Environment

Environmentally Friendly

With the impending doom of climate change lingering over everyone’s heads, there is a strong pressure to be more environmentally friendly in every day activities. I am trying to be more minimalist and zero waste in my day to day life, although it is a bit difficult, the rewards are worth it. It’s healthier, self-conscious, better for the world around us, and it is possible to save some money too. Here’s some changes I’ve tried to make, or plan on doing in the near future. Check it out and see if they fit into your lifestyle as well!

1. I take public transit everywhere! It’s awfully easy while living in Taipei. The MRT is very convenient to get you around almost anywhere in the city, from the North coast to Taipei 101, and further south to Maokong (貓空). Buses are also handy if you want to travel to the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院), hiking in Yangmingshan (陽明山), or just getting around in day to day life. Taipei (as well as Kaohsiung) have similar bike programs where anyone can rent a bike to go from one place to another. It’s an effective program with where I see almost everyone, from students to businessmen using the bikes to travel. It can reduce emissions from cars, especially when travelling shorter distances. Each station in Taipei has a bike station. Furthermore, travelling around the island of Taiwan is relatively easy as well. There’s buses, trains, or the high speed rail to get from city to city. In my year in Taiwan, I’ve strictly used public transportation to travel around. Maybe because I don’t own a car or a scooter… Regardless, it’s convenient. City planning in Taipei definitely gets an A+.

In Canada, it’s a lot more difficult to survive without a personal vehicle. I think it’s due to vastness of the country. In major cities like Toronto or Vancouver, one can get around on public transit, like the subway/skytrain or city buses. However, travelling from one city to another is difficult. I have taken the via rail from Ottawa to Toronto numerous times, and it’s always a hassle. It’s expensive, there’s often delays, and it’s very slow. Taking the bus to my boyfriend’s home or back to my home city takes very long as well. It’s a difference of 3hrs by bus or 45min by car. Canada’s public transit is not up to par with Japan or Taiwan. In smaller towns (which is most of Canada), public transit may cease to exist at all.

Nevertheless, when I would commute to school or to work in my home city, I still used the bus. Sometimes it is quicker to bike than bus, which is healthy for both the environment and one’s body. To visit my friend’s in the same city, I often bike in the summer, spring, or autumn. It may be difficult in the US or Canada to cut a personal car out of daily life, but one can still use public transit or a bike whenever it is possible. It’s also possible to car pool in group settings to prevent extra vehicles on the road. Every little bit helps. Don’t use a car for short trips! If you’re reluctant to switch to public transportation, think about this. Instead of driving and being stressed in traffic, you can sit and read a book on the bus or subway, browse social media, or play video games on a portable console. In the mornings, I even like to sleep on the bus.

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Vancouver prides itself in being a green city, with public transportation, large parks, and even a lot of community gardens.

2. Reusable grocery bags can help reduce plastic in landfills. Instead of buying plastic bags at the counter, just bring your own reusable grocery bag. They can be cute tote bags you can customize, or simply the ones you can purchase for a small amount of money at the grocery store. In the long run, you save money, kind of like an investment. If the few cents saved every time you shop isn’t enough, maybe it’s just enough to know you are being environmentally conscious. I always keep my grocery bags near the front door so I remember to pick them up before I leave.

There’s more you can do than just grocery bags! You can bring mason jars (know their weight for the cashier) to bring fruits, vegetables, or meat home instead of the store’s plastic bags. This can help prevent the waste of small twist-ties and elastics. You should also make a list before going to the store to prevent unnecessary purchase that may end up in the garbage because they won’t be eaten. If possible, make the list on an electronic device instead of on paper too.

Other possibilities include changing your own diet to eat less meat (or at least less beef), shop with local groceries (or farmer’s markets), and refuse certain food products based on their packaging (if it’s too wasteful or uses too much plastic wrap). Beef is a huge contributor to climate change – factory farming is incredibly harmful to the Earth. Cows release a large amount of methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), require immense amounts of water, are fed incredible amounts of corn (corn is grown on previously forested lands and is inedible to humans, needs to be transported, and takes the place of other potential crops for human consumption), and is unethical to the cows themselves (they are diseased, cramped, and unhappy).

Some of these may be more difficult than others, but it’s important to at least try to enact some changes in order to be more green. It’s our Earth and we’re the ones leaving it for future generations.

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Fish populations are decreasing, coral reefs are dying, and all waste eventually returns to the ocean. It’s worth keeping in mind.

3. Keep a minimalist bedroom. This is the one I have the hardest time with because I love clutter. I have a small obsession with collecting things, which is normal in our consumerist society, but regardless of my small love-affair I have tried to clean out my bedroom.

It’s necessary to only keep clothes you know for certain you will wear again. Don’t keep too many “I know I will wear this one day” outfits. It only takes up space. Also, try to arrange the clothes in a way you can see most of them. This way you won’t make too many impulsive purchases if you know which clothes you have and don’t have. The best thing to do is donate the clothes to charity that are not worn-out, but that aren’t being worn.

It’s important when you need to buy clothes to buy ethical clothes as well. Check the company’s website to make sure they are produced ethically and not in a sweatshop. Locally produced clothes would be ideal, or at least knowing the workers in other countries are receiving a living wage and safe work conditions. Companies that are not ethical include H&M, Zara, Gap, Forever 21, and Joe Fresh. There are more, so try to keep informed. If the price is astounding low, likely the savings are coming from another’s expense.

I have a lot of books. I love reading. However, some of these books I’ll never read again. Is there a point to using up space with countless books that won’t be touched? No, although some people like to keep their own personal library (which is perfectly okay). If you can bear to part with some books, then maybe donate them to a library or to charity for other people to enjoy. Of course, keep the books you absolutely love or plan to read again. However, removing piles of books will open up space for useful belongings, or just to tidy up a cluttered room. In their place it is possible to display items that bring happiness. The idea for this comes from Marie Kondo, the author of Spark Joy and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

4. There’s many other simple changes I could make to my lifestyle more sustainable and environmentally conscious.
– Shorter showers
– Not using the air conditioning all the time in the summer
– Recycling bottles and papers
– Try to minimize the amount of single use items (Handkerchief instead of Kleenex, Diva Cup instead of tampons, using reusable fabric pads)

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Biking is a great way to get around and to stay active. No carbon emissions, just calories burnt!

One person won’t change the world, but many acting with a common goal will. Contact local politicians as well to try to make greener changes in your hometown. There’s a lot to do, but nothing is impossible.

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