Unfortunately, humans have not been very good stewards of the earth over the years. To protect the environment and preserve the planet for our children and future generations, we all need to take proactive steps toward cleaner living habits.
Most of the environmental damage is due to our consumption: what we consume, how much we consume, and how often.
Whether it’s gasoline, food, clothing, cars, furniture, water, toys, electronics, knickknacks or other goods, we are all consumers. The key is not to stop consuming, but to start thinking about our consumption habits and the impact each purchase or action has on the ecosystem.
The good news is that becoming more environmentally friendly is often not that difficult, expensive or impractical. It can even be a fun challenge to implement in your family or with your colleagues. And while small changes on an individual level may seem trivial, just think how much cleaner the planet would be if everyone adopted even a few of the following behavioral changes.
Below are 12 ways you can start protecting the environment today:
1. Consume less.
Cutting back on consumption can have a huge impact on the environment. A lot of attention is being paid to the three "Rs" – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – but the planet could benefit by focusing on the most important and underrepresented "R." Trash.
When you refuse, you say "no," which isn’t always easy. Giveaways at events, cheap merchandise on sale, the hot new kid’s toy or the latest gadgets that promise to improve your life – none of it is necessary. And almost always they end up either in the trash or forgotten in the back of a closet. The next time you’re tempted to buy or accept an unimportant item, think about whether it would really improve your life. If you don’t, it’s okay, just say "No, thank you!" to say.
Bonus: Refusing to let unneeded items into your life can save you money and reduce clutter in your home.
Another "R" that doesn’t get much attention but has important environmental implications is "rotting". So let your food and yard waste rot naturally in the soil instead of taking it to the landfill. In other words: compost.
Composting food and garden waste has a double benefit: It avoids an incredible amount of waste and creates free, nutrient-rich soil for your garden. In some cities, organic waste is now picked up in addition to regular trash and recycling collection. If there is no such service in your area, you can also simply create a low-maintenance compost pile in your backyard.
3. Prefer reusable to disposable.
Think about how many people you see every day drinking drinks from disposable cups or bottles, sipping from disposable straws, carrying disposable shopping bags, eating from disposable plates or containers, and using disposable tableware. All that single-use plastic has to go somewhere, and it’s having a devastating impact on our soils, oceans and marine life.
For all the above (and more) there are more environmentally friendly alternatives. Switch to reusable items and commit to using them as often as possible. You’ll have less trash at the curb and make an important contribution to the environment.
4. More upcycling
Get creative with your useless or unwanted items by upcycling them – that is, turning trash into treasure. To create something new, z. B. a piece of art, toy or jewelry, is not only satisfying, but also one of the best ways to protect the environment. Not only will this prevent items from ending up in the trash, but it will also prevent the need to buy new items that take a lot of resources to make. Kids love to make things, so instead of going to the craft store, check your recycle bin first and let their imagination run wild!
5. Recycle properly.
If you can’t refuse it… and can’t rot it… and can’t reduce it… and can’t recycle or reuse it… then it’s time to turn to the final "R" – recycling. Find out what can and cannot be recycled in your trash can at home. Throwing the wrong things in the recycling bin can result in the entire load being rejected, which means it goes back into the landfill.
You can also easily find out how to recycle special items such as electronics, batteries and appliances. Check with your city government for acceptance sites and make an effort to get your items to the proper disposal sites.
6. Buy secondhand.
Did you know that it takes over 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a simple t-shirt?
Instead of buying new clothes at the mall, look first at a thrift or vintage store or trade clothes with friends. You can breathe new life into your wardrobe without wasting the precious resources needed to make new clothes.
Secondhand shopping also applies to many other categories of consumer goods: children’s games and toys, shoes, appliances, furniture, cars and more.
7. Buy local.
While we’re on the subject of shopping, you should also think about the distance your goods travel just to get to you. All the packaging and fuel needed to transport it pollute the environment. Instead, check out your local farmer’s market for fresh, package-free food, eat at a farm-to-table restaurant, and shop at local artists, clothing makers, and retailers before you decide to ship for two days.
8. Use fewer chemicals.
You want to protect the environment? If you use less harmful chemicals, you are on the right track. It’s hard to say what long term negative effects chemicals can have on our bodies and our planet, so it’s best to avoid them if possible. Opt for chemical-free lawn and garden care, natural beauty and hygiene products, natural household cleaners and organic foods. The earth will thank you!
9. Walk, ride a bike or carpool.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical passenger car emits about 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide per year.1 Any amount of this we can save is helpful. For short distances, try walking or biking – you’ll also get a healthy dose of exercise without having to set foot in a gym. If traveling on foot or two wheels isn’t possible, try carpooling to a shared destination with a friend, neighbor or colleague. And if all else fails and you have to drive, set the most efficient route for your errands to save time and miles.
10. Use less water.
Saving water at home is one of the easiest ways to protect the environment. Think about how often you use water, both inside and outside your home, and then adjust if possible. For example:
Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth.
Fix leaky faucets.
Make water use more efficient by bleeding faucets, using sprinklers that reduce water runoff, and installing low-flow toilets and efficient showerheads.
Collect rainwater and use it to water plants.
Shorten your shower by a few minutes – or skip it altogether if you don’t really need it that day.
Run your dishwasher or washing machine only when they are full.
These are just the basics – you can get really creative when it comes to saving water.