In the modern era, where environmental challenges are at the forefront, embracing eco-friendly practices is a vital step for making living sustainable on the planet. The term “Sustainable Living” means understanding how lifestyle practices affect our surroundings and searching out ways to improve the lives of future generations. As revealed by CyberGhost, Gen Z has the least daily environmental impact because they prioritize sustainability when making purchasing decisions. So, the quest for a better tomorrow does not seem unrealistic. By adopting eco-friendly practices, nations can participate in reducing carbon footprints and enhance the well-being of next generations.
This blog is a detailed guide that explains the need for transitioning to eco-friendly habits, the role of individuals, and how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle.
Understanding the Importance of Sustainable Living
In the contemporary world, various environmental challenges, such as climatic crises, pollution, greenhouse effect, land degradation, natural disasters, deforestation, and biodiversity loss, need our utmost attention (1). These issues are mainly the consequences of consumer habits that focus on achieving short-term utility over long-term sustainable development.
Moreover, anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases (GHS) are the main culprit behind ozone depletion leading to rising temperatures, unforeseen weather fluctuations, and melting glaciers. These climatic crises pose a serious threat to natural habitats and species. According to a recent study, Generation Z is more prone to develop health issues due to consumption of contaminated water, exposure to polluted air, and soil degradation (2). Amid the current situation, understanding the need for eco-friendly habits is vital for combating these environmental challenges and conserving the planet for future generations (3).
Individual Actions as an Impetus for Global Change
With a series of environmental problems, environmental bodies are working effortlessly to promote ‘Pro-environmental actions’ that benefit human well-being and the environment (4). Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in its proposed Framework for Environmental Behaviors, stated:
“The ultimate aim is to protect and improve the environment by increasing individual and community action contributions. This will come in particular from moving towards more sustainable consumption patterns, covering purchasing, using, and disposing of goods and services.” (DEFRA, 2008, page 3)
The global efforts to curb the adverse effects of environmental degradation will work only when individuals effectively play their role in energy and water conservation, recycling, and making eco-friendly consumption choices (5).
This section lists eco-friendly habits and presents academic literature and practical advice for individuals seeking ways to conserve the environment.
Embracing Eco-friendly Habits
A vast literature supports the fact that the accumulation of GHG emissions in the atmosphere due to energy consumption is primarily responsible for unpredictable climate changes (6). For behavioral change, households are the target population, consuming 15-20% of total energy in OECD countries (7). So conserving energy is vital for sustainable living. Individuals can adopt a few eco-friendly habits to reduce and conserve energy resources.
- Switching to Energy-Efficient Electric appliances: The foremost step is to switch to energy-efficient appliances such as LED Bulbs, appliances with smart thermostats, etc.
- Minimizing energy consumption: Simple actions like turning off lights and fans when not in use, using fans instead for air conditioners, keeping unnecessary lights off, etc.
- Transitioning to Renewable energy resources: Individuals can install solar panels at the micro level instead of relying on conventional energy resources. Moreover, for industrial purposes installing windmills can help in energy conservation.
The increasing population and rapid urbanization have strained our water systems. This is due to water wastage from human consumption, thus making water scarcity one of the greatest environmental concerns in the 21st century (8). Some sustainable living practices can be exercised at the micro level to reduce water wastage.
- Fixing water leaks: A leaking faucet is responsible for over 3000 gallons of water waste annually (9). Therefore, individuals can start practicing eco-friendly habits at home by detecting any source of water leakages and resolving them promptly.
- Opting for low-flow water faucets: Most households have high-flow faucets and showerheads, leading to 80% of water wastage (10). Whereas tap with efficient flow rate dispenses between 2-6 LPM. For water conservation, individuals should install water-efficient faucets. This will help in saving water for future generations.
- Using raw water for outdoor purposes: Often, treated water is used for outdoor purposes, thus creating a shortage of water needed for other purposes. People can use rain barrels to collect rainwater for sustainable living, thus minimizing dependence on treated water.
