10 Environmental Hacks: Tips & Tricks For Going Green

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We come into this world naive and innocent. It isn’t until we grow older that we start to learn about how our habits can have an effect on our world as we know it. By taking a walk through a forest or on a beach we’re reminded of sustainable environments. If you think about the coral reefs or even deserts, you’ll realize that these places have been able to sustain themselves without the help of human beings or environmental hacks of any kind. Carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are regenerated and redistributed to keep up the cycles of all the living systems, and they represent a real model of environmental sustainability. 

We are generally a self-centered species. I don’t mean that in an offensive way. It’s just the way we are. We think about our own needs before others. It’s part of how we humans survive, and we’ve been this way since the beginning. When it comes to sustainability, we need to go against what we feel most natural to us. We need to think about the future of the world and the next generations. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what really is environmental sustainability,  and offer some tips for integrating it into everyday life. 

What Is Environmental Sustainability?

Sign on pole reading "Planet Earth First"

Raising awareness on sustainability.

Environmental sustainability can be defined in three ways that are different but also very similar. One way to define sustainability is about stabilizing the relationship between the living world and human culture. These are earth’s two most complex systems and their relationship has been disruptive. The second definition of sustainability is being able to not compromise the needs of future generations while meeting the needs of the present. It sounds a lot simpler than it is. The third definition is trying to live within the Earth’s supporting ecosystems while improving the quality of human life. As you see, all of these definitions share some similarities. 

The best way to describe environmental sustainability is by thinking of a fruit tree. Let’s say you have an orange tree that is full of ripe oranges. You can either get a ladder and pick them all or you can chop down the tree and gather all the oranges off the floor. Both options have their challenges. Spending the time getting a ladder and reaching every orange versus using an ax to chop a tree safely. However, one of the options is more environmentally sustainable. If you cut down the tree, you’ll only be able to oranges for right now but not for the future. You are only seeing the now and not thinking about the following years.

We can learn a lot from that tree analogy in regards to how we need to think beyond our present needs, and look towards our future. It’s also why environmental hacks or tips could end up being important. They make it easier to affect change in the here and now, and convenience counts for a lot.

Why Environmental Sustainability Is Important?

Humanity is using up natural resources at a much faster rate than the Earth can regenerate them. Therefore, we ought to put a stop to this, so we don’t damage the planet irrevocably. Environmental sustainability has an effect on humanity’s well being as well. It affects health, clean air, and even our education. Our production and consumption habits are doing harm to our world at dangerously high rates. As we have relied more on natural resources like coal and gas, natural ecosystems, animals, and insects have declined. It’s clear that we need to protect our current world in order to safeguard our future world.. 

Think about the world as a human body. You only get one of them, and you need to treat it right for it to work properly. If we remember that there’s only one Earth and that we aren’t going to be getting another one, we may do more to make sure we aren’t hurting it. The problem though is that it’s hard to think that far into the future, a future where you don’t exist anymore. You can think about your children and grandchildren, but that way of thinking only works to a certain extent. The way in which we’ve depended on (and abused) natural resources, has and will continue to negatively impact all living creatures.

We humans are often creatures of habit, and this is another reason why employing environmental hacks can make all the difference. With every environmentally-friendly action, you’re changing the way that you interact with the world. When you make those simple and everyday actions into routine, you form a healthier habit and a better world view.

Sustainable Beauty Explained

Zero waste makeup.

Makeup laid on table.

Beauty products categorized as sustainable are typically made with natural and environmentally-friendly ingredients. They are commonly referred to as Green Cosmetics. This means they didn’t hurt the environment when they were created and are (hopefully) easily recyclable and biodegradable. The term “green” has become to mean healthy or organic. Seeing something that says it’s green, will automatically mean that it was made with the environment in mind. However, many times products will say they are “green” but use petrochemical ingredients. These ingredients are made from petrol which is a non-renewable resource.

Examples of natural beauty ingredients are palm and coconut oil. These are used as chemical surfactants. Glycerine is also usually in products because it is a byproduct of palm oil. Another common ingredient are agricultural plants such as soybeans and corn. Corn and soybeans and other types of plants are used to produce alcohols and oils. Biocatalysts, surfactants, and emulsifiers are all derived from agricultural plants. 

There are many cosmetic ingredients that damage human and environmental health. For example, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are synthetic antioxidants that have been proven to be damaging to the endocrine system. They are commonly found in moisturizing creams and lipsticks. Another example is coal tar dyes. They may be listed on labels as “CI” with a 5 digit number following it. These have been linked to cancer in humans. There are many more ingredients to look out for like aluminum, Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and formaldehyde. All of these should not be on any product that claims to be “green.”

Sustainable Packaging Explained

You can call certain actions or non-actions “environmental hacks”, but the key is to think ahead. Have the right kind of vision and thought process, and you may not require any tips or tricks to  help with sustainability.

When looking at sustainable products, you’re probably not thinking about the packaging, because what could really be done about packaging? Apparently a lot. The only reason for packaging is to get the product to you safely, but what happens to that packaging when you don’t need it anymore? Where does it go? Most likely into the trash, which is why sustainable packaging is so important. Sustainable packaging can be defined as packaging that reduces the ecological footprint and the environmental impact. 

You need to look at the bigger picture of the packaging of your products, and think about its entire life cycle. Where does it go when it leaves you? Ideally,  sustainable packaging meets the needs of the present, without doing any damage to future generations. It needs to be fit for purpose, resource-efficient, made from low-impact materials, and be able to be recycled in the most maximum way possible. These four criteria envelop each stage of the packaging’s life cycle. Many companies already use sustainable packaging, but it’s your job as the consumer to support these companies for continuous change and growth. 

