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Sustainable Living

Start Living Sustainably

9 ways you can start lowering your impact on the Earth today

Quick disclaimer. There’s a level of privilege involved in living sustainably, especially when it comes to sustainable fashion. Although this lifestyle can save you money, buying from sustainable brands can be expensive. Protecting Planet A doesn’t shame anyone for buying from fast fashion brands or choosing budget-friendly disposable options instead of more expensive reusable ones. We ask you to do the best with what you’ve got. If you have the resources to somehow be carbon neutral, go for it. If not, strive for progress, not perfection.

Okay now let’s get into it.

1: Reduce, reuse, recycle

You’ve definitely heard that before. The 3 R’s are best done in that order, too. Reduce how much you buy first (hint: reuse the things you already have as much as possible!). Every time you buy something new, it impacts the environment. Minimalist living is sustainable living. And of course, recycle. Make sure you know the guidelines for recyclable materials in your area.

2. Reduce single-use plastic use

8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. You’ve seen the pictures of beaches lined with plastic, of scientists pulling plastic out of sea animal’s stomachs.

But it’s difficult to go plastic free when you go to the store and almost everything you see is made of plastic, isn’t it?

Start with using plastic that’s not single-use. Half of all plastic produced is designed to only be used once, then thrown away. Make a goal not to use single-use plastics for a day. Then a week. Get yourself reusable bags, water bottles, straws, and tupperware. Avoid products with excess packaging. Opting for recycled and recyclable paper is also progress. Use reusable cloths instead of paper towels and single-use makeup remover wipes.

half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once β€” and then thrown away.”

UN Environment programme

If you can, buy products made of glass or paper instead of plastic, and always make sure to recycle them afterward! Only 9% of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled. But glass can be recycled infinite times without any decrease in purity or quality! And finally, start looking for companies that are plastic free. Check out Plastic Free Pursuit to get started!

3. Energy

You’ve heard of global warming, right? I explain how our energy use causes it (in Gen Z friendly vocab) in a different blog post, here.

Lowering your energy use helps mitigate the effects of global warming, and saves you money! So always remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room, don’t leave the water running, unplug your electronics, and ride your bike instead of driving!

4. Food

Uh oh. Am I about to tell you to stop eating meat? That you’re not allowed to eat burgers and steak and Chick-Fil-A sandwiches anymore?

Well…

In ecology there’s this thing called the 10% rule. It describes how energy is lost as we move up the food chain. It’s not as much math as it sounds.

Grass (or any plant), has 100% of the energy. If a worm eats the grass, it gets 10% of the energy. 90% of the energy is lost, mostly through heat. If a bird eats the worm, it gets 10% of the worms energy. But compared to the grass, the bird gets 1%. If you eat the bird, you only get .1% of the energy. You would have been better off eating the grass with 100% energy, right?

That’s why it’s more energy efficient to have a plant-based diet. It also takes a lot of food and water just to grow one cow.

Industrial agriculture and the meat industry is just all-around horrible for the environment. Buy your produce locally, and buy produce that’s in season. And don’t be afraid to buy GMO’s. If we want to continue to feed our growing population, it’s either GMO’s or pesticides.

And if you don’t want to give up eating meat, try eating just a bit less. The environment will thank you for it πŸ™‚

5. Slow fashion

Just to reiterate, buying new clothes from sustainable, ethical brands can be really expensive sometimes. We’re here to educate, not shame others for purchasing from fast fashion brands.

That being said, the fashion industry is one of the most pollutant industries in the world. So wear the clothes you have for as long as possible. Buy second hand clothing from thrift stores or on the numerous online secondhand clothing websites (Depop, ThredUp, Etsy, etc.)

Also, SUPER IMPORTANT! When looking for sustainable brands, be aware of companies that greenwash! Greenwashing is a marketing technique that you’ve definitely seen your favorite brands doing, even if you didn’t know it. Water bottle brands do it a lot. It’s to convince you that the company is helping the environment, when they might not really be. They include pictures of pretty lakes or forests, and include buzzwords like “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “natural”, without any real specifics on how they’re lowering their environmental impact. Sometimes they’ll literally just change the color of their packaging to green.

With a green background, “15% less plastic”, “eco-shape”, and a vague “We can all make a difference”, this is a classic greenwashing example

If you have the money to buy from truly sustainable brands, don’t be fooled by greenwashing. Instead buy from companies that genuinely prioritize sustainability throughout their whole business model.

