When it comes to sustainable living, small changes go a long way. Though climate change and over-pollution can’t be fixed overnight, we all can do our part to make the Earth a better place to live. Here are five tips on how you can make sustainability a part of your everyday life from Piedmont Earth Day Fair Sponsor Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC.
Shopping for secondhand clothing, furniture, and home décor is a great way to reduce waste and save natural resources. Did you know that producing one cotton t-shirt requires 700 gallons of water? Producing and shipping clothing also uses wood, metals, fossil fuels, and chemicals. In the past, fashion companies typically produced two seasons of clothing each year. With the rise of fast fashion, some companies are making up to 52 micro-seasons in a year. Which means they’re also using more natural resources than ever before. Instead of driving up the demand for new clothes, shopping secondhand saves used clothes from the landfill and conserves natural resources.
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Plastics like grocery bags, plastic utensils, and water bottles can only be used once and then end up in the trash, where they can take hundreds of years to break down. When they end up in our oceans and rivers, they are often ingested by wildlife. For example, plastic bags floating in the ocean resemble jellyfish, which are a sea turtle’s favorite food. Ingesting plastic bags poses a serious health risk, or even death. But wildlife aren’t the only ones that end up with plastics in their bodies. When plastics do break down, they typically become smaller undetectable pieces called microplastics, which we later ingest through the water we drink or the foods we eat. Switching to reusable water bottles, tote bags, and food containers is an easy way to reduce the amount of plastics in our environment.
Many people believe that their food waste will harmlessly break down when it goes to a landfill. But to break down properly, organic material like food needs oxygen. Landfills are airtight, meaning bacteria are primarily what breaks down food waste – releasing harmful gasses in the process. Composting allows food to break down more naturally and rapidly without releasing harmful gasses into the air. Compost is also a natural fertilizer whose valuable nutrients make it great for gardening. It doesn’t require much to get started. All you need is a scoop of dirt, greens (i.e., vegetable and fruit scraps), and browns (i.e., paper, dead leaves, or lawn clippings). Once you have a good pile of organic material, just give it the occasional mix. In about month you should have a perfectly natural fertilizer for all your gardening needs. Learn more about at-home composting here.
We all have a treasured shirt or pair of pants. And we know what it feels like when your favorite clothing gets stained or torn. The EPA estimates that the average person throws away 81 pounds of clothing annually. Unfortunately, many of those clothes sitting in a landfill may still have been functional. Learning how to repair minor wear and tear will help extend the life of your clothing. Keep a small sewing kit handy with a few different thread colors, needles, and buttons. YouTube is a great resource for step-by-step videos on sewing and mending. Keep practicing your new sewing skills and you can alter your clothing to stay on-trend for years to come.
If you’ve ever needed to furnish a space, then you know how expensive furniture can be. You may have jumped on a design trend only for it to go out of style (or worse, fall apart) within a couple of years. As with fast fashion, fast furniture lets people jump on fleeting trends at low prices. But just like fast fashion, those pieces are less durable and harder to repair or upcycle, meaning that a lot of this new furniture ends up in a landfill. The EPA estimates that 9 million tons of furniture end up in landfills yearly. And most of the furniture in the dump was made within the last 10 to 15 years. Secondhand furniture is often of higher quality, making it easy to upcycle and fit your taste with a coat of paint, new hardware, or freshened-up fabric.
Want to learn more? Check out this great video from Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC: 5 Reasons Why Goodwill Shopping is Sustainable Shopping.