I’ve seen a bunch of posts on social media recently shaming people for shaming others to be more environmentally friendly. It made me mad.
Yes, I know that the majority of the world’s pollution is a result from a very small number of major corporations, but that doesn’t mean we should all just throw in the towel because we don’t think there is any hope. If everyone decided to stop caring and not try to reduce their waste, or support companies that use unethical processes in their businesses, then our impact on the environment will be so much larger than it already is.
I believe it is our duty as citizens of this earth to try and be better. I don’t mean never using electricity, or showering every two weeks, or other ridiculous, unobtainable ways of life in modern society as we know it. I’m talking about taking small steps to reduce our impact overall. All we can do is try to be better and be more environmentally conscious—and that’s all that I’m asking of you right now.
If you’re looking for a way to try and do so, but don’t know where to start, I’ve compiled a list of a few very easy, very small suggestions that might help.
1. Stop using single-use plastic bags
We’ve been told since we were children to stop using the plastic bags the cashier gives you at the grocery store, and instead buy reusable ones. But has anyone ever thought about the small plastic bags we use for produce? There are reusable mesh or woven bags bags you can use instead. Single-use plastic goes beyond just our grocery stores: Plastic Oceans states that more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year… but that article is coming later.
2. Reduce your usage of harmful chemicals
This is a tip that I’m still trying to implement myself. There are a ton of natural alternatives to products that are full of toxic chemicals for everything from skincare to drain cleaners—you’d be amazed at what baking soda and vinegar can do. Not only is this tip better for the environment, but it’s better for you too. Make sure to read the ingredients on the backs of products and educate yourself on what’s harmful. When in doubt, go natural!
3. Buy your clothes second-hand
Did you know that it takes 2700 litres of water to produce one T-shirt? According to Curiosity, that’s enough water to sustain a person for two and a half years. Buying second-hand is a much more environmentally conscious choice than purchasing items from fast fashion (one of the leading waste contributors). There are plenty of thrift stores around Toronto, with places like Value Village or Kind Exchange being most popular—and cheap. Not into thrifting? There are tons of ethical clothing brands you can check out with a little research.
4. Start a compost bin
I think this one might be another hard sell. Who wants a gross compost bin taking up space in their kitchen or backyard? Living in downtown Toronto also doesn’t provide you with many options to start one (not unless you want to invite some curious critters), but food waste is often one thing people don’t really think about. According to the Toronto Food Policy Council, $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year—that’s about 40% of all food yearly in Canada. Buy only what you need and if your building doesn’t offer a compost initiative, consider proposing one; this idea isn’t as easy as the others, but could be extremely beneficial.
5. Eat less meat
I know, I know. All you meat-eaters out there are going to be rolling your eyes at me for this one, but hear me out. You don’t have to cut out meat completely—I definitely haven’t (I love sushi as much as the next person). Without getting into all the gruesome details of the meat industry and all the reasons why I hate it, according to a report by the United Nations, 30% of the earth’s land surface is used to raise livestock. Not only does this heavily affect the availability of natural resources, but it also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, generating 18% more CO2 than transportation, 37% of all human-induced methane, and 64% of ammonia (a major contributor to acid rain). Even if you slightly reduce your consumption of meat (cue Meatless Mondays), you’ll be helping make a difference.
It’s not a shameful thing to want to try and reduce your impact on our planet at an individual level. This is an issue that I personally care deeply about, and I am still working towards being better myself—I’m guilty of occasionally using the disposable plastic bags at the grocery store when I’m out and about just like everyone else. No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
I know that the suggestions I made aren’t groundbreaking (you have probably even heard them all before), but I hope I was able to explain why you should care enough to try them out. If everyone implemented some of these practices into their lifestyle, it wouldn’t feel as if our individual efforts were worthless. The onus of environmental conservation is not on major corporations alone; we’re all responsible for looking after the planet we inhabit.
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