Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
Sustainability is hitting the mainstream. We’re coming off the heels of a major shift in our collective consciousness surrounding all matters eco-friendly. And with big corporations such as Starbucks committing to shift towards more sustainable practices, many individuals want to make the switch in their own lives as well.
This can be a difficult transition. Humans exist in a legacy of wastefulness. We’re accustomed to the temporary. That can make it challenging to know where to begin when it comes to going green. How does one kick their single-use plastic habit when much of what lines our grocery store shelves are covered in it? And is it even possible to make your daily commute downtown while also reducing your carbon footprint? It’s a tricky lifestyle switch. And the winter can provide its own unique challenges when it comes to staying sustainable.
One major issue many face is how to secure an eco-conscious winter wardrobe. Fashion is ranked the second worst industry for the environment, right after the oil industry. According to a recent study by Quantis, the apparel and footwear industry accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emission. So how do we combat this negative impact and dress for the weather? The solution can not only save the planet but also your wallet: buy from consignment and thrift shops. You’d be surprised at the high quality winter wear that end up at The Arc. If used clothes isn’t your thing, buy timeless, sturdy clothes you can wear for many years to come. Bonus points for seeking out recycled or eco-friendly clothing brands!
Keeping your home warm in the winter is a notorious energy sucker. A great way to lower that heat bill and lessen your environmental impact is to insulate, insulate, insulate. Make sure your windows are air tight. Our homes lose most of their heat through the roof so don’t forget to insulate your attic well. It can even be helpful to insulate the first six feet of your hot water pipes so your water stays hotter while using less energy. If for whatever reason you can’t insulate your home properly, you can always turn down the heat and bundle up. Either way, it’s also a good idea to lay out a rug on linoleum or wood floors to keep your feet warm.
The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness. But even the most wonderful time of the year can have its negative environmental impacts. One way to make this holiday season a little greener is to make your own wrapping paper. Many traditional wrapping papers can’t be recycled. This year, try using newspaper, old maps or perhaps a scarf to wrap your gifts. For those who celebrate Christmas, make sure your tree doesn’t become one of the 10 million to end up in a landfill. Many cities have programs that will turn your tree into mulch or wood chips. When it comes to getting gifts for your loved ones, opt for locally made or DIY. Aside from being eco-friendly, these gifts can be far more special than that throw blender you were thinking of buying from Target. These are just a handful of ways to offset the environmental effects of the holidays.
The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness.
Taking the initiative to make better environmental choices is essential to securing a brighter future. Some might think our society is stuck in our ways; doomed to live wastefully until we can’t sustain ourselves anymore. They say that our individual efforts are meaningless until big corporations take mass action. To an extent, that is true. We can only do so much. But don’t forget, we are the consumers. Companies thrive on providing us with services and goods. That leaves a lot of power in our hands. If enough individuals put their interest and money towards sustainability, companies will have no choice but to join in on the trend. And it’s already happening. So keep steadfast in your mission to make good choices for our planet and make this your greenest winter yet!
A Few More Green Tips
- Don’t use harmful chemical de-icers. Instead use alternatives such as cheese brine, beet molasses, coffee grounds or potato juice.
- Use a reusable tumbler when getting your hot cocoa fix at your favorite cafe.
- Take advantage of ridesharing programs when you hit the slopes this year.
- Cook up locally sourced, organic grub for holiday dinners.