Small Sustainable Steps

The latest scientific reports paint an increasingly negative picture when it comes to the health of our planet. Clearly, there needs to be substantial changes in how we live on Earth if we want to preserve it for future generations. However, it’s not too late to make a meaningful impact. The actions of millions of individuals really do make a difference.

The problem often seems so overwhelming that most people don’t know where to start when it comes to “going green.” But what if we began looking at it as simply developing some new, eco-friendly habits? The early part of a new year is often a time of reassessment, making right now a great time to review our habits and see opportunities for change. So, here’s some inspiration to get you started in making eco-friendly changes.

Shop Locally

Making an effort to shop at small, independently owned businesses in your community delivers compounding benefits beyond just acquiring goods and services, particularly if you’re making sustainable swaps. Each purchase helps the local economy by keeping money circulating in your area. You also eliminate most of the emissions from long-distance transportation that is required when goods are mass-produced overseas.

And while the convenience of one-click ordering from a mega retailer is hard to resist at times, visiting local stores and markets or shopping with sustainable brands in your area can cultivate meaningful connections and relationships. There’s pride and care that comes from owning and operating a small business serving neighbours and friends. Support from loyal customers gives these cherished community hubs better chances to survive challenging times.

Buy Used Instead of New

When looking to acquire new-to-you clothes, furniture, electronics or other household goods, buying used should not be discounted. With no shortage of brick-and-mortar charity shops and vintage stores, as well as people selling quality used items online, you may find some real gems at a fraction of the price of brand new purchases. Platforms like Facebook Marketplace and specialist sites for pre-owned goods are all available in your local community.

Opting for pre-worn threads helps reduce the demand for fast fashion retailers that mass produce cheaply made items, resulting in massive textile waste each year. Likewise, choosing to refresh your technology sustainably saves precious resources and the energy required to manufacture brand new versions every couple of years, when minor upgrades are introduced.

Travel More Sustainably

One of the top ways individuals negatively impact the environment is through transportation choices. Vehicle emissions make up a large portion of one’s annual carbon footprint, so reducing your reliance on cars and flights can significantly lower your greenhouse gas output.

Consider alternate modes of transport for your daily commute and routine trips within your region whenever feasible. Walking and biking not only eliminate emissions but also benefit health and wellness. For longer distances, public transit such as buses and trains generally produce fewer emissions per rider compared to driving yourself.

You can further lower your transport footprint by minimising holiday air travel and other non-essential trips. Opt to travel over land instead of flying if your schedule allows, even if the journey takes longer, and choose destinations closer to home that are reachable by car, train or bus when you need a getaway.

Plant a Garden and Remember to Compost

Even urban and suburban dwellers can experience the joys and rewards of growing their own food. Community gardens allow those without proper outdoor space to have small plots of earth to garden. If you have the ability and the space, starting or joining one of these collaborative green spaces builds community while directly providing fresh produce.

For those with a garden, patio or even a balcony, dedicate a portion to a vegetable garden. Start small by planting tomatoes, herbs, greens and other beginner-friendly crops. Over time, you can expand and try growing more elaborate fruits and veggies like squash, berries and root vegetables. When harvested straight from the vine and prepared within hours, homegrown food simply cannot be beaten in terms of flavour and nutrition. But it also reduces packaging waste and transportation emissions.

No matter what gardening you’re doing, composting leftovers and plant trimmings nourishes the soil and completes the circle. Food scraps make up a huge portion of household waste when they could be feeding your plants, or the worms in a vermicompost instead.

Donate to Carbon Capture Initiatives

While adopting eco-conscious behaviours in our daily lives makes a difference, more impactful change comes from supporting large-scale environmental projects. As individuals, we can move the needle by directly funding carbon capture efforts that harness nature.

Trees and other thriving ecosystems efficiently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Maintaining forests and planting new trees are proven methods for offsetting humanity’s escalating emissions. Various non-profits are leading reforestation initiatives and managing woodland conservation programmes already capturing millions of tonnes of carbon each year.

Volunteer for the Planet

Beyond individual actions for living sustainably, making a direct positive impact requires supporting environmental groups actively fighting for change. From local non-profits to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), there are countless groups which need people to steward progress on the pressing issues. 

In 2024, why not commit some time to volunteering with a charity or activist organisation aligned with your top environmental concerns? Opportunities might include planting trees, cleaning up parks and beaches, advocating for climate policies or raising awareness through events and education,

Most groups offer flexible ways to get involved, from one-day service events to recurring roles to joining a committee or board. The time commitment is up to you – even just a few hours a month provides help. And volunteering is extremely rewarding, allowing you to apply your unique skills while working towards shared goals for planetary health.

The first signs of spring present the perfect opportunity to form aspirational goals for ourselves. Let 2024 be all about broadening what we strive for in a renewed pursuit of betterment. The mounting environmental crises from climate change mean our individual actions now ripple outwards to the preservation of our one planet.


Author: Annie Button

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