Sustainability is a hot topic in every industry, community, and household. Whether you’re a construction worker or a stay-at-home parent, you’re probably racking your brain to figure out the best way to live a more sustainable, eco-friendly life.
But recent research, conducted by Dr. Diana Irvona from the University of Leeds, has uncovered the habits that may be ballooning your carbon footprint.
The research shows that reducing transport, waste, and long-haul flights can significantly improve your personal sustainability. The paper also found that making changes like going vegan and investing in home renovations can bring down your carbon footprint and reduce your personal emissions.
Walking, Cycling, and Public Transport
You probably need your car for work and other responsibilities: like being a taxi for your kids or meeting up with friends. When was the last time you asked yourself, “could I walk, cycle, or take public transport instead?” It’s all too easy to jump into the car, fasten your seatbelt, and take a journey that would have been equally possible on a bus or bike.
However, Dr. Irvona’s research shows that living car-free is the biggest change you can make as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life. Using a car every day produces a hefty amount of carbon and the maintenance required to repair and improve automotive infrastructure is a major contributing factor to climate change globally.
Of course, you don’t have to go entirely car-free to reduce your transport footprint. You should start by assessing if living without a car is right for you. You can do this by researching transport alternatives like trains, subways, and metros in your local area and testing out the cycle paths that are nearby.
If you do need a car, consider exploring alternatives like carpooling or electric vehicles. Battery-powered electric cars are gaining popularity and becoming more affordable — particularly if you account for the rise in gas prices. Making a change early may save you money in the long run and help you live a cleaner, less carbon-intensive lifestyle.
You’ve probably heard of “zero waste” lifestyles and may have even seen social media content from folks who purport to only produce one trash can of waste per year. However, going zero-waste doesn’t necessarily mean you have to find a purpose for every single bottle cap or carton.
You can start your journey towards zero waste at home. Begin by refusing to take in any goods or packaging you don’t need. You’ll be surprised by how much plastic and packaging is thrust upon you as a consumer. You can cut it out by planning ahead and bringing reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and fabric bags with you when you go shopping.
You can also bring down your waste by growing your own produce or making your own goods at home. Things like soaps and body scrubs can easily be made at home. Acquiring new thrifty skills is a great way to bond with your family while cutting down on waste.
Sustainable Home Updates
Personal sustainability starts at home. That’s because our homes require massive amounts of electricity for appliances, temperature control, and modern basics like lighting and entertainment.
In an ideal world, every homeowner would be able to make the changes to their home to improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. However, if you own an older home, you may run into obstacles due to unsustainable design choices that were made before architects became climate-conscious.
Fortunately, you can still take the initiative and make your old home more eco-friendly by getting an energy audit and targeting key improvements to your HVAC system and insulation. An energy audit may also help you spot less obvious upgrades: like replacing the sealant around window frames, doors, and chimneys.
There’s been a lot of buzz around plant-based eating in the past few years — and for good reason. Dr. Irvona’s research shows that dietary changes like going vegan can drastically reduce your carbon footprint and help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle. That’s because plant-based foods require less carbon, land, and water for production, storage, and transportation.
Going vegan is the holy grail of sustainable eating, but it isn’t possible for everyone. Some folks can’t afford to eat a vegan diet or live in food deserts that lack access to goods like tofu, legumes, or other plant-based protein sources. You may also live in a community that has a strong agriculture connection and feel that going vegan will undermine your local economy.
Fortunately, shifting to a diet with less carbon-intensive meat is still a great option. Locally sourced meats require less carbon due to reduced transport from farm to fork. Additionally, independent farmers are more likely to choose sustainable feed for their livestock.
Closing the Loop
Consumerism dictates that we buy new clothes for every season. However, the habit of buying new clothes every few months is deeply unsustainable — particularly if you’re shopping from stores that don’t take their commitment to sustainability seriously.
You can close the clothing loop by buying from retailers that are upfront and honest about their practices. Look for brands that clearly show how their fabrics and textiles are sourced, and only shop from ranges that are fully recycled and carbon-neutral. This may sound extreme at first, but your wallet is the only way to cast your vote for sustainability in consumerism.
You can also consider thrifting your next set of clothes if you want to up your commitment to sustainability. You can even thrift from online retails if you prefer to shop online and may still save up to 21.4 pounds of carbon per purchase.
Making sustainability a priority in your life is a great way to cut down on your carbon emissions and protect your local environment. You can start by making small changes like walking or cycling more often. When you’re ready, consider eating more plant-based foods and support efforts to close the loop by thrifting more. Most importantly, strive to only purchase goods produced by brands that mirror your commitment to sustainability.
Indiana Lee lives in the Pacific Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.