With climate change becoming an ever-critical issue, curbing your consumption and reducing your carbon footprint has never been more important. While it’s easier in some places than others, are working toward becoming zero-waste, there are always ways you can do your part, no matter where you live. Seemingly small changes, such as giving up plastic water bottles, can have a big effect when everyone is doing it. Reducing your consumption isn’t just good for the planet: It’s often beneficial for your personal health and well-being, as well as your wallet. Fortunately, companies such as GEAR AID offer products that enable you to reuse and repair things and avoid disposable products.
Here are eight easy ways to curb your consumption, reduce your footprint, and do your part to make the planet a better place in the process.
1. Reduce Your Use of Plastic
Plastic seems to be public enemy number one these days, and for good reason: It’s clogging our oceans and landfills in terrifying amounts, and takes hundreds (even thousands) of years to break down. Once you start noticing how prevalent plastic is in our daily lives, you can start avoiding it whenever possible. A great first step: Stop buying plastic water bottles, and invest instead in a high-quality reusable tumbler or stainless steel bottle. Keep one stashed in your car, gym bag, and at work, so you always have one on hand. Other ways to give plastic the boot: opt for reusable produce bags at the grocery store, don’t use plastic straws or utensils, and buy boxes instead of plastic bottles whenever possible.
2. Become a Localvore
Transporting food long distances takes a big toll on the environment. That’s why choosing foods that are grown or produced as close as possible to where you live can make such a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint. A super simple way to stock up on fresh, local produce? Shop at farmers' markets, where you can load up on a mouth-watering bounty of local fruits, veggies, and more. While you’re at it, make sure you’re choosing foods that are in season; buying out-of-season items means that they’re grown far away and have a long way to go before reaching your area.
3. Shop Locally, Too
Local business owners, whether it’s a gift shop or a clothing store, often have a smaller carbon footprint than their big-box competitors. In addition, they employ local residents, keeping profits within the community and helping boost the local economy—a win-win for everyone.
4. Ditch the Car Whenever Possible
Reducing your reliance on a vehicle has wonderful benefits for you and the environment. Many cities are becoming more bike-friendly, adding protected lanes and bike-share programs that make it easier than ever to get around town on two wheels. Walking is great, too, as is using public transportation.
5. Give Gifts Responsibly
Most people love the joy that comes with giving a gift to an appreciative recipient. But instead of giving an actual physical item—in other words, something that could eventually end up in the landfill—why not give the gift of an experience? Treat your loved one to a year’s membership (or a day pass) to their favorite museum, a special dinner out, or a few yoga classes. If you do opt to buy something, go for a gift that’s sustainably produced.
6. Learn to Repair Your Stuff
One of the easiest ways to reduce your consumption is to learn to repair your gear, clothing, and household items instead of continually buying new ones. Outdoor gear, for example, is designed to take some wear and tear, but you can extend the life of tents, jackets, and sleeping bags by using solutions specifically made to clean and lubricate zippers so they won’t wear out. Another easy way to extend the life of your gear is care kits.
7. Travel Lightly
There’s no way around the fact that travel isn’t great for the planet, but there are many ways you can make it less harmful. First of all, you can purchase carbon credits, which help offset the impact (some airlines even allow you to donate miles in exchange for carbon credits). As you’re planning your trip, choose destinations that educate travelers and prioritize ecological conservation over catering to the masses. And be sure to book accommodations with lodging providers that offer recycling programs, use renewable energy sources, compost, and incorporate organic foods into their menus.
8. Volunteer for a Sustainability-Focused Initiative
Contributing your time and money to organizations and projects that care for Earth’s natural wonders gives you a whole new level of respect for the environment—and allows you to connect with like-minded people. Volunteer to plant trees at a local park, participate in a beach or stream clean-up, get involved in clean drinking water initiatives, or help build or maintain trails at your local park. You’re all but guaranteed to be wowed by the beauty of the planet—and inspired to keep doing your part to protect it.
Written by Ann Gibson for Matcha in partnership with GEAR AID.