Last winter when Chicago was chilled to its core thanks to the polar vortex, I spent quite a bit of time indoors. And what does one do to keep their mind occupied when going outside isn’t an option? Me? I watch Netflix.
I watched 30 documentaries in a span of 90 days and then became convinced that due to the current state of the world, I would go live in a hut on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. I’d live off the grid, spear my own fish, and climb trees for coconuts.
Luckily my more reasonable mind prevailed before I had bought my plane ticket and renounced my possessions. I decided that instead of hut-life, I would incorporate sustainability into my design practices and day-to-day living, and strive to positively influence the world around me.
As evidenced by my near-hut existence, tackling a topic as multi-faceted as sustainability can be overwhelming. To help out, I’ve put together the following list of tips which will ease the lifestyle transition for readers who would like to begin reducing their carbon footprint.
1. EAT LESS MEAT
In addition to the cruel, unsanitary conditions at factory farms, animal agriculture is the largest contributor to global warming emissions. The livestock sector consumes an exorbitant amount of resources. To produce one half-pound cheeseburger, it takes 968 gallons of water, based on data from Water Footprint Network, a non-profit group in the Netherlands. The slice of cheese (24 gallons), wheat bun (19 gallons), and tomato and lettuce (under 2) are a relatively small part of the total.
2. GROW SOMETHING
Plants help purify the air. Also, you will have convenient access to organic herbs and produce.
3. GO SOLAR
Let the electric company pay you. It’s a rather simple process if you are a homeowner, however solar is still possible if you rent your home. The City of Chicago offers tax rebates toward a hefty percentage of your total cost. Last year, everyone who applied received a tax rebate.
4. USE LESS ENERGY
Use sunlight over artificial light when possible. Wash clothes in cold water – cold water cleans just as well as hot water, and is better for your clothes. On average, energy loss through gaps account for 35% of a home’s total energy usage; seal any gaps and utilize storm windows during cold weather.
Approximately 70% of the materials in our current landfills could have been composted. Set up an indoor or outdoor compost and minimize landfill trash. If you choose to have a vermicompost (with worms), the after product can be mixed in with plant top soil to enhance growth. Urban Worm Girl has everything you need to get started.
6. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
7. SHOP LOCAL
Reduce the transportation necessary to ship items from far away and support local jobs. Shop and encourage sustainable businesses. Get to know your local farmers and support them by purchasing their products through farmers markets, farm gate sales, local farming co-op and community-shared agriculture/urban gardens. When shopping for items, remember to bring your reusable tote.