Bike and walk more.
Tip: Challenge yourself to walk or bike a certain amount of miles a week. I use the app, Strava, to track where I am in my weekly goals.
Get moving! Compared to driving, walking and biking are better for you and better for the environment. If where you’re going isn’t far away (and you don’t have to carry a lot), substitute the car with something that’ll also help you burn a few calories.
Make ‘Meatless Mondays’ part of your routine.
Tip: Find a diet you can stick with for the long-term.
While delicious, meats objectively have a higher carbon footprint than a vegetable-based diet:
However, an eco-friendly diet does not need to completely ditch the meat. Ultimately, my philosophy is a diet should be sustainable, both for you and for the environment. For example, we can all agree that eating just bananas is not a sustainable diet – you would be incredibly deficient in essential micro and macronutrients. Equally, “cutting out all carbs” is not a long-term, sustainable diet.
Instead, find a diet you can stick with. If going 100% plant-based is too much, scale back to 80%, 70%, 50% – whatever you can do in the long-term. Also, leave highly unsustainable products to very rare occasions, or not at all. Top culprits of high emissions are lamb (39.2kg CO2/kg), beef (27.0 CO2/kg), and cheese (13.5kg CO2/kg). This chart gives a more complete picture:
Tip: Leave highly unsustainable products to very rare occasions.
If you don’t want to change much in your day-to-day, consider adopting ‘Meatless Monday’ as part of your weekly routine. The practice is simple: no meat on Monday, and resume your normal diet Tuesday through Sunday. Inviting a friend over for dinner is an awesome and fun way to double your impact of Meatless Monday!
Heads up! To give some meal inspiration ahead of schedule, I will post a Meatless Monday meal plan every Sunday.
Tip: While you’re cooking, put the compost container somewhere convenient and toss scraps in there as you go. After dinner, add unusable organic waste to your compost.
Release the power of your table scraps! The decomposition of your compost helps recycle essential plant nutrients of the ‘humus,’ AKA the organic component of soil.
Drawbacks to composting include the smell. No one wants a foul-smelling kitchen. Instead of having your compost out in the open, put it in your freezer. You don’t need a fancy container: I repurposed an old protein powder container.
What’s even more cool (literally) about frozen compost is that it helps the decaying matter break down their cellular walls. In other words, it speeds up the decomposition process.
You can compost fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, and egg shells.
Buy local food.
Tip: Add the dates of local farmer’s markets to your calendar.
Look into your local food shopping options. Farmer’s markets are prevalent, even in cities. These vibrant local markets are a great way to get fruits and vegetables with minimal carbon footprint.
In addition, big grocery chains often have little display tags like ‘I’m local!’ for everything from eggs, meat, and even beer. If you’ve never noticed these, keep an eye out. Chances are they’re there!
Other options for shopping local include small shops whose stock includes a lot of locally produced food. Where I used to live in San Francisco, my favorite market was a tiny corner grocer that was a treasure trove of local produce, meats, and treats (even chocolate!).
Know your fish
Tip: Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app when shopping for seafood.
Not all fish are fished equally.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program does a phenomenal job of breaking down the good and the bad for seafood. Their printouts are wallet-sized, so your guidelines are handy when you are out and about.
They also do guidelines by state; head here check out the seafood guidelines for your state here. For example, I live in California, so my guidelines look like this:
For an on-the-go paperless option, download their mobile app.
Among other things, this is handy for finding local places that adhere to sustainable fishing practices. Using their ‘Find Seafood Near You’ tool, you can make informed decisions about where to buy your seafood.
Shop from ethical companies
Clothing companies are increasingly moving towards more ethical, sustainable practices. Here are some fashion companies that embrace an eco-friendly approach:
The shoe company has completely taken over San Francisco. Instead of synthetics, they use merino wool for their loungers and runners. Stated on their website:
Our merino wool is ZQ-certified, which means it meets stringent standards of sustainable farming and animal welfare. In other words, no sheep were harmed in the making of these shoes.
The company that specializes in active wear uses organic textiles (mainly organic cotton) for its clothing. They also feature awesome collections that make use of unconventional materials such as recycled coffee and natural bamboo. Personally, Starseeds is high on my list of clothing I’d love to buy from.
Master of minimalism, Everlane makes timeless classics with radically transparent prices. They are big into the ethicality of where they source their materials from in terms of fair treatment of workers and humane treatment of animals.
Everlane also ran several campaigns bringing awareness to social issues with their 100% Human Collection. This was in support of causes such as equality, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Where Everlane can improve is in providing more sustainability and transparency about their eco-friendly practices. It’s understandable that they are putting more focus on human rights and social issues, but this is yet another way for them to show the world their standout principles on ethics.
If it were possible, my entire wardrobe would be Amour Vert (one day…*sigh*). The clothing is classy, oh-so-fashionable and sustainably made. As far as adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle goes, there are really no compromises when it comes to Amour Vert.
Best of all, they’re committed to sustainable practices – Amour Vert’s production is zero waste and they use organic cotton as well as recycled polyester for their clothing.
Also – they have a baby collection.
Another company committed to zero waste, Tonlé’s clothing is beautiful, handcrafted, and one-of-a-kind. Explained on their website:
Our process starts with scrap waste sourced from mass clothing manufacturers. Using every last thread, we create handmade clothing and accessories signed by their Cambodian makers.
Matt & Nat places their focus on the accessories: mainly handbags, wallets, and shoes. Looking at their beautiful collections, you’d never guess that they’re made of recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber, cork, and even recycled plastic bottles. They’re also experimenting with recycled bicycle tires!
Bring a reusable cup, or even more fun, your own mug to your favorite cafe.
Imagine this: you walk into your favorite coffee shop and get to enjoy great coffee in your own favorite mug.
This idea works well in local coffee shops, and encourages you to take a few minutes to enjoy your coffee inside the cafe, rather than take it to go. If you’re in a rush, bring a reusable to-go cup!
Ask your local cafe if this is something they’d be willing to do! All that’s needed is a bookshelf to place the mugs on.
While grocery stores give the impression that everything is always in season, this isn’t actually the case. Each season features its own “harvest” of fruits and vegetables that grow during that time. Here’s the seasonal produce guide.
Each season, I’ll also post about the produce unique to the new season! I will also share recipes featuring seasonal produce.
Last, but definitely not least, energy is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon footprint. Here are some tips:
- Use renewable energy as much as possible. Opt for solar energy options (such as PG&E’s 100% pure solar power, or solar panels).
- Buy informed. When purchasing appliances as well as heating and cooling systems, choose products labelled as ENERGY STAR.
- Change your light bulbs. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or LEDs instead of normal lights. CFLs are 2/3 more efficient than normal bulbs, and save you at least $40 over the course of its life.