Food waste, pollution, and deforestation are just a few of the dire environmental issues that put the longevity of our Earth at risk. However, we can all do our part to help make a difference.
According to the World Food Programme, around one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted. This translates to approximately 1.3 billion tons of food every year. Not only does this waste have a significant economic impact, but it also has a devastating effect on the environment. Food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to the depletion of natural resources such as water and energy.
From food waste and pollution to deforestation, there are several environmental issues that put the longevity of our Earth at risk. To address these environmental issues and promote sustainability, individuals can make small changes in their daily lives.
The average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day! By reducing your water usage, you can help conserve water (and reduce your water bill).
Start by taking shorter showers, drinking water from a reusable bottle, and turning off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. Also, fix your pipes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 or more gallons per day.
Livestock farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) estimates that livestock farming is responsible for 19.6% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
By cutting down on meat consumption, you can reduce your carbon footprint and help combat climate change. According to the Earth Day Network, if everyone in the United States cut out meat one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, appliances account for about 15% of a household’s energy usage. By using energy-efficient appliances, you can reduce your energy usage (and save money on your energy bill).
According to EnergyStar.gov, over the lifetime of the product, models that have earned the ENERGY STAR can save nearly $360 in energy costs.
Recycling is a great way to reduce waste and conserve resources.
However, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. The rest ends up in landfills, oceans, or as litter in the environment. Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 380 gallons of oil.
Recycling also prevents plastic pollution, which, according to the World Wildlife Fund, kills 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds each year.
Composting food scraps and yard waste can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and can also create nutrient-rich soil for gardening. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, composting can divert up to 30% of household waste from landfills.
More than half of the average municipal garbage set out at the curb could have been composted. Composting can significantly reduce methane emissions by diverting organic waste from landfills. Landfills are a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
According to a study conducted at Princeton University, diverting organic waste to composting instead of sending it to landfills can result in over 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to carbon dioxide. This reduction amounts to 2.1 gigatons between 2020 and 2050.
Plastic bags are a major contributor to pollution. It’s estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. By using reusable bags, you can reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.
According to Sustainable Packaging Solutions, using one reusable bag can save the equivalent of 22,000 plastic bags over the bag’s lifetime. Plastic Oceans International estimates that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and the average plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes before being discarded. Followed by the fact that a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, switching to reusable bags is an easy decision!
Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. By using public transportation or carpooling, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money on gas.
Transportation accounted for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2018. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, “If your commute is 20 miles round trip, the switch to public transportation could lower your carbon footprint by 4,800 pounds annually.” In addition, communities with reliable public transportation systems can reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons yearly.
Switching to renewable energy is a crucial step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas are the main sources of energy worldwide, but they come with a significant carbon footprint.
The use of fossil fuels is responsible for approximately 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is derived from natural sources that are replenished over time, such as sunlight, wind, water, and geothermal heat. These sources of energy emit little to no greenhouse gasses and are therefore a much cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency, renewables provided 29% of the world’s electricity generation in 2021, and this is projected to rise to 90% by 2050.
Buying local and organic produce is not only healthier for you, but it’s also better for the environment. Buying locally reduces the amount of transportation needed to get the produce to your grocery store, and buying organic reduces the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used in farming.
A study by the National Center for Appropriate Technology found that food produced locally travels an average of only 50 miles, compared to the 1,500 miles for conventionally produced food. According to The Hill, “Food transport accounts for almost half of direct emissions from road vehicles. If the global population shifted to eating only locally sourced food, there would be a reduction of 0.38 gigatonnes of emissions.”
Paper usage is a major contributor to deforestation, which remains high, with an estimated 25 million acres of forest being lost every year.
Deforestation contributes to around 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the loss of trees disrupting the carbon cycle and releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the average American uses around 700 pounds of paper each year. By reducing your paper usage, you can help conserve trees and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A great way to start is by switching to electronic billing; if every U.S. household switched to electronic bills and statements, it would save 18.5 million trees, 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
P.S. Many billing companies offer a “paperless discount”, meaning a small percentage of your bill is discounted when you choose to receive their communications electronically.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air, making them an important tool in combating climate change.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Growing our own food can help reduce the environmental impact of food production and transportation. Food production accounts for about one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions – by planting a garden, we can support sustainable agriculture practices.
Single-use plastics like straws, bags, and water bottles have become an increasingly major environmental issue in recent years. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose and often ends up in the oceans, where it harms marine life and disrupts entire ecosystems.
Using a reusable water bottle can reduce plastic waste by up to 156 bottles per person per year. Rechargeable batteries can also be recharged up to 500 times, offering hundreds more hours of use than single-use batteries over their lifetime.
By investing in a reusable coffee cup, you are doing your part in reducing the estimated 50 billion coffee cups that Americans throw away each year.
According to the Department of Energy, LED bulbs use up to 75% less energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer, reducing the need for replacements.
LED bulbs emit less heat, making them more energy-efficient and safer to use. If every American household replaced just one traditional light bulb with an LED bulb, it would save enough energy to power 3 million homes for a year.
Many electronics continue to consume energy even when turned off or in standby mode, known as “vampire energy.”
By turning off lights and unplugging electronics when not in use, we can reduce energy consumption and save money on electricity bills. The average American household spends $100 per year on vampire energy, which costs Americans $19 billion annually. By unplugging electronics when not in use, we can save up to $100 per year on electricity bills.
Clothes dryers are one of the most energy-intensive household appliances, consuming a significant amount of energy and emitting greenhouse gasses.
By using a clothesline or a drying rack, we can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to The New York Times, “If all Americans line-dried for just half a year, it would save 3.3% of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide.”
According to the Eco-Cycle, Americans use 500 million straws every day, which is enough to fill up 127 school buses.
Additionally, nearly 100 million plastic utensils are thrown out every day in the United States. Carrying a reusable straw and utensils in your purse or bag can reduce waste when eating out or getting takeout.
Buying in bulk can avoid purchasing excessive non-biodegradable packaging, and buying secondhand items can help reduce the demand for new products and conserve resources.
According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the global fashion industry produces 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. At the same time, it’s important to buy only what is necessary or if you find yourself with excess items, donate them to those in need. Reducing waste overall is essential to the health of our environment.
Transportation is responsible for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By biking or walking instead, individuals can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
Additionally, in a report by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, it was found that 52% of all trips made by car are less than 3 miles, and 28% are less than 1 mile. This shows that many trips people make by car could easily be replaced by biking or walking, and not only would it benefit the environment, but also your health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, outdoor water use accounts for approximately 30% of household water use in the United States.
Using a rain barrel can also have financial benefits for individuals. According to the University of Wisconsin, a typical rain barrel can collect approximately 600 gallons of water per year, which can save homeowners up to $35 on their water bill.
Americans use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, which results in the cutting down of more than 51,000 trees. The paper industry is a significant contributor to deforestation, accounting for up to 10% of global deforestation.
This paper waste also contributes to the production of greenhouse gasses, as the production, transportation, and disposal of paper towels require significant energy. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of paper towels with a cloth towel, it could save 544,000 trees annually.
By switching to cloth towels and napkins, individuals can significantly reduce their paper waste and contribute to a sustainable future.
Earth Day serves as a reminder that our planet is in dire need of help. However, we can all do our part to make a difference.
By making small changes in our daily lives such as reducing water usage, cutting down on meat consumption, using energy-efficient appliances, recycling, composting, using reusable bags, and using public transportation or carpooling, we can promote sustainability and combat climate change.