Why Your Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Might Not Have The Environmental Impact You Hope
by Trisha Leigh
By now, people are starting to open their eyes to the ways our world is changing right before our eyes – and almost none of those changes are for the better.
Which is why most folks will “do their part” as far as the environment when they can.
But, is it doing any good?
In 2021, 21,000 people in 30 countries ranked what actions they thought would be most effective as far as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The top answers were recycling, buying renewable energy, switching to a hybrid vehicle, and buying low-energy lightbulbs.
In actuality, low-energy light bulbs were last in line and recycling was only third from the bottom.
The actual top three options were having one less child, not having a car, and saying no to at least one flight a year.
Likewise, when asked about low-climate-impact diets, people were wrong, too – they thought a locally produced meat and dairy diet was better than a vegetarian diet with some imported products.
Meat and dairy, local or not, require a huge carbon footprint.
If this proves anything, it seems to be that our intuition and education are off when it comes to understanding how we impact the environment and how we can help reduce that impact.
Still, data scientist Hannah Ritchie thinks we can turn things around if we try.
“Tackling climate change feels like a massive sacrifice that has taken over our lives. That would be okay if all of these actions were really making a difference, but they’re not. It’s misplaced effort and stress, sometimes even at the cost of the few actions that really will matter.”
Ritchie and others believe that we rely too heavily on what “feels” natural instead of doing our research about how certain lifestyles actually impact the world around us.
Buying a plastic-wrapped plant-based burger designed in a lab feels weird and unnatural, but it’s a far more environmentally-friendly option than buying a cow from a local farmer.
The same goes for living in a dense urban environment instead of in the suburbs.
Heating and cooling are more efficient and you’re less likely to need (or at least use) your car on a regular basis.
Ritchie has an issue with organic farming, too.
“It’s not obvious that organic farming is better for the environment than ‘conventional’ farming. Organic farms tend to be better for local biodiversity, but because they produce less food per acre they’re bad for land use.”
The EU’s promise to dedicate 25 percent of its farmland to organic will reduce its production by 7%-12%.
The takeaway? We can’t go by “vibes” and appearances if we really want to do what’s best for the earth and reduce our carbon footprint.
You have to get into the nitty-gritty numbers and figured out where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
Or in this case, the least.
If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.