Choosing to adopt a lifestyle that reduces the strain your day-to-day needs put on the planet is a noble goal. However, with the complex, interconnected nature of modern life, every choice requires more research than most people have time for or knowledge that isn’t available to you.
Below are five ways you can make a significant impact with a minimal level of effort. If you can start making these changes regularly, it’s possible to lower your year-to-year resource consumption by as much as 56%.
Change Up What and Where You Sleep
The average new mattress that incorporates traditionally grown cotton or memory foam can off-gas as many as 60 VOCs, on average. That means lower air quality in the room where this mattress is, let alone for the people who sleep on it, breathing these chemicals directly.
While the majority of this off-gassing will end within a week, that doesn’t mean the VOCs have dissipated. Depending on what your mattress is made of, the constant exposure may never end.
To improve the air quality in your home, and do your part for the environment, choose an organic mattress for better sleep and a healthier planet. Not only do organic mattresses expose you to fewer VOCs, but they are also often made with cotton that has taken at least half as many resources are non-organic cotton. IF they incorporate wool, this wool is also often sourced with a higher level of quality monitoring (meaning healthier sheep, too.)
Expect More from Your HBAs (Just Add Water)
HBAs or “Health and Beauty Aids” can be anything from a hairbrush to your daily facial wash or high-end night cream. While this is a vast topic, there are a few easy things to look for when you consider which HBAs to pick up.
First, it’s essential to choose products that put your health first. To do this, search for your product through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. Here, the EWG has broken down thousands of products by ingredient, risk, and more.
Second, consider an alternative to traditional water-based products like lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, and more. Companies that eliminate the water from their products make them more shelf-stable (they last longer). They are easier to ship (they way less and require less packaging), and often give you more value for your money (those shipping and packaging costs mean more actual product for less.)
Check the Labels on Your Produce
The actual ecological cost of certain produce items can be much higher than just went into growing them. Shipping, labor, and transportation can all take a more significant toll on the environment. Eating seasonally, or shopping for local produce whenever possible, is a small step toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
This label-checking procedure can also apply to meat. Though in the US, most pork and beef may be local, much of the fish and even some poultry will have been processed overseas.
Eat More Mushrooms
Fresh mushrooms are a great eco-friendly option. Not only are they healthy for you, but mushrooms also thrive on products that might otherwise go to waste or be sent to a landfill.
Many button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, for example, are grown in coffee grounds or from tubes filled with chopped up corn husks and stalks. In addition to being grown with materials that are difficult to use in other ways, mushrooms are almost always grown locally due to how perishable they are.
When it comes to nutrition, mushrooms are low in calories, have zero fat, contain at least a dozen different essential vitamins and minerals, and are packed with fiber. They have a significant amount of protein, too, at about 1 gram per 40 grams of mushrooms. Certain varieties also qualify as the richest source of ERGO (a powerful antioxidant) on Earth.
Adopt Meatless Monday (Or Any Other Day of the Week)
For now, until lab-grown tissue becomes a viable choice, choosing to eat meat for just one day a week can make the most prominent environmental difference when it comes to what you eat. However, this impact doesn’t really come from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, like some campaigns report.
Instead, choosing to eat less meat can help reduce water consumption, pollution, and transportation costs for the environment. If taking one day off from meat-eating per weak means that you give up just 10 pounds of meat in a year, that can save as many as 2,120 gallons of water for growing feed, plus the costs of transporting that feed, fertilizer, and chemicals added to it, and so on up the food chain.