“It is our collective and individual responsibility…to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live.”
- Dalai Lama
Are there ways in which we can have an impact, as an individual, in order to tend to the world in which we live?
As a team member at Schellman who is focused on the environment, I set out to do research into what we, as individuals, can do to make a difference. In addition, as someone who thinks they’re somewhat “green”, I wanted to make sure that if there are more ways to make an impact, I am doing so, as well as educating others on how to do that, too.
Even the terms “environment, climate, and green” are vague. How does one quantify their ownership over these aspects and from there, their duty to protect them? And because both responsibility and duty are hard to determine, it’s easy to fall into the thinking that one’s sole efforts will not make an impact. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to say that “we’re all in this together” but that philosophy would promote the thinking that I, myself, don’t need to take steps to make changes, as someone else will. Or, many would argue that personal actions are a pointless drop in the vast ocean of huge sweeping climate change and global warming.
In this article, you’ll understand ways in which we can all individually impact our global environment through small changes in our daily lives.
What are some of the ways that we can make a difference in our environment?
1. Reduce Food Waste
Roughly 40% of the food we produce in the United States goes to waste. This is not only a huge cost but a big burden to the environment.
According to Conservation International, “if global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind China and the US - because growing, packaging, shipping and storing wasted food takes a lot of energy.” By rotting, it emits more gas.
But 1 in 8 people in the U.S. doesn’t have enough food. We can change this by reducing our plate size and planning meals. Smaller plate size reduces food selection, consumption, and waste. A Danish survey shows that if the plate size is reduced by just 9%, the food waste can be reduced by over 25%. American researcher Brian Wansink found that we don't even notice when we eat portions that are 20% smaller.
As people tend to prefer their plates to be fairly full, by reducing the size of the plate, you ensure that you don't overfeed yourself or the trash bin. Meal planning for the week ensures that we’re buying the necessary amount of ingredients for the planned amount of meals.
2. Tweak Your Diet
According to Project Drawdown, in addition to reducing food waste, the most effective individual action is eating a “plant-rich” diet — one that contains less meat and more plant-based ingredients than the typical American diet. Here are some tips to get started:
- Start Gradually: Eliminate two animal-based foods for the week and replace them with a healthier alternative.
- Stock Up on Healthy Foods: Having alternatives on hand to choose from makes it easier to include them in meals.
- Plan and Prep Your Meals In Advance: Preparing what you can in advance reduces the possibility of not sticking to changes.
- Replace Animal Ingredients with Plant-Based Food: One of the easiest is switching from cow’s milk to one of the many plant-based options (soy, oat, almond).
Just eating a plant-rich diet will reduce more greenhouse gas emissions than if you were to install solar panels on your home, switch to an electric vehicle (or public transit), compost all of your food scraps, and reduce your plastic use, according to the group.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We’ve heard this one a million times but how many of us really do? As scientists estimate that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, one would hope that plastic is something we all aspire to reduce, yet there are other aspects that fall into the reduce category that help. What are some other examples?
- Turning off lights;
- Fixing leaky faucets; and
- Unplugging electronics when not in use.
Reuse refers to using something more than once. Recycling means putting a product to a new use instead of throwing it away.
4. Skip the Overnight Shipping
Shopping online generally has a smaller carbon footprint than driving to shop at an actual store. Before choosing the fastest delivery option, consider if you really need the item tomorrow. Small changes like this, or avoiding trying on clothes and returning online, result in fewer trucks on the road, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Reduce E-Waste
On average, Americans replace their phones every two years. Reducing toxic waste in landfills from electronics by eCycling, reduces the copper, silver, gold, and palladium that can be recovered and reused, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Increasing the time before replacing a phone and fixing broken phones instead of getting a new one are options for helping solve this issue.
Why Should We Take Action Now?
Climate change is a big topic these days. We have always had natural disasters. But climate change could make them worse. Without action, long-term climate impacts might also include continued severe food and water shortages worldwide.
The most important thing to take away from this is that while many of these aspects seem completely out of our reach, small adjustments to our lifestyles are not. Even starting with one of these solutions, soon, moves us toward our goal of reducing our carbon footprint.
If you’re an employee at Schellman and interested in helping to move our Green initiatives forward, we invite you to join our ECO (Environmentally Conscious Organization), our newest Employee Resource Group. ECO’s mission is to increase our organization’s knowledge and commitment to creating positive environmental support or change within our firm and our lives. If you are external to Schellman, we encourage you to join a group in your area that is focused on environmental issues.
Now that you’ve learned how you can help impact our global environment, and more about ECO, read about Schellman’s other Employee Resource Groups and how we support our employees through these additional resources.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lori Jendrucko