The Green Life: 10 Climate Mistakes Millennials Can Easily Rectify

by Assya Barrette

We all love nature's pristine forests, majestic polar bears and endless lakes.

Being in and around the environment is invigorating and inspiring. But sadly, in all its beauty, our world is not-so-slowly being destroyed by human-caused climate change.

The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do about these destructive behaviors.

If you can manage to change these 10 common environmentally destructive behaviors, you’ll be making an incredible contribution to helping humanity preserve its only home.

1. You’re politically apathetic.

By standing on the sidelines during elections, you're letting other people make decisions about your future. This is exceptionally dire for young people, the ones who will suffer due to decisions made today.

There are many ways to become politically active, including voting at every election, getting involved with lobbying your representative and even running for office. According to Politco, only "[a]bout half of all eligible people ages 18-29" voted in the last presidential election.

You need to help better that number.

2. You’re eating too much meat.

Meat is an extremely resource-heavy food. Americans consume more than three times the global average meat consumption, with a preference for beef.

Beef is especially burdensome on the environment. It takes up to 2,500 gallons of water to make a single pound of beef. Red meat produces 10 to 40 times more greenhouse gas emissions than our favorite plant foods.

If that’s not enough, animal agriculture is also responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon destruction.

Do the planet a huge favor, and reduce your meat intake. This could include doing "Meatless Monday," reducing your meat intake to only a few times per week or even adopting a vegetarian diet.

3. You’re driving way too much.

It’s sad how much an average person will use his or her vehicle, even for very short trips. The average American walks less than 400 yards a day.

Driving too much is destructive on so many fronts. Not only is transportation one of the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but car accidents cause over 30,000 deaths per year. Lack of exercise also has numerous negative effects.

Driving less is easy. Make a commitment to walk to anything within one mile of your home. Those who take public transportation more often are also the ones who walk the most. Plus, avoiding your car makes it far cheaper to get around.

4. You’re drinking bottled water.

Bottled water has recently overtaken soda as America’s most popular drink. This is good news for our health, but horrible news for the environment.

A single bottle of water takes three times its volume in water to create. In 2007, bottled water production consumed between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil.

When everything is said and done, the leftover bottles place a huge burden on municipalities to recycle and send to the dump. Avoid this unnecessary convenience.

Buy a reusable water bottle, use fountains or simply go without. It’s really not worth it.

5. You’re buying new stuff all the time.

When was the last time you searched online classifieds or thrift stores for something you needed to buy? Our collective habit of insisting everything we buy needs to be brand-new is highly destructive.

Things like clothing are being thrown away at record rates, despite the fact many items can be reused. The next time you need something, such as clothing, furniture, kitchenware and the like, do the Earth a favor and buy it secondhand. You'll be surprised to find there are many like-new or brand-new things being sold in secondhand markets.

It’s a great way to reduce waste and save resources, all the while saving lots of cash.

6. You own way too much stuff.

Take a look around your home. Chances are, there are tons of stuff you hardly use or have even forgotten about.

Why does this matter?

First, you may inadvertently buy something you already own.

Second, you might be owning something you don’t use, but that someone else might need. You can prevent that person from buying it new by placing it up on online classifieds or giving it away.

Third, you leave the habit of buying things you don’t need or want unaddressed.

Only owning things you love and truly need, or adopting minimalism, is a powerful way to go green.

7. You're throwing out lots of food.

In North America, nearly 40 percent of all food produced is thrown into the trash. This discarded food represents a waste of over 25 percent of total freshwater used in the US, as well as large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, land and labor.

Shockingly, the average US household throws out 25 percent of the food they purchase. You can address this issue by planning out meals, sticking to a strict grocery list, freezing excess food for later use and being creative with your cooking to use leftover ingredients.

8. You’re not composting.

After recycling materials, food waste represents the largest component of municipal solid waste. Instead of composting harmlessly into usable fertilizer, biodegradable waste is sent to the dump, where it decomposes to produce up to 23 percent of the USA's methane gas emissions (a powerful greenhouse gas).

Think you can’t compost? Think again.

Even if you live in an apartment, you can start a worm bin on your balcony or underneath your sink. Some cities and towns even have community compost bins, which allow you to freeze your food scraps and drop them off when you have time.

9. You don’t know your neighbor.

People in North America (and around the world) are becoming increasingly socially isolated. In addition to harming your health, being isolated from your direct community also harms the Earth.

When you don’t know people, it’s hard and awkward to ask for help. So instead, you save yourself the trouble and buy what you could have otherwise shared with a neighbor.

So many things we all individually own could be shared, such as vacuums and lawnmowers. Try to make time to create meaningful connections with those living around you.

10. You’re not paying attention to climate control.

Heating and cooling can take up nearly 50 percent of a home’s energy usage, making it the single largest use of energy in homes.

Make sure you're turning off or down your cooling and heating before leaving the house. A bit of mindfulness about this goes a long way.

These planet-ruining behaviors may not be obvious, but when you understand what they are and why they are harmful, they're super simple to rectify.