We all know the importance of doing our part to protect the environment.
But, why is this important? As global temperatures continue to rise, we could see more drastic weather patterns like heatwaves, droughts, and extreme weather events. This will have implications for the global food supply, melting ice caps contribute to rising sea levels and could ultimately displace people living near coastlines, and many species may become endangered or extinct due to the temperature.
The thought of making an impact on such an extensive crisis can seem overwhelming and make us feel helpless as individuals, especially as we already juggle so much as parents.
Environmentalist Paul Hawken writes about the concept of “agency” in his book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming. As he describes, “agency” is an idea that an individual or community can be empowered to make decisions and take steps (big or small) that contribute to the sustainability of the environment, rather than relying on government, policies, or corporations to take action.
This article is not intended to preach by any means. We are all doing our best and may not feel like we have the capacity to make a significant impact. I am sure we can all agree leaving our planet better than we found it for our children’s future is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. After reading Drawdown and learning about where our planet is headed with current systems in place, it left me with a sense of empowerment in agency.
I am inspired to live more intentionally and wanted to share some goals I am working toward in my quest to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
Five Easy Ways to Drive Sustainability
Reduce Plastic Use
Plastic production accounts for 4 percent of global greenhouse gas (gases that trap heat in our atmosphere) because of the amount of energy required to produce it. Much of the plastic made today is for single-use products and that leads to prolific waste. As parents, the reality is that convenience is key and we may not be able to get away from all single-use plastics. But there are some simple steps we can take to reduce consumption and even recycle some of the plastic that we do use.
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging consumption – Many grocery stores have a bulk section for items like dried beans, nuts, granola, oatmeal, and snack foods.
- Bring your own reusable grocery bags – Some stores even offer discounts for using your own bags (Whole Foods is one).
- Reuse plastic bags and packaging – Save bags from loaves of bread, the plastic packaging bags inside of diaper boxes, and grocery produce bags. Add them to your diaper bag to reuse when you are on the go.
- Skip takeout utensils – Use your own flatware for takeout and ask the restaurant to please leave it out. If you find yourself with a collection as we did, don’t throw them out! Consider donating them to a homeless shelter or community food fridge.
- If you can’t reuse, recycle! Many grocery stores have a plastic bag and film collection containers in front of their stores. Find the location closest to you here.
Support a circular economy
A circular economy is a system that aims to keep items in circulation as long as possible to reduce waste. Clothing, baby supplies and gear, and household items are all examples of items that parents regularly use and we can do our part to extend their lifecycles.
Buying and selling items secondhand is a great way to avoid waste and can help you save or even earn money. There is a huge market for secondhand children’s clothes. Here are some places to do it:
- Consider buying and selling clothing on Poshmark or eBay.
- Check out your local Facebook mom group to see if they have a buy/sell page. You can also use Facebook Marketplace. Please keep safety in mind for any in-person transactions.
- Local consignment sales – there are so many around Atlanta. See if one is near you here.
We can also do our part by being more conscientious with our purchases. Fast fashion is a term used to describe mass-produced and low-quality clothing that is pushed to consumers to replicate high-end fashion trends. This type of clothing is pushed voraciously as part of the “consumption culture” on social media, so consumers can feel on trend with the latest “dupe” item. This comes at a cost. Clothing companies contract with factories in developing countries due to lower wages and less oversight, allowing for cheaper end prices. As a result, this exploitative industry creates unsafe and unfair working conditions. Moreover, the planet suffers from mass production of clothing. This Bloomberg article found that “the U.S. currently throws away the equivalent of about 70 pairs of pants per person in waste from clothes and footwear each year” and currently accounts for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
This is an area that I am working on for myself. I have been guilty of impulse buying, and adorable children’s clothes can definitely be a weakness. It is tempting to have the latest trend at your fingertips after seeing it on your favorite influencer’s Instagram story, but I encourage you to re-think the reflexive click to “add to cart.” Especially as I get older, my focus on almost everything is quality over quantity.
Go Meatless on Monday
I know for my family and many others, it is not realistic to completely eliminate meat from our diet at this stage. As far as the planet is concerned though, it could be beneficial to cut back. Clearing lands and raising animals for food, as well as producing livestock feed, among other factors, contribute to meat production causing double the pollution of producing plant-based foods.
One way I have tried to shift our thinking from the traditional plate of main meat with a carb and vegetable on the side is to think of the meat on our plate as a side instead of the main. My kids will happily let the carb shine any day! With prices high at the grocery store, beans are an economical choice and make a great supplement to “bulk up” dishes like chili or tacos without using as much meat. If that doesn’t work for your family, consider a day or meal each week that is meatless. There is no shortage of inspiration for family-friendly Meatless Monday recipes. Check out a few here and here.
Limit food waste by reducing portion size
Approximately one-third of the world’s food is never eaten, with waste occurring at varying points in the supply chain and by consumers. As a result, food waste accounts for 8 percent of global emissions. It is common for children to have inconsistent palates, especially when experimenting with new foods. If your child is particularly hesitant or their appetite changes often, consider reducing the portion size on your child’s plate. Not only is it less overwhelming to them, but you will also reduce food waste. If they love what they are served, they can always ask for more!
Finding a carpool buddy to share the family transportation burden has helped save my sanity. My child enjoys it too because she has extra bonding time with a friend outside of the classroom. Fewer cars on the road (or miles driven) reduce the vehicle emissions emitted into the atmosphere. Carpooling doesn’t cost anything to implement, saves gas money, and is one of the easiest ways to make an impact. In fact, Georgia offers financial incentive programs for those who carpool or commute through cleaner alternatives. Learn more at Georgia Commute Options.
Do you think these steps could be easily implemented in your home? If you have tried any sustainability projects let us know in the comments below.