It can be incredibly overwhelming to sort through all of the information out there on how to be green. After all, climate change is a huge crisis already wreaking havoc on our planet, and it seems like almost every major industry, from agriculture to transportation, energy, fashion, or retail, has a hand in increasing the number of greenhouse gasses being pumped into our atmosphere every year. However, we as individuals can make a positive difference, especially when we come together as a country for a common goal. Small changes can make a difference when done by millions of people on a regular basis. What are the things you should do to increase your sustainability awareness?
1. Learn the Correct Way To Recycle
Did you know that about 25% of all recycled materials are unable to be processed due to contamination? That’s a huge increase from only 7% 10 years ago. In recent years, much of the U.S. has switched to single stream recycling, which is the process of collecting all recyclables in the same bin.
This has been a great thing since it has increased recycling participation. However, it has also increased the number of contaminated items, since people have a simpler process to recycle, and the simplicity has led to ignorance and laziness.
- It’s important to always clean and dry food containers before recycling. Wet and dirty plastic can easily contaminate the paper products sorted beside them, making them unrecyclable.
- Note that it’s not necessary to scrub each item with soap unless there is hardened residue left over. As long as you rinse off all the food debris, that is perfectly acceptable for the recycling plant.
- Don’t recycle anything greasy, like a pizza box.
- Don’t recycle plastic bags, or anything, flexible plastic. This type of material can tangle the gears of recycling machinery.
- Don’t recycle any soft paper like tissues, paper towels or napkins.
- Don’t put paper cups in the recycling. Most paper cups have a plastic lining that stops the cup from dissolving, which makes them unrecyclable.
2. Understand the Biggest Carbon Contributors
It can be confusing to understand what to pay attention to when increasing sustainability. It seems like so many things are bad for the environment. Learn the facts. The truth is, a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity and heat production, another quarter is from the agriculture industry, 21% are from transportation, and another 21% are from all industrial production.
What does this mean for you? Well, it can help you understand where to start with sustainability. Switching to solar is a great way to increase sustainability and tackle one of the biggest contributors, which is energy. Unfortunately, a huge chunk of all electricity production in the U.S. is still made using coal and fossil fuels. Putting solar panels on your roof would be a great way to offset that.
3. Understand the Agriculture Industry
Another thing that you can do is eat less meat. Since agriculture is the other heavy hitter of climate change, it’s important to understand why. First of all, animal agriculture, in particular, contributes 18% of total greenhouse gases, which is a massive percentage. This means that the cost to our environment of eating meat compared to eating plants is enormous.
Meat production uses a huge amount of land and water. 45% of all land on the planet is being used for livestock. Between 80-90% of all water consumption in the U.S. is because of agriculture, and at least 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of beef.
The amount of crops, like corn, oats, and soy to sustain livestock is also massive. Approximately 36% of all global food production goes to the animals we raise for meat consumption.
The beef industry is also a major contributor to methane emissions, which are created by the cow’s digestive system. This gas in particular is 25-100 times more destructive to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Luckily, there are so many vegetarian and vegan substitutes for meat products nowadays, including very similar replicas of burgers and fried chicken.
Author: Finnegan Pierson