“Nature doesn’t need people; people need nature.”
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on environmental issues. In fact, I’m far from it (my high school APES teacher can vouch). Nor am I perfect when it comes to caring for our planet—I shower for way longer than the recommended 5 minutes, I sometimes throw recyclables in the general rubbish bin, and I don’t even know what a compost is. I’m not even sure if “a” was the right article to use. That’s how little I know about it.
Nevertheless, I fully believe that every person on this planet has an obligation and a responsibility to treat Earth with a little TLC. There are tons of teeny tiny, super simple changes you can make in your day-to-day that will do wonders for the world you live in. It’s so, so important to stay informed about the state of y(our) environment and the ways in which you can do your part to help save the planet (you can catch me Googling what composting is right after I finish writing this).
1. Use a travel mug or a keep cup
If you’re someone who regularly—or even semi-regularly—drinks hot drinks in takeaway cups, you may fall into the trap of thinking that the cups you’re drinking out of are recyclable. I thought that, too, but it turns out that those cups are generally made up of tons of non-recyclable plastic in and around the cardboard part. A better alternative to to-go cups is a travel mug or a keep cup. Steel mugs are the best option, but plastic ones work great too! I personally use a KeepCup—it’s only $20, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free. They come in heaps of different sizes and colours and you can even customise your own. Plus, tons of coffee shops give discounts to customers who bring their own cup!
2. Ditch the straw
Straws are one of the nastiest examples of a single-use plastic (a plastic product that will be used once and then thrown out). They don’t biodegrade and more often than not they end up in oceans and on beaches. This is obviously problematic and causes major issues for underwater life. Try ordering your drink without a straw the next time you eat out. If you’re in dire need of an iced coffee or iced tea and don’t have a travel cup with you, most Starbucks stores now offer strawless lids for their iced drinks. You could even invest in reusable straws or a tumbler cup for iced drinks—both options are dirt cheap and save you from putting more plastic out into the environment.
3. Catch public transport
Cars are huge contributors to global warming and pollution. Luckily, there are tons of other ways to get to work/uni/school: ride a bike, walk, catch public transport, get a ride with someone else, give a ride to someone else, or use a carpool service. You’ll save money on petrol and save the environment. Plus, public transport saves you from sitting in peak-hour traffic and you’re free to sleep, read, text, etc.
4. Use a clothesline
Using a clothesline or a clotheshorse is a great alternative to a dryer. It’ll save tons of energy (not to mention money!) which really helps the environment by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels aren’t a clean or sustainable source of energy, which means we should try to rely on them as little as we can.
5. Meatless Mondays
Don’t worry, I’m not about to preach the benefits of veganism or how cruel it is to murder animals for your own culinary pleasure. But going vegetarian at least one day a week is a great way to help save the planet. Most people don’t realise the huge environmental impacts that the meat industry has. It takes 2,500 gallons (nearly 9,500 litres) of water to make ONE POUND of beef. One pound! And on top of that, raising animals for meat takes tons of land, food, and water, which often means mega deforestation. Plus, fishing methods used by commercial fishers often harm ocean life such as coral reefs and other animals, which, in turn, leads to the destroying of ecosystems. So come on—just take a break from eating meat for one day. I’m sure you can find your protein somewhere else.
6. BYO water bottle
This is pretty commonplace nowadays, but bringing your own water bottle wherever you go is an infinitely better alternative to buying multiple plastic bottles a day, especially when you’re not recycling those bottles. You can buy water bottles pretty much anywhere and they come in just about every colour, size, shape, and price point imaginable. My favourites are the stainless steel bottles from S’well and Contigo. Think of all the money you’ll save!
7. Stay informed
It’s so easy to find information online that there’s really no excuse to be ignorant about the world around you. It’s 2018 and saving the planet is cool. Watch some documentaries, read the news, listen to podcasts. Answers to every question you have, and those you don’t even know you have, are right at your fingertips. Don’t let them go to waste. Set goals, write lists, take action, and hold yourself and others accountable.
P.S. for any other ignorant ding dong like me, composting is the use of decomposing organic material for growing plants. In other words, it’s using your potato peels and banana skins to grow your plants instead of using harmful, chemical-filled products.