“Invest in Our Planet” is the theme for the 53rd Earth Day, which we celebrate April 22, 2023. An investment in our planet is also an investment in ourselves. Besides celebrating the occasion by participating in community clean-up events, students around the world are encouraged to consider how to live more sustainably. Before they do, we need to teach them how to measure sustainable living. These tips will help you get started.
Measure Your Carbon Footprint
Measuring your carbon footprint is the most common way to begin your journey toward sustainable living. The amount of carbon you use in your daily life determines your carbon footprint. Some factors include how much and on what kind of transportation you rely, how much and what kind of energy you use in your home, what kind of food you eat, and how much and what kind of materials you are throwing in the garbage or recycling. You can find a variety of quick carbon footprint quizzes and calculators online. Here is one example from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Take some time to calculate your family’s carbon footprint and see if there are some areas you can improve upon.
set a goal for reduction
Set your goals with your family, friends, or as an individual. Obviously, the more people who engage, the better for our environment. First, decide on your goals to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. As you mull over your goals, keep in mind that there is no way to get your carbon footprint to zero because you are constantly exhaling carbon dioxide. However, there are ways you can modify your habits to reduce your carbon footprint. You can:
- Replace single-use water bottles with reusable bottles.
- Recycle your plastic, glass, and metal containers.
- Take along reusable tote bags when you go shopping.
- Walk, bicycle, or take public transportation to your destinations, rather than driving your car.
Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Reduce meat consumption
Eating less meat is another way to live sustainably. Based on an article from Columbia University Climate School, most Americans eat about 460 grams of beef each week. That’s over one pound per person per week. Cutting your beef consumption in half or more is one way to live more sustainably and it's better for your health. Beef production, particularly that which takes place on industrial beef farms, is resource intensive and very hard on the planet. So, get the family involved and choose one or several new recipes each week that replace beef as the main protein. Think about preceding each Taco Tuesday with Meatless Monday.
Another way to improve your carbon footprint is to try to repair broken items rather than buying new ones. By repairing a broken item, you are extending its life and keeping it out of the landfill. iFixit.com is a website that has tens of thousands of manuals that will explain how to repair different appliances and electronics. YouTube also offers a myriad of channels that help you diagnose malfunctions and fix common household items. Fixing a broken product will give you a sense of satisfaction and the rights to brag that you’re not a part of the throw-away society. You, too, can DIY. Give it a try.
Forgo Fashion Fads
Believe it or not, your fashion choices can also help reduce your carbon footprint. Embracing hand-me-downs or secondhand clothing can also reduce the number of resources you use. Think of how much money you’ll save, too, by purchasing a retro item at a thrift store. And you’ll probably be contributing to a good cause. Georgina Wilson-Powell, author of “Is It Really Green?” subscribes to the 30-wears rule and says, “To work off the clothes’ carbon emissions created during production, you need to wear it 30 times. If you don’t think you’ll get that out of it, don’t buy it.”
Consider wearing more classic fashions that have a longer lifespan rather than buying all trendy items. By selecting an item that can be worn many times, you are reducing the resources needed to create a new item. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “discarded clothing ranks as the top source of textiles in municipal solid waste, above furniture, carpets, footwear, linens, and towels.”
Share Your Success
Finally, share your goals. Let others know you’re investing in our planet. If you’ve found a great beef-free or vegetarian recipe, share it with friends and families. After you join others in cleaning a park or trail, clean out your closet and donate some of your clothes to others to help give those items new life. Share your success when you repair something you thought you would have to throw away. Maybe you will inspire another family or a friend to try to live more sustainably.
Amanda Bshero is a Lincoln Learning Solutions Instructional Services Manager and has been teaching with Lincoln Learning Solutions since 2014. She has a passion for teaching science. Amanda enjoys spending time with her family and creating items by knitting or crocheting.
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