A culture of convenience surrounds the American consumer, and go, go, go of everyday life makes it all too easy to fall into the habit of grabbing food to go from the nearest fast-food chain, or picking up ready-made meals at the grocery store — complete with the disposable cutlery.
Convenience might save you time in the present, but it’s important to think about its long-term effects. Individually, you may not believe your habits contribute to helping fight climate change, but if you group yourself with the millions of other Americans in the country, the ripple effect can change the world.
Before the idea of saving the world overwhelms you, remember that you don’t have to make difficult adjustments to start living a more sustainable life. There are many benefits associated with it, and you can start the process by changing the way you prepare your bags for work or school.
- Cut Ready-to-Eat and Individually Wrapped Items
The temptation might be hard to resist, especially if you’ve had a long week, but individually wrapped meals and snacks create waste that’s a large contributor to landfills, ocean waste and air pollution. Strongly packaged foods are a product of the modern food industry that developed around the importance of ration transport to the front lines in times of war.
You can do your part to cut down on waste by choosing to purchase fresh produce and ingredients for your meals and lunches during the week. Even the USDA is working on ways to change the food-packaging industry with organic-based materials.
- Reduce Your Meat and Dairy Intake
Reducing the amount of meat and dairy you eat can have an exponential effect on CO2 emissions, of which animal agriculture contributes between 14-18%. Consider integrating one or two meatless days a week into your schedule. Substituting other forms of protein like peanut butter, hummus or almond spreads could be a fun new food adventure.
- Opt for Reusable Containers
If you don’t buy packaged food but you put it in plastic sandwich bags, it cancels your effort. There are plenty of practical and creative options out there to keep your lunch plastic free, such as glass, cloth and stainless steel containers.
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- Purchase a Refillable Water Bottle
Hydration during the day is crucial, but constantly drinking bottled water from disposable plastic bottles is problematic. It negatively impacts the ocean, adds to worldwide pollution and more. As you prepare for your day at school or the office, choose a refillable metal or recycled plastic option that you can use over and over again.
- Change Your Buying Habits
Changing your buying habits applies to a number of choices you make when you shop. Once you reconsider pre-packaged and on-the-go food options, take it a step further and make a contribution to your community by shopping locally. When you support local businesses, you eliminate the emissions associated with transport, and you also help pump revenue back into the economy close to home. Added bonus: You’ll also end up with better quality products.
- Think Seasonally
Buying produce that’s in season provides you with fresh food to eat, and it also keeps you from purchasing veggies that must travel a long way to make it to your door. It’ll also make mealtime fun and exciting. You can explore new food options, and you will look forward to the recipes that come with each season.
- Start Your Own Garden
You can bring the idea of a sustainable kitchen right into your backyard or windowsill. With the option of vertical gardens and indoor compost bins, there isn’t any limitation. Whether you live in a large house with a yard or in an urban environment, you can start a garden. If you have little ones, a home garden is great opportunity to teach them about sustainable living. Gardening is fun for children, and you can encourage them to bring home the organic waste from their lunches to add to a compost pile.
- Encourage Healthy Eating
Eating locally and seasonally and deciding to grow your own garden will broaden the horizons of your palate and your family. Studies show that children who eat the same food as their parents at mealtime tend to have healthier diets. Children also feel accomplished when they eat the fruits of their labor.
There are plenty of ways to transition into a more sustainable lifestyle. You will have fun implementing options into your daily life, you will be healthier, and you will make a positive impact on our planet.