Today’s Monday Motivation post isn’t and won’t be the most glamorous post I’ll ever write… but it might be the most important. Our planet is undergoing major climate change. And FAST. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night thinking about the world that our children will grow up in. To completely cover this topic, I’d have to write an entire book, so I’ll try to sum it up quickly… last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report concluding that if humans don’t take immediate, collective action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in 20 years, the consequences will be irreversible. Our world will look VASTLY different in 20 years. With so much heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere, extreme droughts, devastating wildfires, massive floods and other natural disasters will become everyday occurrences instead of statistical outliers.
The main way that we can make a difference is by cutting down on our individual carbon footprint. The carbon in the atmosphere is what is leading to the gradual rise in temperature. Although it may not feel like it, every single thing you do matters. And if we can all do small things to make a difference in our environment, then we can have a big impact. So how can we all help? These are just a few ways, and if you have more, please let us all know in the comments!
1. Give Up Plastic Water Bottles… and all plastic bottles for that matter!
I have made a commitment to not buying ANY more plastic water bottles. I don’t drink bottled water at all anymore, and since I cut out soda and other sugary drinks, I don’t drink anything out of a plastic bottle. First of all, the process of bottling water produces more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Secondly, plastic bottles are littering our planet! Each year, more than 500 BILLION disposable bottles and cups end up littering our soil, rivers, lakes and oceans, killing countless fish and animals. Even though the bottled water industry says that water bottles are recyclable, that does NOT mean that they actually get recycled – as many as two-thirds end up in the garbage and end up sitting in a landfill (or as litter). And did you know that most bottled water is just bottled tap water, and is not any safer to drink that the water coming out of your faucet? (Google it or check out this eye-opening study if you don’t believe me.) In addition to potential contaminants in the water, plastic bottles themselves are not the safest to drink out of, since they can release BPA when they get hot.
HERE’S A SOLUTION: Invest in a water filter and a reusable tumbler. I invested in this water filter that I keep in my fridge (I did a ton of research and this one was highly rated!). I fill it up every morning, and refill my stainless steel Yeti tumbler throughout the day with cold, high-quality, filtered water. It’s a win all-around: you are eliminating plastic use, drinking higher-quality water AND saving money all at the same time.
2. Skip the Meat
Going plant-based is not only better for your health, but it’s better for the environment, too. Factory farming is the single-largest contributor to pollution, producing over 130 times more pollution than all humans combined, as well as contributing to deforestation. Factory farming also hurts our water supply: animal waste is often kept in large, open-air facilities and frequently leaks into the neighboring water supply and crops. Meat production, especially mass-produced meat is also a huge strain on our water and grain supply. It can take seven or more pounds of grain and more than 1,799 gallons of water to produce ONE pound of beef!
HERE’S A SOLUTION: If you’re against going entirely plant-based, then make a commitment to going meatless one day a week. Just you alone will save more than 4,000 gallons of water on the day that you cut out meat (in comparison, it only takes 300 gallons of water to produce a day of food for a typical vegan). If you do choose to eat meat, choose pasture-fed, sustainable raised beef whenever you can. If you’re in need of some good vegetarian recipes, check out this blog post I wrote with some of our favorites recipes.
3. Bring a Reusable Shopping Bag
Though they seem small and light, plastic bags have a much larger environmental footprint than you may imagine, beginning with the energy required to make them. Twelve million barrels of oil are used to manufacture the plastic bags consumed in the United States each year. Plastic bags can take between 15 and 1,000 years to break down, and that’s assuming they even make it into a landfill instead of winding up in water such as streams, rivers or the ocean – or floating around the highway. Of the 100 billion plastic shopping bags Americans use each year, only about 1% are recycled, so a lot of plastic bag pollution is generated annually.
HERE’S A SOLUTION: They’re not the prettiest bags in the world, but I have a few of the black reusable bags from Publix (seen in the photos above) that I always keep in my car for grocery shopping. The hardest part is simply remembering to put them back in your car after unloading your groceries. If you still want to be stylish at the grocery store, check out these reusable grocery totes for some of the cutest bags I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I actually just ordered the avocado one 🙂
4. Launder Smarter
Most of us know by now that regular laundry detergents are bad for the environment. Detergents don’t completely biodegrade and they contaminate our water supplies, rivers and oceans with toxic heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic. Studies have shown that phosphates, a common ingredient in detergents, builds up in waterways and lead to eutrophication (big algal blooms that can starve fish and other plant life of oxygen). For more information check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of laundry detergent ingredients and their impacts. I also recently learned that simply washing clothes, with or without detergents, is bad for the environment. Clothes made with synthetic fabrics, like nylon, polyester and rayon (all essentially plastic derivatives), can release billions of “microplastics,” which eventually make their way into oceans where they slowly bioaccumulate up the food chain.
HERE’S A SOLUTION: Invest in a Guppyfriend washing bag – you simply put your dirty laundry in the bag and it filters out the tiniest (even invisible!) microfibers released from textiles during washing. After several washes, you can simply collect the fibers and dispose them of properly. Chris and I also try not to wash clothes unless they really need it (I re-wear clothes in between washes!) and we wash clothes on cold (occasionally warm) instead of hot. As for laundry detergent, we use this brand, which is made with plant-based, biodegradable and EPA Safer Choice Certified ingredients. P.S. The same goes for your dishwasher as well – try switching to a dishwasher powder that’s biodegradable and plant-based. These cleansers still cut through grime, but they do it without the bleach and phosphates that threaten river and marine life and leave chemical residue on your dishes.
5. Unplug Your Devices
I could write a million other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but let’s keep this last one simple. I was surprised to learn that all electronics suck energy when they’re plugged in, EVEN IF they’re powered down. In the United States alone, “vampire power” (lol) is responsible for draining $19 billion in energy every year. Anytime a cord is plugged into a socket, it’s drawing energy – so even though your device isn’t charging, you’re still contributing to your carbon footprint.
HERE’S A SOLUTION: It’s simple: unplug devices when you aren’t using them! That means your phone and computer chargers, the toaster sitting on your kitchen counter, even the lamps in your living room. You can make it a little easier on yourself by using a power strip so you only have to unplug one thing instead of five. This will also help you reduce your electricity bill!
Think of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen in the world – I would be willing to bet that not a single one was man-made. I can picture some of my favorites: the snowy mountains in Banff, the majestic cliffs along the Amalfi Coast, the stunning yellow Aspen trees in Colorado. I love this earth, and I want my children to be able to enjoy it as well. If you haven’t heard from the news, we are in the middle of another huge crisis related to climate change: the Amazon rainforest is currently on fire. As the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon plays a crucial role in keeping our planet’s carbon-dioxide levels in check by taking in the carbon-dioxide and putting oxygen back into the air. This is why the Amazon, which covers 2.1 million square miles, is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet,” since the forest produces up to 20% of the oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere. If you’re interested, here’s what you can do to help.
If you’d like to contribute to this topic, please leave a comment below!