We at Drishti are always trying to live more conscientiously, and one of the most important ways to do that is by going green. It has become increasingly important to try and minimize our environmental footprint, and we hope that you will join us in this effort! If you have decided to be more eco-friendly this year, but aren’t sure how to go about it or what changes to begin with, here are some steps you can take to start your new earth-saving lifestyle.
How to begin:
Bike instead of drive
We are stoked on biking because it has the dual benefits of being environmentally healthy and physically beneficial for you! Check out this calculator to see how many calories you can burn switching your daily commute from car to bike.
Even if your commute is only 10 miles, 5 days a week, this means in a medium size car you are expending approximately 125 gallons of gas per year, and 1.3 Tons of CO2.
Here are some awesome statistics about the difference you can make by switching from car to bike.
Switch to LED lights
This is an easy step to take that is good for you and for the environment. First of all, you won’t have to make nearly as many trips to the hardware store. These bulbs need to be replaced as little as once every 20 years! Furthermore, LED bulbs use a much as 80% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. The prices have gotten more competitive, but remember that even if LEDs cost you a bit more to start out, they pay themselves off quickly, and the environment will thank you for making the switch.
Post a visual chart that tells you what is and isn’t recyclable above your trash can. This is a great constant reminder to reconsider whatever you are about to throw away. Sometimes it is easy to forget to consider how you are disposing your trash, so it’s useful to have a visual guideline. Most counties’ EPA websites have printable posters that tell you how to sort your garbage. Different counties have different regulations regarding how to sort your recycling (some require that you divide paper and plastic while some separate these after collection. Check out our local Santa Barbara guidelines.
Use less water
This is vital right now in California, but important everywhere else as well. There are so many easy ways to enact this very important shift in expenditure. Turn the water off in between each plate you wash. Wet your toothbrush and turn the water off. Take shorter showers. By turning the shower water off while washing your hair, you can save up to 150 gallons a month! Check out this website’s cool, interactive water saving tips.
Eat less meat
Giving up your meat intake or at decreasing it is one of the biggest things you can do for the environment. Did you know that giving up meat has a bigger environmental impact than giving up your car!? A recent study shows that the green house gas emissions indirectly created by the diets of meat eaters are twice as high as those caused by the diets of vegans. Hands down, the dietary change that will make the biggest environmental impact is decreasing your meat consumption. Try out delicious vegan recipes for alternative meal ideas, like vegan pesto gnocchi, vegan lentil sloppy joes, or even vegan lemon cheesecake! Aside from the green-factor, check out the ways meat consumption affects your health, including increasing your risk of heart disease, and decreasing your life span.
Take it to the next level:
If you want to take recycling to the next level, learn how to recycle organic matter too. Living waste is a cache of nutrients. By composting living waste you are also diverting up to 30% of waste away from the dump. We don’t know about you, but as healthy eaters, we constantly have apple cores, kale stems and carrot tops to get rid of. Adding them to the trash feels sad and wasteful. Solution: start yourself a compost pile in the yard, or even in a small balcony bin. Even a very passive composting pile, requiring hardly anything other than tossing your extra cucumber peels in it, will eventually yield fertile, nutritious soil. Check here for a great composting 101 guide.
Harvest at home
Once you have your compost going, it's time to start your own garden! This is actually an incredibly fun way to get to know the process by which our food comes into being. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to put all that compost to use! Start by checking up on what types of fruits and vegetables grow well in your area and climate. You can grow from seed or from starter plants, but we would recommend starting with the latter if this is your first harvest. Get in touch with your food, and avoid supporting the long distance travel that most grocery food undergoes. The generally accepted statistic is that typical food items in a US meal have traveled an average of 1500 miles, damaging the environment with vast quantities of carbon emissions related to transportation. By starting a garden you will be assured that your food has only traveled a few steps, from the garden to your dining room table. Start by reading Barbara Kingsolver's memoir "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about her family’s year of eating food produced at and close to home.
Another way to ensure that your eating habits are environmentally friendly is to eat seasonally. Sometimes local is not enough. If a local farm is artificially manufacturing an ideal climate to grow out-of-season produce, they are often wasting just as much energy as long distance transportation would. Artificially creating the warmth and light conditions to grow tomatoes in the middle of a Norwegian winter, for example, can take even more energy than transporting plants longer distances. Avoid supporting this kind of wasted energy by eating seasonally. Take advantage of the bounty that your area's climate cycles naturally yield by learning what produce grows regionally each season. Find delicious recipes that take seasonal harvests into account. Check out Epicurious's helpful interactive seasonal map for ideas.
Get advanced with:
Life Cycle Assessment
Eating local and buying products labeled “sustainable” feels good and is a great beginning for the new, greener you, but if you are ready to take this to a new level, getting educated about Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the way to go. LCA is a way to evaluate the environmental impact of a product or behavior through detailed, quantitative analysis. This goes way beyond labeling something “sustainable” or calling it “green.” LCA takes into account all relevant energy and material expenditures related to a product and its production. Rather than simply taking a final product and calling it eco-friendly or not, LCA evaluates the environmental impact of each aspect of the process by which a product was created, and of its entire life cycle. Even though certain products in their final form might seem healthier for the environment, it is important to look at the raw-materials required for production, the energy expenditures of manufacturing, the fuel emissions related to distribution, waste caused by the product’s eventual disposal, and any intervening effects caused by the product’s existence.
If you truly want to make conscientious consumer choices, this is the way to do it! So, before making decisions as a consumer, try to assume a holistic perspective, and think about the birth, life span, and eventual expiration of what you are consuming. The more awareness we maintain about our environmental footprint, the smaller it will be!