Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Today, our environmental crisis should be on everyone’s mind as it affects each and every one on the planet. And yet, it is still a topic that divides us, notably in terms of what can actually be done. The world being on different levels of development, every 195 countries have different priorities to develop and strengthen their own region. From an European perspective, this article is addressed to each person that does not think they cannot (or will not) contribute to the fight. On an individual level, everyone can and must. I understand it is not easy to completely unroot your routine. Therefore, let us start small and begin with adapting minor changes to one’s daily activity in a sustainable way.
Here are 7 (very) small habits to take, which do not require any effort to be sustainable. Don’t forget we are not doing this for ourselves, but for Mother Earth who clearly deserves it.
1. Turn off the lights. This is probably the easiest habit to take and requires little to no additional effort. I promise you, you won’t even break a sweat. Just considering turning off the lights (and maybe the air conditioning or heating) is a simple way to protect the environment when leaving a room. It can also help reduce carbon emission and other harmful greenhouse gases. The general rules of thumb mention that it is essential if you use incandescent bulbs, to turn off the lights if you go out of your room for one minute or more. For fluorescent bulbs, you can leave the lights on if you’re out of your home for 15 minutes or less, and turn them off when you leave for more than 15 minutes. (1) This will reduce your energy consumption, and your electricity bill. Two birds, one stone.
2. Invest in a water bottle. How much do you spend buying plastic water bottles per week? It sounds too simple, but yet again, sustainability doesn’t have to be difficult to implement. A baby step may not seem like a lot to certain people, and they question its true impact. But hear me out – if 8 billion people stopped buying plastic bottles, or at least started to buy less, I guarantee the impact would be tremendous. Humans buy about 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute in total. Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S (2) This means that by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.
3. Bring reusable bags with you to the store. The effort is minimal. The hardest part about this is actually remembering to do it. Tip: I usually put ten tote bags at my entrance door, that way, I don’t have to think about taking a bag as they are always in front of me. The estimations show that 500 single-use plastic bags are usually replaced by using one reusable bag for one year. This means that if someone shops for 70 years (from 18 years old until they are 88 years old), they will save 350,000 bags. (3)
4. This tip is targeted to all smokers, casual or regular – any individual who puts cigarette buds in their mouths. Please, once consumed, think of putting the buds in the trash. Smokers around the world buy roughly 6.5 trillion cigarettes each year. That’s 18 billion every day (4). And, one cigarette butt in a liter of water kills half the fish. Food for thought.
5. Go for local products. When browsing in your supermarket, instead of taking your regular products (that can be imported from the other side of the world) without thinking twice about it, browse for the local options. When shopping at the grocery store, many of the food selections have travelled over 1,500 miles to reach your plate. By cutting down on these miles, you are reducing the environmental impact of your food. Local food doesn’t create large carbon footprints through overseas plane travel or long truck trips. This cuts down on fuel consumption and air pollution. There is also no need for shipping facilities, packing facilities or refrigeration. (5) To make the choice simpler, one may want to get informed of the seasonal calendars of fruits and vegetables.
6. See red meat as a treat. This is for all red-meat eaters. The industry is hugely polluting. Instead of viewing meat as a necessity, maybe adapt your view as a treat, an exceptional gift to yourself. According to a study this month in the journal Scientific Reports (6) if everyone in the US reduced their consumption of beef, pork, and poultry by a quarter and substituted plant proteins, 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year would be saved. 82 million metric tons, that would be a reduction of a little more than 1 percent. If everyone in the country did go vegetarian, cutting meat out completely and replacing it with plant proteins of the same nutritional value, we’d save 330 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. In that case, the savings would be about 5 percent. But that will have to wait.
If you are not ready to completely quit meat consumption, there are other ways to cut meat consumption. For example, you can adopt a flexitarian, demitarian or even reduceterian diet. All three are quite similar with a common thought reuniting them all: trying is already good enough. And, it is. The simple act of acknowledging there is something for you to do and participate in always has an impact, no matter how small.
7. Educate. Educate. Educate. This may take a bit more time and involvement, but it is the only way to learn and take part in the fight. Generally speaking, people do not have the info, and if they do, it may not be the correct one. The power of information is key to tackle climate change, and education is the most powerful means to convey this message. Therefore, talk about it to your friends and families, explain, debate, answer questions. It’s about spreading awareness and who knows, this may encourage others to actively take part in saving the world, one plastic bottle at a time.
The point of this article is not a simple to-do list, but for each and every one to grasp the importance of it: the planet is dying and it is up to save it and us in the process. This article is mankind’s last hope for all red meat lovers, plastic bag buyers and cigarette throwers to get a grip. It’s a battle that takes everyone.
About the author:
After having studied political science in rainy UK, I am currently pursuing my studies in sunny Madrid. I love dancing and painting (even it’s no Picasso) and aspiring to take part in positive societal change.