How to Live Sustainably


Li Na Jiang, Contributor

A new study shows that summer could potentially last six months by 2100. Sounds like a dream right? Until you realize how damaging it is for the planet. More wildfires, more snowstorms, and birds are already shifting their migration patterns. But do not fret, there are still many eco-friendly changes you can make that are better for the environment. 

1. Limit single-use plastic

Single-use plastics are goods that are used only once before they’re thrown away to end up at landfills. This can include plastic straws, plastic utensils, and takeout containers. About 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year worldwide, and 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Ecosystems and their inhabitants suffer most as plastic ruins their habitat and get mistaken as food. Using a reusable bag, or a reusable water bottle, are just some examples of reducing plastic waste. 

2. Upcycle

Ever felt overwhelmed by the number of useless products sitting around your house? Upcycle them! Not only does it reduce and prevent items from being piled up in landfills, but it transforms unwanted products into something useful. Repurpose whenever possibletake an empty candle jar, for example, it can be used for storage or a new home for a small plant.

3. Focus on what you eat

The United States has the world’s second-highest consumption of beef, and it is estimated that Americans consume 274 pounds of meat every year. Animal-based foods tend to have a higher carbon footprint than plant-based foods. Much of the resources that go into raising livestock from birth to the slaughterhouse get wasted. From the farms, to factories, to your local grocery stores, the process that goes into producing meat is far more destructive than you think. Industrial livestock production is responsible for at least 37% of greenhouse gas emissions. Not only would eating less meat improve health globally, but it’s the most crucial way an individual can do to tackle the climate crisis. Although it may be hard to give up on dino nuggets, a lean towards a more plant-based diet would help the environment immensely.

4. Shop consciously

The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world. Despite the cheap and trendy pieces of clothing that the fast fashion industry feeds its consumers, there are many downsides that outweigh its benefits. Fast fashion is usually produced in sweatshops, where child labor is prevalent and workers are exploited and underpaid. Moreover, the environmental impact of the fashion industry is immeasurable. According to the World Wildlife Fund, a simple cotton shirt takes up to 2,700 liters of water to make. To make matters worse, Americans throw away 14 million tons of textile waste every year. Rather instead, try purchasing items from sustainable and ethical brands that are made to last. Thrifting is also a great alternative for vintage and unique pieces without sacrificing style. 

5. Don’t waste food

We’ve all heard of it at some point—for a good reason though. It is estimated that U.S. households waste 76 billion pounds of food per year, and approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food around the world each year. Food waste is responsible for more than 25% of freshwater consumption in the United States and is one of the leading causes of freshwater pollution. Additionally, only five percent of food is composted in the US; thus uneaten food is the single leading cause of municipal solid waste. Next time you go to the grocery store, buy less than what you think you need and plan your meals to prevent over-preparing and food spoilage.

6. Do less driving 

With the ever-changing world that we’re living in, the majority of Americans rely on cars for transportation both in cities and in the suburbs. The burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 into the air and is extremely damaging to our communities, as it causes pollution. In California, cars, and trucks that transport people and goods create 38% of total climate change emissions. Whenever possible, take public transportation, walk, or bike instead of driving. Traveling by eco-friendly means would reduce your personal carbon footprint emissions greatly. 

Despite the fact that eco-friendly living is not feasible for everyone, small efforts can truly make a big difference.