How to Actually Make Less of an Environmental Impact Without Sacrificing Much
Reduce Meat and Dairy Consumption
Reducing your consumption of meat and dairy products is one of the most impactful things you can do for the environment.
Livestock farming requires vast amounts of land, water and feed. It also produces greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and lamb have the highest environmental impact per gram of protein.
Here’s what I have done to reduce my meat consumption:
- I have two meatless days per week. This alone cuts my meat consumption by 30%.
- I use meat as a side dish or ingredient rather than the main part of a meal. For example, I’ll add some bacon to a salad but avoid making a bacon cheeseburger.
- When eating out, I choose vegetarian options. Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines offer tasty meatless dishes.
- Instead of dairy milk, I drink unsweetened soy, almond or oat milk. All generate less greenhouse gas emissions.
The reduction has been easy and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing at all. I’m still able to enjoy meat and dairy, just in smaller portions.
Reduce Food Waste
About 30% of food produced worldwide is wasted or lost. Food waste not only wastes the resources used to grow and transport that food, but also generates methane emissions as it rots in landfills.
Here’s what I do to cut down on food waste:
- I plan weekly meals and only buy what I need at the grocery store. Making a list helps prevent overbuying.
- Leftovers are frozen to be used later. Glass containers make freezer storage easy.
- I try to use all parts of produce. Broccoli stems go into stir frys. Wilting veggies get roasted. Peels and ends get composted.
- I purchase “ugly” fruits and vegetables that may otherwise get wasted for superficial reasons.
- Produce is stored properly to maximize freshness. Berries in the fridge, tomatoes out.
With better planning and storage, I end up throwing away very little food. Eliminating waste saves money too!
Transportation generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. For everyday travel, choosing alternatives to driving can dramatically reduce your environmental footprint. Here’s what I’m doing:
- I work from home several days per week when possible. This removes my commute entirely on those days.
- I combine multiple errands into one trip to reduce total mileage.
- When running local errands, I’ll walk, bike or take public transport rather than drive.
- I carpool with others if we’re going to the same location.
- For longer trips out of town, I’ll take buses or trains instead of flying when feasible.
- I make sure my car’s tires are inflated properly and oil is changed regularly for best fuel economy.
The overall reduction in driving has been simple and eliminated a frustrating, expensive commute. I get more exercise when using active forms of transportation as well.
Use Reusable Items
Single use plastics and paper products generate waste and require resources to produce. Using reusable versions of common disposable items can reduce your environmental impact. Here are some of the switches I’ve made:
- I carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug with me to avoid disposable cups.
- I bring my own reusable bags when shopping instead of using paper or plastic bags.
- I use reusable food wraps made of beeswax and cloths instead of plastic wrap.
- I use cloth napkins and handkerchiefs rather than paper ones.
- I buy larger or bulk quantities of items and refill smaller reusable containers instead of continually buying disposables.
These changes have been simple, generate minimal trash, and often save money. With a small amount of planning, reusable versions of many common disposables can be incorporated into your routine.
Making less of an environmental impact doesn’t require dramatic life changes. Small, manageable adjustments to your daily habits can reduce your carbon footprint and waste significantly. Prioritize changes like driving less, minimizing food waste, using reusables, and eating less meat and dairy. The environmental benefits add up, without sacrificing the parts of life you enjoy!