Minimizing Waste and Recycling:
Managing household solid waste is a major environmental concern that needs the utmost attention. This is an alarming situation in slum areas where improper waste disposal contaminates surroundings and raises health concerns. According to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), America has daily solid waste generation of up to 728,000 tons, and only 67.2 million tons of total municipal solid waste is recycled (11).
- Refrain from using plastic bags: Instead, opt for reusable paper bags or cloth bags as they can be easily recycled.
- Encourage composting: Compost bins are designed to collect organic waste, which decomposes and produces high-nutrient soil. At the micro level, individuals can set up compost bins at home. This will help to overcome the scarcity of landfill space (12).
- Opt for recycling: Individuals can step forward, learn their respective country’s recycling initiatives, and exercise recycling practices at home. Using recyclable products will significantly reduce waste, thus making the planet healthier for generations.
Making Sustainable Transport Choices:
Transportation emits a significant percentage of carbon into the air mainly due to unsustainable commuting choices (13). When released into the air, these hazardous pollutants cause serious respiratory illnesses (14). For healthy living, it is important to incorporate the following sustainable commuting practices:
- Normalize carpooling and public transportation: Prefer public transport over personal transport, and encourage carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. This will yield positive effects on the environment and enhance the well-being of the society.
- Use bicycles and prefer walking: For the nearest location, individuals can use bicycles or walking as a mode of transportation. It is evident from past literature that physical modes of transportation are ‘zero carbon’ thus, opting for these commuting modes will substantially reduce carbon emissions (15).
- Invest in hybrid vehicles: Conventional cars emit a significant proportion of carbon into the air during fuel combustion. Instead of these, invest in hybrid or electric cars, which have low carbon footprints, thus improving air quality.
Consuming Eco-friendly Food:
The food industry poses a substantial threat to our environment. This includes improper disposal of compost food, animal waste, and preference for international food brands (16). Moreover, improper food disposal produces methane, which has profound impacts on the ecosystem. Following are some eco-friendly food choices individuals must incorporate in their meal plans.
- Prefer local produce: Instead of choosing international food brands, individuals can reduce the carbon footprint of their food choices by supporting local farmers and eating domestic food.
- Transition from meat to a plant-based diet: Meat production is an input-intensive process as it requires sufficient land, labor, and capital, thus leaving a massive carbon footprint. The adverse effects of meat consumption on the environment can be mitigated by consuming plant-based diets (17).
- Avoid food scraps: Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost and wasted worldwide annually, making up one-third of the total food supply (18, 19). The global food system requires sufficient resources and inputs for cultivation, harvesting, transportation, and packaging. As scraped food means wasted resources and inputs, it harms the ecosystem (20). Therefore, planning meals wisely and composting organic food scraps are effective strategies for sustainable living.
Promoting Sustainable Consumption
Sustainable consumption can be defined as purchasing and consuming products and services that have minimum effect on surroundings, such that their benefits can be reaped by upcoming generations. Eco-friendly consumption choices lead to optimum usage of resources, thus minimizing waste and pollutants that trigger the GH effect. Here are some practical tips that support sustainable product consumption and can be practiced on a small scale.
- Support products with Recyclable packaging: While shopping, make sure to purchase products with eco-friendly packaging, as these materials are easily recyclable and bio-degradable.
- Look for certifications: Individuals must look for certifications like USDA Organic, ISO 14001, and Fair Trade that prioritize fair trade, environmental, and material sourcing policies.
Adopting eco-friendly practices is the foremost step to making our planet healthier for ourselves and the generations to come. By understanding the severity of ecological problems, recognizing the importance of individual roles, and adopting eco-friendly habits, nations can collectively work together to pave the path to sustainable living. Let’s unite and make efforts to make our planet resilient and greener for present and future generations.
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- Sprunger, C. (2023), “The effect of soil degradation on human, animal and plant health”, Open Access Government July 2023, pp.498-499. doi: 10.56367/OAG-039-10403
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