Plastic bags were introduced in the 1970s and spiked in popularity thereafter, though they are very bad for the environment, and often end up in the ocean. But over the past few decades, Americans have been turning to reusable bags in lieu of disposable bags. Tote bags even have their own carbon footprint — reusing a plastic bag has the same impact on the environment as using a cotton tote 393 times — so in order to really make an impact, you have to really commit to using them. And should you get a plastic bag here and there, know the best way to make an environmental impact is to reuse the bag repeatedly until tossing it into the recycling pile.
If you’re a regular user of plastic water bottles, invest in a reusable bottle. If you’re a frequent consumer of straws, opt against them (reusable straws are an option!).
You get the gist: Plastic is bad. When possible, avoid. When possible, invest in a reusable alternative. But plastic can be recycled, you say! Sure, but it doesn't always happen — a 2017 study published in Science Advances looked at plastics created from 1950 to 2015. It concluded that most plastic ends up in the trash, as less than one percent of plastic is recycled more than once. Should these low rates continue, there could be more than 26 million pounds of plastic waste by 2050.
Eating less meat is a surefire way to lower your carbon footprint. Beef and lamb are large sources of methane, a notorious global warming gas. Consider this: a single pound of beef takes over 5,000 gallons of water to generate. You don’t have to go vegan or vegetarian, but consider "Meatless Mondays" or abstaining whenever possible.
Whenever possible, unplug your electronics because even when they’re off, or all charged up, they’re consuming energy. A study of Northern California found roughly 25% of all residential energy consumption is spent on devices in idle power mode — according to HuffPost, this so-called “vampire power” drains $19 billion in energy a year. Since electricity productions accounts for 37% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, unplugging is the way to go.
How you get from point A to point B has a significant environmental impact. Walking, biking or taking public transport are all better than the driving your car. In the United States, public transportation is responsible for saving 37 million tons of carbon emissions annually. Even so, transportation is the largest source of carbon dioxide in the nation.