Pretty much everyone wants to help save the planet from permanent damage. But we all know that sometimes the environmental advice can be overwhelming — especially when you’re running out the door to work.
That doesn’t mean you should give up and feel guilty for not trying. Make it a priority to do these simple, fast, and easy things so you can feel good about doing your part!
1. Run your washing machine on the warm or cold cycle
Most of the time it’s really not necessary to wash clothes in hot water. If everyone in the U.S. alone opted to use the warm or cold cycles instead, we’d save the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil per day!
And if you’re looking into buying a new washing machine or any appliances, look for ones that are Energy Star Compliant. The washing machines use 25% less energy and 40% less water than regular washers. (Read my washing machine buyer’s guide for more information about it.)
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2. Unplug appliances that use energy when they’re turned off
Isn’t that strange that some appliances actually keep drawing energy from the grid even after you turn them off? The U.S. Department of Energy calls them “energy vampires.” They include your TV, hair dryer, microwave, coffee maker, and older DVR.
3. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth
It might not sound like a lot, but you waste up to five gallons of water a day just by leaving the faucet running for those few minutes. Multiply that by everyone in the U.S. and we’re talking about 1.5 billion gallons of water wasted. (Parents, tell your kids until they start doing it! From my own experience, it can take a while for them to form this great habit.)
Managing our freshwater resources is a really big deal — and when they’re mismanaged it can result in flooding or droughts. To read up on this, try “Threats to Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands” by the World Wildlife Fund.
Also, consider switching out older faucets with water-saving fixtures. They’ll save you money, too!
4. Buy Reusable Shopping Bags
It takes 1,000 years for one plastic bag to decompose on its own. That’s gross! It’s really easy to buy cloth shopping bags and leave them in the trunk of your car. Of course you’ll forget them some of the time. Everyone does. But all those other times you remember, you’ll be helping to save the planet.
5. Switch to online bill paying
U.S. households reportedly waste about 18.5 million trees annually just because of all the paper bills they receive. Those bills generate about 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste and 2.2. billion tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Icky!
6. Recycle your glass containers
Pause to consider this fully (when we did, we were shocked): If you don’t recycle your glass containers, it can take a million years for them to decompose on their own. One million years!
By recycling them instead, you can help reduce air pollution by 20 percent, as well as related water pollution by up to 50 percent. Now that’s a good deal.
8. Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room
This reduces the heat in the room and saves energy. Plus, there’s usually no need to have the light on if you’re not there.
9. Switch to Green Power
It may cost a little bit more each month, but renewable energy is worth it. If you live in the United States, find out how to get it where you live by checking out the Green Power Network’s map of the USA.
10. Eat Less Meat
The demand for meat is so high now globally, and people forget that means using a lot of water to feed livestock. According to a UNESCO report:
Global animal production requires about 2422 Gm3 of water per year. One third of this volume is for the beef cattle sector.
So by eating less meat (or none), you’ll help save water.
11. Recycle Everything You Can
I’m talking newspapers, junk mail, bottles, cans, batteries, and more. Here in Atlanta, where I live, the city does single-stream recycling so I can put everything in my recycling bin. For great get-started guides, take a look at the recycling page of Earth 911. Just because your local recycling program didn’t include some things in the past, don’t assume that’s still true.
12. Buy Local
When food is shipped thousands of miles to get to you, chances are the trucks are dumping a lot of gas into the air. Plus, by eating locally grown it means you’re eating fresher food, which is better.
13. Turn off your computer when you go to bed
So no, leaving the computer in “sleep” mode really isn’t the same thing as shutting it off completely.
By allowing your PC to power down when you do, you can save 40 watt-hours of energy per day — and that’s a lot when you multiply it by every computer in the world. It also means a savings to you of about $14 per year.
For more detailed information about why this is important, read this article by OS News.
14. Take a Shower Instead of a Bath
I love taking baths, don’t you? Well, I just found out a bath uses about double the water. But that doesn’t mean you should shower for an hour. Every minute you’re sitting under it equals gallons of water down the drain.