April 22 is Earth Day, a handy reminder for all of us to do our bit to protect the planet. Whether you’re already living a fairly eco-friendly life, or are continually forgetting to make use of your reusable grocery bags, these five practical tips for sustainable living will help preserve the planet for yourself and future generations:
1. Learn the 5 Rs
- Refrain from buying or acquiring what you don’t really need
- Reduce what you need (i.e., create a sharing economy)
- Reuse what you consume
- Recycle what you can
- Rot the rest (i.e., compost everything you can!)
2. Implement a Household Plastic Tax
Pain can be quite the motivator, so if you and your family are continually throwing out or recycling plastic bags and water bottles, it might be time for a plastic tax. Every time you have to add a plastic item to the recycling or trash, put a quarter in a designated jar. At the end of the month, invest your tax in reusable water bottles and bags for the whole family.
3. Create a Weekly Menu
Food waste is a huge mark against sustainability. Not only does it require energy to produce food, but energy is also required to package, transport, and store our food as well.
Laying out a weekly menu plan and grocery list might not feel like the most fun task, but it will save you time, money, and effort all week long. It also helps cut down food waste by limiting unnecessary purchases, such as an abundance of fresh produce, that may go bad before use.
4. Take Your Own Containers
If you’re constantly on the go and often have to grab food where and when you can, there are ways to make your actions more Earth-friendly. For example, arm yourself with reusable containers, foods bags, and wrap. Then, when you find yourself with on-the-go leftovers you can box or bag them in sustainable packaging. This is a wonderful way to avoid the polystyrene from your usual take-out containers from ending up in landfills or clogging up waterways and animal habitats.
5. Choose Plants!
Not only does a plant-based diet help support good health (for you and other animals!), it also reduces your impact on the environment. Over 9 billion livestock (more than five times the human population of the US) are needed each year in the US to meet current animal protein production levels . Once you do the math, this means that the amount of grain fed to these animals could feed about 840 million people on a plant-based diet .
According to a 2014 article, “the environmental impact of a diet is mainly related to the consumption of animal products” . The authors go on to list these impacts as, “climate change, energy consumption, water requirements, waste disposal, soil usage, deforestation, chemical use, and impacts both environmental and social aspects – namely the possibility of feeding all the world’s citizens”.
In short, one of the best decisions you can make for sustainability is to eat more plants and fewer animals and animal-derived products. So, try switching your post-gym protein powder to an easily digested, complete vegan protein! Or, give Meatless Monday a go. What about making breakfast a plant-based affair? In short, there are several ways you can shift the way you eat to help support a more sustainable lifestyle.
 Pimentel, D. & Pimentel, M. (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. Am J Clin Nutr, 78(3 Suppl):660S-663S.
 US Department of Agriculture. Agricultural statistics. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, 2001.
 Baroni, L., Berati, M., Candilera, M. & Tettamanti, M. (2014). Total Environmental Impact of Three Main Dietary Patterns in Relation to the Content of Animal and Plant Food. Foods, 3(3), 443-460.