As 2022 comes to an end, we’re looking forward to discovering new ways we can become more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint in the new year.
With more and more information coming out about the economic benefits of going “green”, large corporations, small businesses, and individuals alike are starting to take steps to becoming more sustainable.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Methane gas has been linked to one of the types of gasses that contribute greatly to global climate change.
On average, 35% of food in the United States goes unsold or uneaten. Of that, 43% of food waste – 27 million tons annually – occurs at home. And during the holidays, household waste increases more than 25%.
Making small changes in your lifestyle is a simple, yet effective way to live a more sustainable life in the new year. Less food waste overall means more food in the stomachs of the 34 million food insecure Americans, as well as a healthier ecosystem.
1. Grow Your Own Food
Starting your own garden is the perfect way to reduce your carbon footprint! Growing your own food helps cut down on plastic and glass waste, and reduces carbon emissions from food transportation.
If you’re a beginner to gardening, start out with easy foods to grow, like lettuce, bell peppers, or tomatoes. Once you get the hang of it, you can start to grow your favorite fruits and veggies with ease. Check out this blog for in-depth gardening tips for beginners.
2. Start a Compost
Composting is a foolproof, year-round practice for reducing food waste and living sustainably. It’s the perfect way to add nutrients back into the soil to nourish fruits and veggies (which is perfect for that garden you’re starting).
Organic material items like potato skins, egg shells, fruit peels, and old newspapers naturally decompose, making them the perfect items to add to your compost pile.
3. Use Cold Water
Did you know water heaters account for about 20% of your home's energy use? Washing your clothes on cold can reduce your energy consumption, maintain the vibrancy of your clothes, and reduce over 860lbs of CO2 emissions a year.
Cold shower, anyone? Showering with cold water is actually incredibly beneficial for your skin, and it can boost your immune system and metabolism! Cutting down energy consumption is a bonus with all those benefits!
4. Lose the Single-Use Products
Single-use products, like plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and single-use straws are detrimental to the environment.
Instead, opt for cloth grocery bags when shopping, and glass containers that can be washed and reused to store leftovers. If a single-use product is your only option, look for items that use paper or environmentally cautious packaging.
5. Unplug Your Devices
How often do you unplug your device from charging, but leave the charger in the outlet? Most electronics still use energy, even when not being “used” to download updates and run programs (yes, this includes electronics left on a charging station).
While it may seem harmless, this actually wastes energy - and can ruin your device’s battery from charging. Unplugging your devices when you're done using them may seem tedious, but it can significantly reduce your energy usage and waste. A great option to incorporate into your home in 2023 is smart outlets and/or smart plugs that regulate the time and amount of energy used by a given outlet.
6. Use Less Water
Every time you turn on the water in your house, energy is used. By reducing your water usage even slightly, you reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Ways to reduce your water usage are to take shorter showers, turning off the faucet in between rinses when brushing your teeth, only running your dishwasher when it’s full, and not scraping or rinsing your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
7. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products (or make your own!)
Did you know many traditional cleaning products contain ingredients like alkylphenol ethoxylates, which harms wildlife and can biodegrade into even more hazardous chemicals?
Opt for eco-friendly cleaning products that use “green” ingredients, offer refills, and/or use plastic-free shipping to cut down on your environmental impact. You can also make an at-home cleaning solution by putting ingredients, often already in part of your home, together to make products for cleaning your home.
8. Shop For Your Groceries Locally
Purchasing fruits and veggies from your local farmer's market is the best way to buy fresh, ripe, and seasonally appropriate foods. It’s also a great way to support local small businesses and farms. Don’t forget to bring your reusable grocery bags!
If you don’t have a local farmer’s market, many grocery stores buy produce from local farms. Buying locally purchased foods from grocery stores is a good alternative to support local communities.
9. Buy Second-Hand Clothing
Believe it or not, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, contributing to 10% of humankind’s carbon emissions.
Instead of purchasing items new, consider buying “new-to-you” items from thrift stores, second-hand shops, and online garage sales to help reduce waste and save money!
Here are some of our favorite online eco-friendly thrift stores:
- MAW Supply: Black-Owned vintage reclaimed shop that specializes in sustainable day-to-day pieces
- LuxAnthropy: Top-rated, female-founded, and women-run resale website with prices up to 80% off retail.
- ThredUp: Buy and sell high quality affordable clothing
10. Upcycling is “In”
Upcycling your clothes is a great way to get more use out of items that don’t get a lot of wear time, are older styles, or simply don’t fit the way you would like them to. Upcycling is when you upgrade an item like furniture, clothes, and bags, and use it as a part of another project.
Check out Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and local yard sales for items that are perfect for upcycling!
11. Reduce Your Meat Intake
Switching to a vegetarian diet is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint AND reduce food waste in 2023, but many people aren’t willing to eliminate meat from their diet entirely.
Simply switching from red meat to white meat (like chicken) can significantly reduce carbon emissions. According to a study by the University of Michigan, if you were to replace all your beef consumption with chicken for one year, you can reduce your annual carbon footprint by about 882lbs of carbon.
If you aren’t sure how to start reducing your meat intake, try incorporating Meatless Mondays into your weekly meal plan or choose one meal per day (like lunch) to exclude meat from. Check out this blog for 52 different Meatless Monday ideas that the whole family will love!
12. Do A Waste Audit
How much do you throw away each week? Do a waste audit!
For one week, instead of throwing out your trash daily to the bin, collect it in one location (like your garage). After the week is up, look at the types of waste you’ve thrown away.
How many single-use products are in your trash? Any recyclables? What about food that is simply wasted away on your counter or in your fridge? Once you’re able to see what you’re throwing away, it’s a lot easier to brainstorm ways to reduce your waste.
Volunteering is a great way to connect with your community and help fill in the gaps where there is need. Organize a friend group to pick up trash off highly used roads or parks. Volunteer at local nonprofits and shelters to help increase their impact.
Volunteering your time is an easy and no-cost way to give back and live sustainably. To find volunteer opportunities near you, visit VolunteerMatch or if you live in New Jersey, you can volunteer at Move For Hunger! Email [email protected] for more information.
14. Get Outside More
Step away from your electronics and spend more time outside! Studies show that spending as little as 20 minutes outside reduces stress and anxiety, and helps you sleep better! The more time you spend outside each day, the more likely you are to behave in environmentally-friendly ways, such as recycling, riding a bike, buying eco-friendly products, and so much more!
So the next time you’re eyeing that Amazon haul for a quick dopamine boost, head outside for a half hour and see if that helps instead.
Simple steps can be taken every day to be more sustainable at home. Incorporating these tips into your life will not only save you money, but the earth too!
Want to learn more about recycling, and sustainability? Check out our blogs on composting, food waste, and 23 Ways to Fight Hunger in 2023. If you want to join the fight against hunger, consider becoming a monthly donor!