The term “sustainability” has been a buzzword for years, but what does it actually mean to live a sustainable lifestyle? Sustainability or “going green” is defined as the pursuit of “knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.” While we may know, and at times honor, eco-friendly practices, living sustainably every day can prove challenging at times.
Banning straws and limiting plastic is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Annenberg Foundation, every year the United States generates approximately 230 million tons of trash—about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Less than one-quarter of this trash is actually recycled and the rest is either incinerated or buried in landfills.
Despite our country’s critical waste crisis, there is still hope. And it begins with you. BLOOM FARMS has compiled a list of eight easy-to-follow tips for you to start saving the planet by living a more eco-friendly lifestyle today.
SWAP GROCERY STORE BAGS FOR REUSABLE TOTES
One of the most widely promoted and commonly practiced sustainable habits is swapping in-store grocery bags for your own reusable totes. According to the Waste Management, an estimated 14 billion plastic bags are wasted every year in the U.S. alone, costing retailers over four billion dollars in production and killing over 100,000 marine animals. Need we say more? Switch from paper and plastic grocery bags to your own multi-use bags. Try a durable cotton or canvas tote for longer-lasting use… and most importantly, remember to take them to the grocery store on your next visit!
ADJUST YOUR HOME HEATING AND COOLING SETTINGS
Being mindful of your heating, cooling and lighting habits can prevent thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year. Changing the thermostat even just by a few degrees will save energy, reduce your home’s consumption rate and save you loads of money each month. According to Energy.gov, the ideal home temperature is between 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. In the warmer months, avoid setting your thermostat to a colder setting than normal when turning on your air conditioner. It won’t cool your home any faster and can result in unnecessary expenses. To further maximize energy efficiency, turning your thermostat up or down by eight degrees while you’re away from your home can help reduce your energy costs by 10% each year.
WASTE LESS FOOD
Cutting back on food waste could help greatly reduce toxic greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that globally a third (or 1.3 billion tons!) of food produced for human consumption every year is either lost or wasted. Americans in particular waste an exorbitant amount of food that sadly ends up in landfills. Aside from grocery shopping mindfully, donating your leftovers and properly composting food scraps will greatly cut down on excess food waste. Cooking meals at home rather than eating out is also a healthier and more cost-effective way to reduce consumption. You can visit the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) website to learn how to properly compost food waste now.
WASH COLD AND HANG DRY
The use of cold water to wash everything from your laundry and dishes to yourself and your pets remains one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to live sustainably. Heating a washing machine full of water takes a lot of energy. Washing your clothes in cold water and hang-drying your wet items instead of using a powered dryer can also help tons of energy (and your money)—not to mention that you’ll also be prolonging the life of your clothes, which is an added layer of sustainability and savings.
GET RID OF JUNK MAIL
We all want less junk, especially when it comes to our mailboxes. Nowadays, there are tons of companies, such as DMAchoice, that can help remove your name from mailing lists for credit card offers, shopping catalogs and other unnecessary junk mail. Taking your name off these lists can save you from receiving hundreds of useless pieces of paper junk mail every year. In addition to reducing clutter in your home, limiting junk mail can also help reduce excess paper production to potentially save millions of trees and energy around the globe.
DON’T LET THE WATER RUN
The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons in 8.2 minutes, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency. (A bathroom faucet releases water at an estimated rate of two gallons per minute.) To reduce excess water use in your home, turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth and limit showers to 10-20 minutes. This simple change can save over 10 gallons of water per day and hundreds of gallons every month. Invest in a water-saving shower head to trim your water use even more.
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
Natural lighting is your best friend when it comes to saving on lighting electricity. Open up the blinds and use as much of that free natural light as possible before switching on your lamps. Summer is the easiest time to rely on natural lighting, but in the darker months when natural light is limited, you can be mindful by using only the lights you need and turning them off when you leave the area.
SAY NO TO SINGLE-USE PRODUCTS
Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions, according to National Geographic. But plastic is no longer our planet’s only enemy. Single-use products like coffee cups, styrofoam drinkware, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging are responsible for a large chunk of landfill waste. Use a travel mug when buying coffee. Switch to reusable sandwich bags. Swap your plastic wrap for organic beeswax wrap or a reusable container. Bring your own bamboo to-go utensils. Don’t forget your sustainable shopping totes too!