Easy Ways To Be More Environmentally Friendly

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Happy Earth Day, everyone! We live on an amazing planet, and each year, I’ve become more interested in protecting it. Although I was definitely interested in climate science growing up, I don’t think the idea of “sustainability” really held much weight in my life until the middle of college. Since then, I’ve started to take an interest in educating myself on environmental issues. Part of this is becoming engaged in climate politics, but it’s also worth considering how our individual choices make a difference. Today, I’ve written up some easy ways to be environmentally friendly. (Just for the people who know me, no, this isn’t just a list of bullet points saying “bike everywhere”, but that is a good idea.)

Attempting to be an ethical consumer is a hard task, especially when we are constantly bombarded with a seemingly endless supply of new things and cheap stuff. Our phones know our every move and can target exactly what we “want” with disturbing accuracy. This is kinda cool from an advertising standpoint, but not great for our wallets or the planet (or data security, but that’s for a different time).

1. Buy less

This is probably a “duh” suggestion, but it was my first step towards trying to be more environmentally friendly. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop randomly browsing clothing sites unless I am specifically looking for something. Even then, I’m a huge advocate for shopping your friend’s/sister’s closets before looking.

2. Buy used

This is definitely a little more time-intensive, but you don’t need to spend hours wandering the aisles of a consignment store to get amazing used clothes. I’ve used Poshmark and ThredUp to sell clothes that don’t fit me or my style anymore. I’ve also bought from them for replacement items. I love ThredUp because you can return items, removing some of the worries about buying an item and having it sit in your closet if it doesn’t work out.

ally in thredup jeans in france
These jeans are a ThredUp find and I wear them AT LEAST 2x a week.

If you’re looking for higher-end and designer items, I really enjoy Vestiaire Collective. I learned about it while I was living in France. They stock some AMAZING designers (Saint Laurent, Louboutin, etc.) with a huge discount.

3. Be smarter about your purchases

I was a bit of a fashionista in high school and college, and I bought new fast fashion items for nearly every event I had to go to. There are two major improvements to be made here. The first is reducing the ridiculous amount of packaging that usually comes with ordering online.

If you’re buying from Amazon (hard to avoid at this point), change your order settings to include Frustration-Free Packaging. This means that your purchases won’t be covered in a ton of unnecessary cardboard and paper.

The second issue is finding clothes that are made ethically (and last!) so you can find things you will love for a while.

I asked yesterday on my Instagram story about your favorite ethical brands, and I got a ton of great suggestions! I’ve bought and loved Everlane and Prana, but I’m excited to try the rest of your amazing recommendations…

  • Everlane– fun shoes and basics
  • Prana– great for yoga and the outdoors
  • Kotn– they have sweats, enough said
  • Alternative Apparel– basic colors and cute dresses
  • Pact– great basics and POCKET LEGGINGS (!!!)
  • Reformation– frilly, girly, very fun (but more expensive)
environmentally friendly shirt from everlane on a deck
My mom gave me this Everlane tee and I am OBSESSED with it (but tbh I’d wear any turtleneck everyday)

4. Eat less meat

This is generally not a popular suggestion around passionate foodies, but meat is not a friend of the environment. Not saying everyone needs to go vegan immediately, but the majority of cattle on earth are being raised for meat and dairy. These guys tend to burp a lot, and this raises methane levels in the atmosphere. If we reduce the demand for meat, we reduce the number of cattle.

methane production of cows on the environment
Photo courtesy of Our World in Data

Look at your diet and see where you can reduce some of the foods that cause high greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t think I could give up coffee or chocolate very easily, so I’ll take a break on the steaks.

You can also use this calculator to determine the impact of your diet. It will tell you the environmental impact of your diet so you can change (some) of your eats to be more environmentally friendly.

5. Finish your food

We waste a lot of food every year. $160 billion worth. Whether it’s taking home leftovers from a restaurant or simply going through what we have at home, we have a responsibility to reduce the 40% of food waste that consumers are responsible for.

I used to buy a ton in bulk because it was “cheaper”, but then struggle to finish it when I lived alone. Not exactly an awesome money-saving strategy if the food ends up going to waste before we can eat it! Places like Thrive Market offer some options for cheaper organic food or food for special diets, without having to buy in bulk.

6. Fly less

This is probably the least fun suggestion on this list, so I’m sorry in advance. I love to travel, so I’m still working on this one. That said, if it’s possible, drive or take a train. I love taking trains everywhere I can when I’m traveling (once I even took a 15 hr sleeper train from Paris to Venice!) I don’t think there is anything like being able to watch the scenery from a train window while daydreaming.

In the US, this is almost impossible because we have low population density in many parts of the country and little infrastructure. This often leaves us with the options of flying or feeling like crap in a car for 25 hours. So if you do have to fly, buy the carbon offset add-on that many airlines offer. It doesn’t solve the problem, but companies use carbon offset programs to fund forest restoration, increased energy efficiency in buildings, or update power plants.

I hope these tips will help you become more environmentally friendly. I’m not an environmental expert but I think this is something we can all become better at, on Earth Day and every day. Let me know if you have any easy environmental tips in the comments!