Your ecological footprint is the impact of your lifestyle choices or activities measured in terms of the land required to sustain your use of natural resources.
If everyone on Earth lived like the average American, we would need 4 Earths worth of land to sustain humanity (BBC). This is very telling of the changes that need to be made in the United States (and the western world) to reduce our ecological footprint.
So, how exactly can you reduce your ecological footprint? Here are 11 simple and effective ways to start reducing your ecological footprint:
1. Get Rid of Single-Use Plastic
Most plastic is non-compostable and non-biodegradable. That means every plastic item in existence will exist almost indefinitely on Earth. This includes plastic items like bags, bottles, utensils, straws, and other items.
By reducing your use of single-use plastics like plastic straws and plastic bags, you can prevent plastics from entering the landfill.
You’ll also reduce your personal consumption and subsequently your ecological footprint, in the form of the energy and raw materials used in producing the plastic products.
It is extremely easy to remove single-use plastics from your life. For example, instead of using disposable plastic bags, use reusable ones. Instead of using plastic straws, just drink directly from a cup, or buy a reusable metal straw as an alternative.
2. Consider Renewable Energy
Renewable energy doesn’t emit greenhouse gases into the air (for the most part) and they have a much smaller carbon and ecological footprint than fossil fuel alternatives like oil. If feasible in your area, consider getting solar panels (or other types of renewable energy) for your home.
Did you know that many electric companies will actually offer you a discount on your electric bill and even give you a refund if you use solar energy? Be it solar or wind energy, there are many different and accessible ways to use renewable energy right in your own home.
Try contacting your local utility company to see what offerings they have and how to get solar panels installed in your home. Usually, your electric company can give you the information on what types of discounts and incentives they offer for using renewable energy and will then point you in the direction of solar panel installation companies to purchase your solar panels.
3. Conserve Energy
There are many ways to conserve energy to reduce your ecological footprint. Here are just a few simple things you can do at home to save energy:
Slay Energy Vampires
According to House Method, energy vampires are household items that (while plugged in) consume energy while not in use.
The Department of Energy ran an experiment to measure the amount of electricity plugged-in devices use when “off”. The results may surprise you.
Fortunately, it’s easy to reduce this type of energy wastage, for example, by unplugging electronics when not in use, or by using a programmable (scheduled) power bar.
Adjust your Thermostat
Instead of blasting your heating during the winter, try wearing warmer clothes inside to save energy.
You can also use a smart thermostat to control the temperature in your home when you’re away to save energy.
Use energy-efficient light bulbs
LEDs are a lot more energy-efficient than traditional CFL or incandescent light bulbs. Consider switching to LEDs, and you’ll not only save energy, but money too!
Save money and the environment by conserving energy whenever you can. Your wallet and the Earth will thank you!
4. Eat Less Meat, and More Plant-Based Foods
The type of food you eat can have a large impact on the environment. The ecological footprint of meat products is, in general, exponentially higher than that of vegetables and other plant-based foods.
According to OvershootDay.org, a nutritionally balanced, vegetarian diet has an ecological footprint that is 2.5 times lower than a diet composed mostly of animal-based proteins!
By reducing your meat consumption, you can drastically reduce your ecological footprint and your environmental impact. This doesn’t mean that you have to go full vegan, but by even reducing your meat consumption by a little, you can achieve a lot.
Furthermore, consider checking the labels of the food that you are eating. Just because you are eating fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean they were sustainably grown, and the same can be said about animal-based products.
What exactly does sustainable mean when it comes to food?
If you are eating something that was sustainably created, it means that the food that was created has a very low environmental impact. For example, if a farmer was to grow crops in a specific area, they would have an understanding of the ecosystem around them and would be making a conscious effort not to disrupt that. They would also support organically grown crops and avoid artificial fertilizers and pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
For livestock, a farmer would be conscientious of the health and wellbeing of the animals they are raising. This is put into practice by allowing the animals to graze so they may move freely. Furthermore, a farmer would ensure respectful treatment of the animals and would strive to reduce or completely remove all pain and suffering that animals may be subject to in the food production process.
5. Drive Less and Travel Sustainably
Transportation makes up a very large part of the average American’s ecological footprint, and driving cars has a very large negative effect on the environment.
Think about how many times you hop in your car to go to work, to go shopping, to run to the corner store for a quick snack, or to simply go on a road trip with your friends.
