Having a good handle on nutrition is undoubtedly important but as I continue to integrate wellness into all aspects of my life, it’s led to me to more resources on how this extends past just diet (and exercise). Understanding how the products we use and consume each day affects not only us directly, but also the planet in which we reside, is something I’ve become extremely interested and passionate about recently.
Environmental sustainability is more important now than ever. Where topics such as climate change or peak oil can be debated, one thing that is absolutely undeniable is the impact of environmental pollution on both humans and the habitat. Each year, more bodies of water are polluted, natural landscape is lost, and animals are becoming endangered or extinct. A loss of biodiversity raises the risks of disease and famine and the rate at which humans pollute the Earth is much faster than the rate at which the Earth can be restored.
Below are some things I’ve been focusing on over the past few months to get started on reducing my environmental footprint that I hope inspires you in some capacity to make even one small change from the list below.
Even though recycling programs exist, 91% of the water bottles we use every year wind up in a landfill. And we use about a million per minute.
Grab a water bottle you’ll enjoy using and skip the plastic disposable bottles. If you use straws or eat out often, invest in some reusable flatware or metal straws that you can keep in your purse or car. The reusable grocery bags I’ve linked here are a staple I keep in my trunk for when I’m grocery shopping so that I’m not using plastic grocery bags. I have not yet tried these compostable trash bags, but this will be next swap to see what plastic I can continue to eliminate.
To put it in perspective, above are some common items we purchase or use each day, along with how long it will take for that plastic to break down. I was completely ignorant to this before I actively sought out this information, which is scary.
Studies have shown that phosphates, a common ingredient in detergents, builds up in waterways and lead to eutrophication — big algal blooms that can starve fish and other plant life of oxygen. Having a non-toxic laundry detergent is not only great for the environment, but it’s also much better for you. “Regular” laundry detergents can leave a chemical residue on clothing, which is absorbed by our skin and inhaled into our lungs. Some effects of these chemicals can show up as skin or eye irritations, or even eczema, rashes, and endocrine disruption.
My favorite laundry detergent swap has definitely been Method’s Ginger Mango – it’s plant based, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and smells amazzzzing. I even had my boyfriend, Travis, switch to this and he is equally as obsessed!
The Good Trade put together some amazing information on non-toxic cleaning products to use for a more conscious home. I am a clean freak so when I first made the switch, I was nervous that the products wouldn’t actually work as well as the ones I grew up being surrounded by (think: the smell of bleach, Ajax, etc.). The entire line of Method products is second to none but there are also great DIY resources online if you want to take an even more sustainable, affordable approach to this area.
You might be asking – how do my cleaning products affect the environment? Blueandgreentomorrow.com writes, “When you use these chemicals in your toilets, sinks, dishwashers, or other appliances, the chemicals are eventually rinsed down the drain. The water then heads to waste water treatment facilities, where the majority of contaminants are removed before the water makes its way back to rivers and lakes. However, not all the contaminants from these chemical products are removed, and over time, they can build up to have a substantial and negative effect on the wildlife. Some compounds actually accelerate plant growth, which can lead to dense vegetation that interferes with animal life and eventually decays in equally massive quantities.”
Local food systems typically rely on small, family-run farms. Supporting local farmer’s markets and community agriculture programs typically cuts down on individual carbon footprints since transporting food across long distances burns fossil fuels.
This is an area that I need to improve in since I really try to buy all-organic produce and that may not be available if I go to my local farmer’s market. I will need to do more research in this area to determine what farms are around me and how I can better weave local produce into the mix where it makes sense.
Long, hot showers were definitely one of my favorite self-care “luxuries”, but I’ve since switched that to making sure I’m using a really nice post-shower oil or body cream in place of wasting water. The average American uses 25,300 gallons of water a year (69.3 gallons daily). You can help reduce the waste of this resource by shortening your shower by 2 minutes, which would cut your water use by 10 gallons.
Water covers 70% of our planet, so it’s easy to think that it will always be plentiful. However, fresh water – what we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with – makes up only 3% of that. 2/3rds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.
World Wildlife reports, “some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people—they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone. Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.”
Based on our current consumption rates of water, this situation is predicted to get worse and by 2025, 2/3rds of the world population could face water shortages, with the ecosystems around us affected even more.
REASONS SUSTAINABILITY IS IMPORTANT TO ME:
- I do not want future generations to pay the price for my sheer ignorance or what’s convenient for me at the time.
- I do not want to support wasteful companies and can protest them by ensuring I do not contribute to them through researching before I buy.
- I want to set an example for my future children on how to be aware that they’re a part of something larger and how their actions affect the planet/their home.
- I want to protect animals and their natural habitats.
- I want to spread the knowledge I’ve gained with others who may not yet be aware of the impact or need some tips on how to start to make lasting change.
Don’t ever forget that knowledge is power. The media often talks about climate change in far-away places, so it’s easy to buy into the fact that it’s “not our problem”. Perhaps it’s that we don’t want to lose convenience, or we don’t know how to change, or we just don’t invest in the time needed to do the research. I’ve heard from a lot of people that they’re only “one person” so what they do won’t affect the entire planet. But imagine if many individuals changed their mindset, and their behaviors. When everyone makes a conscious effort to reduce their own waste and think about the impact their every action has on the world, change can be within our reach.