How to Live More Sustainably

There are numerous ways to live more sustainably and eco-friendly without too much sacrifice.

First off, it’s important to pinpoint the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Although its effects may vary, these major sectors are responsible for the emissions:

  • Electricity and heat
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Manufacturing

The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions shows how greenhouse gas emissions are broken up by country and each source. Greenhouse gas emissions data is available for the U.S. and Canada as well.

What’s clear is that energy and electricity, transportation, and agriculture are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. So, when it comes to living more sustainably, targeting those areas is a great place to start.

 

Electricity and heat

 

Electricity and heat seem to be by far the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some key ways to reduce your electricity and heat usage:

  • Be mindful: Turn off lights, appliances, and devices (like laptops, dishwashers, screens, etc.) when you don’t need them. Use natural light during the day
  • Use natural ventilation (air flow) instead of A/C in summer months and in warm areas. If you use A/C, only use it when necessary and turn it off if you aren’t home
  • If you’re in a warm climate or season, use curtains to prevent sun warmth from entering rooms—especially south-facing ones. In colder climates or seasons, leave the curtains open to allow the sun’s warmth to enter
  • In winter months, set the heat at the recommended benchmark of 21-22 degree Celsius
  • If necessary, update older appliances for ones that require less electricity. Electricity usage monitors can help you find out how much electricity is being used (and whether they need replacing or repairing)

 

Taking in the sunlight. Joey Armstrong photo

Transportation

 

How we get around makes a difference when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Here are ways to get around in a more environmentally-friendly way:

  • Drive less! Walk, cycle or take transit, like trains or buses. This Wikipedia graph depicts the energy efficiency of different modes of transport
  • Take trains instead of planes. According to The Guardian an average domestic flight, rather than a high-speed electric train, can make a person responsible for 29 times as much carbon dioxide!
  • If you choose to buy a vehicle, chose a more fuel efficient model
  •  Consider car sharing (if it’s available in your area). There are numerous car sharing companies out there

 

Toronto streetcar driving past city bicycles

 

Agriculture and food

 

How we grow and produce our food impacts the environment. Luckily, we can choose to buy foods produced in more sustainable ways. Here are some ideas when it comes to sustainability and agriculture:

  • Buy organic food. Organic farming releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and is better for our water and soil. Read more about why organic farming is more sustainable
  • Try to buy foods that haven’t been transported from far away
  • Buy foods with less packaging—like single-wrapped items—when possible
  • Eat less meat and animal products. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein
  • Avoid single-use plastics in the kitchen or when eating or drinking outside the home

With these ideas in mind, we can all lessen our environmental footprint while still living comfortably!

 

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