The List: Easy ways to practice sustainability

Category:  Opinions
Sunday, November 15th, 2020 at 4:19 PM
The List: Easy ways to practice sustainability by Emily Anderson

Living a sustainable life doesn’t mean creating zero waste, growing all your own food and giving up modern comforts. It’s really just about making smarter choices day-to-day. 

The climate crisis is no joke. According to NASA, climate change is “extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and [is] proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.” It’s important for people to take steps to reduce the impact we’ve had on the planet, so it continues to be livable for the generations beyond us.

Sustainability can be very daunting at first glance, but it really isn’t that hard. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between the human population and the biosphere of Earth; currently, the human population is benefiting much more from this relationship. Society thrives with fossil fuels and oil while the natural landscapes are being ripped apart. 

There are really simple changes people can make to practice sustainability and work toward reducing the human impact of global warming.

Say “No” to single-use plastics

There has been much debate over plastic straws lately. They may not be good for the environment, but there are so many other single-use plastics that people should be saying “no” to beyond a straw in their iced coffee. Invest in reusable grocery bags for shopping. Bonus: the thick fabric is much less likely to rip when filled with heavy objects, unlike flimsy plastic. Try a reusable cup when you can. Right now, because of the pandemic, places like Starbucks and Tim Hortons are not allowing customers to use their own cups for the safety of employees, but once you can, you should. Bonus points if the reusable cup you use isn’t made from plastic! Also, consider getting a reusable water bottle. Not only are reusable bottles much cuter than the plastic ones, but they’re so much better for the planet. According to, “Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.” By choosing a reusable water bottle, you could save over 150 bottles annually.

Donate unused items

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Instead of throwing away things you no longer use in your house, donate them! Not only can this cut down on the amount of trash entering landfills, but it can really help someone. Thrift shopping may be trendy, but it’s also a very cost-effective way of buying things if someone cannot afford name-brand stores. That chair you have with the slightly wonky leg might be exactly what someone is looking for. You can donate to places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill, but if you’re looking for a place closer to home, Erie Times-News has a list. 

Be smart about your food

Buying organic, GMO-free, ethically-sourced food can be expensive. A pound of fair trade, organic coffee beans from artisan shops can run upward of $20, but you can buy 32 ounces of Tim Hortons ground coffee for $15. Choosing sustainable food options is important but sometimes it’s not so easy. It’s better for the planet, and probably you, in the long run, but it’s not always a viable option for some. So, instead, try to buy produce from local sellers. This is pretty hard out of season, but in warmer months it becomes easier. Usually, it’s less expensive than produce in stores and it supports members of the community. According to, “Each pound of local food you purchase prevents a quarter pound of climate change (C02) emissions.” Also, try to buy food with little to no packaging or that has recyclable packaging. If you’re feeling wild, try making some vegan recipes! You might like it and incorporating vegan options in your diet is good for the planet as it cuts down on CO2 emissions.

Watch your energy

Cutting down on your electricity use is way simpler than you think, and you don’t even have to give anything up! Check your lightbulbs and change them all to LEDs. Not only is this better for the planet, but LED lightbulbs last so much longer than traditional bulbs. And remember to turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. During the day, consider opening your blinds and letting the sun in. We get so little sun in Edinboro in the winter, so take advantage of it. Using the sun as your primary source of light during the day means you can conserve energy by not turning the lights on and those LEDs will last even longer. That coffee maker you use at 7 a.m., then not again until the next morning? Unplug it after you’re done. Appliances that are not in use still get energy directed to them. And if you’re in the market for new appliances, big or small, research and see which ones are energy efficient before purchasing. Not only is this good for the planet, but in the long run it will save you money on bills.  

Paper cuts

No, not the annoying things you get on your fingers. Cut back on the amount of paper you use. Opt for electronic bills when possible. Decline a receipt or ask for an emailed one when shopping. Borrow books from the library or a friend instead of buying. If you have a magazine or newspaper subscription, consider switching to a digital version. If you have a tablet, it’s like the real thing except you won’t get literal papercuts. 

Recycle the paper you get in the mail. If it contains sensitive information and you need to shred it, recycle the shredding! Students: recycle those notes you have no use for at the end of the semester. Take the time to remove with wiring from notebooks and recycle the paper inside. If you feel comfortable, take notes electronically instead of buying a paper notebook. Or you could invest in a reusable notebook. They’re so cool.

Sustainability isn’t rocket science; it’s actually quite simple. Yes, you could take it to the extreme, but that’s not required to make a difference. Choosing smart options that help the planet might be a little difficult at first, especially if you aren’t used to it, but practice makes perfect! This is the only home we have, and at the rate we’re going we might not have it for much longer. Practicing sustainability not only benefits the people of today, but in the long run it will help generations to come. There are so many more ways you can help, but these are just five simple suggestions.

 Emily Anderson is the Voices Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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