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reducing your Environmental footprint

Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one.

So, it’s more important than ever to watch how your actions affect the world we live in. Help save the world, save money and your health with these simple ways to reduce your environmental footprint.

1. Skip bottled water.

Bottling water is an incredible waste of our planet’s limited resources. It takes 3 liters of water to bottle just one! Use a Brita to filter your water at home. If you can’t give up drinking water on the go, get a Bobble and fill it up with tap water. The bottle comes with a replaceable filter that lets you drink the equivalent of 300 plastic water bottles, according to the website.

2. Buy a coffee tumbler.

According to Fast Company, 3 billion of the 200 billion cups Americans throw away each year are Starbucks cups. Talk about wasteful! Make your morning latte habit eco-friendlier by purchasing a coffee tumbler. Many shops, including Starbucks, will discount your java if you do so.

3. Bring your own grocery bags.

Use a reusable bag for your groceries to avoid the waste from plastic and paper bags. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, and neither paper and compostable bags are much better. Some grocery stores will give you their own reusable bags, or you can buy one that makes a fashion statement. Just make sure to actually use the bag! Try keeping it in the trunk of your car to be safe.

4. Lower the thermostat.

Save energy and money by lowering your thermostat in the winter and higher in the summer. The Department of Energy recommends setting it to 68°F while you’re awake, and lowering the temperature when you’re asleep or away. Turning it back 10° to 15° when you’re at work can save up to 15% on your heating bill. In the summer, keep it at 78°F when you’re home. Not only will this save energy and money, it could actually help you lose weight! SciShow suggests that one possible reason for the world’s obesity epidemic is because we no longer have to spend energy to keep our bodies at an optimal temperature, but you can do that by turning down the thermostat.

 6. Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank.

Each time you flush your toilet, you’re using between 3 to 7 gallons of water. Unless you have a low-flow toilet, save water with this simple trick recommended by Seametrics: put some sand and pebbles in a plastic bottle to weigh it down, fill it with water, and place it in your toilet tank. Make sure you’re not blocking any operating mechanisms, and experiment to see whether 1 or 2-liter bottle works better for you.

7. Avoid “vampire power.”

If your appliances are plugged in, they’re using energy even if they’re off. The current that runs through this is called standby or vampire power. According to the Department of Energy, standby power accounts for 5 to 10% of residential energy use, costing the average American household over $100 a year. Save money by unplugging your appliances, or buying a power strip with an on/off switch. Some models, like Bits Limited’s Smart Strip, automatically cut power to devices in vampire mode.

8. Ditch the paper towels.

Do you use paper towels to clean? Why not use a cloth rag instead? Recycle some old T-shirts, or just use some washcloths from Walmart. You’ll save paper and money. If you’re using paper towels in the kitchen, newspaper can be a good alternative too.

9. Watch the fish.

Fish is an excellent addition to your diet, but overfishing and farming can mean great harm to the oceans. Get the best of both worlds by downloading the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium, which tells you what fish you can safely eat, and the kinds you should avoid due to environmental concerns.

10. Go to the library.

According to Eco-Libris, over 30 million trees are cut down annually to produce the paper that makes books read in the United States alone. Go to the library instead for your books and magazines – it’s free!

11. Know your impact.

You might think you’re environmentally friendly, but how many planets would we need to support your lifestyle if everyone lived like you? (It takes 5.6 for me.) Get a reality check and learn how to reduce your footprint here.

12. Go paperless.

How much mail do you get every day? How much of it do you actually need? Reduce fossil fuel and paper waste by paying all your bills online, and unsubscribing to catalogs. Sign up for the Do Not Mail registry to ensure your mail is coming from people you actually care about.

13. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Energy Star has found that 90% of the energy used by running your washing machine is used to heat water. Skip this step by washing in cold water instead, to save energy and extend the life of your clothing. Concerned that your clothes won’t be as clean? Several detergents are formulated specifically to work in cold water, like Tide Coldwater.

14. Take a vacation close to home.

One round-trip flight from the US to Europe adds 3-4 tons to your carbon footprint, according to the Tufts Climate Initiative. If you’re a frequent flier, make a pledge this year to vacation somewhere a bit closer to home. You’ll get all the benefits of travel but save money and energy. Plus, you’ll be able to speak the language!

15. Eat locally, in-season and at home.

Looking to save money, the environment and your health this year? Make it a point to eat locally-grown, in-season food at home. Buying local groceries might sound expensive, but it’s certainly cheaper than your twice-a-week Chinese takeout habit. Not sure what’s in season? Look into joining a CSA, buy frozen out-of-season foods, and learn more about seasonal eating here. No time to cook or don’t know how? Try investing in a slow cooker or searching for easy meals – Pinterest is a great resource.

16. Drive less.

This might be the easiest step to saving the environment in principle, but it’s much harder in practice, especially if you live in a suburban or rural environment. Try making a pact with a co-worker to carpool, or a neighbor to trade picking up your kids from school. You can also try condensing weekend trips, like buying all of your groceries in one place whenever possible.

Written by Sasha Graffagna


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