{Thrive} Earth Day: What’s New and What You Can Do

What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint? Earth Day is a great reminder that we should all be thinking of opportunities for change in our every day lives to reduce our impact on the climate.

What exactly is your carbon footprint?

The Global Footprint Network defines carbon footprint as the “amount of carbon being emitted by an activity or organization.”  To measure humanity’s demand on nature, a system called the “Ecological Footprint” is used. This accounting system measures how much land and water area a population uses to provide all it takes from nature compared to how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources.

What is our current situation?

According to the Global Footprint Network, “Since the 1970’s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year. It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.”

To find out how much CO2 you may be contributing to the environment, check out Carbon Fund’s home calculator.

What Can I Do?

Without question, we could all be making small changes to help reduce our impact on the environment.  Don’t know where to start?  Here are 10 simple ways to live a more earth-friendly life:

  1. Filter Your Own Water. Buying bottled water  or any bottle beverage is doing Mother Nature a major disservice. Not only should you consider the plastic used for your 16-ounce bottle and the energy used to produce it, but also the distance your water traveled to get to you. Instead, use a filtration pitcher to filter your own tap water. Craving something sweet?  Try Stur, a natural, non-gmo water enhancer that compactly contains 18-20 drinks worth of flavor!
  2. Buy Local Food. Shipping = fuel. A 5 lb. package shipped by air creates 12 lbs. of CO2. If shipped by truck, it creates 3.5 lbs. of CO2.  Instead, aim to buy food within 100 miles of your home to help reduce the amount of diesel fuel used for shipment.  Check out www.lancasterfarmfresh.com for CSA options in the Philadelphia area!
  3. Eat Less Meat.Globally, it is estimated that 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption. So if becoming vegetarian is out of the question, simply increase the number of plant-based meals you eat each week by 1 or 2.  Get to know your nuts, beans and seeds are an alternative to meat.
  4. Plant a Tree. Most of us planted a tree as in elementary school and this traditional project still makes a difference today. According to the Urban Forestry Network, a single young tree absorbs 13 lbs. of CO2 each year.  That amount will climb up to 48 lbs. as the tree matures.  In fact, one 10-year-old tree releases enough oxygen into the air to support 2 human beings.
  5. Choose Energy Efficient Kitchen Appliances. Pay attention to the total lifetime cost, including energy, of an appliance. Also, choose appliances with the ENERGY STAR label.
  6. Plant Your Own Garden. On average, food travels 1,500 miles from farm to supermarket.  So grow your own produce and eat foods that are in season. Start simple and try some growing herbs or greens which are both really low maintenance!
  7. Compost Food Waste. Garbage that is not contaminated with degradable waste can be more easily recycled and sorted, and doesn’t produce methane gases when stored in a landfill.  Keep a compost container on your kitchen counter for all things organic (veggies parts, egg shells, coffee grinds, etc).  You can compost yourself by purchasing a composter or making a pit out back or you can use a local service like www.bennettcompost.com that will pick up your waste and do it for you.  It can be as simple as putting coffee grinds in your garden to add nutrients to the soil.
  8. Don’t waste food. About ¼ of all food prepared annually gets wasted. This waste produces methane gas in landfills, as well as carbon emissions from the transport of this waste.  Delegate one night per week for cleaning out the fridge and having a left-over smorgasborg.
  9. Decrease Your Cook Time: having the oven on for 5 hours may yield a tasty meal but it consumes a lot of energy.  Choose quick cook recipes that you can whip up in 10-15 minutes.
  10. Re-use: Get creative.  Cook veggies in a a pot of water then re-use your water for grains or pasta.  You save water and get the added nutrients from the veggies in your cooking water.

What do you do to make your home and family life more earth-friendly?

Erin DeMito, RD

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