How to reduce your carbon footprint and your environmental impact

(ENG only) One of my goals for 2019 is to try to travel less by plane. I love traveling so, speaking from an environmental point of view, this makes things difficult: plane is always the fastest, most convenient and oftentimes cheapest way to travel, especially if you’re an expat like me and you don’t really have other options sometimes (i.e. hometown being far away, limited amount of free days from work, etc.). I do try to make my travels as eco friendly as possible (bringing my own reusables, walking a lot, etc.) but I do realize that in terms of transportation, traveling by plane is certainly the worst way. 

Since the last shocking IPCC report was released last October, I found myself thinking a lot about how choices, even the simple ones, can deeply affect our world and create consequences. Tiny every day choices have a huge impact so it’s important to be fully aware and conscious when making them. When talking about CLIMATE CHANGE, I feel like a lot of people don’t fully realize that A LOT CAN BE DONE ON A DAILY BASIS FROM SINGLE INDIVIDUALS, when purchasing something, when being in their households, when eating and when traveling indeed. There are many simple things that immensely contribute to lower your environmental impact and your carbon footprint. Here are a few simple things you can do daily/regularly to leave a greener footprint and reduce your CO2 emissions:

EAT LESS MEAT AND DAIRY. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, global water shortages, greenhouse gases and species extinction, just to name a few. According to a research made by the University of Oxford and published by the journal “Science” in 2018, avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact (according to this study “cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent“). While I do understand that a 100% vegan lifestyle is not for everyone, cutting down the consumption of meat, fish and dairy can still be immensely beneficial for the planet and for your health too. A plant based diet is considered to be an extremely healthy one because it’s simple but still very nutritious, rich of fruits veggies whole grains and legumes and low in refined sugars and processed foods. Try to incorporate in your routine one or more plant based days a week or even dedicate an entire month (like Veganuary) to a diet with no animal products. Moreover, reducing your consumption of meat and fish can be good for your wallet too as these foods tend to be very expensive (or at least more expensive than fruits veggies, whole grains and legumes).  

 

TRAVEL LESS BY PLANE AND CAR. Travel might not be as damaging as other industries (like animal agriculture), but it certainly does contribute to drastically increase the amount of CO2 emissions per individual. According to this article from Deutsche Welle, “environmental group Germanwatch estimated that a single person taking one roundtrip flight from Germany to the Caribbean produces the same amount of damaging emissions as 80 average residents of Tanzania do in an entire year: around four metric tons of CO2.” So, if you have the chance, try to find alternative ways to traveling by plane, or if you can’t, try to get the most out of that plane ride by staying as much as possible at your destination. I personally was very happy when a few days ago babe and I booked our first trip of 2019 together managing to make it on a tight budget and plane free. Also, reducing the amount of car rides and preferring walking, biking or using the public transportation system is a very good way to leave a greener footprint. (Especially when traveling by plane, you can offset your emissions by reducing the impact of your travel and compensating for the emissions generated by sustaining a project that will do good for the planet). 

 

BUY LESS. Our planet is stuffed. Our houses are stuffed. More and more items get produced and bought every day and a lot of stuff (considered old or simply unused, unwanted etc.) ends up in landfills. The thing is that we need way less than we think in order to live a happy, healthy life and to thrive. Think well before you buy, ask yourself if you really need that new purse, pair of shoes, new smartphone, new lipstick, new tech gadget, new you-name-it. Oftentimes we tend to forget that everything needs resources, plenty of them actually, to be produced and put on the market. Reducing your purchases is a great way to save money and extend the life of the things you own already without wasting precious resources. 

 

BUY MORE LOCAL. The other day I went grocery shopping to the weekly market I normally go to (mostly a Turkish one) and was astounded in seeing asparagus from Peru, chestnuts from China and freaking apricots (yep, apparently apricots in January are a thing). Is it really necessary? No, it’s not. Try to prefer produce that are seasonal and locally grown (they taste better and they didn’t require a massive travel to be imported): in this way you’re helping the local economy and you’re eating fresher products that haven’t travelled the entire world to get on your table. 

 

SECOND HAND FIRST. The second hand market offers a lot of options. With the, sadly, widely spread behavior of treating things as “temporary” and almost disposable and the need of being on trend and up to date, items get changed and upgraded after just a few months. Tech, various appliances and utensils, home decor and especially clothes and accessories (fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil one) are easy to find in plenty of varieties also and especially second hand. Buying second hand is the most sustainable form of shopping: no new resources are used to produce an item that already exists. So next time you need to buy something, check the second hand market (thrift stores, charity shops, flea markets, garage sales, Facebook groups, websites like Ebay or apps like Depop, etc… the possibilities are endless. Somebody’s trash can become somebody else’s treasure.

 

REFUSE, REDUCE. REUSE. Refuse what’s unnecessary. Think well before you buy, because every purchase has an impact. Reduce what you consume, repair what needs to be repaired instead of throwing it away and take good care of what you own. Reuse what can be reused.

 

AVOID PLASTIC AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Plastic is a huge problem, but it’s just one part of THE problem. Luckily the plastic issue and especially the damages of the single use one are gaining more attention worldwide and shifting from being just an issue for eco-warriors to being under the spotlight. More and more governments and companies are trying to make something to reduce the use of plastic. But a lot can be done from single individuals too. I know that bulk shopping is not an option for many people, but simple things such as refusing plastic bags, buying loose and plastic free produce (at markets or even in supermarkets), avoiding disposable to go cups or plastic bottled water can have huge results. Invest in a few good quality reusables (or see if you have anything laying around that would do the job) like a reusable water bottle, reusable produce bags, reusable cotton bag/tote, various jars and containers etc. Recycling might help, but it’s certainly not the solution to a devastating problem. Learn to refuse plastic from the very beginning and try to find alternative solutions to it. 

