I know you think about climate change as much as I do. Every time you get in your car, you sigh and feel guilty about the havoc you’re creating on our planet’s ecosystem. And you can’t afford solar panels or a new hot water heater, so you feel like you’ll never be one of those truly “green people.” But if you think there’s nothing you can do, you couldn’t be more wrong! Here are four ways to help the planet today without spending any money:
1. Stop buying cheap clothing in bulk
Last week I wrote an article about YouTube hauls and fast fashion and how it’s a really ugly trend in consumerism. I get it. Buying ten tank tops for $2.50 in one go is much more satisfying than buying two at a slightly higher price. But then those ten tank tops start to have loose threads after one wash, and all of a sudden you’ve thrown six away. You know you do it. Fast fashion creates trash, which ends up in landfills and pollutes the ground and water. Your tank top was probably made with a synthetic fiber and can’t decompose. Also, just the production of the fiber creates toxic waste. Also, it was probably made in conditions you wouldn’t be comfortable with if you knew them in detail.
So what do you do? Honestly, it can be near-impossible to avoid SOME ethical murkiness in your clothing purchases, unless you’re very wealthy. So really try to make your clothing choices mindfully. Maybe you check the tag, see where the product was made. Look for made in USA if you can, or buy secondhand. Shop wholesale/discount retailers for more upscale brands with better production. And more importantly, just buy less clothing. Par down your closet, declutter, and think about if you really need that new shirt. Donate old clothes or repurpose them in your home as rags (and save more money and resources by not buying paper towels). It’s all about consuming less, and there is no one way to do it when it comes to your wardrobe.
2. Be smarter about your meat consumption
I did most of my growing up in the 90s and early 2000’s, and I don’t remember bacon being such a big thing like it is now. There are bacon candles, bacon clothing. Heck, there’s even bacon seaweed, which I want right now, please. Meat is readily available in abundance in almost every grocery store. Next time when you’re in a grocery store, just take a moment and look at the refrigerated meat section. It’s massive. Also, it’s expensive and destroying the planet.
The meat industry is a mighty and cruel beast. Animals live in horrid conditions, crushed on top of one another, and may never see or feel the sun. If that isn’t enough to get you to shop local or organic and grass-fed, how about this: the livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. That’s cars, planes, trains: you name it. Cutting meat consumption is essential to preventing climate change.
“But Jackie,” you say, “how do I do this?” One: shop locally. If you don’t have a local butcher, try at the very least to shop USDA organic. Look for “grass fed” on the packaging, and be prepared to pay a premium for the higher-quality, more ethical meat (which means eating it less frequently overall).
“But Jackie, they say eating chicken is healthy. And I need protein.” Hey, I like chicken, too. I even enjoy bacon, occasionally. But I get most of my protein from other sources like beans and rice. Quinoa is a perfect protein just on its own. There’s also tofu, but personally I’m not a big fan.
It’s easy. Just stop buying meat so often. Make meat a treat. Meat Treat Friday! Fill your plate with quinoa, vegetables, and sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and spices for flavor. Not only will you be saving the planet, you might also save your health and bank account.
3. Stop buying bottled water
Actually, just stop buying plastic bottled anything. Period. If you live in the United States, you probably have access to drinkable water basically anywhere. Just get a mason jar or one of those reusable water bottles. Or if you’re one of those people who thinks tap water is disgusting, get a filter — they’re not even 20 bucks. Use a couple pieces of fresh fruit to flavor. Brew your own iced tea or coffee. There’s no excuse. Just stop. There are places all over the world where regular access to fresh water is a pipe dream. When you’re filling up your water bottle, take a moment of mindfulness and reflect on the fact that there is actual clean and drinkable water coming out of your tap whenever you want, and then go about your day knowing you helped save the planet.
Also, if you absolutely have to, try buying something in a glass bottle. You can keep it and reuse it. Or at least recycle.
4. Turn down your thermostat
Before I moved into my apartment, the realtor showed us a heating bill from the previous tenant. It was a little over $200 in the cold months. My apartment is over 100 years old, with uneven windows and cracks that I can feel a literal breeze of cold air through in the winter. And guess what? I still thought that $200/month in heating was ridiculous. So when it started to get cold, my boyfriend and I only raised the heat to 66 degrees and lowered it to 55 whenever we were out of the house, including quick errands, and when we went to bed. We kept our heating bill just under $100 each month in the winter.
Heck, I bet your apartment or home might have temperature settings that you can put on a timer. Do you use it? You should.
It takes a bit of mental effort to remember, but ineffective heating and electricity are huge problems for climate change. Being a little cold in the morning, knowing I’m conserving energy, makes it worth it.
Listen, change is hard. You like Forever 21. You have this weird obsession with bacon. You couldn’t possibly live without your Diet Coke. And maybe you’ve heard all of these already, so take this as a butt-kicking. These are simple actions that you can start TODAY, that can make a huge difference. I think we tend to believe that the only way climate change will be challenged is through government action. But if you’ve been watching the news at all, you know that it won’t happen, at least not in the US. But if you just consume less, you can make a huge difference.
Also, that’s money back in your pocket. Cold hard cash. Who doesn’t like that?