Every day, we go through our daily routine and whether we realise it or not, our habits have an impact on the environment around us. Sometimes, it's something more obvious, like choosing to throw a water bottle in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. Other times, it's less obvious, like running your dishwasher at night rather than during the day.
It's important to understand how the small decisions each of us make add up to a huge impact on the environment. To give you a better sense of what your carbon footprint looks like, take a look at this list to see which habits you're already doing, which you may need to adopt, and which you need to give up.
Eating your leftovers can actually save the planet.
The number one material sent to landfills and incinerators is food waste, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in their official statement on Martin Luther King Day. And much of the food that's thrown away is usually wholesome food that could be fed to those in need.
An easy way to reduce this problem is to eat your leftovers. People who are already doing this are saving money and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, which are produced from decomposing food in landfills.
Going vegan is a meaningful step towards reducing your environmental impact.
Our current food system in the US is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. And according to a study published in Nature, this number will only increase.
By 2050, there will be an 80% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from food production. To prevent this, the study found that a global vegetarian diet would be most effective in reducing emissions - more so than a global Mediterranean or pescatarian diet.
And with a vegan diet, as you can imagine, emissions would be reduced most of all by eliminating also dairy and eggs and in turn, decreasing agricultural land demand and land clearing.
So, by simply choosing to follow a plant-based diet, you're actually promoting environmental sustainability.
Reusable water bottles aren’t just a status statement, they also save the whales.
People who have those trendy reusable water bottles are not only are saving money but also are reaping the health benefits.
By drinking from a refillable water bottle, you can save about $US260 per year, as most Americans spend about $US5 per week on bottled water. Plus, you can be assured that your bottle is Bisphenol A (BPA) free, unlike plastic water bottles which may contain BPA. This chemical has been found to cause serious health problems down the line such as cancer or hormonal problems.
Using a reusable water bottle also prevents you from adding to the 38 billion water bottles that end up in US landfills each year and helps reduce plastic waste, protecting marine animals from eating or becoming entangled in plastic, according to National Geographic magazine.
Craigslist lovers and thrift store shoppers are doing a few things right.
Thrift store shoppers are one step ahead of the game in terms of preserving the planet. Buying used items reduces your carbon footprint because new products usually are imported from all over the world. Used goods also rely on less packaging, which is beneficial to the environment.
Things you can buy used range from clothes and books all the way to furniture and electronic appliances.
The phrase, ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ is taken very seriously in your household.
If you're one to refrain from flushing after urinating, kudos to you. Flushing the toilet is possibly the biggest waste of water in the house. Each time you flush, you're dumping about 1.5 gallons of water if you have a new toilet and older toilets are losing about five gallons.
And though some people view this habit as something gross or unsanitary, it could reduce your household water usage significantly, according to a study done at Indiana University.
Keeping your appliances plugged in is a waste of money and energy.
There are roughly 50 devices and appliances draining power in the typical American home, whether or not they are being actively used. Not only does it add up on your electricity bill, but electricity production accounts for approximately 34% of domestic carbon dioxide emissions.
This is happening because many appliances still use power even when they are "off" or in idle power mode, accounting for about a quarter of all residential energy consumption, according to a Northern California study by the Natural Resources Defence Council.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of power used at home is to connect a group of your appliances to a power strip in order to turn them all off at the same time.
Running your dishwasher at night hurts the environment more than if you run it during the day.
It's a fairly common practice to run the dishwasher at the end of the night, once everyone has finished eating. But many people don't realise that electric markets have peak usage times - typically in the evenings, according to Mike Neylan, CEO of CellCube Energy Storage Systems. Running your dishwasher at night, therefore, bumps up the price of energy consumption because power is in such high demand.
"Anytime you use an appliance at night that requires a lot of energy, you're indirectly hurting the environment by adding to that demand and making consumption less efficient," Neylan told INSIDER.
To solve this problem, Neylan recommends just saving this task for the morning. Or if you're looking to buy a new dishwasher, look for one with a timer so you can schedule it to run during the day when the demand for electricity is low.
Driving is the number one reason for air pollution.
Though Americans have started to drive less in the last few years, driving still comes out on top as the biggest air quality compromiser, producing one-third of all US air pollution, according to National Geographic magazine.
To put it into perspective on an individual level, a typical vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the EPA. That's roughly 10,000 pounds a year!
To reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, drive less and find alternate modes of transportation such as walking, biking, and public transportation.
Online shopping does a lot more harm than good when it comes to the planet.
Online shopping sales continue to soar and it's no surprise with the convenience and ease, but it comes at a high cost to the planet.
The delivery alone causes a disproportionate amount of emissions with more people ordering their stuff online, increasing the number of destinations trucks have to travel to. Plus, people are also buying more items because of the easy access, which means more shipments and more trucks.
And if that wasn't enough to convince you to give up your online shopping addiction, online products typically require a lot more packaging than if you just went to the store and brought it home in a reusable bag.
Non-reusable menstrual products are getting sent to landfills by the billions.
Many people don't realise the damage sanitary napkins are doing to the environment and it's pretty shocking. Annually, 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are sent to US landfills. To make matters worse, the plastic packaging takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.
A solution to this problem is to switch over to a sustainable option, which unfortunately are few and far between. This includes cloth pads, washable period underwear, reusable menstrual cups, and sea sponges.
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