To those who partake in the world of sustainable research and living, I think there has been a consensus that while big ideas and drastic changes make the fastest and most progressive achievements, they are not the only way. Small, simple ideas that can be implemented in thousands of individual homes or communities are gaining credibility.
Let’s be honest. We can’t all have solar panels on the patios of our one-room apartments, and we can’t all afford to send our current gas guzzling cars to the recycling center and invest in a brand new Prius or Leaf. We certainly can’t grow and produce enough food to feed our families on top of white-collar, 40 hour per week jobs in the city.
I think this feeling of powerlessness is what keeps your average Joe from attempting sustainability and taking on the task of saving the world. But this is a misconception. While we certainly aren’t all white-coat scientists, each member of society can take some simple steps to become more sustainable.
Here are some simple, pragmatic, and yet highly effective home-based solutions to sustainability.
- Recycling is a no brainer these days. I grew up recycling, and I don’t think twice about where my Coke can is headed. As recycling becomes more readily available, society is catching on to the simple idea of reusing packaging. Recycling, however, is only one form of material reuse.
- Composting is another simple way to divert landfill waste, while greatly reducing GHG emissions. Composting can be implemented on a large scale, for example at a university like UT, or it can function quite well on a household scale. Compost goes to the backyard, and soon you’ve got some very fertile soil to grow all the vegetables and flowers you please.
- Many of the simple things we use daily are not only detrimental to the environment, but they are nearly useless. Movements like Be Straw Free, The Mug Project (<– Right here on UT’s campus!), a shift to energy efficient lightbulbs, and home composting are educating people and changing the way we look at our daily amenities.
- Other sustainable household ideas include investing in energy star appliances and well-insulated windows. How about growing your own vegetable garden? Some ways to drastically reduce your carbon footprint are to limit your meat consumption, and buy local meats and veggies. Take those reusable bags to the grocery with you.
- And of course when it comes to transportation, how about taking the bus? Or riding your bike?
There are many simple ways to save the environment, but it will take a whole movement of people participating. You don’t have to sell your car in turn for an electric one; just drive less. It’s the social responsibility of every member of a community to commit to sustainable living. In so many cases, it is cheaper, easier, and healthier to live by green standards; why wouldn’t you?