Happy Earth Day! Today is such a beautiful day where we get to celebrate Mother Earth and all she provides for us. As humans we have a massive responsibility to take care of the place we live, not only for ourselves but for those who will be living on earth long after us.
The concept of “sustainability”, “zero waste”, “green”, or “eco-living” are thrown around more often than ever in our society. Research is showing that consumers are paying more and more attention to supporting social and ethical brands which carry out a larger mission. You have the ability to dictate many industries by the vote of your dollars, so if you have a passion then spending is the easiest way to make a difference. Alone change can be challenging, but together we can move mountains.
Okay..back to sustainability! You may feel overwhelmed by the whole concept, or that you are unsure of where to even begin. THAT’S OKAY. Believe it or not sustainability is a large area of focus for dietitians; both in our schooling and daily living. The main goal is to bring awareness to our consumption and waste, and change one thing at a time (not EVERYTHING all at once). To help you learn a little more about what the concept of sustainability is and how you can get started, let’s review the definitions of vocabulary to built a foundation.
Sustainability: The ability to be sustained. With regards to environmental sciences, this simply means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.
Biodegradable: able to decay naturally and in a way that is not harmful.
Compostable: a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil.
Eco-Living: making lifestyle decisions and engaging in practices which reduce negative impact on and promote the health of the planet and its creatures.
Now that we’ve established a common understanding of terms, let’s tackle the intimidating questions of, “How do I even begin to live more sustainably?”.
1) Stop using single use products: It takes 1,000 years for plastic to decompose, 10-20 years for a single plastic bag, and 450 years for a single plastic water bottle.
2) Start small: Choose one area to put efforts into and focus just on that until it’s a habit. For example, I started out with plastic bags, specifically, grocery bags. I swapped plastic and paper for my reusable bags, and keep them in the front seat of my car where they are visually seen so I don’t forget them. Out of sight out of mind is a real thing y’all!
Here are 10 small sustainable swaps to begin living more eco-conscious:
1) Plastic Bags → Stasher Bags
3) Plastic Bag → Reusable Grocery Bags
4) Plastic Water Bottle → Hydroflask Water Bottle
5) Plastic Produce Bags → Cotton Reusable Bags
6) Paper Towels → Bamboo Reusable Towels
7) Plastic Wrap → Beeswax Wrap
8) Parchment Paper → Silicone Baking Mat
11) Shopping at Chain Grocery Stores → CSA Box from Farmer’s Market
13) Trash → Composting
14) Cotton Makeup Pads → Reusable Make Up Wipes/Pads
15) Plastic Bag → Bread Bag
16) Plastic Cups → Mason Jars
17) Grocery Shopping → Growing Your Own Garden
18) Online Shopping → Thrift Shopping or Buying Second Hand
Did you know that 80% of plastic in our oceans is from land sources? When we throw away plastic into a bin, which could be recycled, it goes to a landfill. Usually the packaging is too lightweight and gets blown away into lakes, rivers, streams, grass fields, etc. for animals or organisms to ingest. Littering, illegal dumping, and flushing products down drains additionally raises the amount of trash or plastic that ends up in these areas rapidly.
Bi-products can be found in our water supply, food chain, and impacts the health of every living organism that exists. The worlds problems will not be solved tomorrow, or by just one person. It will take a lifetime of practice and awareness to live more eco-conscious and change the trajectory of Mother Earth’s future. What is one way you can begin making a difference today?