Earth Day is right around the corner! Next Wednesday, April 22nd to be exact. If you haven’t been as environmentally aware as you’d like to have been this year, now is the perfect moment to turn over a new leaf (get it?).
If you don’t feel like you need to make any changes, try out the Earth Day Network Carbon Footprint Calculator to get a sense as to how much your actions are impacting our planet. It might change your mind!
Whether you want to get your hands dirty or make a different kind of impact, there are so many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint. You probably know many of the usual suspects by now (which are all great options!), but we want to take it a step further with some unique ways that you can make an impact when it comes to sustainability.
Here are a few of them to get you started:
Buy from Eco-Friendly Social Enterprises
You don’t have to make huge changes to reduce your carbon footprint – all you have to do is make a conscious decision to make purchases from eco-friendly social enterprises. Here are some of our favorite options:
- method: With its unique line of beautifully designed and eco-friendly cleaning products, method has developed a brand that is appealing and impactful. Not only are their ingredients environmentally safe, but their packaging is made out of 100% recycled plastic. Their newest line is even made with recovered ocean plastic!
- LEAP Organics: If you’re looking for environmentally friendly skincare products, LEAP Organics has you covered. They produce organic, sustainable, all natural soap and skincare products that are both cruelty-free and vegan. Like method, all of LEAP’s packaging is made from 100% recycled plastic, and their boxes are Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means that packaging paper comes from sustainable, well-managed forests. Plus, LEAP donates 1% of sales to environmental non-profits.
- United by Blue: The clothing that you purchase has a huge impact on the environment – and you decide whether that impact is positive or negative. When you buy clothes from United by Blue, you’re choosing the former. For every item sold, the company removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through clean-ups that they organize in different U.S. cities.
These are just a few of the many amazing eco-friendly social enterprises out there. If you’re interested in learning about more, start with this list of B Corporations that are focused on the environment.
Make Small Changes in Your Routine
You probably already know about some of the ways you can reduce your carbon footprint – switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, buying local food, and cutting back on printing, for example. But there are so many other ways that you can cut back on waste that you probably don’t even think about.
Reduce Grocery Store Packaging
When you’re grocery shopping, almost every single item that you look at is packaged, and often excessively so. And while reusable bags have been on the rise in recent years, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are still consumed each year.
Grocery store waste seems inescapable – but it doesn’t have to be. Over the past few years, zero-waste grocery stores have started to crop up in the United States. One of the first zero-waste grocery stores to open in the U.S. is In.gredients in Austin, TX. Here’s how it works: In.gredients, and other stores like it, sell all of their food in bulk. Then, you either bring your own containers with you to fill up, or the store provides containers that are 100% compostable for you to use. Stores like this are cutting down on the estimated 570 million pounds of food packaging that Americans add to landfills each year.
If you don’t have a zero-waste grocery store near you (yet), you can still majorly cut back on your grocery store waste by buying bulk whenever possible, bringing your own containers to carry home deli items, and opting for reusable bags. If you’re interested in additional tips, you can learn a lot from Bea Johnson’s blog Zero Waste Home – she and her family have been living an entirely zero-waste lifestyle since 2008!
Reusable Takeout Options
Or what about when you order takeout? Do you really have a say as to whether or not you use plastic containers when you order out? You do, actually – at least in some places.
In recent years, companies that produce reusable takeout containers have emerged to solve this problem. They operate on different models: Some sell their containers to restaurants and let them handle the rest, others implement programs at colleges and universities and in food courts. But one of our favorite of these companies, GO Box, puts the power to make sustainable takeout choices in your hands. If you want to order takeout in Portland or San Francisco, you can sign up for this subscription-based service. When you order food, you just provide your subscription information to a participating restaurant or vendor, and they will use a GO Box container for your order. Then, when you’re finished with it, all you have to do is drop the container at one of many drop sites in your city. GO Box takes care of the rest, picking up containers (by bike!), washing them, and redistributing them to vendors.
Though there aren’t an abundance of these options at this point, do a little research to see if you can find anything in your area if you want your next takeout order to be a little greener.
Download an Environmentally-Friendly App
If you want to take a digital approach to environmentalism, all you have to do is download an app (or a few, if you’re feeling crazy). In recent years, numbers of apps that help you reduce your carbon footprint and make environmentally friendly decisions have been developed. Here are a couple that we’re really into:
- Oroeco: This app tracks your carbon footprint by putting a value on all of your actions – from what you eat, to how you get around, to what you buy – and adding it up to show the environmental impact of your decisions using data from UC Berkeley. It then compares this data to your neighbors and friends, so you see just how your environmental impact lines up against those around you.
- GoodGuide: If you’re ready to start shopping for more eco-friendly products, but don’t have the time to research every single product you’re considering, you need GoodGuide. This app allows you to input information about a general product that you’re looking for, and provides you with safe, healthy, green, and ethical options for you to choose from.
- Carma: This carpooling app makes it easy for you to find others in your area who are headed in the same direction as you with whom you can share your commute. It also allows you to split costs with other riders, so you save money while reducing traffic and emissions.
- Images of Change: Sometimes, it takes a little bit of perspective (and, perhaps, ensuing shock) to spur action – and that’s what this app offers. NASA provides the app with images from its Global Climate Change, comparing side-by-side views of the same shot on the planet many years apart. If climate change seems like an ambiguous concept to you, this app may give you a much-needed reality check.
No matter how big or small your carbon footprint, each one of us needs to be doing more to protect the environment. How do you plan to make a positive environmental impact this spring and beyond? Share with us by: