Tackling the issue of global warming may seem like a daunting effort, but Madeline Coffey knows of a few easy ways you can make a difference. For her, that’s avoiding meat. Declining just one cheeseburger can save 660 gallons of water.

Tackling the issue of global warming may seem like a daunting effort, but Madeline Coffey knows of a few easy ways you can make a difference. For her, that’s avoiding meat. Declining just one cheeseburger can save 660 gallons of water.

Coffey, the communications and engagement coordinator for Piedmont Environmental Alliance, says eliminating meat was the easiest lifestyle choice she made to live more eco-consciously.

“Considering that livestock agriculture accounts for 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a no-brainer for me,” she says. “It’s something I can do on an individual scale that makes a giant impact.”

And since the cost of canned or dry beans is much less than the price of meat, it’s even benefitted her financially.

“For me, going vegetarian is probably the simplest and most cost-effective environmental choice I’ve made,” she says.

Coffey began paying attention to environmental issues in high school when she started studying climate change. She wanted to implement a recycling program in her small town, but left for college before she was able to do so. Yet, her passion for creating pathways for greater environmental sustainability continued.

“I believe that anyone can become more environmentally conscious,” she says. “I think it takes a willingness to accept that not every lifestyle choice you’re making is environmentally sound; you don’t have to change 100 percent of those choices to make an impact.”

Coffey offers these simple tips that anyone can implement to start living more sustainably.

1. Shop locally.

Buy produce directly from farmers at local markets or look for locally grown products at stores like Buie’s Market or Lowes Foods.

“Anytime you have a product that’s coming from elsewhere in the world, you’re adding so many carbon miles to food,” Coffey says. “The point is not to be hyper local, but be cognizant about knowing where the products you buy are coming from.”

Also, when shopping locally, look for products without plastic packaging. Beyond the waste, it’s a huge carbon footprint to use plastic (consider those fossil fuels), she says.

2. Avoid flying.

OK, so maybe it’s not possible to avoid it entirely. Many of us need to fly to travel for work or to see friends and family. But you can counteract the carbon footprint of that flight by purchasing carbon offsets. This can be done online through a company that will help plant trees or use other types of carbon captured technology to offset the carbon from that flight. Coffey says this can be done for as little as $30 to $40.

“These environmental actions are contagious,” she says. “When people see other people they know who are doing this, it encourages them to want to do it as well.”

3. Purchase solar energy.

Homeowners or renters can purchase renewable energy without installing solar panels. Arcadia Power allows customers to buy excess solar energy from people with solar panels. The solar energy purchased can be used to supplement the electricity from Duke Power. Renters can do this with the cooperation of their landlord.

4. Permaculture gardening or landscaping.

A home garden can restore your landscape to help offset the effects of climate change. Planting native vegetables, plants, and pollinators is restorative and good for the habitat. More plants increase your carbon capture. Gardening methods that include composting food waste also benefits the soil.

5. DIY home cleaning products.

Consider making your own laundry detergent, home spray, and dish soap. It’s cost-effective, eco-friendly, and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. Coffey has learned how to make these products through online tutorials.

“When I found out how much money I was wasting on room spray, I was floored,” she says.

With just water, white distilled vinegar and a couple drops of essential oils, she can make up to eight bottles of all-purpose spray.

6. Try going meatless, even if for one day a week.

Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth, according to a Guardian report last year. While it’s not for everyone, avoiding meat — even if just on Meatless Mondays — can still make a considerable difference.

Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases and the warming effect through methane is greater than carbon dioxide. Deforestation and habitat deconstruction has led to mass extinction of wildlife.

Scientists say that giving up beef will reduce carbon footprint more than cars.

Piedmont Environmental Alliance educates and empowers, builds community, and inspires action to create a healthier, more economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable community. For information, go to peanc.org.

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