Our consumer economy is responsible for a large amount of the climate change and environmental destruction you see around you. From the plastic-filled oceans to the clearcut forests, what you choose to eat, drink, and purchase for pleasure (or out of necessity) has a major impact on the environment. There are ways to control your impact, however. Below are some tips for making greener consumption decisions, starting today.
Use a Green Credit Card
Most people in the west have at least one credit card. It might be for a designated purpose (bills or business-related expenses), or it could be something they use for a variety of things out of convenience. If you use a credit card on a regular basis, why not consider a green credit card as a way to help green your spending and consumption.
There are various card options out there that have partnered with groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and have agreed to dedicate a percentage of each dollar spent on the card to the partner cause. You can amplify your positive environmental impact simply by leveraging the reach and power of companies like Visa and Mastercard.
Reduce Waste and Reuse Things
There are plenty of ways you can cut down on waste simply by using things you already have on hand. If you are going grocery shopping, bring your own bag. Plastic shopping bags can be reduced or eliminated, reducing the quantity of waste that ends up in landfills. In fact, many grocery stores now charge you for requesting plastic bags, and some have gone as far as not offering them at all. If you must use a plastic bag, either reuse it or recycle it.
Paper products should also be recycled or reused. Scrap printer paper, for example, can be used as note pads or recycled in your recycling container.
You can also cut down on the waste you generate by purchasing a used item. Many household and apparel goods can be found in good shape at a local thrift shop for less money. After they’ve worn out, old clothes might be used as rags. Consider donating items in good condition to local charities and non-profit groups in our town.
Bring Your Own Containers
From Tupperware to coffee mugs to hard plastic water bottles, there are plenty of ways you can cut down on waste and be a more conscientious consumer simply by bringing your own containers.
When you’re busy, plastic water bottles may seem convenient, but if they’re not recycled properly, they can harm the environment. In fact, plastic water bottles, of which more than a million are sold around the world every minute, are one of the biggest sources of ocean plastic. Purchasing a reusable water container to bring water with you may be more cost-effective.
One of the best ways to eat greener is to buy local products whenever possible. If someone doesn’t have to travel as far to reach your table, that means less transportation-related carbon emitted. Consider eating and purchasing locally farmed foods if you’re concerned about how far food travels before it reaches your plate.
You can also reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Food waste is a major issue. Keep an eye on what you buy at the grocery store and make meal plans to make the most of what you have on hand. If you must dispose of plant-based food waste, composting is a better option than the landfill.
Another important part of being a greener eater is being mindful of the things you don’t need. Make a point of requesting no straws when you are eating out, forgoing plastic lids if you don’t actually require one and asking restaurant staff to leave out the plastic cutlery and condiment packages if you are going to be eating at home.
Be Packaging Conscious
Reduce the amount of packaging you use by examining the packaging of products before making a purchase. Many things are packaged in paper and plastic, which can be recycled, repurposed, or composted after use.
Another way you can cut down on the amount of packaging you are responsible for is to minimize the amount of shopping you do online. If you buy from Amazon on a regular basis, you no doubt have seen just how much packaging is required to send even small items.
All of the styrofoam packing peanuts, boxes, tape, plastic, humidity bags, etcetera add up to quite a lot. If the average person was to stand beside the pile of packaging they generate in a given year, it would probably make them feel quite guilty. There are people out there who have committed to a lifestyle of “zero waste” who generate only one jar of trash per year.
Mind Your Energy Consumption
Turn off what you aren’t using. Reducing electricity consumption helps the environment while also lowering monthly expenditures. Consider minor actions to reduce energy consumption, such as turning off your computer at the end of the day or using timers for your outdoor lighting.
Consider things like electric space heaters as opposed to central heating, especially if you live somewhere that does not get dangerously cold. You can also invest in energy-efficient lighting and windows.
Educate Yourself on Supply Chains
Everything that you buy is a finished product in a complicated supply chain. Many of these chains stretch all around the world, with producers, extractors, and people adding value in a variety of places, in a variety of ways. Some companies are more concerned about the environmental impact of their supply chain and suppliers than others.
By being more conscious of things like the extraction process of the various raw materials that went into your product, the farming methods used to cultivate and food you are eating, even the labour practices of the company in question, you can make a difference. Not only can you better control what you spend your money on but, through the power of your choice, you and other consumers like you can influence companies to do better and punish those that do not.
Many people feel like their consumption decisions don’t matter in the face of such unrelenting industrial-scale pollution and environmental degradation. What does one person’s ecological footprint matter when massive fossil fuel, mining and industrial fishing industries are never going to stop? The answer is, while perhaps a drop in the ocean, the ocean is a series of drops. All it takes is a critical mass of people implementing some or all of the above to make a difference.
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