Simple ways to reduce your everyday carbon footprint

Op-eds Opinions
Graphic by Darian Lee

At this point, you’ve probably seen more than a few morbid headlines about climate change. It’s nearly impossible to ignore predictions that we may have as little as 11 years to change our habits before the effects of global warming become irreversible. With so many bleak projections about climate change, it would be easy to blame these issues on previous generations and call it a day. But while we may have inherited this mess, it is now our duty to clean it up. We have reached a critical point in the battle to combat climate change. We hold the fate of the world in our hands; it’s our choice what to do with it. All too often, young people opt for inaction simply because it is “easier.” The thing is, embracing a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult. Simple changes in your everyday life can have a lasting impact on the world around you. And who doesn’t want to leave a positive mark? 

Most of the time, when you’re grocery shopping, convenience takes precedence over just about everything else. Those of us who are pressed for time (read: students) often lean towards ready-made meals and plastic-wrapped produce. While these options can be a lifesaver when you’re in a hurry, all of that plastic packaging results in a lot of unnecessary waste. When you’re shopping for snacks, instead of individually wrapped granola bars, reach for foods with no packaging, such as fresh fruit. 

When looking for ingredients for meals, try to avoid buying large amounts of meat. The production of meat releases vast quantities of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the air. Additionally, animal agriculture is extremely water-intensive; on average, a pound of beef requires nearly 1800 gallons of water to be produced, whereas the same amount of soybeans requires just 216 gallons. Now, ditching meat altogether might seem too drastic – but don’t worry, there’s no need to quit cold turkey (pun absolutely intended). Switching to plant-based alternatives even once a week can shave thousands of pounds of CO2 off of your annual carbon footprint.

Another sustainable option when grocery shopping is to buy items in bulk. Stores like Bulk Barn, For Good Measure, and the Zero Waste Emporium offer a plethora of both dried and fresh goods. In addition to food, these stores sell eco-friendly cosmetics and cleaning products. By bringing your own reusable containers, you can drastically reduce the amount of waste you generate. There’s no need to limit your reusable containers to just the grocery store, either. Try keeping a reusable cup in your bag, so that when you need a midday caffeine hit, you can grab an iced coffee from Biblio without all the plastic.

It may sound obvious, but taking the bus is another effective way to minimize your environmental impact. Of course, being crammed in between two strangers on the last number 51 to Langford is less than ideal, but choosing the bus over a single-occupancy vehicle can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 33 per cent per trip. Better yet, ride your bike, and reduce your emissions even further. If you don’t have a bike of your own, check out bicycle-sharing services like U-Bike, which has hundreds of bikes across Victoria. 

Of course, these are only a handful of ways to practice sustainability. Allow yourself to explore other sustainable strategies, and inspire others to do the same. Above all, remember that our presence on this planet is not a right, it is a privilege. It is our duty as visitors on this earth to treat it with dignity and respect, and to leave it better than we found it — a daunting task, to say the least. But even small, everyday changes can have a cataclysmic effect. So do what you can, and encourage others to follow suit. Together, we can — and we will create change.