Co-authored by Laurèn DeMates
It's becoming clear that our world is facing some big environmental and social concerns that we can no longer afford to ignore. It’s also clear that many people want to help contribute to a more sustainable society: People are more engaged than ever in discussing these issues and calling for change. Yet it can be confusing to know exactly where we can start as individuals to bring change. Talking about the issues we care about and supporting policies, companies, and organizations that are taking on these global and local challenges is vital. But there are also small changes that we can integrate into our everyday lives to reduce the negative impact we have on our environment, helping make our society more sustainable. Here are four simple tips you can incorporate into your lifestyle to be a part of the growing movement towards a sustainable society:
1.Bring your own bottle or mug. Replacing plastic water bottles and coffee cups with reusable ones cuts down on plastic use and waste creation. Plastic has negative impacts on the environment throughout its life cycle, especially in its disposal, as items often find their way into waterways, polluting our oceans and beaches: Did you know that 1,578,834 plastic beverage bottles were collected on the world’s beaches during last year’s International Coastal Cleanup?
2.Look for locally-produced and/or organic goods. Valuing and prioritizing foods and other products that are locally-grown or made reduces the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting them, and can also help small farms and the local economy. Buying organic food supports a food system that causes less environmental impact and is not dependent on substances that cause pollution such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
3.Follow the 4 “R’s”: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This applies to anything we purchase, but particularly to plastic objects and packaging. Refusing or saying no to items we don’t need or items packaged in plastic is the first of the order. A simple “no” to plastic straws is one easy way to practice the first of the 4 “R’s.”
4. Cut meat out of your diet at least one day a week. Participating in Meatless Mondays is a simple and even fun way to minimize our negative impact on the environment. If everyone ate less meat, we could cut global food-related emissions 29-70%. Beef in particular has a big environmental footprint so it is a great option to cut. Kudos to those who skip the meat more than one day in their week!
Already in the habit of doing these? Talk to family, friends, and colleagues and help them bring more sustainable habits into their daily lives— getting more people involved in shifting to sustainability is essential. Although society is facing unprecedented environmental challenges, working toward sustainability is an opportunity to do things differently and do things better. It means enhancing aspects of our lives such as health and community while at the same time giving back to our planet.
These tips are based on the recently released book, Sustainability Made Simple: Small Changes for Big Impact by Rosaly Byrd and Laurèn DeMates (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). Copyright © 2017 Rowman & Littlefield. Used by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or printed without permission in writing from the publisher.
Rosaly and Laurèn are co-authors and founders of The Sustainability Co-Op blog, which strives to understand and communicate the connections between global and local societal needs and environmental concerns.