6. Plastic Water Bottles !!

Speaking of water bottles, you’re trying to do your part in protecting the planet? Ditch the plastic single-use water bottles. Forever. Water bottles aren’t recycled nearly as much as they should be, they use a lot of fossil fuels in manufacturing and transportation (energy costs 1,000-2,000 times greater than tap water), and they’re unnecessary because you could just be using a reusable water bottle.

Producing 1 liter of bottled water requires a quarter-liter of oil and 3-5 liters of additional water.

You might think think that the water is healthier or cleaner because they come from “pristine mountain springs,” but a lot of them come from the same type of place your tap water comes from. Furthermore, the US government strictly regulates tap water, but requires almost nothing of bottled water corporations, so you could bet that the tap is actually healthier. A lot of bottled water is just filtered tap water sold for up to 1,900 times the price anyway.

7. Transportation

28% of US greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), making it the largest contributor to US greenhouse gas emissions.

Automobiles emit carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as comparably small amounts of methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbon emissions. You lessen your contribution to global warming when you walk or ride a bike. If your destination is too far away for that, take public transportation or carpool as much as possible.

8. Protect Native Ecosystems

Habitat destruction destroys entire ecosystems and contributes to the mass extinction going on right now. Plant native vegetation in your yard, and visit local wildlife preserves. Most State Natural Areas and things like that also have volunteer opportunities! Volunteer your time to protecting native ecosystems.

Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve in Illinois

9. Raise Awareness

Almost everyone has some form of social media in 2020. You probably found your way to this website from Instagram.

We’ve seen a lot of awareness raised about the fast fashion industry this year from social media. When it comes to protecting the planet, education is always Step #1.

Re-posting something to your Instagram story for 24 hours might seem completely pointless, but you made everyone who saw that story think about global warming, fast fashion, deforestation, or pollution, even if it was just for a second. Otherwise those issues may not have crossed their mind that day.

Outside of social media, once you’ve implemented these steps into your life, you can have your friends join you! Get your friends bamboo straws as gifts. Don’t let them litter, even if it’s just one little wrapper. Watch documentaries with them, tell them about a sustainable clothing brand you’re buying from, and especially, tell them to follow Protecting Planet A!

A big part of Protecting Planet A’s mission is making environmentalism mainstream. Bringing the protection of the planet to the forefront of our minds, forcing people to think about how their actions affect the planet every single day. It’s not a trend, it’s a lifestyle we all should commit to.

These steps are just the beginning. Of course there’s a million more things you could do to protect the environment. But if you’re just getting started, we think these are great first steps!

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Personal

Start Here if You’re New

My name is Hannah Etienne, and I’m a junior in high school who created Protecting Planet A. It started as an environmental pageant platform, then an Instagram account, then a Girl Scout Gold Award project, then a website, and now it is all four of those things.

I’ve always had a passion for protecting the environment, so I took AP Environmental Science my sophomore year of high school. I felt that so much of the material in the class should really be common knowledge. I can’t stress enough how important I believe it is for people to be educated about the Earth that they live on and the climate crisis.

Not only that, but it’s important for people to understand that environmentalists aren’t people that just care about trees and turtles. The health of our planet and the health of humanity is so interconnected, which is why I’m striving to keep Protecting Planet A intersectional.

I don’t know everything about environmental science, or environmental policies, or climate change. I strive for progress not perfection. But if there’s any chance you’re willing to learn with me, and help Protecting Planet A become an organization that can truly make a difference, please consider following the Instagram and subscribing to the blog. I’m launching a social media campaign on Instagram for my Gold Award that will hopefully be super educational but also super interesting (not that those two things don’t go together…) and I’m going to keep the captions as short as I can, don’t worry πŸ™‚ I want people to easily digest and remember the information, so that they can apply it to their everyday lives.

A major part of protecting the environment is going to have to come from policy. Large corporations and governments with lots of money and influence are going to have to start prioritizing clean energy for us to really stand a chance against global warming.

But I know this can be intimidating, and I don’t want people to forget about the problem just because they feel like they can’t do anything to help. You can find actionable steps you can personally take to help the Earth on the Protecting Planet A Instagram, and on this website.

That’s all for now (thanks for reading all the way down to here!) and if you gave me a follow @protectingplaneta or @hannahetienne_, just know that I really appreciate it.