Let’s get this straight: everything you do has an impact. Every thought, action, and word has an impact on something. However, the ultimate goal of a low impact lifestyle is to have as little of an effect as possible on the planet.
Think about your ancestors who walked this earth hundreds of years before you. They were able to live in harmony with the planet, using only what they needed and replenishing what they used. Now we’re using more than we need and not replenishing nearly enough. Both the planet and humans are suffering in the shackles of our own creations.
Why should we return to a low impact lifestyle?
Climate change is upon us, so we should take a look at how we got here. When human beings began to industrialize in the late 1700s, we unleashed an influx of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air, changing the composition of the atmosphere.
Though the planet started warming in the 1800s, the climate was initially able to regulate itself through a series of volcanic eruptions which cooled the Earth. As intelligent and sensitive our planet is, humans are adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate far greater than it can be removed by natural processes. This creates a surplus of gas in the atmosphere and oceans, driving the climate to a warmer state.
How do we live a low impact lifestyle?
There are simple things that we can do in our day-to-day lives that will lower our impact and reduce our carbon footprints. Here are ten big ways to lower your impact significantly.
- Recognize your relationship with the planet, and your consumption habits
- Our planet has finite resources and we currently have a linear economy. We take resources from the earth, create products, and toss them into landfills. Are you buying into this way of living? Do you find yourself trapped in this cycle?
- Buy less things
- Ask yourself if you really need something before you buy it. Commercials and advertisements are always telling us that we need this product because it will ____. Well, you’ve lived thus far without it, so do you really need it?
- Reduce waste
- Along with buying less things, reduce the amount of waste you produce by simply refusing single-use items. Bring your own coffee cup to coffee shops and avoid having to toss a disposable cup into the landfill. Ordering takeout to eat at home? Tell them no plastic utensils please, you’ve already got dinnerware at home!
- Shop local and natural
- Start shopping at local farmers markets. The vegetables you get will have traveled less distance, and therefore have a smaller carbon footprint. You also get to support your local farmers! Try to opt for organic or no sprays/chemical products. Conventional produce can have a lot of chemicals and water used during the farming process, which heavily impacts the planet. If you don’t have access to a local farmer’s market, check if there are any farms nearby that do CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture).
- Shop secondhand
- I know I said buy less, but some things you do need to buy, and for that we have thrift shops! By not subscribing to the linear economy, you’re giving a second life to perfectly good things that normally would have gone to the landfill. Thrift shops are a treasure trove of pre-loved items, and cover basically all your needs for fashion and home goods.
- Shop intentionally
- For things that you can’t find at a thrift store, choose items that you know will last you a long time. Yes, things in the dollar store are cheap and if they break (which you know they will) you can just buy another one. But know that those things are only cheap because they are mass produced, use a lot of resources, and pump toxins and gases into the atmosphere. Choose quality items from companies that try their best to be as sustainable or as ethical as possible.
- Drive less
- Cars have a large impact on the environment even before they make it onto the open road. The amount of resources that go into making a car is already concerning, but most of an automobiles’ environmental impact (perhaps 80 to 90 percent), are due to fuel consumption and emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases. These gases are released via the tailpipe, which are at street level. This makes it very easy for humans to inhale immediately. Not only that, the fuel cost of driving a car is extremely high. I don’t mean the dollar amount you’re spending, but instead the energy required to extract oil from the earth and ship it to you.
- Use less water and electricity
- Take shorter showers, wash your clothes less often, and unplug your appliances.
- “Decorporatize” your life
- Decrease your reliance on corporations. Join co-ops, produce your own food, install renewable energy sources, move away from big banks, shop local, shop small, just avoid big companies in general! Hint hint, Amazon is NOT your friend.
- Go out and DO things
- Turn off your computer, go out, and join neighborhood events. Organize a neighborhood or a beach cleanup, volunteer at a community garden, or do a clothing swap. If we’re going to impact our planet, we might as well make them positive impacts!