I'm not going to lie, I've previously found the idea of being more eco-friendly incredibly daunting. When the to-do lists of life start piling up, thinking about that one extra thing can feel a lot more overwhelming than it needs to!
That said, I've learned that reducing your ecological footprint can be shockingly easy and effortless! And the truth is, if we all made small, day-to-day changes, we'd make a significant impact.
If you're a bit skeptical of that fact, allow me to introduce you to a fascinating study done by Heliyon last year. Interestingly, they realized that pandemic-related lockdowns were a wonderful opportunity to see just how much of an impact we humans have on the environment.
They found that the pandemic situation:
Significantly improved air quality in different cities around the world
Lessened water pollution by 30 - 60% in various European countries like Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, and Paris
Restored ecological systems to the point where the colour of seawater changed and dolphins returned to Italy and Bangladesh for the first time in more than 10 years!
Reduced transport and industrial activities
Reduced fossil fuel consumption
Decreased the global demand of oil by 435,000 barrels in the first three months of 2020 in comparison to those same months in 2019
Of course, it wasn't all good—there was an unsurprising increase of medical waste due to everyone wearing masks—but the moral of the story is we haven't been very nice to the environment, yet it's shockingly easy to do better.
So without further ado, here are some super simple ways you can start reducing your environmental footprint:
Stop using paper towel for every. single. thing.
Did you know that North Americans are weirdly obsessed with paper towels? No but really: North America uses more paper towels than ALL other countries combined 😳😳😳. That's weird, man.
This is especially disheartening when you also learn that as many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that we discard every day. That's simply tragic.
I've recently fallen in love with paper towel replacements. These ones by Friendlier Footprint are made with 100% cotton from end-of-the-bolt fabrics to reduce paper towel use and textile waste!
TRUST ME, you will use these for every. thing. you. do. No joke, I use at least seven per day in the following ways:
To dry my face in the morning and evening. Using a new cloth each time prevents the spread of sebum and bacteria on my face—something that's super important to me as someone who struggled with acne for literally 14 years of my life.
To wipe excess foundation, eye shadow, concealer, etc. from my makeup brushes when I'm getting ready in the morning
To dry my hands when I'm washing them 2305832085309282385 times during COVID
To dry produce when I'm cooking
To clean off countertops during/after cooking or baking
To wipe off the 582038592385 things that I've naturally spilled on myself throughout the day being the klutz that I am
To replace paper napkins during dinnertime
The uses are truly endless and the fabrics are absolutely adorable, as you can tell from the holiday-themed pack featured here!
Now full disclosure: people who are very dear to my heart are the founders of this company. Nonetheless, I'm telling you: just buy a pack and see how frequently you use them. I can guarantee that paper towels will be a thing of the past!
2. Use eco-friendly gift tags and cards this holiday season.
As some of you might know from my Instagram, I got super into watercolour painting during the pandemic—so much so that I was asked to do the artwork for some gift tags! The ones pictured here come on botanical seed paper that can be planted in soil to produce wildflowers for bees! Is that not the coolest thing you've ever heard 😩!?
There are two different sizes of gift tags you can purchase: small ones to write simple to's and from's or larger ones if you want to include a message. These are such a unique replacement for traditional greeting cards! Check out all the different options here.
3. Eat less meat and dairy.
When I was completing my master's degree, there was a woman in my class who was vegan, which I suspected was due to the traditional reasons I've heard, such as having a deep love of animals or wanting to improve one's health. You can imagine my surprise, then, when she shared that it was due to the environmental impact that meat and dairy consumption has on our planet. To be honest, I had no idea that this was a thing! In fact, scientists behind one of the most comprehensive analyses on the environmental harms of farming have said that "avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce [our] environmental impact on the planet."
Listen to these insane statistics:
Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%
Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife
Farmland devoted to meat and dairy produces a whopping 60% of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions
Beef creates up to 105kg of greenhouse gases per 100g of protein, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg
Now, I don't suspect that everyone reading this will go vegan, nor do you have to. But the point is that increasing your intake of plant-based foods and doing your best to reduce your intake of meat and dairy products can do wonders for the planet. Here are some suggestions for simple swaps:
Consume coconut yogurt instead of traditional yogurt
Have as many meatless dinners as you can per week
Use soy, almond, coconut, or oat milk instead of regular cow's milk
Get your protein from plant-based foods like tempeh, tofu, seitan, chickpeas, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. You'd be amazed at how versatile these ingredients are when it comes to cooking (and even baking)!
4. Reduce your use of single-use plastic products.
Things like plastic straws, cups, bottled water, and shopping bags contribute to the estimated 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste in Canada each year. That's simply revolting. Worse yet, only 9% of that plastic is returned for recycling. The sad part is that we use things like plastic grocery bags for an average of just 12 minutes before throwing out, yet they take hundreds of years to break down in landfills.
Our single-use plastics also pose a significant risk to animals since seagulls, fish, turtles, and marine mammals consume these items, which can block their digestive tracts of pierce organs, eventually causing death.
There are very simple ways to reduce your use of single-use plastic products:
Always keep reusable grocery bags in your trunk so they're on hand when you go grocery shopping
Use reusable produce bags like these ones in the grocery store when buying fruits and veggies (a pack of 12 is just $14)!
Use stainless steel straws like these rather than traditional plastic straws
Use stainless steel water bottles like these (which are BPA-free) or simple mason jars to store your water rather than drinking from plastic water bottles. I love putting frozen fruit and herbs into my water-filled mason jars to help make my water a little tastier!
Buy products in bulk at places like Bulk Barn using your own mesh bags rather than buying products in plastic containers at the store
Use your own cutlery when ordering in rather than using plastic cutlery
Go to places like Replenish in Aurora to refill glass bottles of shampoo, conditioner, detergent, and soap rather than continually buying these items at the store
Use bamboo toothbrushes, which can be found at your local heath food store!
5. Shop local.
Whether you're buying clothes, food, or other items, it can take a lot of gas and fuel for things to travel to us! Shopping at your local farmer's market and supporting other close-by companies is a simple way to support our Canadian economy and reduce your environmental footprint.
6. Purchase clothing from sustainable brands.
The fashion industry uses a surprising amount of energy and resources. Did you know that 7,570 litres of water is needed to make just one pair of jeans?! That same amount of water could provide a year's worth of drinking water to three people—an important statistic given that 1.1 billion people currently lack fresh water (source).
Here are some simple ways to make more eco-friendly fashion choices:
Get together with friends and swap clothing items rather than buying new ones. (This actually makes for a super fun day!)
Shop at second-hand stores
Purchase fewer high-quality, classic items that can last multiple seasons
Check out some of these ethical and sustainable Canadian clothing brands next time you're looking to add some items to your wardrobe
Oh, and while we're talking about clothes: wash your items in cold water. After all, about 90% of the energy washing machines use goes towards heating the water (source)!
7. Switch to using LED lightbulbs.
LED bulbs might be more costly up front, but they use so little energy, which doesn't just help the environment, but your electrical bill, too! They also last about 25 times longer than regular bulbs.
My house is filled with these Wiz lightbulbs, which hook up to your wifi network and have a corresponding app that allows you to turn your lights on and off from your phone, set your bulbs on a schedule, or change them to really fun colours. As someone who is obsessed with lighting and music being an essential part of getting a vibe ~just right~ I friggin' love these Wiz bulbs!
The Bottom Line
The fact of the matter is that the above suggestions really don't take a lot of effort whatsoever. And yet, if we all focused on implementing one or two items from this list into our day-to-day lives, the environment would be much happier!
Share your tips for being more eco-friendly in the comments below!