Sustainable, eco-friendly, green, environmentally-conscious. In the 21st century, these words jump out whenever you watch TV, go shopping, or listen to your favorite podcasts.
For some people, sustainability has become a stylish way to keep up with the trends. For others, it has turned into a way of life.
We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.— Native American Proverb
Are you ready for the first step? You’ll be surprised at how easy it is. Let’s go over 10 smart (and 100% doable) ways to take care of the planet without making any drastic changes to your lifestyle.
1. Replace Your Light Bulbs
Well, don’t run to replace them right this minute. Wait until whatever you’ve got inside your fixtures burns out, and then take a minute to contemplate your next bulb purchase.
Three types of eco-friendly light bulbs exist:
- Halogen incandescent — lasts up to 3,000 hours
- CFL — lasts up to 10,000 hours
- LED — lasts up to 50,000 hours
FYI: A standard incandescent light bulb lasts about 1,000 – 2,000 hours.
To produce the same amount of light as a 60W standard incandescent bulb, you can use a 42W halogen incandescent bulb, a 15W CFL bulb, or a 12W LED model.
Bonus: Lighting costs can account for up to 15% of your homes energy bills, so by switching to eco-friendly alternatives, you could save up to $225 per year.
2. Use Natural Cleaners
How many bottles, sprays, and powders do you use to clean your home? Each time you buy one at the nearest store, you are bringing a bunch of dangerous chemicals into your house.
While spraying them once or twice doesn’t do any harm, on the grand scale of things, releasing this stuff into the atmosphere harms it tremendously.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners.
Did you know you can clean your entire house with just four products?
- Baking soda
- Lemon juice
By mixing them in different proportions, you can get high-quality all-purpose cleaners and save the world while you are at it.
Bonus: Imagine how much money you could save by crossing household cleaners off the shopping list. Scrapping chemical-filled cleaners can reduce your allergies and asthma symptoms while cutting the amount of plastic packaging for selling them.
3. Rethink Your Shopping Habits
The reasons why we tend to buy more stuff than we need are deeply psychological. Owning material possessions brings us security. Sometimes we try to impress other people or feel jealous of those who own more than we do. Meanwhile, we are terribly susceptible to ads and believe new things make us happy.
In reality, we don’t need the majority of the things we buy. The amount of resources used to create items people don’t need is overwhelming. By rethinking your shopping (read: hogging) habits, you can save the planet.
- Always make lists before going shopping and stick to them.
- Never make impulsive purchases near the cash register.
- Before buying something online, wait a day. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll change your mind. Smart tip: don’t put the items you want in your cart before making the final decision. Cunning marketing experts will start pressuring you into completing the purchase.
- Put items on a wish list (sometimes, this simple step satisfies psychological cravings).
- Set a shopping schedule. Don’t go shopping more than once a week (or month, every two months, etc.).
Bonus: That’s an obvious one. You’ll save an immense amount of time and a lot of money.
4. Minimize Driving
How often do you use your car to cover small distances? What may seem like a long way to walk could only take you 10 or 15 minutes to conquer.
Use one of your days off to walk or bike the distance you usually drive. How much longer does it take? In most cases, when you consider all the traffic jams and shortcuts, not too long.
For every mile you walk or ride your bike, you prevent 404 grams of CO2 from being emitted into the air.
- Explore shops within a walking distance (walking or cycling to the shop can also prevent you from buying unnecessary items since there is a limit to how much you can carry).
- Consider public transportation.
- Invest in a high-quality bicycle so riding it is a pleasure (the money you save on gas can help you buy a truly exceptional bicycle).
- Take full advantage of carpooling.
- Explore cars sharing options instead of buying a new car.
Saying no to driving is almost as hard as quitting smoking. Cold turkey doesn’t always work. Start reducing your driving one day at a time. You’ll learn to enjoy it.
Bonus: You’ll be in great shape. You can burn about 50 calories for each mile of steady cycling and about 70 calories when walking. And don’t forget about cardiovascular health improvements coupled with driving-related stress reduction.
5. Buy a Smaller House
Huh? How can that save the world? People tend to buy much bigger houses than they really need. Ego aside, how much space does a person require to feel comfortable?
Not too much. All those extra guest rooms, huge basements, and a bathroom for each family member aren’t really necessary. Rethink your living habits and be honest with yourself. You may come to the conclusion that it’s time to downsize.
If only 10% of Americans would downsize to a small home, they would free up about 366 million acres of biologically productive land.
Bonus: You can save money on the purchase and cut your energy bills tremendously. In addition, a smaller house is so much easier to clean.
6. Use Sunlight
Nature has given us an excellent source of energy, which we severely underestimate. Take full advantage of sunlight to reduce energy consumption.
- Keep your windows clean to let as much sunlight in as possible and cut heating bills during cold months.
- Install solar panels. Using them produces 91% less CO2 than when making electricity with natural gas, and 96% less CO2 than doing it with coal.
- Hang your laundry to dry outdoors instead of using a dryer.
Bonus: You can save money on energy bills while enjoying a great view out of clean windows and fresh-smelling laundry
7. Ban Single-Use Plastic Items
Single-use items wreak havoc on our environment. Plastic straws, plates, cups, bags, balloons, water bottles, containers… the list goes on and on. Many European countries have already banned the production of such products. It’s up to you to offer support.
- Turn down straws and plastic silverware.
- Carry a reusable cup or bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles.
- Bring reusable shopping bags (You may be amazed how specially-designed huge shopping bags can be folded into tiny sachets that fit into your pocket.).
- Choose products with as little packaging as possible.
- Bring your own takeout containers.
- Stop using disposable razors and plastic lighters.
Bonus: Save money (single-use plastic is a high ongoing expense) and free up space.
8. Consider Repairing Instead of Replacing
The age of crazy consumption reduced the value of items we own. When something breaks down, people tend to throw it away and buy a replacement. In reality, it’s often much easier and cheaper to repair something than replace it.
Extracting resources to manufacture electronics creates a huge carbon footprint. Coupled with the energy spent on importing them across the sea and failing to recycle old items, the effect on the environment is tremendous.
Research repair options before replacing your next appliance or gadget, especially if their life expectancy is far from being up.
Bonus: While you save money on buying new stuff, you can acquire useful repair knowledge and skills.
9. Switch to Local Products
When you buy imported products, you contribute to the pollution produced when they are transported. While international trade may help other countries’ GDP, it is harmful to the environment.
On a smaller scale, by buying local products, you support local manufacturers. Economics of your town, city, or state will most certainly benefit from such actions.
Bonus: You can enjoy fresher food and improve your relationship with your community.
10. Cut the Junk Food
Ok, you probably heard junk food is bad for your health. But did you know it’s bad for the environment too?
For example, one study found the amount of VOCs generated when cooking four hamburgers in a fast food joint equals the amount generated by a car after driving 1,000 miles.
Bonus: By cutting down on junk food, you can save money, lose weight, enjoy better sleep, improve skin texture, boost muscle tone…and the list goes on.
One Small Step for Man…
If you want to change the world, start by changing your lifestyle. The more people realize how simple it is to keep the planet safe, the more chances we have at saving it for the future.
Sustainability is a way of life. By adopting it one step at a time, you can turn it into a new “normal.”