5 Easy Ways You Can Help the Environment
Have you ever imagined what the world will be like in 50 years? If you are concerned for the well being of our environment, you probably have, anxiously. The state of the environment has been one of the most pressing issues of our time. While global warming and climate change may not be completely reversible, we can help slow down the effects and decrease the impact as much as possible. Here are 5 ways you can help the environment:
1. Reduce meat in your diet. According to University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, meat products have larger carbon footprints per calorie than grain or vegetable products because of the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy, and the methane released from manure management. A vegetarian diet greatly reduces an individual’s carbon footprint, but switching to less carbon intensive meats can have a major impact as well. For example, beef's greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram are 7.2 times greater than those of chicken. Additionally, plant based proteins tend to be less expensive than animal proteins. With that being said, if you skip meat once or twice a week, you will not only be saving the environment, but some money too!
2. Buy locally grown foods. There are many advantages when you buy local. The crops are picked at their peak season for the best flavor and quality. After they are harvested, they travel shorter distances to your table, reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The use of plastic and other types of packaging to keep them looking fresh through processing and transportation also decreases. Furthermore, choosing local helps protect our farmland and preserves biodiversity. So, visit your local farmers’ market, food co-ops, and support our local farmers! You can explore the USDA’s list of local food directories to find out where to get local agricultural products near you.
3. Use less water. Using less water not only saves money, but also saves the environment. According to Bureau of Reclamation, about 97% of water on the Earth’s surface is saline water, and 3% is fresh water. Of the 3% of Earth’s fresh water, only 0.5% is available fresh water. Saline water is undrinkable but can be converted into fresh water using a method called desalination. However, the desalination process can affect our environment negatively, by impacting community land use, increasing erosion, and causing severe harm to coastal ecosystems. Therefore, fresh water is a precious natural resource and should be used wisely. There are many things that we can do around the house to save water. For example, wash a full load of laundry instead of several smaller loads, and don’t leave the tap running unnecessarily. If you have garden at your house, consider saving the water used from washing produce to water the plants.
4. Reduce plastic waste. By now, we all know that plastic is polluting our ocean. It is estimated that the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050. We may be actively recycling plastic at home or at work, but a large percentage of plastic is still thrown away rather than recycled. At this point, we should really think about reducing our plastic use instead of relying on them being recycled. For example, keep your own utensils and cups at work, and bring your own lunch in reusable containers. Consider meal prepping once a week, as it will save you money and time. In addition, you will be eating healthier meals by avoiding the high fat, sugar, and sodium foods in most takeout meals.
5. Donate your old clothes. Do you have boxes of old clothes that are tucked away in the basement or garage and forgotten? When we find ourselves with clothes that no longer fit or have gone out of style, consider donating them instead of throwing them away. According to United States Environmental Protection Agency, the main source of textiles in municipal solid waste (MSW) is discarded clothing. Landfills received 11.2 million tons of MSW textiles in 2017. It is appalling how much clothing goes directly into our landfills when they could be reused and recycled. There are many places where you can donate old clothes to help those in need. Some examples are American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Big Brother Big Sister Foundation, Savers, Goodwill, and homeless shelters. Next time you decide to donate your old clothes, you’ll know you’re not only reducing clutter in your house but helping the environment!
Saving the environment may seem daunting, as the world’s population is increasing and so are our needs. However, it will be a more reachable goal if we do it together. With a positive mindset and a small change in our behaviors, the effects can be long lasting. Spread the word, educate the public, encourage family and friends to do the same. We can make an impact if we do it together.
Written by: Sally Li, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern