles, tv’s, cars, and so much more)
- join a Buy Nothing Group (this is a free Facebook group based on your location). You can post items that you no longer want/need with the intention of giving them away to someone who can put it to good use.
- get your clothes from a brick-and-mortar thrift store or an online secondhand shop
3. Eat. Less. Meat.
I’m not saying you have to go full-on vegan. I, myself, eat about 90% plant-based. But if I didn’t give into my own food weaknesses, I’d be 100% plant-based. Ethically speaking, I’ve always had a beef with eating meat [you know I had to throw a food pun in there!]. But since learning about how factory farms negatively impact our environmental footprint, eating less animal products has become even more ingrained into my M-O.
Even just cutting animal products out of 1 meal a day can cut your consumption by 33%. Think about that for a sec. That’s a pretty big impact for such a small change. And eating plant-based also has a ton of other heath benefits.
**I listened to this Rich Roll podcast the other day that outlines the many long and short-term benefits of plant-based eating. You can listen to it here.
Here’s what my breakfast looks like most days. Cashew yogurt, fruit and granola. It’s a completely plant-based breakfast with everything I need to start my day.
4. Opt for reusables instead of single-use items.
The to-go culture we’ve grown so accustomed to has made avoiding waste pretty tricky, but if you ever have the option to get your coffee, juice, lunch or grocery haul in a reusable container or bag, that decision will save you a ton of unnecessary waste and significantly lower your environmental footprint.
The best way to get into the mindset of bringing your own reusables is to think about the trash that usually accumulates in your daily life (or you can get right in there and dumpster dive in your trash to see what you actually throw out). Based on what you find, you can keep alternatives on hand to help you avoid those single-use items when you’re on the go.
Here are some examples of items you can carry in your bag or keep in your car:
- reusable water bottle (to avoid single-use bottles of water/tea/Gatorade/kombucha)
- reusable utensils, a lightweight food container, and a napkin (to avoid eating your lunch with single-use items). Or just bring your own lunch!
- insulated coffee mug (to avoid single-use coffee cups, which aren’t recyclable btw)
- foldable shopping bags (to avoid single-use plastic bags)
- reusable snack bag (to avoid single-use baggies when grabbing an afternoon treat. I know you love those cookies from the coffee shop around the corner. Wait, that’s me! ?)
5. Opt for less packaging (if its available to you).
If you’re out shopping, and you have two options to choose from: one with no packaging and another wrapped in all kinds of plastic, go for the package-free option. Not only does it involve less resources and materials, but it also decreases your downstream waste. And if you’re in a situation where you have the choice between something that’s packaged in recyclable/compostable paper compared to non-recyclable plastic, go for the first option. Even though it still involves waste, it has a lower environmental footprint, making it the lesser of two evils.
Here are some examples of ways you can avoid packaging:
- get fruits and veggies that aren’t pre-packaged
- shop for items in bulk groceries if you have access to one
- use deodorant that comes in a glass jar or compostable container
- choose package-free soap or one that comes in a paper wrapper
nuts, beans, and sweets that I got from the bulk section at my grocery
6. Focus on 1 change at a time.
Remember, this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And it’s about making one mindful decision at a time. If you try to flip the switch on everything you do all at once, you’re gonna get overwhelmed and you’ll probably just throw in the towel.
My approach throughout my own journey has been to focus on one change at a time. e.g. this month, I’m gonna focus on swapping out my face wash to an option with non-toxic ingredients. Once I’ve got that sorted, I’m gonna move onto finding [or making] a toothpaste that doesn’t come in a plastic tube, and so on and so on.
There’s no right answer. So don’t be hard on yourself.
I often find myself torn between two options. For example, I try to avoid meat, but vegan options are often heavily packaged in plastic. So is it better for me to eat the animal-based food that has a huge carbon footprint and involves a whole lot of animal cruelty? Or is it better for me to eat the plant-based option that has a lot of packaging?
Is there a right answer? I’m not sure. All I can do is choose the option that most aligns with my values.
By simply making a few conscious decisions, whether big or small, you can have a positive impact on your environmental footprint. What you do matters.
As I was writing this blog, I came across an Ecological Footprint Calculator, which calculates your environmental footprint with just a few simple questions. I’ve used other footprint calculators before that were really complicated, but this one is so much better. And it gave me a solid understanding of how I can improve my own footprint.
According to the information I entered, if everyone lived like me, we’d still need 2.3 earths to sustain our consumption. So I’ve got some work to do, too!!
Here are some screenshots from my results: