Cities attract people to live in them for a reason. They are often the focal point of commerce, talent, productivity, mercantilism, society, and culture. They draw people in and create immense bodies of community.
However, when you cram a few million people into a few hundred square miles of space, it can lead to excessive waste and increased consumption of goods and energy.
Often, people rely on public utilities, which can be strained by the density of people that need to access them.
But what if there was a way to live in an urban society and be a little more independent? Well, with a small bit of life adjusting, anyone can make life a little cleaner and more efficient for both themself and the people they’re around.
We can serve our community and the environment well by reducing our waste as much as possible. We can do this by composting any organic scraps left over from cooking and spoiled produce. Composting is simple and easy, as it really only requires allocating certain waste from others.
The bigger offender is plastic.
Plastic is everywhere. It’s used for containers, wrapping, tools, furniture, and so on. Plastic can be found in almost anything, and once it’s there, it’s there. The plastic we use in most disposable water bottles can take up to 450 years to decompose, which isn’t exactly helpful for the ecosystem.
Now, you might ask, “can’t we just recycle it all?” Yes, we can. But that requires us to be diligent in actually doing that. Many plastics are still discarded in regular trash that will wind up in a landfill, such as the plastic used for cling wrap and food packaging. Remember that practically anything can be recycled, so before you go to throw something away into the garbage can, ask yourself, “does this belong in the trash?”
However, letting your recycling bin build up over time may not be ideal for a small apartment space in the city. Instead, a better way to save space and the earth is to reduce your use of plastics altogether.
Here are a few ways that people in urban areas can reduce their plastic use and reuse what they have:
- Reusing plastic containers – A lot of the packaging that we get with our purchases is sturdy and reusable, such as water bottles, jugs, and sandwich meat containers.
- Water filter – Instead of using bottled waters and jugs, try a water filter for your kitchen tap or a water-filtering pitcher.
- Silicone bags – You can save money and minimize plastic consumption by avoiding using plastic sandwich bags and instead using reusable, sealable silicone bags
You’d be surprised what all you can repurpose with a little bit of creativity!
With how tightly packed city streets are and how compact the air is, the exhaust and fuel emissions from gas-powered vehicles can be felt everywhere, and it can make the air subtly toxic.
We can combat this in a few ways. Many people will resort to simpler means of traveling, such as by walking or bike riding to their destination in metropolitan areas. Typically, public train or bus systems will be available to reduce the number of vehicles on the streets.
But if you’re someone who wants to drive their own vehicle, you might consider investing in an electric vehicle — not just for the economic advantages but also for the environmental ones too.
Fresh drinking water is nothing to be taken for granted, especially in largely populated areas like cities. Many Americans have the rare privilege of having access to fresh water almost anywhere. But it’s definitely not limitless, and the more you use it, the more your utility bill will start to accumulate.
Since cities have higher densities of people, the demand for utilities can cost more, meaning they can tend to be more expensive than in rural areas. For that reason, limiting your water use will naturally lower your water bill.
Ways you can reduce any reckless consumption of water could be by purchasing a low-flow shower head and limiting dishwasher and machine washings to only when you have full loads to wash, not just partial loads.
In addition, turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You can also take shorter showers, and you can even save your dirty dishwater to water your plants — they are certainly less picky with clean water.
Even though urban living isn’t often associated with homestead practices like gardening, it is possible and it can garner more sustainability in your life in a variety of ways. For one, certain plants are pollinator-friendly and encourage pollinators such as bees and butterflies — which are increasingly becoming endangered — to spread pollen to other plants.
You can also plant your fruits and vegetables which reduces your carbon footprint from supporting grocers that likely shipped their produce from elsewhere on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. To garden in an urban environment you can do so in the following ways:
- Community gardens – These types of gardens are typically free to use for the public or neighborhood and are organized by non-profit and volunteer groups.
- Indoor gardening – Whether you’re growing a couple of plants on your windowsill or some herbs in a pot inside, there are plenty of ways to grow plants inside if you have an apartment.
- Vertical gardening – If you do have a plot of land, but it is small, consider this option. This practice involves growing plants vertically, along existing structures such as poles or walls.
- Rooftop gardening – If you have access to your roof, it may be the perfect area to use a couple of pots to establish your garden.
If you’re ever unsure, check in with your city ordinances to see what is or isn’t legal when it comes to gardening options.
It’s About Balance
By reducing your consumption of water and plastics, finding ways to garden, and properly dealing with your waste and recycling, you’ll also save yourself a substantial amount of money as well.
So do yourself and the ecosystem a favor and try containing the number of resources you use and how you deal with them.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.
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