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Five Sustainability Hacks for 2022

December 30, 2021

Sustainably for Future Generations

On a recent hike in Eastern Oregon near the small town of Klamath Falls (made famous over water wars between ranchers and the Native Klamath Tribe), I was joined by my 12-year-old granddaughter.

We talked about many things that concern her during our hike. Topping her list of worries were climate change, poverty, and wondering if there’s a place to live where these things aren’t so frightening.

The data helps tell the story about why her worries are shared by others and making an entire generation anxious and depressed: 57% percent of American teens said climate change makes them feel scared. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 29 percent said they are not optimistic about the future. That’s nearly a third of the kids growing up in the U.S. who don’t feel good about their tomorrow.

No wonder the twelve-year-old in my life is seeking relief. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with so little hope, but I know that acting on our fears eases the sense of powerlessness that depression brings.

Five Simple Sustainability Hacks

Here are five sustainability hacks you can use to support a healthier planet.

Ditch the Paper

Americans use around 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year and, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, recycled paper may actually be worse at ‘off gassing’ in landfills. So what to do? Ditch paper towels. Your grandmother didn’t use them. Buy inexpensive cloth towels, or cut up old clothes and reuse the cloth.

Clean your counters with vinegar and water and rinse out the towel in warm water. Leave it to air dry. Using cloth towels is simple, inexpensive and something you can do with your children to make a difference. Every time you use the cloth towels you can remind your anxious teen that you’re saving trees.

No Single-Use Plastic

Next time you go shopping look to buy things without plastic containers. Bring your own bags. If you happen to wind up with something that comes in plastic, rather than throwing it out, wash it and keep it for later use. Sandwich bags can be used over and over and so can butter tubs. It’s cheaper for packing up snacks and nothing goes in the landfill.

Encourage the children in your life to speak to store managers about getting behind plastic bag bans and allowing people to bring in their own jars for bulk products. Action is an anecdote to depression. Kids need to know their voice counts.

Clean with Green

What is in your cleaning products? Most of us don’t know because, believe it or not, in America, companies are not required to list ingredients on cleaning products. But in a compilation of testing, certain companies and products rise to the top of most list for being clean and green.

The names may not be familiar, but companies such as Dropps, Frosch and Clean Cult typically hit the high-water mark for being better for the environment thanks to recyclable containers, biodegradability as well as being non carcinogenic. But the product which has long been green before anyone thought about it is the gold standard in eco-activism, Dr. Bronner’s soaps. Concentrated, cheap and widely available, Dr. Bronner’s donates millions of dollars of its profits to ending earth harming practices such as factory farming.

Another solution for cleaning around the house that has been used by monks in temples and cathedrals for millennia is water, vinegar and lemon juice. If you need extra scrubbing power, include salt. Also, don’t forget good old sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda. And if you’re very conscious about such things, these same products can be used to keep yourself clean as well.

Go Plant-Powered

Giving up meat eating or going “vegan” has increased by nearly 300 percent in the last decade. It’s estimated that roughly 10 million Americans are now off meat completely. For those who still eat meat, the amount of consumption has dropped as well.

How does plant based eating help the planet? This is what Dr. Dana Hunnes found in a UCLA study: “If each and every person in the United States gave up meat and dairy products on one or more days of the week; ideally, all days of the week, we would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions. In fact, in one year, animal husbandry creates as much carbon emissions as the entire transportation sector. These reductions would reduce the direct and indirect threats to Earth’s health and habitability for us, and for all wildlife, flora, and fauna. As for nutritional concerns: Ounce-for-ounce, the amount of protein that you get from plant-sources, such as legumes, seeds, and grains, is closely on par, plus full of other healthful nutrients including fiber, sterols, stanols, and vitamins and minerals.”

Even if you can’t see yourself going fully plant based, scientists estimate that reducing your meat intake by even one day per week could make a big difference in lowing the CO2 in our atmosphere. For every gram of beef that is produced, 221 grams of carbon dioxide is emitted. Eating less meat is better for your heart, too.

Buy Recycled First

This can take some getting used to, but it’s a fun and cost-effective way to help the planet. Rather than buying on Amazon or going to a chain store, look for recycled items first. Consignment stores are a growing trend as people seek to reduce the impact of dumping old items in landfills and in the processing of textiles.

Working conditions where clothes are manufactured are often dangerous and harmful to the environment because of the use of chemicals such as formaldehyde. Over 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in U.S. landfills each year. You can encourage the teen in your life to recycle their old clothes and buy from the consignment store, too.

Today, seven out of ten Americans worry about climate change. Psychologists agree that the best way to deal with this anxiety is through action. If you picked just two things on this list and set them into motion in your life, you would be helping to save the planet and boosting optimism for the kid in your life.