If you follow me on Instagram, you may have caught wind of the recent news – I’ve relocated! My boyfriend and I moved cross country from the place we both grew up – Pennsylvania – to the San Francisco Bay area, where we’ll be staying for at least the next year.
After living here for only a couple of weeks now, of course we couldn’t help but notice the things like higher sales tax, higher rent prices and what not – what people here call the “California tax”, and seem to happily accept in exchange for living in such beautiful area, with beautiful weather all year round. And with all the parks, hiking trails, and bays and beaches to explore, I don’t blame them. As a nature enthusiast myself, that was a huge plus for me moving out here, and I plan to go out adventuring and exploring as often as I can. In fact, our first weekend here, we set in the car for a long, windy trip up Page Mill Road to hike the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve.
The view from the top of the mountain off Page Mill Road
Another thing I noticed in day-to-day life here is that the people of San Fran are clearly passionate about protecting the environment. For example, take a trip to the local shops and you’ll rarely spot a plastic bag – you either have to bring your own reusable one from home, or purchase a paper one for ~$.10. That all started back on Earth Day in 2013 with the Reusable Bag Ordinance, which was put in place to prevent harm to marine life and damage to stormwater utility systems caused by plastic bags, reduce litter and waste, and conserve our natural resources.
Once I got into the habit of always bringing along a reusable bag, it made me wonder why I never bothered to do this back in Pennsylvania. And then it got me thinking, what else might I be missing? What else could I be doing day-to-day to help reduce waste, protect our natural resources, and make the environment a little bit healthier?
Since this month is Earth Month, I thought it would be the perfect time to share a few simple, small eco-friendly actions that I recently started implementing in my daily routine, along with some I’ve stuck with for the past couple years now. I invite you to try out as many of these as you can this month, and commit to adopting at least a few of these sustainable practices on a regular basis!
7 Simple Ways to Help Protect the Environment
1) Buy Local Food
The food that we buy in grocery stores can take 1500 miles to reach out plate! Transporting food over such long distances emits hundreds of pounds of greenhouse gasses. By buying locally, we reduce these food miles, which in turn helps reduce fuel consumption and air pollution.
By buying and eating local, we’re also able to enjoy produce that’s often times fresher, more nutritious, and healthier for our bodies and the environment, as many farmers choose to grow theirs organic, hormone free, and pesticide free.
And one last reason to buy local – it helps protect local lands and wildlife! Since you’re supporting local farmers and producers, the farms are able to stay in operation rather than being sold to local developers, who could completely transform the land, devastating the wildlife that calls it home, or worse, incorporate inhumane and non-eco-friendly farming practices.
2) Opt for Sustainable, Recyclable, Resusable Packaging
The grocery stores are filled with excessive packaging – from plastic wrapped veggies to throw-away milk cartons. Instead, try to look for food packaging that can be returned to the store, like milk in glass jars or reusable produce cartons. If those aren’t available as options, look for packaging that can be recycled and re-used, like glass containers, steel cans, and Tetra Pak cartons.
Tetra Pak cartons are unique because they’re made out of renewable materials from sustainable sourcing, so they help protect natural resources and reduce climate impact. In fact, 100% of the paperboard in Tetra Pak cartons is Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certified, meaning all of it can be traced back to responsibly managed forests. After they’ve been recycled, the cartons can be turned into things like tissue, paper products, and even green building materials. Not only are the cartons themselves recyclable, the straws and caps are too, so you can pop the whole thing into a recycle bin when you’re done.
And for those of us always on-the-go, another bonus is that their boxed recipes and snacks are portable and convenient. The cartons are lightweight yet durable, and hold the perfect serving sizes for a quick re-fueling, whether it be with cold brew coffee, fruit-infused water, veggie soup, and even pet food!
3) Leave Your Car at Home
Depending on how far you are from your destination, bike, walk, take public transportation, or car pool whenever you can. Switching up your commute can make a significant environmental impact. Motor vehicles alone are responsible for nearly a quarter of the U.S.’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. And greenhouse gases emitted today will stay in the earth’s atmosphere for decades (1).
4) Watch Your Water Use
There are so many ways to conserve water, like turning the faucet off in-between brushing our teeth and reusing bath towels more than once before tossing them in the wash. If you’re really committed, skip the baths. I know it’s a tough one, but filling up a tub uses about 36 gallons of water, while a five-minute shower may use as little as 10 gallons. Do the math, and that means each minute you manage to knock off of your shower saves 2 – 2.5 gallons of water (2).
And here’s a surprising one – think hand washing dishes saves water? Think again – newer, energy-efficient dishwashers use less than half as much energy as washing dishes by hand and save nearly 5,000 gallons of water a year. (Just make sure you’re filling it up all the way!)
5) Skip the Bottled Water
Plastic water bottles take over 1,000 years to biodegrade, and U.S. landfills are overflowing with more than two million tons of them. So instead of constantly buying and tossing bottles, pick up a reusable glass or stainless steel one that you can refill on-the-go. A bonus is that they’re BPA-free, so they’re better for your health too. If you’re headed out and forgot your bottle, opt for boxed waters that come in Tetra Pak cartons or other paperboard-based packaging.
6) Shop Sustainable Apparel
From production to distribution, to even when we wash our clothes at home, fast fashion comes at a huge cost to the environment. Instead of buying a brand new wardrobe every season, try shopping for more timeless, durable pieces that will last your for at least a couple of years. Better yet, scope out your local thrift stores or online thrift stores (I’m personally a huge fan of thredUP), shop vintage, or swap clothes with a friend.
7) Save Energy
Generating electricity causes of greenhouse gas emissions, and it also consumes fossil fuels at a tremendous rate. Even when our appliances are turned off, they still manage to gobble up energy, costing us money and consuming our natural resources. So whenever it makes sense, unplug anything that’s not in use – like your coffeemaker after making your morning cup, and laptop and phone as soon as they’re all charged up. When you’re headed out for a weekend getaway, that’s the best time to unplug your lamps, TV, and other larger appliances.
Small changes like the ones above can make a huge impact when it comes to conserving natural resources, reducing greenhouse gases and harmful emissions, and minimizing waste. Make an effort this month to try out a few, and remember that every little bit counts!