We often find ourselves paralyzed by the question: What can I do in my daily life to help the environment? It’s not easy. Caring for the environment is a global issue, as clearly seen by climate change, but the actions must be local and start at the individual level. Here are some simple things you can do to help the environment and make your life a little more eco-friendly.
Tips to help the environment
Caring for the environment knows no political color or social class because it affects us all, something that some political and business leaders refuse to see. Every facet of our lives is related to the environment: from food to transportation, through the use of energy or waste management.
Energy is omnipresent in life. If you’re reading this, you are using energy to power the computer screen, tablet or smart phone. Harnessing energy has allowed the development of humanity and a better quality of life. But there is no doubt that we need to use less energy and generate it from clean, renewable sources. The era of fossil fuels has to end (whether we want it to or not, at some point, we’re going to run out). The sooner and faster we make this transition, the better. Climate change isn’t waiting.
In everyday life, we must take responsibility for the energy we use. Some habits that we can adopt to reduce our energy consumption are:
- Turning off lights, screens, fans, appliances etc. when they’re not being used/when we leave the room
- Setting the air conditioner thermostat a couple degrees higher (I promise, 76º feels just as nice as 74º), or the heater a couple degrees lower (why is it that we all claim to love the weather outside when it’s 60º, but we crank the heater up to 65º?).
- Use the power saving mode on electronic devices so you don’t have to charge them as often.
- Unplug small appliances that aren’t used often (toasters, coffee makers, etc.), because even when they’re off they are electricity “vampires”.
- Use fewer or smaller appliances for everyday tasks. For example, using a 1500 watt toaster oven instead of the big oven for small things, or hanging clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.
- Cut down on driving time by carpooling or ride-sharing, taking public transportation, riding a bike or walking when possible.
Besides helping the environment, you’ll save money on your electricity bill and gasoline, too!
There are more than 7 billion mouths to feed in the world today, and that number is rising. The planet is finite. So, logically, we can’t produce an infinite amount of food, despite many technological advances. We must not waste food and we need to distribute it better. Every day tons of food are thrown into the trash in good condition while billions of people are starving.
On the one hand, organically grown foods reduce the amounts of pesticides that are released into the environment. However, organic farming produces less yield in the same amount of land than conventional crops do, so if global hunger is a concern of yours, you might think twice about buying everything organic. It is a good idea to buy locally sourced food if possible, though, because less transportation = less fuel consumed and less pollution produced.
For fish lovers, you can also help the environment by choosing sustainably harvested fish. Some popular types of fish are in serious danger due to overfishing, including the bluefin tuna that is so popular in sushi.
Water is the most precious resource on the planet. Bottled water is imported from thousands of miles away, making it doubly harmful to the environment: creating plastic waste and consuming energy to be bottled and transported. In rich countries, people waste hundreds of gallons a day while people in some developing countries do not even have access to safe drinking water.
To make your water consumption habits more environmentally friendly, try some of these tips:
- Check that your taps don’t drip or leak, and turn off the water while brushing your teeth, shaving, etc.
- Consider collecting rain water to water your lawn instead of relying on sprinklers.
- If you must use sprinklers, time them to turn on at night so that the grass can absorb the water before the sun makes it evaporate.
- Only run the dishwasher or washing machine with a full load.
- Finally, avoid drinking bottled water whenever possible. Try filling a reusable water bottle with filtered water instead. The Brita filter pitchers work great and make most tap water taste like purified bottled water like Dasani or Aquafina. Some water bottles even have carbon filters built in, but the results aren’t quite the same.
I personally like stainless steel water bottles, but if you prefer plastic, make sure it’s BPA-free like this one:
The best way to manage waste is to not generate it in the first place. Glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, paper, regular garbage, it’s all waste that has to be processed, which consumes a lot of energy. Try to reduce the use of plastic bags and any other disposable containers. Do your best to reuse everything you can and then make sure you put recyclable materials in the appropriate container for proper recycling.
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