Well, with a very long and challenging year finally behind us, 2021 is here – complete with many new, exciting, and opportunity-filled months.
And if you’re like many people, one of your priorities this year is to embrace sustainable living and reduce your environmental impact. But with so many different things happening in the fight to reverse the effects of climate change, it can be hard to keep on top of all the latest trends.
And so today, we’re running through twelve ways that you can change your lifestyle for the better – and make 2021 your greenest and healthiest year yet.
1. Make the (Incredibly Simple) Switch to Renewable Energy
Everyone knows that using renewable energy is great for the planet – but not everyone seems to be aware of just how easy it is to make the change.
Whether it’s for your home or business, there are many ways you can embrace CO2-free electricity:
- Install a solar energy system. Producing clean, renewable power from your rooftop is arguably the most effective way to reduce your home’s carbon emissions – and you can also take advantage of the newly-extended federal solar tax credit.
- Switch to a green energy utility. Many utilities are embracing renewables in a big way, offering electricity sourced from solar, wind, hydro, and even biomass. Changing to clean energy can be as simple as making a phone call or completing an online form, and if you’d like to discover some of the largest green utilities, check out this list by Greentech Media.
- Invest in a community solar or wind farm. If you don’t have space for solar panels or a wind turbine, you can harness people-power by investing in a community project. You can join America’s growing community solar movement, or find out more about the US Energy Department’s guide to community wind projects.
- Buy renewable energy credits. If you want to offset your fossil-fuel electricity – or even if you already use clean energy and want to keep supporting it – you can also purchase renewable energy credits (RECs). At terrapass, – helping to expand our renewable energy sources and displace fossil-fuels from the power grid.
There are currently a number of US renewable energy programs driving a monumental transition – and by following any or all of the steps above, you can play a direct role in accelerating the change.
2. Reduce (or Eliminate) Your Meat Consumption
As we’ve covered in a few of our recent articles, eating less meat and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a simple and immediate way to reduce your food carbon footprint.
A comprehensive 2020 report by Our World in Data – which studied more than 38,000 commercial farms across 119 countries – found that the majority of carbon-intensive foods are sourced directly from animals, such as beef, pork, lamb, eggs, cheese, eggs, and prawns. On the other hand, the foods with the smallest carbon footprints were all plant-based, such as root vegetables, nuts, apples, potatoes, bananas, peas, and corn.
“The average (carbon) footprint of beef, excluding methane, is 36 kilograms of CO2eq per kilogram. This is still nearly four times the mean footprint of chicken. Or 10 to 100 times the footprint of most plant-based foods.” Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data
If you want to drastically minimize your carbon footprint, adopting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is an effective form of climate action and can improve your health and wellbeing in the process.
But if you’re not ready to say goodbye to meat, eggs, and dairy just yet, you can also try out a flexitarian diet that allows you to enjoy an exciting mix of nutritious foods – but with a significantly lower carbon footprint.
3. Choose Carbon-Neutral Products
The average American makes hundreds if not thousands of purchasing decisions every year – and each one is an opportunity to have a positive environmental impact.
There’s a growing number of companies around the country making sustainability a top priority – such as Washington-based beverage company Talking Rain which recently started working with terrapass to offset 100% of its carbon footprint.
And if you need some more help making climate-friendly choices, try these valuable resources:
- Carbon Trust, an official certifier of carbon-neutral brands and products, has a list of more than 1,100 companies that have committed to climate action by reducing emissions and purchasing carbon offsets.
- Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program makes it easier for you to find carbon-neutral and sustainable brands.
- At terrapass, we also have a comprehensive list of partner companies and organizations that have participated in our carbon offset programs.
And the next time you’re shopping – whether it’s in-store or online – be sure to look for environmentally-friendly brands that demonstrate a commitment to climate action.
4. Fly Less Often, and Fly Green
When we recently looked into the future of sustainable air travel, we discovered that aviation is responsible for around 2% of global CO2 emissions – the equivalent of large countries like Germany and Canada.
And while airlines worldwide are investing big money into developing cleaner jet fuels, alternatives such as green hydrogen, and even electric planes powered by batteries, flying in 2021 is still a carbon-intensive exercise.
The next time you’re booking a flight, take a moment to consider the alternatives. Could you take a train or coach – or even join with others and carpool instead? Based on a 2018 UK study published by Our World in Data – all of these alternatives have much smaller carbon footprints than taking to the skies.
But if you have to fly, you can also choose a greener airline doing the right thing by the environment. Travel website greenvacations.com has a listing of America’s most eco-friendly airlines, with information about their respective carbon reduction measures, recycling programs, and sustainability initiatives.
5. Create an Eco-Friendly Bathroom
The bathroom is a critical part of every home, but it’s also a place where we often waste a lot of energy and water, not to mention all of the disposable beauty and grooming products that end up in landfills.
Luckily, there are many simple changes that can make your bathroom far more sustainable:
- Reduce your shower length to save water and energy
- Install a water-saving showerhead
- Refill cleaning and detergent bottles at your local zero-waste store
- Change all of your bathroom lights to LED’s
- If you’re upgrading or renovating, consider installing a water-saving toilet
- Replace bottled shampoo and conditioner with plastic-free bars
- Buy natural and biodegradable products, and ideally ones with recyclable packaging
- Use recycled and ethically-sourced toilet paper
- Wash your clothes in cold water, and air-dry them whenever possible
If you’d like more sustainable bathroom tips, you can also take a look through this comprehensive guide from NBC News.
6. Invest in an Electric Vehicle
If you’re on the market for a new set of wheels and you’re not already considering an EV – we think you definitely should.
