Ten Ways I Can Lower My Environmental Impact

I spend my days telling you how to improve your environmental decision-making. You can turn the water off when you brush your teeth. You should carpool or ride your bike. You should water your lawn less.

For many of you, these gentle reminders help, and collectively their impacts make a big difference.


Jamie with her more-than-gently-used bicycle purchased second hand more than eight years ago.

But sometimes, it can feel disingenuous. While I always try to put Earth first, I know that I still have many opportunities to improve my own environmental decision-making. So, today I thought I’d share with you ten ways that I can shrink my carbon footprint.

  1. Buy sustainable cat food – My cats love some fishy food, but not all cat food is made equally. Globally, our demand for fish has stressed the ocean’s health. I can commit to only purchasing cat food that contains sustainably sourced seafood. Or, even better, I can purchase local, organic cat food options.
  2. Buy organic sun block – My fair skin and freckles escape no one. I have two choices for sun protection—move back to Oregon where it rains 9 months out of the year or soak in sun block. I should commit to only purchasing organic, Earth-friendly sun blocks that don’t cover me in chemicals and that don’t adversely affect our waters.
  3. Recycle used bike parts – Mostly I’m referring to old bike tubes. I try to find bike kitchens in San Diego to which I can take all my used parts, but I should try harder to get old bike tubes to a recycling center.
  4. Use my dishwasher – Currently, my used dishwasher exists only to take up space. If I fixed it and waited until we filled it completely, I would most likely us less water and energy when washing my dishes.
  5. Get reusable bags for produce and bulk items– I’m fully committed to bringing my reusable bags to the grocery story. And many times I stuff items directly into my bike bags. But I have one more step to take and that’s bringing my own reusable produce bags to buy small items that mushrooms, oatmeal, rice, coffee beans etc.
  6. Stop buying disposable Tupperware – The whole idea kind of offends me–why buy Tupperware if I am not going to commit to keeping it whole, clean and useful? Why buy Tupperware at all? I’ve recently fallen in love with reusing glass jars to transport my leftovers to work for lunch. I can commit to making food transport possible without buying products—real Tupperware or the disposable kind—to make it convenient.
  7. Stop frequenting restaurants that use polystyrene – My favorite burrito shop shouldn’t remain at the top of my culinary list if it continues to use plastic foam to serve food. I should use my dollars to support restaurants making sustainable choices.
  8. Compost – According to the EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals constitute 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. Even though I live in a condo complex, I can compost my organic food waste to reduce how much garbage my household sends to landfills.
  9. Stop buying overly packaged items – Packaging creates waste. So many things we purchase as consumers comes well packaged so that it looks nice so that we buy it. It’s completely unnecessary. I can commit to using my purchasing dollars to support companies that package with Earth in mind (or even better, that don’t package at all).
  10. Buy gently used items – Since a young age, I’ve loved garage selling. That’s right, my mom taught me that as a verb—it was a thing we’d do at least once a month. While I turn to used stores for many items, I don’t always go there first. I can replace broken drinking glasses, lost silverware, worn rugs and tired blankets by first seeing which thrilling finds I can discover at one of my local favorite thrift shops.

I like to think of myself as a very Earth-friendly consumer and resident on this planet. I already do so many things to lessen my impact, but I know that I can always do more. I try to remember that I don’t have to find perfection on day one, but that I always have to strive to improve who I am. We all have a little to learn.

What one extra step can you take to reduce your carbon footprint?