4 Steps to a Sustainable New Year

Hannah is an Environmental Science student from North Vancouver. When she isn’t studying, you’ll find her working as a lifeguard, training for triathlons, or going on adventures in the outdoors.

The other day, my friend and I were heading to another friend’s house. I suggested walking, as it would only take about 10 minutes. She asked if we could take my car instead. When I told her that I was trying to reduce my fossil fuel consumption, she replied: “C’mon Hannah. You’re just one person. That won’t  make a difference.”

Suddenly, something clicked. This attitude, this idea that our individual lifestyle choices have no effect, is one of the main things that prevents people from trying to reduce their environmental footprint. As of January 2016, there are almost 7.4 billion humans on earth. If everyone made conscientious decisions, the benefit to our planet would be exponential.

However, drastic lifestyle changes can be challenging to make as a university student. We are often limited by time and finances, and for those of us who live at home, the values of our family. Instead, here are 4 simple changes that everyone, myself included, can make to live more sustainably:

 

Image from http://blog.proqc.com

1) Say goodbye to plastic bags.

And paper cups. And plastic water bottles. Instead, buy a tupperware set, a travel mug, and a reusable water bottle. If you need to use a bag for something, wash it with soap and water, let it dry, and then use it again. Most cafes will allow you to fill up a travel mug instead of a disposable cup, and some will even give you a discount for doing so. Finally, Vancouver has some of the best water in the world. There is no need to waste money on bottled water when it’s just as easy to fill up your own.

2) Thrifting, anyone?

Thrifting is a great way to reduce your consumption. As an added bonus, many thrift stores support charity organizations. You can find unique clothes for great prices, and reuse items instead of buying new ones. You may also want to try hosting a clothing swap for your friends. Get everyone to bring all of the clothes they no longer wear, trade with each other, then donate the leftovers.

3) Shorten those showers.

How long do you spend in the shower every day? 5 minutes? 10? 15? A standard shower head emits 15-25 litres of water per minute, while an efficient one may only use 7. This means that If you take a 15 minute shower, you will use between 105 and 375 litres of water. Set a timer for 1 minute less you’re your average shower length. Continue reducing your shower time until you become as efficient as possible, ideally around 5 minutes.

4) Rethink your wheels.

Within your community, it’s easy to walk, bike, or take public transit to your destination. Sometimes however, using a car is almost unavoidable. If you’re heading to SFU, start a carpool with your friends. Try combining your errands into one trip. Too far for transit? Drive partway, then hop on the bus or a skytrain for the rest of your journey.

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