Going green: 5 easy steps to reduce your carbon footprint
“Carbon footprint” refers to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity. The amount of toxic fumes emitted by the lifestyle of the average American is harming Earth’s atmosphere. According to the Global Footprint Network, the lifestyle of the average American requires more resources than the earth can offer. This truth infers that we are living beyond our earth’s means. To find out how to take better care of our planet and live healthier lives, follow the simple steps below.
► Buy local. Buying local means more than just “nearby”. Look for produce that is from Arkansas or neighboring states. Long transport of produce contributes to air pollution. Vehicle emissions consists of toxic fumes that we breathe in, so reducing air pollution ensures cleaner air in our lungs. Purchasing produce at the local farmers’ market also cuts down on the packaging material required for long transport. Not only is buying local better for the environment, but it also tastes better. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients quickly after being harvested, so the longer the produce travels, the older and lower in nutrients it is.
► Unplug electronics and turn off lights when not in use. Many people are not aware that leaving electronics plugged in, even when not in use, wastes electricity. The most common waste of electricity is leaving a phone or laptop charger plugged in when it is not charging anything. Though the electricity used is minimal, it makes a significant difference over time. Another common waste of electricity is leaving lights on when not in use. When you leave the room, turn the light off.
► Replace single-use water bottles with reusable ones. Just because a plastic may be marked as “biodegradable” does not mean it benefits the environment. Plastic is made of harsh chemicals that release toxins when digested by bacteria. We come in contact with some of the bacteria through our meat consumption. For example, a plastic bottle finds its way into the ocean and is decomposed by bacteria. The bacteria now consist of toxins from the plastic and a fish eats the bacteria. The fish is now contaminated with toxins and we eat the fish. Consequently, our bodies now consist of the toxic chemicals of the plastic we send to landfills.
Avoiding single-use water bottles is the easiest way to reduce the number of plastic bottles that sit in landfills. Break the cycle of harmful chemicals from single-use water bottles with a reusable water bottle. Refill your bottle on campus at the hydration stations in the fitness center and upper concourse of the Donaghey Student Center.
► Reduce your meat intake. Meat, especially beef, requires many other resources before it reaches grocery stores. Decreasing resources used for livestock saves an enormous amount of water, cropland, and fossil fuels required to process the meat. Although water is considered a renewable resource, it may not be so for long. The high rate of population growth demands drinkable water faster than it can be renewed.
Reducing meat intake also has health benefits, such as improved heart health and living a longer life. Cutting back to one meatless day per week will make a significant difference. Choose one day of the week to go meatless or join the already established movement of “Meatless Monday.” Go to meatlessmonday.com for more info and tasty meatless recipes.
► Carpool if possible. Carpooling with a friend, coworker, or family member reduces the emission of gas fumes that are toxic to the environment. Carpooling also reduces our dependency on oil. At the rate Americans are using nonrenewable resources, oil will run out sooner rather than later. Make the effort to find at least one person you can work out an alternating driving schedule with, and note that you will both save money on gas and avoid a boring, daily commute.
Living a more eco-friendly life does not have to mean making drastic changes that will make you miserable. The best way to begin is with one small change at a time. Calculate your personal carbon footprint at footprintnetwork.org and find out how many earths it would take to sustain your lifestyle. Then, cut down on the number of resources your lifestyle requires.
Implementing these small changes will make a world of difference, literally.