Every day, we have the opportunity to change the world through a set of seemingly mundane choices. The good news is that by choosing to cohabitate with neighbours in an apartment building, you've already selected the most environmentally friendly housing option available. High-density, apartment-style living results in lower per-capita energy use than suburban and even rural lifestyles.
In honour of Earth Day 2021, we've compiled five ways to live in a more environmentally sustainable way for the betterment of your life and the planet's.
Transition to Reusables
Often, the answers to big questions regarding the environment feel far out of reach, in the hands of policymakers. However, reducing the amount of single-use plastic you purchase is one of the most direct ways to integrate principles of sustainability into your daily life. It has never been easier to make the transition, with bamboo toothbrushes, beeswax wrap, plastic bag alternatives, reusable straws and any number of other biodegradable and reusable alternatives flooding the market.
A report by the Center for International Environmental Law found that by 2050, annual CO2 emissions from plastic could grow to more than 2.75 billion tonnes. Transitioning from single-use plastic products to reusable versions is one straightforward way to reduce the amount of waste you create directly.
Unlock The Magic of Food Waste
When food waste ends up in landfills, it takes significantly longer to break down, as the environment lacks oxygen. In this anaerobic environment, instead of producing carbon dioxide, rotting food waste creates methane — a greenhouse gas far more dangerous and potent. In this context, it's crucial to make your food go as far as possible.
Unlocking the magic of food waste can be done in many ways. Keep vegetable scraps in your freezer to make a tasty broth; combine coffee grounds, eggshells, and banana peels to make a DIY plant fertilizer for your garden; you can even save orange peels to make a quick and easy candle! If you are repurposing food waste for multiple uses, you are doing the planet a favour.
Give Yourself a Tech Check
"Phantom loads" or "vampire power" is all of the energy that is used up when electronics are plugged in but not in use. Reducing the amount of phantom electricity you use will help the environment and can reduce your electricity bill by up to 10%, according to Natural Resources Canada.
The easiest way to fight vampire power is just by unplugging your devices when you're not using them, as leaving cords plugged in when they're not connected to anything is the primary driver of this form of waste. Using a power bar is the easiest way to enact this change, as simply flipping one switch is far less involved than manually unplugging all your devices. Some "smart" power strips even automatically cut the power to secondary devices (such as a video game console) when the main device is turned off. Fighting sources of phantom power is a clear win-win for the environment and your wallet.
When it comes to cleaning, most of the time we're not thinking about the products we use — we just want to get the job done as efficiently and quickly as possible. However, the unfortunate truth is that household cleaners are a major source of environmental harm, with a particularly strong impact on urban air pollution.
Baking soda and vinegar are inexpensive, natural, and effective household cleaning staples used by many people trying to reduce the amount of polluting cleaning detergents they use in their homes. However, there are hundreds of at-home DIY fixes out there, waiting to be tested by you!
Image: The balcony view from 3000 Yonge St.
Make The Most of Your Balcony
Balconies are more than just a place to catch some rays on a sunny Toronto summer day: they can be meccas for urban, eco-friendly living. The most obvious sustainable use for balconies is as a cost-effective, easy alternative to a dryer. Line-drying your clothing can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by over a ton every year.
The other key upside to maximizing your balcony use is that any food you can grow in a potted balcony garden is something you didn't purchase, and therefore something that didn't pass through a long, environmentally-intensive production line. Keep in mind that living sustainability is not a black and white affair: every little choice and action counts in the fight to help the environment.