to be eco-friendly: what does that really mean?

Discarded rubbish becomes a snack for cows in Jaipur, India.

Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean we need to revert back to the dark ages, before we had electricity and modern conveniences. It means that we need to try and make conscious choices that decrease our carbon footprint. Our carbon footprint is measured in CO2e, carbon dioxide equivalent. CO2e is a unit of measure that allows different gasses (with different environmental warming impacts — also called Global Warming Potential, GWP) to be compared equally to one another by using carbon dioxide as the standard unit of measure. Gasses that are taken into account in calculating a CO2e are carbon, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride.

While virtue + vice has you covered when it comes to buying fashionable clothes with the smallest eco footprint possible, there are actions you can take at home to join the cause and reduce both your energy and water consumption.

Reduce usage of disposable plastics

It is estimated that each year over 260 million tons of plastic is produced. Of that 260 million, about 10% will end up as garbage in our oceans. As consumers, our greatest defense for the environment is to reduce our consumption. If we stop creating a market for all of this plastic, companies will have to stop making it!

Don’t forget to bring your reusable bag

One of the most popular ways we are all familiar with to reduce plastic waste is by using reusable bags. As a planet, we use approximately 1 trillion plastic bags a year. Most grocery stores sell these reusable bags, or you can bring your own tote. Stores such as Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s offer customers small cash discount incentives for every reusable bag they bring themselves. Some forward-thinking cities have even gone so far as to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, only allowing paper.

Treat yourself to a stylish reusable water bottle

If you live in a city where tap water is drinkable, then stop buying plastic water bottles. Buy 1 reusable bottle and refill it. Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, and only about 23% are recycled.

Ditch the plastic straw

Another everyday way to cut down on plastic waste when consuming beverages is to stop using plastic straws. It is estimated that Americans use 500 million drinking straws per year. To put this into perspective the National Parks Association calculated that we use enough straws to fill 46,400 school buses a year, approx 125 school buses worth of straws per day! Straws are not accepted in recycling bins so they end up going straight to landfills.

Shop recycled plastic products

To help give plastic a second life you can choose to buy recycled plastic products. Plastic soda bottles can be recycled to create polyester fibers for clothing. Plastic bottles are cut into tiny pieces, the pieces are melted and then pushed through a spinneret which is a device that looks like a microscopic spaghetti strainer, fibers are then extruded from the other side, and new polyester is made. This practice is becoming more and more popular and a simple Google search can point you in the right direction to companies that utilize this recycling technology.

What everyday ways can you change to cut down on waste? Can you think of other ways to decrease your plastic consumptions? How about saying no to plastic utensils while ordering delivery, or trying a razor with replaceable blades instead of disposable razors? Feel free to share ways on how you have reduced your own plastic consumption in the comment section below!

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