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Sustainable living: 3 simple but meaningful changes to make today

When was the last time you truly stopped to think about where your food comes from? How about where your trash goes? Have you ever thought about the process that makes your light turn on when you flip the switch? All of these things impact our Earth, our health and the health of our future world. This is why we should be more mindful about our actions and choose sustainability. 

So, what exactly is sustainability? 

According to the United Nations, sustainability is the act of “meeting the needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In the midst of a global pandemic, we’ve had ample time to reflect on our world and the impact we have on it. Here are a few ways to live more sustainably each and every day.

Reducing food waste

Did you know that the average household of four throws away roughly $1,350-2,275 per year of wasted food? Though each household operates a little bit differently, you can still choose at least one way to decrease food waste in your kitchen. Trust me, it will make a huge difference. Some ways to do this include:

  • Use your peels: Before peeling any fruits and vegetables, ask yourself if you can eat the food with the peel on. If you need to peel it, get creative. You could bake potato peels into potato crisps, chop up cucumber peels for tzatziki sauce, dehydrate apple peels for a sweet snack, add garlic or onion peels into a stock or use citrus peels to infuse a beverage.
  • Utilize your freezer: If you start to notice fruits and vegetables getting ripe or the expiration date on an item approaching, throw it in the freezer. By freezing, we can essentially stop the ripening process and lengthen the expiration date — it’s like magic! 
  • Compost: Compost is organic material that can be used to help plants grow. Composting is a way to decrease the amount of food that ends up in landfills and decrease methane production (a harmful greenhouse gas). The three things needed in every compost bin are: brown things such as dead branches, leaves and twigs; greens like grass clippings, fruit scraps and vegetable wastes; and water.
  • Start gardening: Growing your own fruits and vegetables at home helps to decrease your carbon footprint, as your food does not need to be transported to you. Choose the right sunny spot in your backyard or in your home and you’re good to go! 
  • Shop seasonally: If gardening is not for you, decrease your carbon footprint by shopping seasonally. Buying foods that are in season means that they grow naturally in that specific time of the year, increasing freshness and nutritional value.

Check out this list for even more ideas on how you can reduce your personal food waste.

Let’s talk plastics

About 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean per year, and that number is expected to grow. Why should we care if the amount of trash in the ocean increases? As plastic breaks down, it creates microplastics that cover marine life and could eventually make it into our food supply. These microplastics are harmful to marine life and to us if we were to consume them in large amounts.

Think about ways you can cut down on your own use of plastic by using cloth or reusable options instead. It takes a little more planning, but the long-term health of our world is worth it.

Unplug

Electricity requires different energy sources, most of which emit greenhouse gases when they are burned. Taking some time away from screens will help reduce CO2 emissions (and as an added perk, keep your electricity bill down). Too much screen time can also strain your eyes and lead to fatigue. When “screen fatigue” does kick in, take a moment to unplug from your electronics and spend some quality time with your roommates or family. Here are some fun activities to do:

  • Play a board game or card game 
  • Read a book
  • Step outside and go for a walk
  • Plan a workout

Living through a pandemic is a reminder that our world is interconnected. Our Earth is a home we all share — therefore, we should all take care of it. Take some time away from your busy schedule and decide which of these things you can do to live sustainably. You might be surprised to discover how these changes improve your own health and mental well-being.

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This blog post was contributed by dietetic interns Cali Assaf, Jerrica Garza and Esmeralda Vilche.

Sustainable living: 3 simple but meaningful changes to make today