Plenty of people are trying to find a way to be more environmentally friendly, but sometimes it can feel like a daunting task. At times things like drought, pollution, and smog can seem like overwhelming problems that can’t be changed with the actions of just one person.
Fortunately, that’s simply not true. There are small things you can do in your everyday life that really make a difference and if everyone were to do these things the change would be significant.
To help get started doing things that can make a difference in the environment, we’ve compiled a few tips to be eco-friendlier that you can start doing today!
1Buy a Stainless Steel Water Bottle
One easy first step is to stop buying bottled water. In the U.S. alone, every day over more than 35 billion single-use plastic water bottles are thrown out, and most of them end up in garbage dumps or the ocean.
It’s easy to stop contributing to this mountain of pollution, and it will even save you money while you’re doing it. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and just fill it up when you need a bottle of water. Today there are many companies that make double-walled insulated bottles that keep cold liquids cold and hot liquids hot for many hours.
There are so many benefits to this one simple action. First, you’ll stop adding more plastic to the world’s overflowing landfills. You also will stop spending the time, gas, and effort driving to the store and lugging those heavy cases of water back home.
Since stainless steel bottles keep your liquids cold (or hot) for hours, that is a benefit no plastic bottle can accomplish. On top of everything else, you will end up saving yourself money along the way, since you’ll buy the reusable bottle once yet use it over and over again.
If you drink more than a bottle a day, or simply want like having cold bottles of water at the ready, buy multiple re-usable water bottles and keep them in the fridge.
If the cost of buying one or multiple water bottles is cost-prohibitive, you can accomplish the same thing by reusing the plastic bottles you have. The only issue with this approach is that those plastic bottles are not durable, don’t last forever, and thus must be thrown out or recycled, so it’s best if you can buy reusable stainless steel ones.
If you don’t enjoy the quality of the tap water where you live, all you need to do is buy a jug with a water filter and you’ll have plenty of tasty filtered water at home.
2Choose Alternatives to Plastic and Paper
We use plastic and paper many ways every day, and just like those single-use water bottles, all the garbage from that use ends up in our landfills. However, by being observant to the opportunities for conservation in our lives, we can implement some great (and cheap!) alternatives to single-use plastic and paper products.
- Instead of using a plastic straw for your restaurant or take out drinks, buy a stainless steel straw and bring it with you. They’re easy to use, easy to carry, and easy to clean.
- Use rags to clean in place of paper towels.
- Simply set aside an old tee-shirt, towel, or other pieces of cotton you were planning to throw away and cut up the fabric to use as your cleaning rags.
- You can store a basket of rags under your kitchen sink and they will be ready whenever you need them. They also easy to wash, as you can just throw them in the laundry and they’re good to go again.
- To bag your groceries when you go to the store, buy some cloth bags (or repurpose cloth bags you already own) to take the place of the plastic and paper bags the store offers.
- Simply store them in the trunk of your car and bring them in with you when you shop. Over the course of a year, you’ll keep well over a hundred bags from filling landfills.
3Eat More Leftovers
You may not think your dinner scraps are an environmental issue but throwing out less food actually helps the environment quite a bit. It will also help you save money and time, while you’re at it.
Experts estimate that as much as 40 percent of the food produced every year in the United States ends up getting thrown out. It’s all those leftovers that went bad, or extra food that went uneaten, and it adds up to a big burden on our environment. Growing, shipping and storing food uses up a great deal of energy, and when food is thrown out, it rots and creates methane gas.
It’s an easy problem to fix. Plan out your meals so that you’re serving the right portion sizes. Order less in restaurants, so you’re not leaving food behind on your plate. You can always order more if you’re still hungry. Try to eat those leftovers the next day. Bring them to school or work for lunch and save yourself money! Check out recipes online for how to creatively repurpose your leftovers (last night’s roast chicken becomes tonight’s chicken pot pie!).
4Consider Eating Less Red Meat
Even if going vegetarian or vegan is not your thing, by rethinking even one meal a week you can help the environment.
Raising and feeding cattle, then processing and distributing their beef around the world, create as much as 40 times the greenhouse gas emissions created by framing grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Cattle ranching is responsible for large-scale deforestation worldwide, and the sewage waste created by cattle farms can be on the same scale as some small cities. Fish, or other meats such as pork or chicken, have a far smaller environmental footprint than beef.
It’s not the cows themselves that are the problem. It’s an enormous number of them. With global demand for the beef growing year after year, cattle ranches are growing both in the number and size.
By choosing once a week to eat chicken, pork, or fish in place of beef – or even opting for a vegetarian meal – you will save money, eat healthily, and help the environment.
Whether you live in a house, condo, or apartment, you can compost your old food scraps. Composting keeps food and garden waste out of your local landfill, and it creates fresh, nutrient-rich soil that you can use in your garden or your potted plants.
To start composting buy a small pail with a lid for your kitchen and use it to store all the scraps from your fruits and vegetables. Use things such as potato peelings, apple cores, and carrot tops. Be sure to not include any animal-based waste.
If you have a backyard, you can create a compost pile where you empty your bin and cover it with dirt. If you live in a condo or apartment, you can buy a small composter for your balcony. Read the instructions and follow them closely.
It’s a good idea to read some online articles about composting and don’t worry about the smell (the smell will be ameliorated if you choose a proper bin with a lid). If you follow the instructions, compost will smell fresh and earthy, not like rotting food.
6Buy Better Light Bulbs
The next time one of your light bulbs burns out, the choice you make for a replacement bulb can help the environment.
Old fashioned incandescent lights are inefficient and generate more heat than light. New energy-saving light bulbs like LEDs and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are phenomenal, eco-friendly alternatives. LED and CFL light bulbs may cost more, but both use much less electricity to use and last much longer than their incandescent cousins, and thus will save you a tremendous amount of money over their lifespan.
Speaking of lights, your mother was right – you need to turn out the lights when you leave a room. The simple act of turning off the lights will save you money and one of the easiest ways to becoming more eco-friendly every day.