It's easy to think of ourselves as humans on Earth, instead of acknowledging that we are as much a part of this planet as the mountains and trees. But given that we are inextricably connected with this world and the other life on it, caring for our home and the very essence of what we are is vital.
This year has already seen a huge upswing in talk about sustainability - even presidential candidates are jumping on the bandwagon. If you want to contribute to these recent green initiatives, here are some easy ways you can live a more environmentally conscious life.
1. Cut back on animal products
Experts have estimated that anywhere from 18 to 51 percent of global emissions come from animal agriculture. If everyone were vegetarian or vegan, there'd be more plant matter available to feed people around the world, as well as less pollution and better natural resource conservation. If you don't feel like switching to a completely plant-based diet right now, try having a few days a week without animal products, or just reducing your overall intake.
2. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
A lot of energy comes from non-renewable fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, so the less we use the better. Modern appliances are far more energy efficient than old ones, so if your washer or dryer has been working poorly for a while, don't feel bad about investing in a new one.
3. Ride a bike
Car rides - especially short ones - often aren't worth the negative environmental impact they have. If you need to get somewhere and walking seems too slow, riding a bike is a great alternative. Not only are bikes faster than walking, they're also eco-friendly, great for your health and fitness levels, and fun!
4. Limit overall energy use
Plenty of appliances suck power even when you're not actively using them. To fight this, start taking gradual steps to reduce your daily energy use. Turn off your air conditioner or central heating when you leave home for the day, and make sure you don't leave your laptop charger plugged in after your laptop is fully charged.
5. Recycle as much as possible
Have you ever read about the woman whose trash from two full years fit inside a small mason jar? In comparison, an average American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash every day. Luckily, it's not hard to find ways to reduce that waste. Recycling is becoming increasingly more viable in towns all across the country, so explore the programs in your area. And if you have a yard, consider making compost with your food scraps.
6. Invest in solar
With the average U.S. home generating over 12 tons of carbon dioxide each year, it's easy to see why switching to solar power is a smart move. You can start small by replacing the lights on your backyard deck with solar lights, or you can go full-on green goddess and have solar panels installed for your whole home. The initial cost of installation is definitely worth the long-term savings, and the panels can also increase the value of your home.
While some rumors are out there that solar is still too expensive, it's actually a lot more affordable than you think. Saving money and the environment at the same time? Yes, please!
7. Reduce water usage
Though you may not think about it, clean, potable water is a limited resource, so it's important to be conscious of how you use it. Turning the tap off while you brush your teeth, opting for a quick shower rather than a bath, and using a sink full of water to wash dishes instead of having water running continuously, all make a difference when it comes to cutting down on unnecessary water waste.
8. Buy things in bulk
K-Cups might seem like an easier alternative to coffee grounds (saving you, what - 30 seconds each morning?), but they're also contributing to the mountains of plastic packaging that end up in landfills.
Buying things in bulk is a good way to reduce packing waste, and there are a lot of products on the market now that have wrapping made from recycled materials. Opt for these slightly greener alternatives over your normal brands and products.
Wherever you're at in terms of eco-consciousness, remember that even the smallest steps make a difference. Improvement comes only when everyone works together for the common good, doing what we can to make the world more sustainable. Stay mindful, and you'll be surprised how many ways there are to reduce your carbon footprint.