As well as being considerably more environmentally-friendly, electric cars are also quieter, cheaper to run, and, in many cases, lightning-fast off the mark. And of course, if you charge your electric car from renewable energy sources – you can drive every mile 100% emission-free.
And while Tesla might be the first company that springs to mind – it’s certainly not the only automaker going all-in on electric. In addition to the mainstays like Ford, Toyota, GM, Volkswagen, Honda, Chevrolet and BMW, there are also newcomers such as Polestar, Rivian, Fisker, and Lucid Air looking to usher in the next generation of electric motoring.
But if you’re concerned about the up-front cost of a new EV, you may also be eligible for a discount of up to $7,500 under the US Department of Energy’s federal EV tax credit. For a list of some of the most exciting all-electric vehicles hitting US roads this year, take a closer look at CleanTechnica’s recent report.
7. Plant Trees Every Time You Search the Web
If you’re looking for a way to fight global warming without changing your daily behavior – we can’t stress enough just how much we love the Ecosia search engine.
Ecosia invests the majority of its advertising revenue into planting new trees, and if that weren’t enough, it also runs on 200% renewable energy by powering all of its data centers – and the local grid – with solar.
“Being CO2 neutral is good; being CO2 negative is better. But it’s still not good enough for us. That’s why, in 2020, we’re becoming the first company to produce twice as much solar power as we need to power all Ecosia searches. This way, we’re actively crowding out dirty energy from the grid.” Ecosia.org
To date, Ecosia boasts more than two million users and has planted almost 120 million trees – primarily in African, South American, and Asian countries that are feeling the effects of climate change. On average, Ecosia plants a new tree every 45 searches – and there’s even a counter on the website that tracks the grand total in real-time.
8. Eat More Fresh and Local Foods
While your food’s carbon footprint generally depends more on what you eat rather than how far it travels, eating fresh and local foods should be an essential part of any sustainable diet.
In America, many of the foods and produce we eat travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach us – whereas local foods often bring this figure down to less than 100. As we discovered in a recent article, perishable fruits and vegetables that are air-freighted in from other countries can create 50 times the CO2 emissions of foods imported via cargo ships.
If you want to incorporate more regional food into your diet, you can shop at farmer’s markets, supermarkets that stock local produce, local roadside vendors, or even join community supported agriculture. Shopping local is also a great way to ensure that you only buy what you’re prepared to eat – helping to fight the growing epidemic of food waste carbon emissions.
Eating fresh and local produce is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, discover new and seasonal produce, and support local growers in your community.
9. Switch to a Greener Bank Account
Did you have any idea that your bank account can have a direct impact on the climate?
Over the years, many banks have used deposits to invest in fossil-fuel companies, thereby prolonging the use of coal, oil, and natural gas while profiting from our carbon-rich economy.
“Banks are increasingly being recognized as major drivers of the climate crisis—the $2.7 trillion in financing that 35 major global banks poured into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement makes that quite clear.” Alison Kirsch, lead researcher, Rainforest Action Network
But in recent times, we’ve seen many banks divesting from fossil-fuel companies and redirecting funds into renewable energy and other clean technologies. And so, if you’re keen to make every aspect of your life as sustainable as possible, it might be time to do a little research into which companies are ultimately benefitting from your hard-earned savings.
To find out more about environmentally-friendly banks and credit unions around the country, check out this list from mightydeposits.com – or read the Rainforest Action Network’s 2020 “Banking on Climate Change” report.
10. Embrace a Sustainable Wardrobe
The global fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and we can all help to reduce this number by making smarter purchasing choices – and thinking of clothing as a long-term investment rather than a collection of disposable items.
If you want to help reduce fashion industry carbon emissions, consider these tips:
- Avoid the lures of “fast fashion”. A $5 t-shirt might seem like a great deal for you – but it certainly isn’t for the environment. Instead of buying cheap items you know aren’t going to last, invest in fewer, higher-quality items that you’ll wear for much longer.
- Repair clothing to extend its lifespan. Holes, rips, and tears in your clothes don’t necessarily mean you should throw them away. Take damaged items to a tailor to give them a second life, or learn to repair them yourself. Fixing your own clothes can be incredibly satisfying – and you’ll also learn some valuable new skills.
- Sell or donate your unwanted clothes. When you have items that you no longer want or need, you can contribute to the circular economy by selling or donating them. Just remember, an item you no longer wear might be exactly what someone else is looking for!
11. Educate Yourself (and Others)
If you’re striving to live a cleaner and healthier lifestyle – it’s helpful to stay up-to-speed with the latest news, advice, and trends. And in many cases, something as simple as enjoying a new documentary can be enough to inspire action.
For Netflix fans, there’s a long list of documentaries and TV shows about sustainability, including “A Life on Our planet” by the legendary Sir David Attenborough. Or, if you prefer Amazon Prime, there’s an equally impressive selection of documentaries that are sure to motivate you to take better care of the world around you.
And perhaps most importantly, whenever you discover something that truly inspires you – be sure to share it with your family and friends.
12. Offset Your Remaining Carbon Footprint
Naturally, we understand that even after you’ve made sustainable changes to your lifestyle, there will likely be some unavoidable carbon emissions.
At terrapass, we’re committed to providing simple, cost-effective ways for you to balance your carbon footprint through our selection of carbon offsets and sustainability projects around America.
If you’d like to take action and reduce your environmental impact, you can use our carbon footprint calculator to measure your annual CO2 emissions – and then purchase our verified carbon offsets to eliminate those emissions elsewhere.
2021 is a new chapter, and if we continue to make better choices – we’re confident that future generations will look back on the 2020s as the decade when we finally set the world on a sustainable course.