Incorporating eco-friendly habits into your everyday life is becoming increasingly important these days. With the extensive resources available in urban areas, you'd guess that living in a growing city would make this easier. In many cases, however, the fast-paced urban lifestyle isn’t quite conducive to change. In fact, pondering the current health of the environment can be a bit depressing, especially if you think about the surplus of pollution being created daily by people living in concrete jungles across the globe.
It's a common misconception that recycling is the only way to be environmentally conscientious, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint without adding to an already hectic daily schedule!
1. Adopt a more simplistic lifestyle
Ever think of downsizing? Living with a just a touch more minimalism in your everyday life?
The fewer things you have, the easier it becomes to be green — not to mention you can recycle old stuff you no longer need, encouraging others in your community to also go green. Whether it's packing your lunch more often or asking yourself "How often will I actually use this?" before purchasing, start by cutting back on frivolous spending. Researchers have long discussed the effect of Western consumerism on the environment; the results are often not particularly positive. The strain on resources, as well as the limited methods of sustainable disposal, are both great reasons to avoid unnecessary purchases.
From there, you can graduate to letting go of things you don’t need and make an effort to purchase items that can be reused for multiple purposes. With the popularity of Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up" on Netflix, de-cluttering your life has become both environmentally conscious and trendy.
For the items that you can get rid of, don’t assume they can be thrown in your everyday trash. For example, when cutting down on kitchen items consider how the item can either be donated, sold, recycled, or reused. If you don’t want to think about it, use a service that sorts and hauls your unwanted clutter for you.
2. Eliminate plastic bags
Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and when placed in a landfill emits toxic chemicals, yet we still choose plastic bags for sheer convenience (though more and more local governments are passing bans on single-use plastic bags!). When shopping, say no to plastic bags and invest in a few reusable shopping bags instead. Reusable shopping bags are an inexpensive eco-friendly alternative to “disposable” plastic bags.
Do you also use plastic zipper storage bags to pack your lunch? If so, opt for Bio Bags, reusable silicone bags or sealable glass containers. There are even reusable eating utensils out there that are perfect for a work lunch or small parties.
If you typically reuse plastic bags to clean up pet waste, there's a compostable alternative for that, too!
3. Buy local
Buying local is a great way to support regional farmers, as it provides economic opportunities and helps reduce the environmental impact of the agricultural market. Produce grown non-locally had to be transported to the grocery store from somewhere further away, thus contributing to greater carbon emissions.
Additionally, when you buy local, you are helping to preserve smaller farm land that otherwise would have been used for industry and commercial purposes. These lands allow nearby wildlife to prosper without having to worry about industrial disruptions which would most likely result in a loss of wildlife habitats. farmers markets promote sustainability and are a very important part of the community.
4. Support local businesses
Just like farmers markets, supporting local businesses that offer sustainable business practices both helps the community and reduces your footprint. Larger companies are often less transparent about their values and less invested in the local community, so it can simplify your green transition to rely on local retailers, who are in tune with your area's culture, history and interests.
5. Use alternative transportation
Those who live in the heart of a large, American city know the horrors that can come with owning a car in a populated space. On top of regular maintenance fees and heightened gas prices, you also have the privilege of paying for a parking spot everywhere you go. Not only does this get expensive, it’s also detrimental to the Atlanta’s air quality.
We'll use Atlanta, GA, as an example. Atlanta is currently ranked 22nd on the list of most particle polluted cities in the United States — meaning residents can’t afford to take their impact lightly. To do your part use alternative modes of transportation, such as biking, walking, or taking public transportation.
6. Grow your own plants
In the city, you don’t have acres of land at your disposal; however, you’d be surprised what you can grow inside an apartment. Herbs are a very popular choice for novice gardeners, as it not only provides you with fresh herbs to cook with, but it also gives your apartment a lovely touch of green.
Indoor plants also support your health. Adding plant life to your home can decrease stress and create a sense of well-being. They also help the air quality by reducing levels of carbon dioxide, certain air pollutants, and airborne dust, while increasing humidity, keeping air temperatures down, and producing more oxygen.
For those with a green thumb, join a local community garden where you can garden your own fruit and vegetables. Some community gardens even have space for group composting.
Composting is a great way to dispose of your food scraps, rather than sending them to a landfill (where decomposition is difficult). More cities are starting to set out a separate bin just for composting that is collected like your trash and recycle.
Composting your food scraps and other biodegradable household materials can be transformed into soil. This is especially useful when growing your own plants and produce. To be mindful of your housing space, use a small kitchen bin as a short term solution for composting. Then create a place on your balcony for the rest of the process to be handled. As city living usually equates to smaller living spaces, use this guide to composting in small apartments.
Making a Difference
Adapting your lifestyle to serve the environment first can be a difficult task but even the smallest of changes can have an halo effect on those around you. Again, start small and find a way to motivate yourself — whether it’s for the love of your city, your children or just an appeal to general goodwill. If you are living eco-friendly as most of you reading this are, grow your efforts to pick up the slack of someone who isn’t conscious of our precious planet!
Special thanks to our guest author Haley Kieser for writing this informative piece!