If you’re looking to develop eco-friendly habits but don’t know where to start, there are plenty of simple ways to help keep the Earth clean and green. For anyone feeling blue about their impact on the environment, here are 15 easy ways to live a little greener.
1. REMEMBER TO RECYCLE.
If you’re not already recycling your trash, now’s the time to start. Buy a couple of extra trash bins to sort your paper, plastic, and glass into each week. And don’t skimp on recycling when you’re out on the town. Wait to toss that empty soda can or takeout container until you find the appropriate recycling bin. If you’re already an experienced recycler, take your good habits one step further by searching your house for recyclables that can’t go out on the curb (batteries, old electronics, and ink cartridges can all be recycled at designated recycling centers) or starting a compost bin for organic waste.
2. DITCH PLASTIC BAGS.
Ending your reliance on plastic bags is easy: Just grab a reusable tote bag and bring it with you on your shopping trips. Not only will you be reducing the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills, but you’ll be reducing the number of plastic bags that you end up shoving under your sink. If you’re worried you’ll forget your tote bag, buy one that’s compact and foldable, and just store it in your backpack, purse, or briefcase.
3. BURN LESS FUEL.
Cut down on fuel emissions by carpooling to work, hopping on your bike, or leaving your car parked nearby while you run errands on foot. There are plenty of ways to cut back on the amount of time you spend in the car or burn less fuel while you’re driving. You can improve gas mileage, for instance, by making sure your tires are fully inflated and eliminating excess weight by keeping your trunk empty.
4. USE YOUR DISHWASHER.
A lot of people think that using the dishwasher wastes water, but that’s not always the case. As long as you wait until your dishwasher is completely full to run it, you’ll actually be saving more water than you would washing dishes by hand.
5. PRINT DOCUMENTS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PAGE.
Cut back on paper waste by choosing double-sided printing. You’ll be reducing the amount of paper you use by 50 percent just by quickly adjusting the print settings on your word processing program. What could be easier than saving trees with just the click of a button?
6. SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES.
Seek out nearby businesses and farmers markets that sell locally grown foods and sustainable products. Do a little research on the businesses in your area, and find out which ones make eco-friendly practices a priority. The simple act of frequenting businesses in your neighborhood will also help you cut down on gas use.
7. SKIP MEAT ONCE A WEEK.
Even if you’re eating locally grown food, raising meat still takes a lot more energy than growing fruits and veggies. Skipping meat at least once a week is an easy way to live a little greener, and be a little healthier, too.
8. CHANGE YOUR LIGHT BULBS.
Switch out your old fashioned incandescents for some energy efficient light bulbs like CFL’s (compact fluorescent lamps) or LED bulbs. While many of the energy saving bulbs are a little more expensive, they also last a lot longer, which will save you money in the long run.
9. UNPLUG YOUR ELECTRONICS.
Make sure not to leave anything plugged into your walls, since a lot of electronics use up electricity even when they’re turned off. Or, if it’s too much of a hassle to unplug each device manually when you’re not using it, use a power strip that can be turned off when your appliances aren’t in use.
10. USE A CLOTHES LINE.
Reducing the use of your dryer saves money, uses fewer chemicals, and saves electricity. Plus, it’s better for your clothes. Dryers not only shrink and damage delicate clothing, but wear down even the toughest fabrics over time. If you don’t have the time to let all of your clothes dry naturally, use an outdoor clothes line or indoor drying rack for just some of your laundry. With less laundry in your dryer, your clothes will dry faster, using less energy.
11. USE CLOTH NAPKINS.
Pretty much any time you can replace a disposable item with something reusable, you’re helping the environment. Using silverware instead of plastic utensils is a no brainer, but a lot of us are still using paper napkins when we could be using cloth. Buy a nice set of cloth napkins, or cut old clothes and bedding into cleaning rags that can be used in lieu of paper towels.
12. BUY USED CLOTHES AND FURNITURE…
Check out local vintage and second-hand stores for awesome used clothing and furniture. Or, use the Internet. A lot of people sell their lightly used furniture at an extreme discount when they move, which means your next great dining room table, ottoman, or desk could be waiting for you just a few doors down or a couple blocks away.
13. …AND DONATE YOUR OWN USED CLOTHING.
Instead of throwing away used clothes, donate them to charity or sell them to a vintage clothing store. They might not be your style anymore, but they could be perfect for someone else.
14. USE A CEILING FAN INSTEAD OF AN AIR CONDITIONER.
If it’s not unbearably hot, save energy by turning on your ceiling fan instead of your air conditioner. And for those hot summer days when life without air conditioning is unbearable, make sure all of your windows are closed before turning the machine on to ensure no air escapes.
15. OPT FOR A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE OR TRAVEL MUG.
Reduce plastic cup and bottle waste by carrying your own portable water bottle or coffee thermos. Some coffee shops even give a discount to those who bring their own mug, so you’ll be saving money while you save the environment.