Over the years, our world has undergone a great degree of transformation, thanks to human activity. While our quality of living has improved significantly, the last few decades have witnessed accelerated environmental deterioration as the price of such advancement. Thankfully, businesses are listening to the growing consumer demand for action. Large-scale operations are being toned down to a sustainable level. Countless process innovations such as paintless removal to repair hail damage are being implemented to minimize the environmental impact of core business activities.
Yet the progress being made by companies will not move the needle on its own. Individual consumers need to embody the drive to save our environment by adopting green practices. When we change our way of living as an aggregate, we can have a massive influence on the push for sustainability. Here’s how to embrace these practices and turn them into everyday habits.
The Limits to Growth was a landmark work of environmental research, predicting the dangers of pollution and resource depletion as a result of human activities way back in 1972. Yet at the time, few heeded its warning. What if people had listened and taken this research seriously nearly half a century ago? We might not be dealing with the impact of climate change or drastic resource conservation measures today.
It’s agonizing to imagine how the present-day situation could have been so much better. But the decision points of the past are beyond our reach. What matters are the next steps we take, and getting these decisions right means we must avoid the mistakes of the past.
Make a habit of seeking out information and apply critical thinking to your appraisal of sources. Health-conscious individuals will pointedly read through the ingredients listed in whatever they consume. Do likewise, and find out more about how the products you buy are sourced and manufactured. Instead of taking a company at their word when it comes to green practices, look them up on the list of reliable third-party certifying organizations. Know which brands and products are doing their best to save the environment, and you can use your spending power to cast a vote and make a difference.
Reduce production incentives
When you practice doing your research, you can make informed decisions with each purchase. But don’t forget that every purchase is also a potential decision point in terms of whether you’ll buy a brand-new product or turn to alternative solutions. This choice matters, because when people buy something, businesses will respond. Market research indicates a higher demand; this stimulates further production.
Production impacts will vary greatly. Some materials incur a high environmental cost at the source; aluminum mining is one example of this. For others, the cost may be incurred later on—further in the supply chain, or after the product’s life cycle. Single-use plastics are a notorious example of the latter. Yet even when a business adopts measures to increase its sustainability, in a global economy, most products will travel considerable distances before reaching you, the end-user. The transportation involved translates to increased emissions.
Of course, most people in the modern world can’t afford to simply live off the land. We all need manufactured goods and services. But you can make a habit of choosing options that don’t increase production incentives. Buy second-hand goods; reuse or repurpose what you can. Contribute to recycling efforts. Limit your consumption to only cover what’s absolutely necessary.
Leverage human energy
Once you understand the cost of production, how it impacts the environment, and how consumer actions can influence it, you may also notice that some goods simply affect the environment more than others as a result of their manufacture and delivery. Imported items will always travel longer distances. Products that require multiple processes will, in turn, involve more machines and resources.
People tend to overlook the value of basic human labor—their labor—when it comes to saving the environment. But if you act upon basic materials, you can finish products or processes without needing to burn fossil fuels or use complex machinery.
This is something we can do all the time, every day. Buy produce and cook all your meals at home. Your labor (and household electricity) will have an environmental cost that’s a fraction of what it would take a restaurant to serve up an equivalent number of meals. Get your exercise by moving naturally, doing bodyweight exercises, or as you carry out household chores. Again, your impact on the environment will be practically zero compared to someone who drives to the gym and uses that facility’s manufactured equipment. Use more human energy in this way, and you can help the environment while staying healthy.
Make a habit of thinking smart and taking actions that have the least environmental impact whenever you can, and you can make a real difference in saving our planet.