Why Living a Sustainable Life is More Important Now than Ever, & Steps on How to Do Your Part!
Human life has progressed dramatically over the last few centuries. While on the search for a better way of life, we have altered the natural landscape of nearly the entire planet. We have turned forested land into agricultural land, farm land into neighborhoods, and converted previously uninhabitable land into cities. We have suppressed forest fires that would naturally burn, dammed rivers that would naturally flow, and deforested millions of acres of that would naturally be forested. We have even altered the composition of the atmosphere by releasing gasses into it that have not previously been present at high concentrations. For the first time in the history of the Earth, a single species has been a primary catalyst in the planet’s changing global systems.
As a species, we have been extremely focused on our progression towards a more ideal state, and our progression alone. For a long time, humanity has not considered the consequences of our actions on a planetary scale. As a result, the damage caused to our planet and its natural systems has been piling up for centuries.
We are now reaching a critical time in our planet’s history. We are seeing the consequences of our actions loudly and clearly- through the loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution, sea level rise, climate change, wildfires, drought, stronger and more frequent storms, depleted fishery stocks, and countless other environmental issues. Each year, the consequences of these issues only continue to become more and more catastrophic.
While many of these issues are overwhelmingly large, there are steps that you as an individual can take to reduce your personal environmental impact. We can all choose to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem. Here are some easy steps that nearly EVERYONE can follow, to live a more earth-friendly, sustainable way.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Think about the amount of plastic you use throughout the day. Every water bottle you drink from, plastic bag you use, milk jug in your refrigerator, plastic straw you drink from, etc. etc. etc…. will all remain on this Earth for many, many human lifetimes after you are gone. Some of them may never break down and exist for the rest of time- either in a land fill, the ocean, a lake, or just out in the environment somewhere. Reducing the amount of single use plastics is critical. Take a good hard look at your personal usage of single-use plastics, and swap for reusable alternatives. For nearly every single use plastic item, there is a reusable alternative. Take the time to google and purchase these items!
Reduce Meat and Dairy Consumption
I know this point is not a fan-favorite, but the animal agriculture industry has a tremendous carbon footprint and environmental impact. The amount of food that a cow needs to eat to reach slaughtering age and size (when compared to the amount of beef that a single cow produces) makes producing beef extremely wasteful. When you consider the amount of land converted to agricultural land to produce crops for the cattle to eat, the amount of fertilizer, herbicides & pesticides used to produce these crops, the amount of water that goes into producing beef, and the amount of actual waste that cows produce- it really is an environmental disaster.
Poultry is a more environmentally friendly alternative to beef, but a vegetarian/plant-based diet is the most sustainable. If you opt even for 1 or 2 meatless days a week, you are making a huge difference. If you feel strongly about eating meat- choose poultry over red meats more often. It is healthier for you anyways!
I encourage you to google this and research it for yourself- it is a serious issue that very few people talk about!
I was fortunate enough to get a degree in this- but had this not been the case, I would not know most of the stuff I do! Research what you can do to be more sustainable. Look out for volunteer organizations that do trash pick-ups and join. Call your representatives and ask that they support legislation designed to protect the environment. It is important to note- while some of these bills may seem extreme (or expensive), the environmental issue is also extreme. The longer we wait to clean up our mess, the more expensive fixing it will be. Drastic action is necessary.
Thrift for Clothes
As a thrift store enthusiast, I cannot recommend this tip enough. Thrifting saves money and allows you to purchase items that no one else may have. It is also completely sustainable! Each article of new clothing purchased goes through a production process that releases chemicals and dyes into our environment. When you consider microplastics and fabrics that are not biodegradable- it is a whole new form of waste that many people do not even consider. Plus, when you thrift shop you are NOT actively supporting sweat shops. Be mindful, every dollar spent and every action you take has an impact that reaches farther than you realize.
Buy Used Cars
Did you know that the manufacturing process of producing a new car releases more fossil fuels and has a larger environmental impact than the operation of the car for its entire lifetime? Buying a used car (that is good on gas) rather than a new car is one of the best things that you can do for the environment. Many of us live in a place where public transportation is not an option, so buying a used car is the next most sustainable option!
Note- if you are lucky enough to live near a good public transportation system, USE IT!
Be Wary of Cheap Stuff
While buying a cheap pair of sunglasses, or gloves, or flip flops, or razors… may save money in the short term- investing in a better-quality product will reduce the amount of waste that you produce. Remember- when you throw away a razor, it doesn’t disappear. It will exist somewhere for hundreds of years. Consider this when you are purchasing items- the longer the usable life of the product, the less often you need to replace it, and the better for the environment!
Remember the Basics
Here are some tips that you are taught to do in elementary school, but then life gets busy and being sustainable slips your mind. They are super easy to introduce to your everyday life!
- Turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth
- Turn the lights off when you leave a room
- Turn the AC off when you leave your home in the summer
- Recycle your plastics/paper products/ glass/ metals
- Get a reusable water bottle
- Don’t idle your car- if you want to listen to the radio while you are not driving, turn the engine OFF
- Take shorter showers (ideally 5-10 minutes)
- Buy sustainably sourced fish, wood, and paper products
- And, I can’t believe I have to write this… DO NOT LITTER.
As the only species on this planet capable of rational thought, it is our responsibility to think about the future and the impact we are having on this planet. We need to think about the world we are leaving for our children, grandchildren, and the countless other species that we are lucky enough to share this planet with. Let’s take the necessary steps to protect them, and the ecosystems they live in!
Hi everyone! I’m Jess. I’m a conservationist, travel enthusiast, adventure seeker, and environmental advocate. I have a degree in Natural Resources Conservation and specifically concentrated my studies in Forest Ecology. My career interests include wildlife management, forest management and habitat restoration- and all the little tasks that come along with it! I have had the opportunity to work in beautiful places to restore and protect ecosystems, as well as educate others about their natural resources! I am currently working in Cuba as a Natural Resources Specialist, but I have had the opportunity to work in the U.S Minor Outlying Islands, Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts. This work is my passion and I hope to continue doing it for the rest of my life!
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how to live a more sustainable life or if you want to know how to get started in a career in environmental conservation! I would love to talk to you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.