It seems like everyone's going environmentally conscious these days, but the movement can be daunting at first. While vocal proponents preach about strict vegan diets or eliminating electricity use entirely, that's far from the only approach.
Reducing your environmental footprint starts with small steps that are easy to incorporate into everyday life — so easy you'll forget you're even doing them. If you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle and do your part to protect Earth's natural resources, all it takes is a few tiny tweaks.
While finding the time, energy, and space to grow every piece of produce you consume isn't possible for most of us, that doesn't mean you can't have your own little garden!
Embrace the sustainable life and try a couple fruits and vegetables you'll enjoy on the regular. You might be surprised by how gratified gardening leaves you, and just a few pots around the house can do the trick.
Make the switch to LED or CFL bulbs, and you'll brighten rooms for much longer than their classic counterparts; incandescent lighting lasts just 1 to 5% as long as environmentally-friendly options.
Preserve lighting even further by monitoring your usage and flipping the switches whenever you leave the room.
Many household items are disposable or single-use, from containers to plates, silverware, toiletries, and everything in between. Every time you discard one of these items, you're contributing to environmental waste, so cut down as much as you can.
While disposables are convenient, you can easily do without them. Switching to quality goods saves you time and money in the long run, too.
Do you always leave the water running while brushing your teeth? Are you guilty of taking hour-long showers? Even tiny changes improve water use, and it's not really that hard to cut back.
If you're a shower hog, invest in a shower timer to help you reduce your cleansing sessions. Select whichever length of time works for you; cutting down by just 10 minutes a day makes a difference. At the sink, turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth and doing the dishes.
Public transit comes in handy for many reasons. You can improve your environmental footprint, sure, but you can also get things done during the journey you could never do driving, from catching up on a book to tuning in to your favorite podcast or running through morning emails early. You don't have the hassle of finding a place to park, either.
Alternatively, walk or ride a bike while you're running errands; maybe you don't need to drive to a shop that's ten or fifteen minutes away.
In the U.S. alone, nearly 30 million tons of plastic is wasting away in landfills, with more being added every day.
Don't contribute; avoid buying plastic or plastic-wrapped products whenever you can. Use reusable bags while you're out shopping, or opt for paper bags if that's not an option (and then reuse them for compost or gifting). Think twice when plastics are harder to avoid, such as ordering online or getting takeout.
Buying in bulk is great for both yourself and the environment, cutting down on excess packaging while saving you major moola. Shop at bulk stores as often as you can. From food to household items and toiletries, this is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Try buying locally too; purchasing fruits and veggies from the farmer's market directly affects your area environmentally and economically.
Today's culture is constantly yelling, "More! More!," so we find ourselves frequently buying items we don't even need and rarely use. Fashion is a big part of that, with 85% of clothing in the U.S. landing in landfills or being burned.
Rethink what you really need, and, if you're able to, purchase quality items that last. Purchasing second-hand clothes is another excellent option.
The donation bin isn't the only option for unused clothing. If something's no longer wearable, you can always repurpose it as a rag, for instance, or hand it over to the mechanic in your life.
With basic sewing skills, you'll overcome obstacles that would otherwise have you tossing old garments, such as patching up holes, adjusting hems, or fixing loose stitching. The alterations shop is always there if you can't DIY, and they'll breathe fresh life into old clothes.
From fashion to home goods, support ethical, environmentally-conscious brands that make sustainability a priority. There are plenty out there, so research brands in the areas that interest you most.
Social media simplifies supporting, sharing, and promoting your fave brands with the click of a button, so you can help spread their message, as well.
In today's technologically advanced world, who even needs all that paper?
Receive digital letters and alerts rather than paper ones, and eliminate junk mail entirely by signing up for the opt-out list. Send electronic invitations, and choose to get your receipt emailed instead of printed. Taking notes? Use your phone or computer instead. Even embracing just one or two of these options can make a huge difference.
The office is an excellent place to embrace environmentally-friendly living, and it's not difficult to do. Try collecting scrap paper in a tray to re-use it, and always turn off your computer before heading home.
If you can, open a window rather than turning on the AC, and keep the overhead lights off if there's good natural light (but don't sacrifice your eyes)!
This is definitely not possible for every new parent, but if it's on your radar, switching to cloth diapers saves you an arm and a leg, especially over time. Since they're reusable, you're reducing your use of both paper and plastic packaging.
Even if diapers are a no-go, you can look for plastic-free baby bottles, teethers, and toys, and embrace the eco-friendly bib. Many toys are produced with all-natural fibers, and many pacifiers are designed with natural rubber.
Makeup often features a high chemical content, so read the labels for harmful chemicals and seek out sustainable alternatives. When removing makeup, try reusable cotton pads instead of one-use wipes.
For items such as shampoo and body wash, purchasing the larger bottle less often reduces waste, and it's easy to DIY face cleanser and scrub right at home.
Want to really jump on the "small changes" train? Unplug everything overnight to reduce power use; those devices are still sucking energy even when they're turned off. From your workstation at the office to your phone charger at home, unplug any devices you're not using.
Transformers (the boxes that hold power cords) waste most of the electricity that moves through them — almost three-quarters, in fact.