It can seem overwhelming to go green. After all, just one hour spent looking at how one eco blogger eliminated all garbage output from her home can make you feel woefully inadequate. Other people show us how it’s possible to subsist only on organic free-range foods, or how to live with just 10 clothing items.
I’m just not at that level right now. But luckily, small things really can make a big difference. In fact, even the laziest and most indifferent tree-huggers can do small things that make a big difference over time. So, here are 10 things you can do today to be more eco-friendly. I’ve carefully chosen things that you can either do in one sitting or small habits you can start today that won’t even affect or inconvenience your life (but will have a great effect on the world around you.)
So, you’re out of excuses!
- Switch out your lights for the expensive light bulbs: CFLs or LEDs last up to 10 times longer than old-fashioned light bulbs, and they take a lot less energy. That means that you’re actually saving money in the long run, just from not having to replace the bulb as often. So, there’s less waste from throwing out and buying new light bulbs, in addition to the energy savings.
- Unplug appliances that aren’t in use, including the toaster, television, etc. You can also put important electronics onto a power strip that’s easy to switch off when you go to bed. This prevents phantom electric draw that seeps out whenever things are plugged in.
- Never buy plastic-wrapped products at the store if there’s another option. Even when plastic products are recyclable, they require more energy to produce. So, when you’re deciding between eggs in a plastic carton and ones in cardboard, pick the cardboard. Laundry soap in a paper box or in a plastic bottle? Choose paper. This applies for milk, soap, and juice too. Even yogurt and frozen foods will often have alternative options to plastic packaging. Not only does this reduce your plastic waste (which is a nightmare for the environment) but it also flexes your buying power to support companies that are choosing more sustainable packaging.
- Buy a reusable water bottle you love: This step, of course, is useless unless you keep the next part of it, which is to never buy plastic water bottles again! Honestly, plastic water bottles should be for emergency use only. You can plow through enough plastic to pollute the San Francisco Bay without even noticing it.
- Switch to an eco-friendly toothbrush: Did you know one of the most common items found in the miasma of shoreline plastic waste is toothbrushes? It makes sense once you think about it. Dentists recommend that we change toothbrushes every 3-5 months and yet the plastic used for toothbrushes is seldom recyclable (and even if it is, how many of us think about it?) You have options for other toothbrushes, from biodegradable bamboo ones to a subscription for recycled toothbrushes.
- Stop driving over the speed limit: Sure, you want to get to work on time. But did you know that the speed limit isn’t just about safety? The most efficient speed for most cars is about 55 mph. Going 65 mph instead guzzles about 10% more gasoline. And if you’re going higher than that, it goes up exponentially. So, don’t go slower than what’s safe, but stop speeding! You can also reduce your gas usage by driving less aggressively. Speed up gradually instead of flooring it.
- Give your car a tune-up: Always change the filter and get repairs when necessary. Not only does this help your car live longer, but it also makes it more fuel efficient. A badly running engine will take up 50% more fuel and give off 50% more emissions than a smooth-running vehicle.
- Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater: It costs roughly $20 and makes your heater run 10% more efficiently. Not only does this reduce greenhouse emissions, but it also saves you a significant amount of money on your gas bill after a few years.
- Go through all your mail and change subscriptions (as much as possible) to paperless options. You can do this with magazines and newspapers, reading them instead on your phone or e-reader. Most banks and utility companies will also allow you to get email bills and notifications instead of paper mail. The advertisements will be the hardest things to stop, but you can do it if you track them down. Speaking of going paperless, if you work in an office, this is another place you can make a difference. Switch your business mail, billing, and advertising to digital options whenever possible. It’s an easy change, helps you keep better records, and can be a great start for a green initiative at work.
- Use bar soap instead of bottles of body wash: You can get the same lather on your loofah by sudsing up the bar soap against it, and you avoid plowing through so many plastic bottles. Most of the plastic used for shampoo and soap bottles aren’t even recyclable. I also find that there’s more variety in scents, beneficial features, and texture when you browse bar soaps instead of body wash.
I hope Christine’s tips have inspired you to make your life a little more environmentally friendly! Thanks to Christine Hill for being a regular guest contributor on the blog!
What tips or tricks do you have that you use to be a little more green?
Share in the comments below!
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