Written by Liane Stieglitz, ESLLC 2017-2018
One of the most common excuses to not helping the environment that I hear is that people think that it takes too much time and effort to truly make a difference. Though investing time in volunteering and composting is something that does indeed help, little and seemingly insignificant actions can help all the same and serve as a great start to your environmentally friendly journey.
1. If you’re not willing to compost, try not to waste as much food. The concept of composting can seem overwhelming or confusing at times, especially if you don’t live somewhere that has a lot of public compost opportunities. When food is wasted and isn’t composted, it goes into the landfill and becomes harmful to the environment. Try to only make portion sizes you know you can finish, and take home leftovers from restaurants (chances are they don’t compost). When shopping, plan out grocery lists to make sure you’re not over buying. Make a plan for what meals you’re going to cook that week and what you need for them, and only buy those things. Don’t shop hungry, or you’ll buy more and end up with too much food in the house.
2. Start bringing reusable bags to the store. In places like California, this is much more common because of the price on using non reusable bags. However, most places around the US and world don’t encourage patrons to bring their own bags. Just keep 5 or 6 in the back of your car at all times, and bring them into the store with you when you shop. Don’t only bring the big ones, but small ones for things like produce and bulk items as well. Bags come in all shapes and sizes, so you can stop using the tiny plastic bags for fruit, and just throw them in a small reusable bag.
3. Be smart when buying drinks. First, don’t use plastic straws at restaurants. If a waiter or waitress starts to give you a straw simply say no thank you and that you’d rather drink straight from the cup. Also, if you’re going to a coffee shop, try to bring your own travel mug so that they don’t have to use extra cups. Some coffee places will actually give you a discount for bringing your own mug, and sometimes you get more coffee as well because it’s harder for them to measure.
4. Eat and shop locally. This may seem irrelevant, but when the food and products used to make the items that you consume are produced closer to home, it takes less transportation energy to get them to you. If you go to a restaurant that gets their tomatoes from California and you live in New York, a lot of fuel has gone into getting those tomatoes onto your plate. However, if you know that the tomatoes are from a local garden or farm, it significantly cuts down on the amount of fuel and resources used.
5. Start or join a garden. One of the best ways to eat local is to eat straight from your backyard. Grow plants seasonally, and see how many fruits and veggies you can get. Don’t use pesticides or fertilizers because they’re bad for the environment and you. This also means that you shouldn’t use either on your yard either. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on the soil that grows the produce you’re going to eat. Either way, growing your own food cuts all transportation and packaging resources which helps in a big way.
These are just a start. Though they’re all completely doable things, start with one or two and form habits. Then, keep adding them on and see how many new ways you can find to help out. Don’t get overwhelmed; helping the environment is not necessarily more effort, but it will take you thinking about your daily actions. Be considerate of where things are coming from and how they got to you. Think about whether you really need to buy the prepackaged produce, or if the other fruit is just as good. Simple mindset changes make a big difference, and you can too. Start simple, and who knows, maybe you’ll be a crazy tree hugger one day too.