10 Environmental Hacks

1. Reusable Bags

Plastic bags that you use at grocery stores end up in landfills or the ocean. They can inadvertently suffocate animals that may mistake them for food. These bags take a long time to decompose. Therefore, whatever you’re shopping for – whether it be groceries, clothing, or books – use a reusable bag. Some stores will even give you a discount for using reusable bags. You can leave your bags in your car, so you’re never without them. Even if you find yourself without a bag, don’t go for the plastic, buy the reusable one. One more bag won’t hurt. Some states have even outlawed using plastic bags or started charging extra for it.

2. Avoid Chemical Cleaners

Natural products make excellent cleaners.

Many of the cleaners that you use to clean your home containchemicals that are potentially harmful to you, your family, and the environment. These chemicals end up being washed down the drain when you clean your sinks and toilets. If you don’t know where used water goes from the drain, it goes to water treatment facilities. The majority of contaminants are removed there but not all. The water eventually makes its way back to rivers and lakes, but these leftover contaminants can negatively impact wildlife.  There are plenty of natural ways to clean your home, such as apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil.

3. 30-Degree Washes

Most of the energy that is used by washing machines is due to hot water. Therefore, if you make the water just a little bit colder, it would help. Most stains will respond better to cold water. For example, blood and sweat will actually set into the fabric if cleaned in warm water. Hot water is more likely to damage clothing than cold water. Not only are you helping the environment by lowering the temperature, but you’re also helping your clothing. 

4. Reuse Jars

Four mason jars filled with fruit juice.

Jars make viable long-term containers.

It’s hard to keep all the containers and jars that you buy, but you should try to reuse them. Those mayo or peanut butter jars are great containers for taking a salad to work or store other food products. When reusing plastic, check the number on the bottom to see if it can be reused. Over time,some plastics release toxins so it would be in your best interest to not store food in them if that’s the case. Numbers 3,6, and 7 are not safe and numbers 2,4, and 5 usually are. 

5. Start Composting

Composting is the way nature recycles. Nature just needs a little help from you. It decreases the amount of trash that you produce which means less landfill, incineration, and greenhouse gas emissions. The waste management systems of today are terrible for the environment. Besides recycling, you can take anything that has lived or grown recently and compost it. Many believe that there are specific foods that can’t be composted, but most can. Composting has to be done properly to be effective. It requires little work but can provide the environment with many benefits. 

6. Don’t Throw Away Your Notes

This trick is specifically for students who hand-write their notes. At the end of a semester don’t throw them away. The same class will probably be offered the next semester and someone may be able to benefit from your notes. The easiest way to do this is by asking your teacher to connect you with next semester’s students. You can also use social media to post that your notes are free for the taking. It will feel good to help even if you charge for your notes. 

7. Carpool

Hand on steering wheel driving.

Carpooling can reduce emissions.

Taking public transportation or carpooling is a great way to be environmentally friendly. The main idea is to try not to use your own car. You can walk or bike to your destination if it’s close enough. Not only will this save you some money but it’s also good for your health. If you need to use your car, figure out a way to get someone to join you for the ride instead of taking their own car. The carpool lane is a benefit for people that chose to carpool or take public transportation that day: a special lane that can help you sit in less traffic.

8. Save Electricity

If you think there’s no way you can be using less electricity, you may be wrong. There are many ways to reduce your electricity usage, the least of which is turning off lights when you leave a room and appliances when they are not being used. You can charge your phone less, by putting it on airplane mode when you aren’t using it. This will conserve battery power for longer. You should consider switching all your lightbulbs to energy-efficient ones. In between seasons, you don’t necessarily need heat or air conditioning. You can open a window or wear more layers, saving the environment and your money all at once.

9. Use Your Water Bottle Again

Crushed plastic water bottles in a pile.

Sustainability through reusing plastic.

Some of these are more common sense than an environmental hack If you’re buying a new plastic water bottle every time you need some water then you’re causing a lot of harm to the environment. You should own a reusable water bottle and refill it with fountain water when you finish with it. If there’s a specific drink that you like, buy it in a bulk size container and fill your reusable bottle with it. Many stores even offer a small discount if you use your own container. Starbucks, for example, does this. 

10. Shop Online

This one may sound too simple, but being environmentally friendly can also be pretty simple. Shopping online uses less energy and carbon dioxide emissions. This is only if the store is far away from you. When checking out, click the bag free option or the alternative to plastic bags. You should also seek out the retailers that offer this and support them. You are only one person, but sometimes it only takes one person to show enough encouragement for other changes to be implemented.

Conclusion

You may think that you don’t need to worry about the future of the environment, but you do. Everyone has an environmental responsibility. Buying products that are sustainable, with sustainable packaging. If more companies made sure their products were sustainable, we would be looking at a more promising future. Slowly but surely, people and companies are making changes, but we need to move a bit quicker as a whole to reverse the damage that has already been done. The growing interest in sustainable products and packaging has definitely helped, but we need to continue to do our part. 

Even though you can make simple changes to your life to be more environmentally friendly, environmental sustainability is so much bigger than we can even grasp. We may need to change everything about the way we do things to even see our efforts make a difference. This could mean changing the way we learn and even conduct business. There is no definite way or formula for incorporating sustainable practices because every country’s ecological and economic systems are different. Living more sustainable lives could take a lot of work, but small steps can lead to bigger ones that culminate in real differences. 

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