Summer is over and another school year is upon us. Funny, we are no longer in school nor do we have children, but the start of the school year still seems like a significant seasonal marker to us. Perhaps that’s because we are always striving to learn and fall seems like the perfect time to pick up something new; as the rain sets in and the sun heads out.
What better to learn than something you can actually implement? AND it helps animals? Yes please! Sit back and read through these tips and tricks you can adopt to reduce your carbon footprint and help save animals.
There is a lot more to vegetarianism and veganism than avoiding animal cruelty. Did you know that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all types of transportation put together? It is a leading cause of rainforest destruction, with land dedicated to animal agriculture taking up 45% of the entire Earth’s ice free land. Furthermore, animal agriculture is responsible for 55% of the total water consumption in the U.S. and is the leading cause of freshwater pollution. There are a bunch of super impressive stats surrounding Meatless Monday:
- If everyone in the U.S. went vegetarian for JUST ONE DAY, it would save 70 million gallons of gas, 100 billion gallons of water, 1.5 billion pounds of crops (otherwise fed to livestock) and 3 million acres of land.
- If everyone in the U.S. were to go meatless and avoid cheese for one day/week for an entire year, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
- It takes 2,000 pounds of grain to feed enough livestock to support a person with a meat-based diet for a year. It would only take 400 pounds of grain to feed a person for a year if eaten directly.
Aside from the numerous environmental benefits, there are a ton of proven health benefits associated with reducing your meat intake as well.
Obviously the best thing for the environment is to make the leap to vegetarianism or even veganism altogether, but it isn’t always that easy. Meatless Monday can be a great way to start reducing your intake of animal products and put a focus on living a greener lifestyle.
Purchase Cruelty Free Cosmetics and Household Products
You likely don’t realize that some common household brands do unspeakable things to animals when testing their products. Out of sight, out of mind. Stop letting your lack of knowledge be an excuse! Check PETA’s list of cruelty-free brands to see if any of your go-tos are offenders. If so, find a company that has the integrity and compassion to keep animals out of the lab.
Alongside animal testing, there are a number of products out there that are just plain bad for the environment. Here are a few to be mindful of:
- Microbeads: Facial cleansers, toothpastes and other cosmetics may contain microbeads, or tiny pieces of plastic that add texture. This plastic ultimately ends up in waterways, adding plastic pollution that fish and other marine life ingest. Some U.S. states have gone so far as to ban microbeads.
- Sulfates: Shampoos, soaps and cosmetics commonly use sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as foaming agents. The problem is that these chemicals aren’t easily biodegradable and last in the environment for a long time. They also contains traces of known human carcinogens.
- Sunscreen: Some of the common chemicals in sunscreen have been contributing to coral bleaching. Experts estimate that 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off into the ocean each year and that up to 10% of coral reefs have been affected. Look for eco-friendly chemical sunscreens or organic mineral sunscreens instead.
- Triclosan: A common ingredient found in deodorants, soaps and cleaning products for years — you can find this chemical suffocating the environment having been found regularly in our water, soil and fish tissue. It is toxic to marine organisms and the effects on other animals are currently unknown.
- Palm Oil: Palm oil is in half the products we buy and is a leading contributor of rainforest destruction. The demand is so high that unsustainable practices have been put in place and are harming the environment.
- Fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides: Many lawn-care and gardening products contain chemicals that are harmful to animals. In particular, the herbicide 2, 4-D has been associated with cancer in dogs. Make sure you are using pet and eco-friendly products outdoors!
Another solution? Avoid chemicals and unknown ingredients all together and make your own household cleaners and beauty products.
Teach Our Youth (and Others!)
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Animals are such wonderful creatures and they have so much to teach us. And who better to instill a love and understanding of animals in than our youth? Read about animals, talk about the different species and get hands on! Need some inspiration? Find fun and educational animal craft ideas and DIYs for all ages on our Pinterest.
Even if you cannot have pets or do not have kids, you can still find ways to strike an interest in nature and animals within those around you. How? Talk about it for starters!
Reduce Your Plastic Usage
Plastic is EVERYWHERE. And the craziest thing about it — every bit of plastic that has ever been made is still in existence today. It takes about 700 years to decompose. Take a moment to think about that. Think about your fridge and pantry, your medicine cabinet. How many plastic things you throw out or hopefully recycle on a weekly…monthly…yearly basis. It’s kind of mind-blowing!
