~All over the world, people are aspiring to live more sustainably. For the past year I’ve attempted to transition into a zero waste lifestyle. Simply put, it has been one of the most difficult, but also worthwhile adventures I have done.~
Since birth I have always felt compassion and sympathy for mistreated animals. After watching Food, Inc when I was eight years old, my attachment to animals heightened. Only two minutes into the brutally honest documentary, my perspective on life began to shift. After the film, I decided I no longer wanted to eat meat. I made it my goal to become a vegetarian!
Back in the day, I was an avid meat lover; transitioning into a vegetarian diet was a rocky road. However, it was the road I wanted to take. After three years of going back and forth between meat and vegetables, I finally became a full-on vegetarian. At first, I was doing it for the animals, but I slowly came to realize how impactful my diet was for the environment and my health.
Agriculture plays a huge role in climate change. As the United Nations has said, livestock produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined! (UN, 2006).
According to Down To Earth’s Article “Top 10 Reasons To Go Veggie”, there are some major benefits for transitioning into a vegetarian diet (full list on their website):
- Reduce risk of Heart Disease
- Lose excess weight
- Reduce global warming
- End world hunger
- Live longer!
Recently, in my sophomore year of college, I switched to a vegan diet. This was a brand new challenge because I now had to give up something I loved even more, eggs. For those who can relate, nothing compares to scrambled or fried eggs. So delicious! Even though I have struggled with being a vegan, I think it’s important to emphasize the benefits of transitioning into an environmentally friendly lifestyle. It definitely is hard to start in the beginning, but if you stick with it, you will be making the world a better place.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in society and not even realize how impactful your everyday choices can be. Next time you are in a grocery store, take a look around… Practically everything is packaged in plastic! When people think of plastic, usually the words “recycle”, “easy”, and “cheap” come to mind. Two out of these three words are true, however the word “recycle” does not always apply.
As some of you know, there are seven different types of plastics used in everyday essential products. I won’t go into great detail about it, but I would like to mention that there are very strict specifications for whether or not the plastic products you use are recyclable. Most of the time, people don’t give bottles or plastic bags a second thought after throwing them in the garbage or recycle.
From recent studies, it is clear that only about 9% of the objects that are put into recycling actually get recycled, with only 14% of global plastic packaging actually being put in the recycling bin. That means that the rest ends up in our natural ecosystems and also our landfills. It is so easy to forget and dispose of these plastics since it does not directly impact individuals in developed countries. However, the hidden effects are starting to rise.
It can take 450-1000 years for plastic to break down, but even in its smaller form, it is still present as a microplastic. These microplastics can be found practically everywhere. Microplastics are absorbed and eaten by fish and plankton in the ocean and then travel up the food chain and negatively affect the entire ecosystem. Also, the chemicals used to make most plastics can be absorbed into the soil, and later into our water sources! Imagine life with contaminated water… it just wouldn’t work!
I hope that this article has changed your outlook on vegetarianism, veganism, and a zero-waste lifestyle in a new way! I hope this will encourage you to take a few steps to reduce your carbon footprint! I’ve included some tips down below to help you out with your journey.
- Cutting back on meat and dairy:
- If you are trying to transition into a vegetarian diet or vegan diet I would definitely start off by trying to go a couple days without meat or dairy products. (Meatless mondays!!)
- Going cold turkey is definitely harder than a slow transition — I know this from experience
- There are so many alternatives and I liked buying a variety of products and testing them out to try and find the best!
- Plastic Reduction
- BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)
- Plastic bags in groceries stores can be easily replaced by reusable totes.
- You can walk in and out of the store in style!
- I would also recommend reusable produce bags for things like fruits, potatoes, and veggies.
- Animal Waste:
- If you have pets, cleaning up their waste usually involves a plastic bag.
- There are tons of biodegradable alternatives that are great for poops.
- Water bottles:
- Switch to metal or glass water bottles https://www.netzerocompany.com/products/stainless-steel-double-insulated-water-bottle-with-handle?_pos=1&_sid=b037065d3&_ss=r&variant=30481408753762
- It’s good for the planet but will also help keep you hydrated!
- Imagine how many plastic water bottles you could save from being thrown away just by making this easy fix!
- Public Transportation:
- Taking public transportation substantially reduces your carbon footprint and can also be cheaper!
- Misfit Market/ Imperfect foods
- Buying foods that aren’t “picture perfect” to help reduce food waste
- A lot of produce you see in the stores is what they think is “sellable” this means that the foods that are larger, smaller or more scarred than usual are put straight into the landfill
- I am currently using Imperfect Foods and Misfit Market and both services deliver straight to your door!
- ALSO SO MUCH CHEAPER 🙂 (about 30-40%)
- Skip the plastic & check your recycling
- Buy products with paper or glass packaging
- Wash your recycling before placing it in
- Check https://recycling.arlingtonva.us/where-does-it-go/ or other recycling websites from your area
- Skip the fast fashion!
- Shop at goodwill and other thrift stores to help reduce the amount of waste and fossil fuels that go into the production of new clothes
- I have stopped shopping at larger clothing stores and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made! With a little patience, you can find so many unique and cute pieces.
- They also have a ton of plates and glasses, so if you are looking for some new dishes, look into thrifting!
- It can also be a lot better for your wallet
- Simple Showers
- I used to use a ton of beauty products and plastic bottles, but I’ve transitioned fully into a zero-waste shower routine
- I’ve found that switching to bar shampoo and conditioner and soap have decreased my plastic waste substantially; they also seem to last a lot longer and my hair has never felt better!
- Lush is a great company because it is all natural ingredients and they push for zero-waste lifestyles!
- One last good thing is that if you do end up getting their lotions and plastic containers, you are able to give them back to the company in order to be reused! They also incentivize this by giving you a free face mask.
- I also found that using a soap saver bag is so much better than a loofah or washcloth, they are made from plant fibers and are completely biodegradable. https://ecoroots.us/blogs/blog/soap-saver-bag-3-reasons-why-you-should-use-one
- Also! Taking colder and shorter showers can really help save water and energy. My showers are usually 5-10 minutes, but I’m trying to make them go down to 3-5 minutes