Editor’s Note: This article by Karo Wanner originally appeared on Medium.com.
Have you been avoiding the news about climate change and how bad it is? Do you feel you cannot do much and it is painful to change? The world is on fire and we know we need to level up if we want to keep living comfortably in the future.
All the measures taken by governments and businesses are leading in the right direction if we would have started 20 years ago. Then it would have been fine. But now, we are running out of time. We need every improvement towards a zero-emission society we can get.
Here are the 11 painless micro-habits to get you started, the beginning is always the hardest. But with this real-life advice, you can cut down your carbon footprint enormously without compromising a lot.
#1 Stop Buying Meat
You don’t have to be a perfect vegan to reduce your carbon emissions. Start with reducing your meat consumption, the biggest emission source of your diet, by simply not buying it anymore.
According to The Economist, eating a plant-based diet for only two-thirds of your meals can cut your food-related emissions by 60%. You can achieve about 40% just by not buying meat anymore.
I got this tip from a dear friend and it worked out amazingly well for me. When I went out with friends or was invited for dinner at a friend’s place, I could still eat whatever I wanted. But at home, I would go back to vegetarian or vegan dishes. I got used to it so quickly and didn’t feel like missing out or restricting myself.
#2 Replace Dairy With Plant-Alternatives
We are living in a time where we can choose from about 12 different milk types. Soy, almond, rice, oat, pea milk just to name a few. It is not a big deal anymore to switch to plant-based milk. They have caught up on flavor and taste, are better for your health, and you can get them in every supermarket around the world. (I have tested this during my world trip in 2018.)
If you drink one glass of milk per day, you can save 164 kg of greenhouse gas emissions just by switching to a plant-based alternative like oat milk.
If you like plant-based milk, try the yogurt next. My favorite is soy, but there are also plenty of other options.
#3 Use the Search-Engine Ecosia
Have you ever thought about planting trees from your couch for free? Sounds like a dream? But you can get started immediately by replacing your Google Search for Ecosia.
The company states on their blog:
“Since Ecosia uses its profits to plant trees, every search with Ecosia actually removes about 1 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. This means that, if Ecosia were as big as Google, it could absorb 15% of all global CO2 emissions.”
Just add Ecosia as a Chrome-extension and you are ready to plant trees from your couch. Think about how many Google searches you do every day. If it is only 20, you can remove 20kg of CO2 from the atmosphere per day by switching to Ecosia.
#4 Switch to a Renewable Energy Provider
Cut out 100% of your emission caused by electricity you use at home simply by switching to renewable energy. It will take you only 1 or 2 hours to swap, but then it won’t affect your life at all. Depending on where you are living, the prices vary, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In some countries like the UK renewable energy might be even cheaper.
Go to Ecosia and search for ‘energy provider comparison’ to find the best price comparison site in your country.
#5 Bring Your Own Shopping Bag
We make plastic out of fossil fuels. So, the more plastic we use, the more emissions we are causing. A study claims that if we continue like now, emissions from plastic will reach 17% of the global carbon budget by 2050.
Let’s cut back on the easily avoidable things first. If you go shopping or buy takeaway food, bring your own bag. You don’t have to buy a new organic cotton bag; I am sure you have tonnes of bags at home ready to use.
#6 Drink Tap Water
I am drinking tap water since I am a child and I always thought it tasted better than bottled water. Drinking tap water has uncountable benefits. It saves you money as it is free or at least much cheaper than buying bottles of water.
Second, you avoid a huge amount of CO2 which is emitted during the transport of water bottles.
Third, you save on plastic bottles. The average household uses 800 bottles per year, which equals 160kg CO2 emissions.
Drinking tap water is also better for your health. Did you know by drinking exclusively bottled water you consume up to 90.000 plastic particles more than people who drink tap water? We don’t know yet how digested microplastic affects the human body, but I prefer to keep myself as plastic-free as possible.
Please check with your local authorities if it’s safe to drink the tap water where you live. In some places, it might need to be boiled, filtered, or even avoided.
#7 Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle Everywhere
I learned this habit in China. If you have ever been to Asia, you will see people always carrying a small tea bottle around. This will make you stay hydrated wherever you go and save tonnes of money over the years.
I have traveled around the world for more than a year without buying any plastic bottles (apart from special occasions like several day hiking trips).
I and my water bottles are inseparable, like Bonnie and Clyde.
#8 Count Your Steps
We are all lacking enough movement. Hardly anyone of us can fill 10.000 steps per day regularly. So let’s get moving for our health and the environment wherever it’s possible.
Measure your daily step count and challenge yourself to make it to 10.000 steps every day. Through gamification, it will be easier to walk more and become healthier. Every time you choose to walk over driving, you reduce your carbon footprint. Biking is also a great option.
#9 Avoid Unnecessary Plastic Packing
This trick I learned from my zero waste heroes, Carry Yu and Bea Johnson. Don’t use plastic bags in the fruits and vegetable section in the supermarket. Either bring your own reusable bag or just put the fruits in the basket as they are. Why do we need to wrap them in plastic if they come in natural packaging?
Try to buy as many products unpackaged as possible. If you want to level up, you can even visit a bulk store and bring your own containers to fill up your pantry.
#10 Support Your Locals
Regional products are not only supporting your locals but also saving on emissions because of shorter transportation ways.
Small businesses often put more thought and care into their offering, resulting in high-quality products. Plus, you have the power to vote with your wallet what business practices you want to support. Every day is election day. Whom do you vote for?
#11 Have a Wish List
There are so many tempting things we could buy in this world. But what do we really need? Time after time, we get lost in good deals and smart advertisements piling up useless stuff in our apartments, which add nothing to our lives than avoidable CO2 emissions.
Have a wish list and add all items you think you really need. Wait one month and evaluate again before you make a purchase. You can also hold on until Xmas or your birthday. Help your loved ones to buy you a gift you need and cherish by sharing your wish list with them.
In a world where everybody has everything and more, people will be thrilled to get gift advice from you. It also saves you from more useless stuff you don’t need. It’s a win-win situation.
Living a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult. Small changes here and there, and you will accumulate a huge impact.
Let’s get started and pick the advice which is easiest for you and try it for one month. When you have mastered the first one, move on to the next.
To make change happen, we actually have to do something. Now is the time to take action. Having a positive impact on your CO2 footprint doesn’t look too difficult anymore. Which tip will you put into practice first?