Sadly, most plastic makes its way to landfills and eventually the ocean where it is broken down into small fragments. This “plastic soup” outnumbers plankton 2 to 1 and gets eaten by fish and other sea life, killing more than 100,000 marine creatures each year.
Luckily there are some pretty simple things you can do to reduce your plastic consumption:
Everyone should do these things — no excuses:
- Get a reusable water bottle (and use it): It is estimated that 200 billion plastic bottles are dumped in landfills annually. If you do have to grab a plastic bottle from time to time, make sure you recycle!
- Stop using plastic bags: Reusable grocery bags are much roomier and easier to carry than their plastic counterparts. Roughly the equivalent of 10 plastic bags of groceries can be fit in just 3-4 sturdy reusable bags. There are an estimated 1 million plastic bags used across the globe every minute and less than 1% of them are recycled. Stop contributing to the problem!
Ready to do more? Green superstars should also strive to do the following:
- Keep reusable utensils, cups and straws: Do you eat and drink out often? Think about keeping some reusable utensils, coffee mugs and straws in your car and/or bag and say no thank you to plastics.
- Stop packing everything in plastic bags: Opt for containers that can be washed and reused and get rid of the Ziplocs.
- Choose glass: Did you know that glass is 100% recyclable FOREVER. It can be remade into bottles over and over again without ever losing quality. If you have a choice, choose glass over plastic.
Volunteer at a Local Shelter
Thinking about getting hands on in the animal community? Volunteer at a local animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center in your area. These online resources may help you find the ideal opportunity to give back:
Grow a Garden (and Make It Bee Friendly)
Gardening is a great way to get fresh organic produce, offset your emissions and save some money. Done right, you can also help to save the bees! Bees are responsible for 80% of the insect-pollinated crops in the U.S. and their numbers are on decline. Over the past 5 years 30% of the national bee population has disappeared. Here’s what to add to your garden to make it bee-friendly:
- Herbs including lavender, mint, cilantro, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill and fennel.
- Perennial flowers including buttercup, geranium, cosmos, goldenrod, snowdrop, anemone, hollyhock and crocus.
- Annual flowers including sunflower, poppy, zinnia, cleome, sweet alyssum, salvia, heliotrope and calendula.
- Weeds including clover, dandelion and wildflowers.
- A bird bath or water fixture — bees get thirsty too!
You can really reduce the amount of trash you have on a weekly basis if you start composting. About half of the things people throw away can actually be composted. And when food scraps are added to landfills, they get buried under piles of garbage and the resulting decomposition produces harmful methane gas that otherwise would not be.
Whether you live in an apartment or house, composting doesn’t have to be a huge hassle. Pick up tips in this handy beginner’s guide including what and how to compost.
Not to mention, composting will leave you with some awesome chemical-free fertilizer for your garden!
Don’t Forget About the Office
While being green at home is great, most people spend nearly half their day at the office. If you’re not in charge, consider mentioning the following green improvements to the person who handles the office day-to-day decisions.
- Switch office light bulbs: Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy and last up to 13 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. In U.S. offices where lighting makes up roughly 35% of electricity usage, switching over can make a big difference in both your energy usage and bill!
- Put computers to sleep: You can prevent roughly 300 pounds of CO2 emissions annually for every computer you activate “Sleep Mode” on. Simple enough!
- Recycle, recycle, recycle: 82% of office workers admit to being more environmentally friendly at home than in the office. Encourage others to recycle paper, plastics and e-waste. Only 18% of e-waste is recycled; the rest typically finds its way to landfills where hazardous chemicals such as lead, mercury and arsenic can seep into groundwater.
- Go digital: You likely don’t need to print every little thing. Reduce your paper usage and put company policies and paperwork online. The average American uses 110 pounds of paper at the office each year.
- Add plants: Greenery is not only great for morale, it helps to keep the air clean and fresh. Adding one plant for every 3 people should reduce dust by up to 20%, bacteria by up to 50% and mold by up to 60%. Ahh, it feels nice to breathe clean air.
Support Sustainable Brands
There are a number of do-good companies out there that are trying to change the world through their products. Support brands that give back to the animal community and seek out fair trade coffee and FSC certified timber that doesn’t destroy endangered species habitats.
Feel like making a difference in the world and saving animals? Try adopting one of these eco-friendly tips this week and encourage others to do the same by sharing the infographic below! Little by little we can spread the word and change the world.