7 Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Emissions and Plastic Waste

It’s Earth Day! A global day to remember to take care of our beautiful planet, something we should be doing every day.

With all the reports on how carbon and temperature levels are astonishingly increasing and with 1.3 billion tons of plastic expected to be tossed in the next two years, it can feel overwhelming. How can 1 person make a change?

If everyone did a little bit, our impact would be huge. You don’t need to be a perfect zero-waste, vegan, minimalist to do your part. You can make some simple changes, even the actions of 1 person can lead to great positive changes.

To help you get started on your journey of reducing carbon and plastic, here are some of my favorite tips.

1. Get political!

You may not have expected this, but this getting politically engage is huge!

Some of the biggest polluters and carbon emitters are big industries and countries. So use your voice and vote to change them.

Vote for local and national representatives who support and work on green initiatives. Write to your representative and city council if they don’t and get them to! Or write to them asking for green services.

If a company is not doing something that aligns with your green values, write to them requesting changes or don’t buy from them if you can. Even lobby your employer or start green initiatives in your workplace.

Your purchasing power plus your political power can influence bigger changes!

2. Reduce or eliminate your consumption of fish and seafood.

For many of us, seafood is a luxury and not a critical food item. So, reducing or even eliminating your seafood intake can lead to great benefits.

Firstly, overfishing is a huge issue. Nearly 90% of marine fish stocks are exploited and in great decline, which not only hugely impacts marine ecosystems but also geopolitical tensions from illegal fishing.

Secondly, the majority of plastic waste in the ocean is from fishing with 46% of plastic waste from fishing nets in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Consumer plastic waster is still a big issue, but not nearly as big as the waste from a single industry. So that packaging-free salmon is actually not plastic-free.

Thirdly, bottom trawling is a widespread commercial fishing practice that releases more carbon dioxide than Japan’s annual emissions and comparable to the global airline industry. Not to mention the devastation of important ecosystems.

3. Increase your plant consumption.

Along with reducing your fish intake, reduce your meat intake and increase on those veggies! Global livestock produce 14.5% of carbon emissions.

The carbon emissions from that burger aren’t just from the cow farting. It’s the carbon, energy, and resources spent growing its feed, processing the feed, transporting the feed, gases emitted by the cow, emissions from transporting the animal for slaughter, energy from processing the animal, and then delivery to where you buy the burger.

By going more plant-based, you can skip a lot of those steps. Even reducing your beef intake, for instance, by 1/3, you can reduce your carbon emission by 1/2!

Since 36% of global crops go to feeding animals, if we all reduce the demand for meat, we can cover that land back to producing crops for people while reducing our carbon emissions.

4. Shop less.

Industry and transportation are 2 of the largest sectors of carbon emissions, and they make up 40.4% of global gas emissions. It’s not just the energy and emissions from making your new T-shirt or headphones, it’s also the land use, resource extraction, and transportation, not including the packaging, other waste from the process, and potential human rights violation issues in many industries.

But we don’t have to go cold turkey on buying. Try to buy few clothes, don’t upgrade your phone as often, look for second-hand first, and try to fix something before buying a new one.  

5. Re-examine your travel habits.

Back to transportation. It is one of the largest sectors emitting carbon. If you look at the carbon emissions from passenger travel, that’s the main carbon emitter.

It’s using cars for the daily commute, flying around the world, and taking cruises.

We all can’t stop using our cars, especially if they’re important for work. What we can do is drive more efficiently, keep our cars in shape, try carpooling, and using publish transport more. The NY Times has a great list of suggestions.

If you love traveling as much as I do, flights are a big carbon emitter. So try to perhaps fly fewer trips and take more direct routes. You can even calculate your carbon emissions from your trip beforehand.  

6. Examine where your emissions and waste comes from.

If you want to reduce your carbon emissions and waste, you have to look at where you produce it the most. It’ll help you figure out what actionable steps work best for you.

Residential energy is a big area of energy use and carbon emissions, but there are easy steps you can take. For instance, turn your heating and AC on less often, wash your laundry less frequently, or invest in energy-efficient appliances. You can even estimate your carbon with this residential carbon calculator.

In terms of waste, keep a log of what you waste. Document the food you throughout, the packaging your toss, and the items you buy. After a couple weeks, you’ll have an idea of where your produce the most waste and can come up with a plan of attack.

7. Be easy on yourself. Start small.

Our global economies and industries are so complex and convoluted. There is no perfect solution and every positive solution has some negative consequences. It can be overwhelming.

Still, the point of Earth Day and this list is to not be perfect. It’s to start taking some steps, steps that work for you. It could be swapping out your steak for a veggie curry once a week, taking public transport to hang out with your friends rather than driving, purchasing fewer items a month, or taking 1 less flight.

Start with one simple change that you can easily and regularly execute and you’ll already be on your way to supporting a greener future. I’m sure that one small change would ignite another small change and then another, and then a friend and a family member to also make some small changes. Before you know it, you’ve started a little movement.

It’s better to have thousands of people making small beneficial changes, than a few perfectionists.

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