Climate change is no secret, and it’s also no joke. As Earth grows more polluted and global warming grows more serious, it becomes increasingly important that each person takes the time to change their lifestyle and reduce their personal carbon footprint in order to slow climate change.
Here are some small but effective ways that each and every person can help.
Eliminate single-use items
Many people go about their days using a plethora of single-use kitchen and household items such as paper towels, plastic water bottles and plastic bags. Although this particular time in life may be an exception, due to an extra need for cleanliness, typically, single-use items are simply not needed, and can be swapped for sustainable alternatives.
For example, swap paper towels out with dish towels that you can wash. You may quickly see that there is really no need for paper towels; you just have to be willing to give up the convenience of throwing away something instead of washing it.
Replace single-use plastic bags with reusable plastic bags or Tupperware containers. These items are becoming increasingly popular and can be found online and in many retail stores. If you use plastic bags in your lunch everyday, imagine how much trash you can eliminate simply by replacing them with a sustainable alternative. It adds up!
Be sure to eliminate single-use, plastic water bottles. They are simply not necessary when you can purchase a reusable metal or plastic water bottle that you can wash and reuse. If you’re concerned about having to drink tap water, invest in a Brita water filter. This simple device makes tap water taste like it just came out of the fridge.
Consider replacing makeup wipes or cotton balls with reusable and washable cotton pads. These will dramatically reduce the amount of trash that piles up, especially if you wear makeup everyday.
Don’t use paper dishes. If you have a sink or dishwasher in your kitchen, they are simply not necessary. Take the time to wash reusable dishes instead of throwing away paper ones.
And remember — all of these swaps save you money in the long run. It is cheaper to buy one thing that you can use over and over again instead of buying a disposable product multiple times.
Use public transportation or bike
Gasoline cars are some of the largest polluters and producers of greenhouse gases. Here at UT, great infrastructure is available for public transportation. From the trolley system to the UT bus system to the KAT bus routes, public transportation is accessible all over UT’s campus and throughout Knoxville.
Take the time to get to know these buses’ routes and take advantage of them when you can. It is far more sustainable to ride in a vehicle of public transport with several other people than drive an individual, gasoline-powered car.
And remember, the trolley system and UT buses are free to ride, so you are also saving money on gas by choosing public transportation.
Additionally, biking and walking are also great forms of transportation that don’t pollute and simultaneously provide forms of exercise.
This may seem like a given, but it’s still really important to discuss. By recycling, you greatly reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills, and you therefore reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released by landfills.
The act of recycling takes just a few minutes out of your week; you simply must learn to be cognizant of what items can be recycled and which can not. For example, many “paper” coffee cups cannot be recycled as paper products because they contain traces of plastic. And make sure to always clean out items that contained food or liquids before recycling them.
Additionally, if you are worried about having access to a recycling center, remember that UT has its own recycling drop-off at 2121 Stephenson Drive, and there are many other recycling bins located across campus as well. UT itself has a fantastic recycling program and makes significant efforts to recycle, so the practice is very easy as a Vol.
This is another great way to divert waste from landfills — particularly food waste. Composts harvest food waste to create fertile soil.
Unfortunately, this practice may not be feasible for students who live in dorms or apartments without access to a yard in which to build a compost. However, if you do live in a house or have access to green space, consider building your own compost. It is also possible to purchase filtered compost bins that can remain in your house as you fill them up with waste until you are ready to dump them externally.
Consider how your items are packaged
Many people may not realize how much waste they are producing simply from the containers of the objects they purchase, whether that be groceries or items ordered online.
Certain grocery stores, such as Trader Joe’s, have worked to provide low-waste packaging solutions; for example, their produce bags are compostable.
When you are grocery shopping, take an extra few minutes to consider what your food is packaged in. Can you recycle it, or will it go straight in the garbage? In general, paper or cardboard packaging can be more easily recycled, so gear toward products wrapped in these materials.
Finally, you can try to eliminate the number of items that you purchase online. Once again, in the time that we are currently experiencing, this is difficult. But, in general, purchasing items in-store is more sustainable because of the amount of extra packaging that often accompanies items ordered online.