An Every Day Guide to Lessening Your Impact

I went to school in a pretty environmentally conscious town and I would watch with admiration as bussinessmen wearing Gucci would board the bus, or ride their bikes in a torrential downpour, because they were so committed to the environment.

I am passionate about keeping the environment clean...but I really love my car. You can still make lifestyle choices that benefit our planet without taking public transit or going vegan (you’re a stronger person than I if you’ve made those choices!)

A few years back, my New Year’s resolution was to stop using plastic bags. Not to start using more reusables, but to stop the plastic cold turkey. I’ve been plastic shopping bag free for almost five years now and I’ve never looked back. It’s not always easy. I am terrible at remembering my reusables. I get funny looks at the grocery store as I fill my coat pockets with produce and walk to the car with an arm full of groceries, balanced under my chin. I often have to explain to incredulous cashiers that no, I don’t want my meat in plastic, and carefully remove my packaged chicken from their sack so as not to waste a plastic bag. At the mall, I shove my purchases in my purse.

Last year, I decided to say no to plastic straws for a month. I bought a package of reusable straws for my purse and was shocked at just how much plastic I was using without thinking. Everywhere I went, there was a plastic straw. I started asking wait staff not to give me one, I handed them back through the window at Starbucks and, if I forgot my reusable - plot twist! - I just drank my beverage without one.

While I don’t think veganism or vegetarianism is doable for me at this point in my life, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort in the last few years to eat less meat. Pulses, I’ve learned, are a great way to lessen your environmental impact at meal time. Pulses are dried beans, peas chickpeas and lentils which are great for your body (high in protein and low in fat!) and the most environmentally sustainable source of protein. It only takes 43 gallons of water to yield a pound of pulses, compared to almost 2,000 to yield a pound of beef! In addition, pulses help negate the effects of greenhouse gases and make soil more fertile, reducing the need for fertilizer. Pulses.org suggests swapping three servings (½ cup) of pulses each week for other sources of protein. I like to make homemade hummus (bonappetit.com’s Israeli Hummus recipe is my favorite) or incorporate beans into pasta and salads to get in the half-cup habit!

As someone who commutes to work, loves to travel and adventure, I’ve been feeling guilty about my carbon footprint for a few years now. This year, my fiance and I decided to donate to The Conservation Fund to help offset our carbon footprints. They have an easy calculator to help you estimate your impact and then you can directly donate to plant trees. It’s less than I spend on coffee each month.

I know that I’m not perfect and that there is much more work for me to do on lessening my impact, but I believe the first step is to become more conscious about how my daily actions affect my world. We impact our world just by existing, but how can we make that impact smaller, while still earning a living, having fun and taking advantage of modern conveniences? I’d challenge you to take a look at your day-to-day and identify areas in which you can reduce your impact in small ways. As you become more and more conscious of your small actions - like saying no to plastic bags or incorporating more pulses into your diet - you can start making a bigger and bigger dent in your footprint!

Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels.


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