In honor of Earth Day, here are fifty changes you can make—wherever you are—to reduce pollution and conserve energy for a cleaner, greener planet.
In the Home
1. Turn the temperature down. Lowering the temperature by just one degree can save 10% on energy use over the year. We can always wear a sweater!
2. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
3. Switch to rechargeable batteries. And dispose of old batteries safely.
4. Turn off all electrical appliances when not being used. Also turn off power strips.
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In the Office
5. Fill up the whole notepad.
6. Switch to file sharing to save printing.
7. Recycle. Printing cartridges, paper, old printers—nearly everything can be recycled.
8. Ditch the paper. File taxes online. Choose online statements, bill-pay, and e-tickets.
In the Kitchen
9. Shop organic. Joining a local CSA can save costs on accessing local and organically grown foods.
10. Buy in bulk. Purchasing from bulk bins where possible means less packaging and fewer trips to the store.
11. Cook in bulk. Bulk cooking is a more efficient use of appliance energy. Plan meals ahead in the week to reduce waste.
12. Don’t preheat the oven. Instead, keep a dish cooking for five to 10 minutes longer with the oven turned off. The residual heat should be enough to finish cooking your meal.
13. Cook for size. Instead of heating up a large oven for a small dish, consider using a slow cooker or a toaster oven.
14. Buy for longevity. Cast iron pans or stainless steel pans may be a bigger upfront investment but they should last a lifetime.
15. Repair rather repurchase. Consider repairing refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens rather than replacing them.
16. Green your dishwashing. Only run the dishwasher on a full load, and skip the pre-rinse cycle to save water.
17. Recycle your water. Don’t throw away half-drunk glasses of water. Repurpose them for watering indoor plants, and use dirty dishwater to water the garden.
18. Use natural cleaning products.
19. Ditch the paper towels. Use old-fashioned dish-towels and washcloths.
20. Eliminate styrofoam. Whether it’s the cups and plates we may use when entertaining, or the ice chests, or egg cartons—styrofoam is not biodegradable.
In the Bathroom
21. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
22. Plug the sink. Leaving the tap running while shaving, washing our hands and faces wastes water. Fill the sink and reuse the water instead.
23. Switch baths for showers. Consider shortening your shower or sharing one too.
24. Use paper cotton swabs instead of plastic ones.
25. Look for a non-PVC shower curtain. Hemp curtains are also environmentally friendly and limit mold.
26. Keep the towels green. Conventional cotton is one of the most chemically-intensive, pesticide-laden crops on the planet so when renewing towels look for organic cotton or bamboo towels instead.
In the Laundry Room
27. Wash only full loads of clothes. Also, opt for cooler temperatures.
28. Green up your detergent and dryer sheets. Opt for natural detergents and dryer sheets, or make sure your laundry detergent contains less than 2% of phosphorous.
29. Decrease the microfibers. Every time we wash synthetic fabrics, millions of microfibers are released into the water and end up in our oceans. Washing on cool, buying a filter, or using a special bag to contain synthetic items of clothing are ways to reduce the environmental damage caused by our clothes.
30. Use a clothesline to dry clothes.
31. Return your dry cleaning hangers to the dry cleaner.
In the Garden
32. Plant a tree. Not only do trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, the additional shade a tree gives your home cuts down on air-conditioning.
33. Harvest rainwater. Use it to water the plants and wash the car.
34. Water your garden only at the coolest time of the day. This way more water has a chance to seep into the ground before it evaporates.
35. Practice targeted watering. Rather than using a sprinkler or hosing the entire garden, water only the plants that need it at their roots.
36. Start a compost pile. If you live in an apartment, collect scraps and find a local composting site or community garden who accepts them.
37. Opt for native plants. Native plants will be better suited to your local climate and will therefore, require less watering.
38. Go natural. Try natural alternatives to pesticides and herbicides like planting marigolds near your lettuces, or introducing praying mantises and ladybugs to your garden.
39. Reconsider the lawn. Consider replacing part of your lawn with native vegetation that requires less watering, and provides greater refuge for wildlife.
40. Switch to a reel mower. One hour of using a gas-powered lawn mower can produce as much pollution as a 100-mile car trip!
Out and About
41. Take a bag with you. Globally 1 million single-use bags are thought to be used every minute. Keep your pockets, pocketbooks, and cars stashed with reusable bags, so you never have to use a plastic bag again.
42. Take your trash home. Sadly many food outlets do not have sorting bins for recycling, so take your trash home where you can recycle it.
43. Carry a travel mug. Takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable.
44. Use reusable water bottles. And consider not buying any bottled drinks at all.
45. Skip straws, stirrers, napkins and plastic cutlery. These small items add up to a whole lot of waste. Every year, 138 billion straws and stirrers are thrown away in the U.S. Instead carry a washable napkin, fork and teaspoon.
46. Buy second hand.
47. Buy local. Save the cost and carbon footprint of transport and packaging.
48. Get fuel efficient. Regular maintenance, inflated tires, less junk in your car, and less air-conditioning all add up to greater fuel efficiency.
49. Better still – leave the car at home.
And finally . . .
50. Spread the word and share your own green tips with everyone.
Photo Credit: Brian Harris/Unsplash