Contributed by Jenna L. Lee, Intern at Go Gratis, Inc.
Looking at large environmental issues such as global warming and climate change can be a daunting task. It may raise the question of how one individual can make an effective change. However, change starts with one person. By implementing small sustainable alternatives into daily life, it will in turn lead to an eco-friendlier lifestyle. With this in mind I have created an easy to follow guide to become more sustainable in easy ways.
Main Takeaway: Try composting to cut down on food waste that’s sent to landfills, which create chemicals that harm the environment.
Composting is an amazing way to return nutrients back into the soil to help maintain quality and fertility. It acts as a natural fertilizer without harmful chemicals that can contaminate the soil and plants. Contrary to popular belief you do not have to have a plush backyard to be able to compost! There are many ways that people living in apartments can compost.
One of the most common forms of indoor composting is having a worm bin or a vermicompost. These are easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive and great for the environment. It is very important to make sure that there is a 50/50 balance of carbon and nitrogen in your compost bin. Carbon can be dried leaves, shredded paper, newspaper, etc. Adding this to your compost bin can help keep a balance of carbon. Nitrogen will be the food scraps that you add into the bin. You can add in any type of vegetable scraps whether they are cooked or raw, coffee grounds and tea bags. Make sure you are NOT adding in eggshells, bread, meat, dairy, and very fatty foods to the worm bin because worms cannot digest these things properly. The proper worms you will need for this bin are called red wigglers or Eisenia fetida. These worms are the best in 55 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. When cared for properly these worms can digest up to 1 lb. of scraps per day and they will lay eggs and reproduce making the supply of worms large and beneficial for your bin. There are options of either making your own worm bin or buying one. The EPA offers amazing information and directions on how to make your own worm bin. If making your own worm bin is not your style there are many composting bins you can buy already made. Source
Bokashi composting is a different form of composting that is easy and affordable. This uses a method of layering food scraps like vegetables, fruits, as well as meats and dairy products, with a Bokashi inoculant. The inoculant typically is made up of wheat germ, wheat bran, or sawdust, in combination with molasses and effective microorganisms (EM). The bucket is airtight, and unlike a worm bin, needs to be isolated from oxygen as much as possible. At the bottom of the bucket there is a drain to rid of the liquids that are produced. This liquid concoction is fantastic as a fertilizer for houseplants! After 10 days of fermenting the mixture is ready to be dug and put directly in a garden or put into a traditional compost bin or pile to finish decomposition. You can buy these bins online or at garden centers.
If you can’t or don’t want a compost bin in your home, there are still options for you! Farmer’s Markets may often have large compost piles. Ask the farmer’s what is accepted in the compost pile so you can bring the proper food scraps to help their pile. Community gardens typically have compost piles. Joining this resource can give you access to the compost pile where you can add your food scraps to. Some cities and/or towns may also have composting accessible to the residents. Researching on the internet or calling your city/town to get information on that can be a helpful way to compost.
Main Takeaway: Eat more whole foods and try going vegan! DIY your own veggie and/or herb garden for fresh and clean foods.
Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is not only rewarding, but it also saves money and is healthy. Growing your own food at home gives you the opportunity to stray away from produce that is contaminated with pesticides, GMO’s, and other harmful chemicals. Organic produce tends to be more expensive, so growing your own produce helps save money and creates a new ecosystem. Produce can be grown indoors or outdoors in a garden. All you need is soil, seeds, sunlight, and water. You can begin to grow the produce in pots with potting soil and then transfer the plant and its roots to a garden.
It’s no secret that dairy and meat production are not the best for the environment. These types of food production alone make up around 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting down on dairy and meat in your diet and eating more whole foods can help the environment and your own health tremendously. Decreasing the demand for dairy and meat products can decrease water usage, electricity usage, and land usage. Doing this has a bigger impact than traveling by airplane less! The healthiest and most beneficial way to buy your whole foods and produce is from local farmers markets and local stores. This is healthier because you are getting the food directly from the source and it helps the local economy grow and flourish. This also reduces the carbon footprint because there is a huge cut in transportation time and costs, making the amount of emissions reduce significantly. Source
Main Takeaway: Buy in bulk to save money and cut back on single use waste.
Buying in bulk can help significantly reduce the amount of single use plastics that are typically found on most packaging in grocery stores. Bulk items typically use less plastics than smaller items because the smaller items are individually packaged in plastic while bulk items tend to be packaged all together creating less waste. There are many bulk stores that are very low or zero waste where you can bring your own reusable containers and bags to replenish your household needs in a sustainable and eco-friendly way.
Main Takeaway: Incorporate a cast iron skillet into your kitchen for a healthier meal, a longer life span for kitchenware, and an easy clean up.
Pots and pans are typically made up of stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) cookware. PTFE or Teflon is seen in non-stick cookware like frying pans and saucepans. Because PTFE is a synthetic chemical it can start to break down and release harmful chemicals into the foods you make on it. The best cookware for you and the environment is cast iron. Cast iron has been around for decades because it lasts and is dependable. Cast iron skillets are naturally non-stick when they are properly seasoned, this eliminates the need for chemically created non-stick pans. Clean-up is as easy as 1-2-3, all you need is hot water and a stiff brush, no soap or detergent is needed. When cooking, the heat is evenly distributed and can withstand high temperatures whether on a stove top or in an oven, unlike most cookware. Because the skillet is made up of natural iron from the earth, the food being prepared will absorb small amounts of iron that have amazing health benefits, especially for women.
Main Takeaway: Reusing bags cuts down on plastic waste that takes hundreds of years to decompose.
Plastic bags and paper bags create a lot of waste from shopping. An easy way to reduce waste is to bring reusable bags for groceries and reusable produce bags when shopping. This reduces the amount of plastic sent to landfills that takes thousands of years to decompose and some stores may offer a small discount on your order if you bring your own bags.
Main Takeaway: Public transport, car-pooling, and biking are all forms of transportation that can help reduce harmful emission that create climate change and global warming.
Transportation comes in many different forms these days as we get busier and need to go more and more places. Easy ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and decrease our carbon footprint is carpooling. When a bunch of people are all going to the same place, offer to take fewer cars and drive together. Another alternative is taking public transportation if you can’t walk to your destination. Fun ways of travel are biking, roller skating/blading, skateboarding, or riding a scooter. If having a car is an essential for you, do your research in electric and hybrid cars. These types of cars rely less on gas which can help the environment and your wallet.