How to reduce your personal environmental impact?
It is not a secret, every day we see in the news how our lifestyle negatively impacts the environment, and how these impacts are finally returning to us. There are obvious examples, such as oil spills that pollute the water we drink, and some examples are more complex, such as the cycle of plastic waste, which reaches the sea, degrades into microplastics and returns to us when we consume sea salt, fish. and other marine animals.
Many times the recommendations we hear aimed to reduce our environmental impact are just to recycle and turn off the water when we brush our teeth. These measures help a lot, but they really fall short when it comes to promoting a significant reduction of the environmental impact that each person has. These are very general solutions that apply to almost everyone and help protect water and generate less waste, but what about all the other impacts that people cause?
Environmental impact is personal
It turns out that the environmental impact we have is something completely personal, because it depends on many things like the country and the city we live in, how we commute, what we eat, what we wear, what we buy and how we behave. In general, a person living in a large city in a developed country has a greater environmental impact than a person living in a rural area in a developing country. For this and other reasons, not all environmental impact reduction measures are appropriate for all people and we must find which ones are best adapted to the way we live.
Focusing on cities we can say that life there comes with many advantages but also many limitations. The advantages are usually associated with a better offer of services and economic opportunities. The disadvantages are mainly a higher cost of living, limited space and limited time. When living in the city, many times we encounter traffic jams, long working hours, long distances to commute, high prices for services and housing, among others. For this reason, the environmental impacts of urban dwellers are different from those of the smalltown and rural areas.
For example, cities have found ways to provide water, electricity, gas, transportation, communications, hygiene, health and more to the vast majority of their population, services that are not always available in rural areas. The environmental impacts associated with these services are sort out centrally by the municipal administration. In the countryside, many times, each one must deal with their garbage and wastewater and even obtain their own fuel for cooking and heating, but on the other hand, they can produce their own food and compost their waste, activities that require a lot of space and are therefore unattainable for the mayority of city inhabitants.
On the other hand, the rhythms and ways of life are different and the people of the cities have tighter schedules and live in smaller houses, which is why they resort to activities that make their lives easier, such as eating out to save time, taking a taxi or driving to avoid congestion on public transportation or shopping as a leisure activity to distract on weekends and not stay locked at home. These activities are not neccesarly bad and in fact, generate income and employment in the cities, but many times they can greatly increase our personal environmental impact.
Three small steps to start reducing your personal environmental impact
We, city dwellers tend to have a greater impact on the environment and that is why in this post we will focus on this demographic. Here are three small changes that can reduce your personal environmental impact and also improve your health and your finances.
Cook at home
It does not sound very obvious but, yes, cooking at home instead of eating out can help us reduce our personal environmental impact. The amount of energy and resources needed to produce a meal in a restaurant are greater than the ones needed to cook at home. Think of all the energy that is required to maintain industrial refrigerators, stoves and ovens, to light the premises, the cash register, the music and so on. Also think of the amount of waste produced, both from food and packaging. For example, if you eat in a place that serves food with plastic dishes, cups, straws and disposable cutlery, you are generating more garbage than if you ate at home with your own items. Also at home you can save the leftover food to eat later, instead of throwing it away.
Cooking at home also has many advantages, it is much cheaper, since you put the workforce and healthier, since you know exactly what ingredients you are using in the preparation
Buy only what you need
Going shopping is a way for some people to relax from the stressful city life, but often we end up craving things that we usually don’t need and often never use. These things not only accumulate in the house, occupying valuable storage space, but also increase our personal environmental impact, due to the entire production cycle that is behind each object that we consume.
Every time you go to buy something by impulse think if you really need it. One way to stop this behaviour is to think about how many resources were invested in making the object you want to buy. How much energy, water, fuel, raw material were needed to take it to the store? or also thinking how many working hours did you need to earn the money you are about to spend for this item? Is it really worth investing in something that you are not sure you need?
Keeping these questions in mind when going out shopping will allow you to reduce a lot those impulse buys that end up in the back of a closet, taking up space and making you feel guilty every time you look at them. Also, you will surely see a postive effect in the balance of your bank account.
Leave the car at home
You have heard this one for sure, its not a secret that cars increase your personal environmental impact. Not only do their emissions pollute the atmosphere, but the process of producing and maintaining them requires a large amount of energy and resources. However, for many people it is impossible to live their daily life without a car, either because they have to travel great distances, they need to transport cargo or passengers or they have a restriction in their physical mobility.
As we mentioned before, the environmental impact is personal, and it depends on each person and the decisions they make in their daily lives. So, if you can, leave the car at home and choose to go by bicycle, on foot, by public transport. You can also share your journey, for example with some colleagues, so that you do not have to take your car to the office every day.
Leaving the car at home or simply not having one, will save you a lot of time lost in traffic jams and money in parking fares. It will also encourage you to do more physical activity, which will make you feel healthier and more energized and allow you to experience your city from a new perspective. Maybe you discover new and interesting places by walking through your city.