As the world becomes more and more aware of the impacts that everyday activities have on the environment, people are becoming increasingly eco-conscious. If you’re looking to get started with your own eco-friendly actions, here are 13 easy ways to kick start your eco-friendly lifestyle!
1. Buy less stuff
It’s tempting (and easy) to continually purchase things we don’t need. Instead, try not buying anything—even if it seems like a good deal. Only buy items when you absolutely need them and limit yourself to one item per trip. Before long, you’ll notice that your closet is fuller than ever, but you haven’t added anything new in months! It might seem counterintuitive at first, but try giving up those small indulgences and see how much money you save each month.
2. Recycle what you can't buy used
Recycling is easy enough for even a novice environmentalist. If you can't find or afford something used, ask yourself if you really need it at all. And remember that just because you're recycling doesn't mean it's necessarily being done in an eco-friendly way. Before adding an item to your recycling bin, make sure it's not something like plastic foam (styrofoam) packaging—it's too lightweight and breaks down into smaller pieces when in landfills; it never actually goes away—or shredded paper; because its bits are too tiny to actually be recycled, they end up in landfills anyway.
3. Reuse everything else
It’s a well-known fact that plastic water bottles can take 1,000 years to biodegrade. But there are plenty of other single-use products out there that can create trash in a flash. Instead of buying one for each use, reuse everything else you have around your house. Glass jars make great drinking glasses and storage containers. Use old newspaper or toilet paper rolls as gift wrapping instead of buying wrapping paper. Clean clothes last longer than they do after just one washing—and with fewer fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Go through your drawers and find all those spare socks; keep two pairs together (one black, one brown) so you always have something clean on hand when your laundry pile grows too high. When it comes to saving money and saving our earth, every little bit counts!
4. Use products that are sustainable
More and more brands are manufacturing sustainable products, so there’s a lot of choices out there. Find a brand that works for you by searching online for eco or sustainable alternatives to household products. From shampoo and laundry detergent to tableware and kitchen utensils, you’ll be able to find eco-friendly options that fit into your lifestyle without sacrificing quality. These products often cost a little bit more than mainstream goods, but their longer lifespan will pay off in time savings—and they usually last as long as fewer green brands anyway! Plus, your purchases help support eco brands by encouraging businesses to continue with their green practices.
5. Drive less. Walk more. Ride sharing
The average car weighs about 4,000 pounds and contains a staggering amount of steel, plastic, glass and rubber. All that material has a huge impact on our environment when we add in manufacturing process emissions. You can lighten your footprint by reducing or eliminating your use of cars. If you have kids, try walking or biking them to school each day instead of driving them in your gas guzzler. Or if possible, find a school that's within walking distance from home so you don't need a car at all. If you can't do without a vehicle entirely, consider carpooling with coworkers to reduce fuel consumption and save money on gas. It’s also good for your fitness.
6. Keep all lights off when not needed
Every time you leave a light on, even if it’s for just a few minutes, you’re throwing away money. In addition to being a waste of energy, keeping all lights off is easy and will save you tons of cash over time. Think about turning off lights as soon as you leave a room or simply using lamps that have a switch on them. Keeping all lights off not only cuts your electric bill but also cuts out unnecessary electricity use and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Turn off unused electrical devices
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is simply by powering down items you aren’t using. Rather than keeping your phone charger plugged in all day long, unplug it when it’s not in use. It’s similar to other devices, like computers and televisions; if you don’t need them on, turn them off. Leaving these appliances on standby still uses energy even if they are turned off with their remote controls or switches. You may be surprised how much money you can save by doing so! Turn off unused electrical devices when you go to bed at night, too—this way they won’t be using electricity while sleeping. Doing so can help save up to 200 pounds of carbon dioxide each year!
8. Practice Conservation
Check your water meter. Does it run most of the day? Do you have a leak in one of your appliances? Check your electricity meter and see how much energy you use when you’re at home. If you find that a lot of energy is being used while you’re gone, that might be a sign that there are leaky windows or doors, broken appliances or fixtures. Fixing these things will help conserve resources—and save money on your utility bills too!
9. Use renewable energy
Switching from electricity made from fossil fuels to renewable energy will have a direct impact on your home’s carbon footprint. Wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal is just a few of your options for renewable power sources that can be used in place of fossil fuels. And while it may not be an option for everyone, especially given higher initial costs, there are ways to go green with electricity that is more affordable—and just as effective—as buying into solar power systems or wind turbines.
10. Use green cleaning products
Chemicals like ammonia, bleach and chlorine are commonly found in household cleaning products. Avoid them all, by switching to green cleaners that are non-toxic. Or you can make your own cleaning solutions with natural ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar for about $0.10 per serving (and sometimes less).
11. Stop food wastage
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted. There are several reasons behind it, but some go as far as saying that if we can reduce food wastage by just 15 percent, we could feed over 800 million people. When it comes to our diets, food wastage occurs during harvesting, processing, transportation, storage and more. Usually, fresh products like fruits and vegetables are most affected by waste because they cannot be stored for long periods of time. Try shopping for smaller quantities so your product doesn't go bad before you've had a chance to consume everything.
12. Plant trees
Planting trees is an easy way to take an active role in environmental awareness and at little cost. Think of it as small, valuable steps toward a greener tomorrow. One important thing: If you do decide to plant a tree, make sure you're doing it in a spot where it's meant to be—and not just anywhere on your property. Some trees, like oak and maple varieties, can cause root damage if they're planted too deep or near power lines or water pipes. Additionally, planting around existing vegetation is more likely than creating an open space.
13. Donate old clothes instead of throwing them away.
Americans typically throw away 70 pounds of textiles each year. That’s enough fabric to clothe 50 people, based on average US clothing sizes. Why not find a way to recycle your old clothes so they can be reused rather than adding them to landfills? You can donate your old clothing through thrift stores in your area, but you can also sell your used items on eBay or Amazon. The proceeds go directly into your pocket. Another bonus: if you don’t like wearing an item anymore, donating it instead of throwing it away gives someone else a chance to get used out of it.