Instead of taking the car, try biking or walking to your destination. Public transport isn’t a bad idea either, and will save you money on gas (and car depreciation).
However, if you must drive, try and be a little strategic in how you do so. For example, if you are driving to and from work, plan all your other errands around that. If the grocery store is on the way home, stop on the way to get groceries instead of driving back later.
Another great idea is to try carpooling. Take turns carpooling with friends, and you can take multiple cars off the road. You won’t be just saving the environment, you’ll be saving money on gas, too.
6. Use Less Water
We may take it for granted, but water is a precious commodity that can run out if we aren’t careful. While we need water to survive, try and be more conscientious about how you use your water.
For example, set a timer in your bathroom while you shower. While it may feel nice to take an hour-long shower after a long day of work, it’s just not sustainable for the Earth. You can also get low-flow shower heads which use half the amount of water (compared to a standard shower head).
If you have a dishwasher in your home, make sure it is completely filled before you run it. If you hand-wash your dishes, fill your sink up with soapy water instead of leaving the water running while you wash the dishes.
These are just some ways to save water, but I’m sure you can come up with a lot more to implement yourself!
7. Buy Local
Support your community, buy better quality products, and save the environment by purchasing local goods. Keep in mind that the items we buy travel even more than we do – be it food, clothes, or office supplies. With all that traveling and shipping, the ecological footprint that is created can be excessive.
Did you know that something as simple as a new pair of jeans carries a large ecological footprint? “It is estimated that 70 percent of Asia’s rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by that continent’s textile industry”, according to a recent study.
When you buy local, you’re buying something that was made near you. These products are, more often than not, produced in an environmentally conscious way because the production directly affects the surrounding community.
Start by checking out your local farmers market for food, and local boutiques for clothing, furniture, and decor.
8. Buy Used Goods
Instead of buying a new laptop, buy from a used electronics store. New jeans? Why not buy used ones instead from a thrift store?
By buying used goods, you help give old products a new life, and keep them out of the landfill at the same time.
Buying used products means that new resources don’t need to be wasted to manufacture a new product. You reuse an old product instead of buying a new one, reducing your ecological footprint.
There are many places where you can find quality used goods for cheap prices. Take a look at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores near your location. There are also many second-hand electronic stores that can give you great deals on used electronics!
9. Recycle Whenever You Can
When you recycle something, resources can be repurposed for new products, and less new raw resources have to be harvested from the Earth.
However, keep in mind that some products that appear to be recyclable may not be allowed to go into your recycling bin. Be sure to read your local waste management company’s recycling protocols to ensure that all the trash you choose to recycle will make it to the right place.
10. Reduce Your Waste
This may seem a little redundant, but there are tons of opportunities to use less plastic and reduce your water and energy use that will contribute to your ecological footprint.
While 75% of all waste is actually recyclable, tons of that end up in landfills, and even more is collected in landfills from the trash that simply couldn’t be recycled in the first place.
What’s more, in the United States, an estimated 40% of all food gets wasted. When food is wasted, the time, energy, and resources put into making that food is also wasted.
Do your part by trying to buy in bulk when you can (to reduce packaging waste), reducing food waste, and even exploring how to make your own bathroom products! You’ll be helping the environment and using better products in your home and on your body.
11. Repair Instead of Replace
In today’s culture, we live for quick buys and getting the best deals. The issue is that we usually opt to get the latest and greatest instead of taking care of the products that we already have. This can be said about anything from the clothes we wear, our mobile devices, and even our appliances at home.
Instead of trying to chase down a deal, try and buy higher quality products and take care of them so they last longer.
If something breaks down or rips, get it repaired. You may find yourself saving thousands of dollars a year on all the items you may have otherwise purchased new.
Lastly, if you must get something replaced, make sure to recycle your old product (or donate it to a second-hand store) to give it a new life.
Now that I’ve shared my ways to reduce ecological footprint, it’s your turn to take action. Start implementing these ideas today to reduce your ecological footprint and environmental impact.
If you have any other ideas to reduce ecological footprint that I missed, feel free to share them in the comment section below. I may add them to the article later!
Last but not least, if you found these ideas helpful, please share this article with your friends using the share buttons below. By spreading the knowledge, we can all work towards sustainability!
About the Author: Delilah Farrell
Contributing Writer at House Method: Delilah is on a mission to make sustainability part of everyone’s lives. She is passionate about living green and strives to make a difference in her community, as well as the online community. She hopes that one day, the entire planet recognizes the need to live sustainably.