 

USE YOUR HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES CONSCIOUSLY. A lot can be done at home, more than you think! And even if it’s just a bunch of small simple actions, a lot of energy and resources can be saved in the long term, contributing to reduce your carbon footprint. If you no longer need it turn it off; be mindful about the heat and wear a thicker sweater before turning up the heaters; wash your clothes less and, when you do wash them, only full loads and on low temperatures; cook bigger batches and eat the leftovers on the next day; when using a kettle (even and especially an electric one), only boil the amount of water that you actually need; unplug what’s not in use; keep the oven open after using it to heat up your kitchen (we do this all the time in winter, so we don’t need to turn on the heater); be mindful with the water usage when taking showers, brushing your teeth, washing the dishes; switch to greener providers; use products that can be multi purpose. 

 

PACK LIGHT. Regardless on how you decide to travel, the heavier is the bag you bring with you, the more fuel is required for the vehicle to carry it. Pack light so it will be much easier for your bag to be transported (plus we usually need less than we think even when traveling, so a carry on bag will do the job is most occasions, if not in all of them if you’re a packing master). 

 

If you want to have a more in depth idea of your personal amount of CO2 emissions, you can use the WWF Carbon Footprint Calculator . The quiz just takes a couple of minutes but gives you immediately an answer with your personal carbon footprint percentage according to your lifestyle and your choices and tips on how to reduce them. 

I hope this post will give you helpful information to help you start leaving a kinder, greener footprint on our beautiful planet. 

How many of these things you already do to reduce your carbon footprint?

xoxo

Jen

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5 Comments

  1. January 18, 2019 / 15:15

    Hi Jenny ! I love your blog ! Since I returned home to Switzerland (I am pretty happy I don t have to take so many flights anymore to see my family), I am more and more conscious of creating link with my stuff and live with less. And since a few months I am really into turning my closet into a more ethical and sustainable closet! I also have the project to draw about my clothes and post about it on social media. I watched your video about the 333 projects. But I still have a question : how do you separate pro season and how many close do you have pro season ? Thank you for your answer. Laeti (former Natalie roommate). Bisous

    • January 22, 2019 / 17:50

      Hi Laeti! it’s nice to hear from you! I hope you are doing well! 🙂 I’m always excited when I hear that more and more people are becoming aware of environmental problems and want to start living more consciously and sustainably… so first of all yay for that and thanks for writing to me and reading my blog! <3 when it comes to capsules wardrobes, there really is no rule. You can do it your way! I started with Project 333 to have some guidelines that could help me build a more minimal and curated wardrobe, but you can do however you want! 🙂 I used to do a capsule wardrobe every change of season (so 4 per year) and now I just change clothes twice a year when the weather warms up or cools down. I don't have a specific amount of clothes now, but I found that personally between 30 and 35 pieces work well for me. I hope this helps!!
      ps: yesssssss, you should definitely draw them and share them on social media!! xoxo

      • January 24, 2019 / 09:15

        Thank you very much for your answer ! you re right there no rule, I just have to see what works for me !

  2. Ruth Val
    January 20, 2019 / 13:55

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you for a much needed reminder of our impact on the planet.

    * We are vegans – so this point is has a big checked mark on it
    * Transportation is a heavy point, this Feb and March alone we will have 3 return trips by air. We are totally guilty of this. The trips are mostly for my husband’s work.
    And I loooooove traveling, so we almost always travel together.
    We own 2 cars, none of which I am driving. I was never the “driving type”. I’d prefer to walk or catch public transportation, speaking of public transportation – I love how easy it is to get around in Berlin.
    * We buy grocery and home improvement items that had been carefully thought and pondered upon for a lengthy amount of time before actual purchases. I sometimes still receive “gifts” that are really of no use to me or doesn’t suit my taste. It is such a waste. I am trying to educate everyone around me; first of all – of my taste and second of all – of all the waste being produced from that one purchase, starting from pre production until it arrives at my door.
    * My 2019 wishlist are mostly secondhand, some items were there since 2017. Yay me. It feels like a real victory. I used to own wayyyy wayyyy wayyy too many stuff and often buy things on impulse.
    * Plastic is a point that I hate, shopping in a conventional supermarket; pretty much everything is wrapped or packaged in plastic. Frustrating. We live in a small town, so to get to a package free shop would be a hassle. We need to get to the closest city etc etc. I know these are bad excuses but I am doing my best, and it will get better.
    I just packed our recyclable plastics and showed them to my husband, still too much.
    * Packing lighter and smarter is my newest obsession. I’ve started this since last year. I think it was after watching your packing video. I got really inspired and started doing so. I have given away my XL suitcases, only holding on to my medium and small ones and using those depending on destinations, type of trip and length of time.

    Thank you for the post it’s a real food for thought.

    • January 22, 2019 / 17:44

      …wow impressive! I think you are doing great things already and you should be proud of yourself! 🙂 I know how frustrating the plastic problem might be and that bulk shopping is not an option for everyone, but refusing it as much as possible is already a great start. And I feel you on traveling, I love traveling too so this makes things difficult. Maybe you can try to offset your flights! I’ve never done this and I’ll start this year… it’s not a solution to the problem, but at least it reduces the damages. <3

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