On April 22, 2017 my younger sister and I woke up with a mission; we gathered our hiking gear and hit the trails. Our Earth Day was in full swing - we hiked around for 3 hours enjoying nature on this glorious morning while picking up every piece of trash we could find. Doing this caused an influx of emotions; while on the one hand I was so happy that we were out there trying to do our part and on another I felt a little angry and discouraged. I would watch people throw their trash onto the ground after passing us. I left the hike that day wishing I could do more, and I get the feeling a lot of us feel that way. We are bombarded with so much information regarding climate change, both from supporters or naysayers; it’s easy to get confused, maybe slightly annoyed and to continue on with this overwhelming feeling. I am lucky in the respect that I am surrounded by multiple people who study and work in this area, which is why today I am going to drop some of that knowledge by demonstrating 5 simple ways to begin making your life more sustainable.
Knowledge bomb #1: Climate Change IS Real. “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.” It is well known that atmospheric carbon levels have been on the rise since the industrial revolution in the 1950’s.
This rise has resulted in the Greenhouse effect, which has caused a steady increase in temperatures. This surge in temperature results in many changes in the climate; such as melting ice caps, rise in sea levels, ocean acidification, and more extreme weather patterns. So what can we as average Joes do to help, you ask? I’ve made up a list of 5 simple yet important ways you can join in on the efforts against climate change.
Ah yes, recycling, an obvious choice for our number 5 spot. We’ve all heard of it and I can bet that at this point, most of us have some sort of recycling bin or method in our households. However, it’s pretty well known that here in the US we aren’t as ‘recycling friendly’ as we could be. Knowledge bomb #2: Current research shows that Americans generate around 4.4lbs of trash per person per day with only 34% of all of our waste being recycled. Countries like Germany and Austria have the highest recycling rates of 62% and 63%.
While I have seen some restaurants and stores increasing their recycling efforts I have realized that not everyone knows exactly HOW to recycle, myself included! While out to lunch with my younger sister and one of my best friends, both of whom are studying/working at ASU’s School of Sustainability, we began talking about how the restaurant we were at was serving their food in compostable containers, only to find out that they actually didn’t have a method of composting on site (which was still fine because once in a landfill these items would eventually break down). However, we watched many people recycle these containers (I’ll admit, I was going to as well), which is a no-no when it comes to recycling: no food particles. So while your tuna cans, glass food jars, and plastic drink cups are technically recyclable it’s important to wash them out before placing them in a recycle bin or you can risk contaminating all of the other items as well. I was admittedly a little shocked and embarrassed that I went so long without knowing that. But that’s okay, making the small changes now and being more conscious about how we recycle, it will eventually become second nature.
4.) Shop Local, Shop Smart
Making an effort to buy your goods from local manufacturers is not only good for the environment but also for the economy. “Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally-owned business, rather than a nationally-owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers, and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.” So get out there and:
- Shop at your local farmers markets
- Buy in bulk
- Support small American-made businesses
- Look for food labels that say fair-trade or ethically sourced
- Buy products made from recycled materials or ones that use minimal packaging
- Bring reusable bags and jars with you shopping
This way you can feel good knowing the food you buy and the products you use are good for the earth, community and that whoever helped put that item in your hand received a fair wage for their work.
3.) Ditch Fast Fashion
Let's talk clothes, people! This has been one of my recent obsessions and probably one of my favorite ways to create a more sustainable life. It falls along the theme I’ve been trying to convey of consuming and wasting less. Unfortunately for some, clothing is one of their biggest wastes. “Fast Fashion”, it is a term being thrown around a lot lately. It is used to describe a current trend in the fashion industry where companies are mass producing styles at a rapid pace, making their clothing more affordable but also more likely to go out of style. Knowledge bomb #3: “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.” So while that cute top that was purchased at H&M for $10 is nice now, if it does last through 10 washes, it will most likely be out of style by then. There is always the option of donating clothes, which is great. However, with the current style trends cycling at such an alarming place, people are donating more clothes than centers have a need for, especially when it’s cheap, poorly made and out of style clothing. So sadly, a lot of this ends up in landfills.
That’s why many consumers are turning toward minimalist or capsule wardrobes. Filling their closets with classic styles, complementing color pallets, less prints and multi-wear products. Now up front this clothing may be more expensive, however they will prove their worth in the long run with multiple outfit options, quality fabrics and production, and a timeless style that never sends you looking back on a photo saying “What the $%^& was I thinking?”. This is a long process; start small, and ask yourself three simple questions before making a purchase:
- Where was this made?
- Can I make at least 3 outfits with this item?
- Does this complement my overall style?
We may fall short on some of these every once in a while, but by asking the questions you’re causing yourself to think on a deeper level before simply buying something because a Kardashian was wearing it on Instagram last week. For me, the clothing I turn to on my newly-found capsule wardrobe journey is obviously GTS as my go-to active wear. This is what Dan, the marketing director at GTS has to say about their sustainable practices: “shifting the focus away from "fast-fashion" practices and creating quality products that last helps reduce the overall waste and amount of materials ending up in landfills. Also with that, our strategy of making clothing to-order helps reduce excess. We're only using the materials and resources we need to fill an order. We're not producing in massive quantities and leaving a quarter of the inventory ending up in a dumpster because it didn't sell that season.”
For general day wear I’ve been swooning over Encircled for months now. They even give you a minimalist closet workbook to help with the process!
2.) Consume Fewer Animal Products
A few months back my sister told me about a documentary airing on Netflix called Cowspiracy. I immediately vowed to go 100% vegan...well that lasted about 1 week. I already don’t eat beef so that part was easy, but chicken and eggs are a pretty big feature of our diet at home, so they did eventually make their way back in. I do however tend to gravitate toward vegan/vegetarian options. And if you’re like me, you have a hard time going cold turkey from...turkey (hehe), even adopting the Meatless Monday mindset by going meatless 1day/week can have a huge environmental impact. That’s where knowledge bomb #4 comes in:
For instance, if over the course of a year you:
- Ate one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles.
- Skip meat and cheese one day a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.
- Skip steak once a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months.
VOTE, VOTE , VOTE. This has to be the simplest yet most effective way to effect positive change. By electing officials into office that advocate for science, alternative fuels and a sustainable future is where the real changes in policy can be made. So get out there, educate yourself and vote for a better future for our planet and the lifeforms that call it home.
There we have it, 5 simple yet effective ways for you to begin living a more sustainable life. Knowledge is power, and these tips are only the tip of the iceberg on how you can help. So even if you don’t plan on adopting all of these habits, knowing the impact the way we live has on our environment is a step in the right direction toward making a change. The next time you’re shopping, dining out, living, consuming, hiking, anything! Take a moment to look around you; earth and life is everywhere and there is no Planet B, take care of it now so future generations can enjoy it as we do.
Lots of love,
Staci & Nicole
Co-Written by Staci & Nicole Cox (IG: @stacicox)
Connect with Staci
Staci Cox is a 26 year old native Arizonan who loves being active as much as her home state. She graduated Arizona State University with a B.S. in Exercise and Wellness with a minor in nutrition. Upon graduating Staci moved to Costa Rica to obtain her 200RYT. From there she made her life long passion for fitness into a career. She spends her days working as an Exercise Physiologist, teaching yoga and working at a local community college. On the weekends Staci becomes a true weekend warrior exploring every inch of her state feeding her passion for hiking and camping bringing her furry companions and GTS gear along with. Check out her IG @stacicox and feel free to hit her up for a hike if you're in the desert!