Simple Tips for an Eco-Friendly Life
Ok, so it’s almost February and we’ve already made our New Year’s Resolutions. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t be conscious of our environmental impacts and decide to make positive changes any time of year. Nourishing the Planet has put together some easy and straightforward changes you can make in your daily life that can have big impacts on the Earth. I have listed my personal favorites below:
What a ridiculously easy and important thing to do. Separate your cans/glass/plastics/paper from the rest of your trash by putting them all in a different bag/container somewhere convenient. Recycling makes a big difference in the amount of trash that goes to landfill, and allows for less mining or production of virgin materials to make new products.
It’s super easy to check your local recycling rules – just Google “recycling” and the name of your town, and you will find out exactly what to do.
Expert Step: Start composting – you can buy a small compost bin that keeps away smells and pests, and you will be diverting yet another waste stream from landfills.
2. Turning Off Lights
We are all guilty of leaving lights on in empty rooms or when no one is home. If you see a light on, take the extra 10 seconds to go over and turn it off. This helps reduce the amount of electricity being generated and saves you money on your monthly electric bill.
Expert Step: Does your office building leave on lights or put them on during the day when there’s plenty of natural light? Write a memo to your boss to ask to implement an energy saving program by addressing these concerns. Chances are your boss will be impressed – and it will save on the company’s electric bill too!
3. Switch to CFLs
Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL) are basically in every store you walk in to. Switching from incandescent to CFLs are so simple it’s almost laughable. They are a little more expensive that incandescents, but will last much, much longer.
“Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use only 20-30 percent of the energy required by incandescents to create the same amount of light, and LEDs use only 10 percent, helping reduce both electric bills and carbon emissions” – from Green Prophet
Expert Step: Every time a bulb goes out, replace it with a CFL – and make sure you dispose of CFLs properly (check your local regulations).
4. Drink Tap Water
Ok, I get that in some places in the US, the tap water doesn’t taste so great (Arizona, I am looking at you). Here in NYC, we have really great tap, so it’s easy for me to preach about drinking only tap water. BUT, there are solutions to this if your tap water is less than desirable- ie: water filters.
Trust me, in the long run it’s cheaper than buying bottled, and it’s so much better for the environment in terms of plastics, waste, transportation costs, and processing.
Expert Step: Buy a really good water filter, either one that goes right on your faucet or one that goes in the fridge. Also buy a reusable water bottle, and make a vow to always remember it!
5. Control Your Heat
The U.S. Department of Energy says that you can save up to 15% on your heating/cooling bills by making simple adjustments to your thermostat. If you are lucky enough to control your own heat, you can turn it down when you’re not at home, on vacation, or sleeping.
Expert Step: Buy an automatic thermostat – so you can program when the temperature is raised and lowered. This makes your life easier by not having to physically adjust it every time you leave the house.
Buying food locally – meaning from farmers markets or through CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) gives you fresher, healthier produce and supports your immediate community. Produce, meat, dairy, eggs, and baked goods can all be found at farmers markets. You will definitely taste the difference when you try produce from a farmers market when comparing it to a chain supermarket.
Expert Step: Does your community NOT have a farmers market, or there is one but way too far for you to get to? Rally some like-minded community members together and see what you can do about getting one to your neighborhood. Alternatively, get together with a bunch of people and carpool or take public transit to the closest farmers market on a weekly basis.
7. Car Sharing
This is a really great idea if you live in a city. With car sharing programs like ZipCar, you can pay a small membership fee to have access to hundreds of vehicles around the city whenever you need one. Gas and insurance is covered, so all you pay is for the time you use the car (most of the time it’s cheaper than a rental). It’s a great system for those who choose not to own a car, or have very little need for one.
Expert Step: Living outside of a big city typically requires a person to own their own vehicle. Totally understandable. You can reduce your environmental impact by taking care of more errands in one trip, carpooling, taking public transportation one or two days a week to work instead of driving, biking, or at very least, being more conscious of how often you use the car (do you really need to drive down the street to drop off a letter in the mailbox?).
This is also a really easy thing to do that most people are not willing to do. Meat production, particularly beef, is an enormous drain on resources and quite detrimental to the environment. 23% of the water used for agriculture is attributed to raising livestock, and 18% of emissions are caused by livestock as well. The inefficiency of raising cattle is crazy, and the conditions at many farms and slaughterhouses would make your stomach churn. Deforestation is also partially attributed to livestock, as many forested areas are cleared to make way for cattle farms.
As affluence around the world rises, meat consumption increases. In reality, there is zero reason why people should eat so much meat – there are myriad alternatives that are healthier and more environmentally responsible. Even “free range” meat is only a slightly better alternative.
Consider replacing meat (especially beef) 1-2 times per week with something more eco-friendly (if you’re choosing fish, make sure it’s harvested in a responsible way also!). Try to buy your meat locally from farmers markets as well.
Expert Step: Drastically reduce meat consumption. You don’t have to become a vegetarian if you don’t want to, but cut it out of your main diet and try to buy local, free range meat that you’ve done a little research on. Of course, you’ll never know the true conditions of the farm unless you make a personal visit, but a little research doesn’t hurt! Your health, animals around the world, and the Earth will thank you!
You can check out the full list of all 12 recommendations here.