There is some good news in the race to prevent climate change’s worst ravages and reverse the damage already done. The world’s top minds report that it is still possible to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2050 if all major world governments agree to triple renewable energy expenditures and devote no new investments in fossil fuel supply projects.
The bad news is current efforts aren’t sufficient to reach the original 2050 goal.
As tempting as it may be to throw your hands up in despair and cry, “My efforts make no difference — why bother,” it’s now that you need to double down on sustainability. Everyone does. The only life you can control is your own — wouldn’t you rather devote your efforts to building hope than wallowing in despair?
You can make a difference, and there is still time. Furthermore, prolonged, daily and reproducible efforts that you can readily manage are often more effective than a single dramatic act like switching to solar or buying a pricey electric car.
What habits should you consider changing that transform your lifestyle into one that’s more planet-friendly, one sustainable choice at a time? Here are five ways to be more eco-conscious in the new year.
Up Your Secondhand Game
Maybe you have a favorite thrift shop that’s supplied at least half of your wardrobe. That’s a fabulous start. Now, ask yourself this — what else can you buy secondhand?
Doing so steps kindly on the planet by preventing the damages caused by harvesting the earth’s resources to make new products. The manufacturing process likewise demands a heavy toll in water and energy.
However, refurbished goods like computer electronics often function as well as a new model for a fraction of the energy cost — and retail price. Some companies do more to facilitate a circular economy process. For example, Apple continues to strive toward 100% renewable energy and has made its products more durable while emphasizing the use of recyclable materials to encourage repurposing.
Take a stroll through your local thrift, consignment or pawn shop to check out what other wares you might be able to bring back to life besides electronics. For example, a new circular saw can run as high as $2,000, but you can pickup new blades for $20 to $100 — if the cord isn’t frayed, go for it.
Power Audit Your Home
Is your home filled with unseen energy vampires? Unless you’ve embraced tiny, off-grid living where you keep tabs on how much power you use, you might have no idea. A power audit of your home might sound intimidating — but it boils down to common sense. Here’s your 4-step guide:
1. Start With Your Outlets
Leaving small appliances plugged in all the time causes them to use electricity even without the power running. This standby electricity loss can add up over time — think of the effect of leaving a faucet dripping.
Wherever possible, install power strips that enable you to unplug multiple objects at once. For example, use one with your entertainment center to instantly douse your television, video players and gaming consoles and clear your internal space of some of that constant ambient light emitted from multiple power indicators.
2. Look to Your Curtains
If you rent an old apartment with drafty windows that your landlord refuses to fix, a set of blackout shades can improve energy efficiency, if only by blocking air entry and escape. It’s understandable to resist paying to enhance someone else’s property, but you might consider simple fixes like a line of caulk you can bead on for less than $20.
Assuming you have energy-efficient windows, take advantage of passive solar to save energy. Take down those heavy curtains and replace them with one-way film that gives you an unfettered view of the outdoors while keeping looky-loos out with their prying eyes. The light will heat your space without a single panel, but the UV protection keeps it from fading your furnishings and floors.
3. Upgrade Your Appliances
Ever since the Energy Star program began in 1992, manufacturers have competed to design the most efficient appliances, saving electricity and water use. Assuming you own your home, evaluate if you’re due for an upgrade. Doing so could save you considerable cash over time.
However, you still have to dispose of your old model. Please take it to a certified transfer center or arrange curbside pickup with your local facility to ensure that reusable metal and plastic see new life instead of moldering in a landfill.
4. Check Your Thermostat
Turning your thermostat up or down a single degree for the 8 hours when you work can save you 1% of your total home energy bill. If you don’t have a programmable model, please consider one.
What if you telecommute? You can still take advantage. You might be too young to remember President Jimmy Carter’s fireside chats, but dialing down the thermostat and putting on a sweater is still a simple way to save energy nearly anyone can afford.
Reconsider Your Commute
You might not be able to afford an electric car or even a bicycle. Fortunately, the prices of both continue to drop, but that hardly helps if they remain out of your budget.
Maybe you resisted taking public transportation in the past because you figured it would be too much of a hassle. However, could you hop on the bus sometimes — like when you aren’t laden with groceries? Consider these advantages:
- More time for you: When you drive, you must focus on that task. Public transport lets you read a book, tune into a guided mindfulness meditation or stare out the windows as passersby as you delve into private reverie.
- Get work done: Who wants to sit down and do more work when they arrive home? If you leave the office with emails left unsent, use your commute time and phone to get it done.
- Open yourself to opportunities: You can meet some interesting characters on public transportation, but here’s the thing — you can never tell who you might encounter. A chance meeting could accelerate your career or lead to a lifelong friendship. Be open to possibilities.
Of course, if you can afford to switch to a green vehicle, please consider doing so, at least for short jaunts around town. Electric bikes are a blast, upping your daily exercise quotient without leaving you sweaty, and they’re perfect for running to the corner market. Some roadways are scary, but here’s the thing about our society — if enough consumers demand better infrastructure by increasing bike use, authorities will eventually listen. Push for change.
Elevate Your Eating
Did you know that red meat contributes to a considerable portion of global warming? Industrial farms incentivize deforestation, and the earth needs more trees, not fewer. Furthermore, livestock emits methane — a greenhouse gas far heavier than carbon dioxide.
Maybe you aren’t ready to switch to a vegan lifestyle, but you can honor meatless Monday. Feeling ambitious? Why don’t you go for fish Friday, too? Your health will thank you, as the World Health Organization casts a skeptical eye on red meat consumption and its link with cancer risks.
Look at how you shop, too. Buying from your local farmer’s market decreases transportation costs and emissions while providing you with organic goods for far less than you’d pay at the grocery. Better yet, go at the end of the day to score even better bargains, as many vendors would rather sell goods at a discount than take them home to rot before the next market opening.
5. Reconnect With Nature
Perhaps the most pleasant way to be more eco-friendly in the new year is to reconnect with nature. Studies show that kids raised in the natural world become better sustainability stewards as adults, and fostering a greater appreciation for the beauty surrounding you will compel you to protect it.
Find a green outdoor space near your home where you can flee for solace if you live in the city. Spend your weekends taking hiking excursions — it’s free and you’ll get more exercise and enjoy the healing qualities of fresh air and sunshine. Better yet, take an extra bag and pick up any trash you see as a thank you to the planet for sharing her healing beauty with you.