Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months or so, you’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who began the #SchoolStrikeForClimate back in September. Inspired by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s #MarchForOurLives, Greta realized that the only way to get politicians to really respond to climate change was to start striking from school (because what’s the point of preparing for a future through education if we only have twelve years to reverse the striking consequences of climate change and global warming?
Greta went on strike in front of Swedish Parliament for three weeks, and now continues to strike on every Friday. She claims that her Asperger’s Syndrome has actually helped her to really focus on climate change, because for her, there’s only black and white. And she’s right.
Climate change and global warming have literally been at the forefront of politics for the past 30 years– since the year before I was born, the year the Berlin Wall came down, and even before that.
Major, long-term changes to global weather patterns is also known as Climate Change.
The rise in the Earth’s temperature due to an increase in greenhouse gases is called Global Warming.
I could sit here all day and talk about climate change and the science behind these facts, but that’s not what this post is about– it’s about what us, as individuals, can be doing to lower and even eliminate our personal carbon footprints. It is our responsibility in 2019– I want to know I did everything I possibly could to save our planet.
Today, there is no excuse for not doing everything you can, unless you have been quite literally living under a rock. The second step is just knowing where to look– the first step is raising awareness and educating yourself on the gravity of the situation.
Growing up, our family always recycled; we donated used clothing; we never left the water running when we brushed our teeth; we turned off the lights; we only had two cars; we got hand-me-downs; my mother almost always chose paper over plastic; we seldom used sponges; we resurfaced and regifted and refurbished many pieces of furniture, parts, etc. I am grateful to the practices that were bestowed into me.
Unfortunately, today that is no longer enough. So, without further ado, here are the lifestyle changes I have made over the past several months to really combat climate change and adopt an eco-friendly / zero-waste lifestyle. There is no planet B.
- Reusable Bags: Carry these all the time! I know my European readers are rolling their eyes, because this has been the norm for a very long time, but seriously, do not buy the plastic bags! Bring your own! Force yourself to leave them in your vehicle, and if you forget them, go get them and bring them inside! If you must buy bags, try to buy a reusable one, or go for paper over plastic.
2. Reusable or recyclable or refillable containers
I know longer by new containers of laundry detergent, dish soap, or cleaning products– I refill them up in bottles I already have! In Lille, this is becoming more and more popular- my place of frequency is Day-by-Day. One day when I have more motivation, I will make my own soaps and detergents, but for the meantime, this is already a good substitute!
The paper bags are recyclable and reusable- say no to the plastic bags for fruits and veggies and use these instead!
3. Buy in Bulk (‘en vrac’)
The US is pretty good with Sam’s Club and Costco, but have you noticed the unneccessary packaging? One of the best ways to reduce your waste is to buy dry goods in bulk using your own containers. I’ve invested in quite a few glass jars and have simply saved / reused others; I bring these directly to the store and can fill right up! (Again, Day-by-Day is my store of choice as it’s just around the corner from my place.)
4. Composting: I bought a small tin garbage can off of Amazon for composting- I don’t have my own compost, but the school where I work at does– every two weeks or so I bring this to school to dump in the compost! I now empty my trash every 2-3 weeks instead of every week; it is incredible! (FYI: This lid closes firmly, with no smells or pests!)
5. Carry these essentials with you: Reusable coffee cup (do not get those plastic to-go cups and lids from Starbucks! Have them fill your drink in your personal cup– plus you get a discount of around 10-30 cents!) Or, if you stay in, vow to get a washable mug instead of a plastic cup! Carry your own reusable silverware- don’t take the plastic spoons or forks! Switch to a compostable bamboo toothbrush and washable brush– all 100% biodegradable! Finally, skip the plastic water bottles, keep your own reusable one on you instead!
6. The Diva Cup: I’ve written about the Diva Cup in the past, but I haven’t bought sanitary products in about six years. It’s saved a ton of money and it’s better for both your body and the environment. (If you’re not into the Diva Cup, try some reusable pads!)
Here are a few other things I’ve done:
- Become vegetarian! As of July 2018 I no longer eat meat (with the exception of fish!) Reducing meat consumption is crucial to bringing down CO2 levels– even if you don’t want to give up meat entirely, try going down to 5 days a week instead of 6 or 7, and buy locally.
- Repair my shoes at the cobbler! This is a very French thing, but most of my shoes have lasted four years or so because I keep having them repaired or resoled, instead of thrown into a wasteland!
- Repair my clothing and donate whatever else I cannot repair.
- Recycle batteries, lightbulbs, corks Nespresso tablets, and Brita filters.
- Donate old or gently used clothes
- Replace sponges with biodegradable brushes and washcloths.
- Switch to bar soap (locally homemade)
- Go (mostly) paperless in the majority of my classes (and recycle or reuse whatever I can!)
- Design and implement a 7-week unit on climate change in my Premiere (juniors) English class- students had to create their own projects– anything sustainable or relating to the environment. It was incredible!
- Use vegan / cruelty-free skin care! I’m a huge fan of The Ordinary. I also use Lush, which encourages buyers to return and refill old containers, and Ursa Major face wash.
- Look for the least amount of packaging as possible.
- Buy Local and seasonal.
- Offset my flights. Sometimes I donate via RyanAir, sometimes I give to CarbonFund. (CO2 emissions from flying are some of the worst causes of climate change!)
Here are some pictures from the most recent climate change protests.
For a list of Zero Waste stores in Lille, click here.
I am not perfect- I am no where near perfect, but I’m doing better than I have been, and I am more and more conscious. What are you doing to combat climate change / global warming? We have twelve years to build a better future for our children!