There’s an ever-increasing understanding that human beings need to do more to protect and preserve our natural world, but being environmentally conscious means more than just putting the cans and bottles in the recycling bin and carting reusable bags to the grocery store.
A lot of folks struggle with the idea of trying to live an eco-friendly life because the information they hear can be confusing (or downright contradictory) and they don’t even know where to start.
Even small changes, however, can add up to big differences. We’ve got some tips that are easy to implement today – and some ideas that you may want to invest in for a better future.
If you’re ready to go eco-friendly, try these ideas:
1. Avoid Single-Use Plastics and Disposables
The use of bottled water has absolutely skyrocketed in recent decades. U.S. consumers purchase roughly 42.6 billion (yes, billion) 1-liter bottles of water every year, and that’s a lot of unnecessary plastic. Recycling helps, but it’s better to avoid the problem in the first place.
Ditch that single-use water bottle habit and invest in a reusable bottle with a filter or put a filter directly on your kitchen faucet for a cheap, ready-to-use supply that will taste great right from the tap.
Water bottles aren’t the only disposable products you can eliminate from your life. Swap paper towels for cotton napkins and cloth rags, get a reusable cup for your take-out coffee in the morning and consider getting a bidet for the bathroom so you can forget about buying toilet paper.
2. Get Into Thrift Shopping
Grannycore, Cottagecore and eclectic decor is all the rage right now – partially because it allows for more individuality and partially because they all work well with secondhand items.
Instead of buying anything new, see what you can find in a thrift store, instead. This goes for everything from clothes to furniture and glassware to art. If enough people eschew “fast fashion” and cheaply made household goods, the positive global impact can be tremendous.
3. Go Crazy with Your Donations
Do you already have too much stuff? Well, many thrift shops will happily take your donated clothes, old books, leftover party supplies and what-nots and help them find new homes – and that will keep them out of landfills.
If you have anything of particular value that you’re no longer using, you can put it up for sale on an app like Nextdoor or OfferUp, or leave it with a consignment shop.
4. Start Consciously Buying Less
Speaking of old party supplies – who needs all that stuff to hold a celebration, anyhow? Before you buy anything you’re only likely to use once, ask yourself if you really need it to accomplish your goals.
In general, once you get into the habit of asking, “Do I really need this?” you will probably find yourself buying less and less. It’s hard to resist the dopamine rush that comes from buying yourself a little treat, but stick with a consumable (like ice cream or take-out) instead of another Funko Pop! Figure.
As an added benefit, you may come to treasure what you do have more – simply because you can focus better without the added distraction of so many things around.
5. Be Pickier About Where You Shop
Okay, we’re not going to lie: The lure of online shopping is really strong, especially when you can place an order while you’re laying in bed in your pajamas – but all that online shopping is actually terrible for the environment.
Online shopping means that items have to be placed in protective wrapping, boxed up, shipped and delivered – and that adds up to a whole lot of wasteful packaging, the excess use of fossil fuels and a big carbon footprint.
Whenever possible, shop local. Not only does that eliminate a lot of packaging and other problems, but it helps support your community. (If you do need to shop online, try to consolidate your orders so that there’s less packaging and fewer trips by the delivery driver.)
6. Fill Your World with Plants
Let’s face it: A yard full of grass is a holdover from a bygone era, and it’s neither eco-friendly nor helpful to the dwindling bee population. If you own a home, fill your yard with as many flowers, shrubs and shade trees as you can.
If you live in an apartment, you can still surround yourself with plenty of houseplants – many of which will thrive in low light with very little care. Studies show that connecting with nature benefits humans in a myriad of ways, including increasing our sense of awe, gratitude and wonder – which can help you actually feel the personal payoff of your eco-friendly efforts.
7. Make a Few Smart Changes Around the Home
There are all kinds of changes you can make to your home to make it more eco-friendly. Some are quick fixes, while others may take a little budgeting and planning – but the payoff is worth it.
Some of the best things you can do to benefit both your home and the environment include:
- Get a smart thermostat: This handy little device can be used to turn down the heat in the winter and the A/C in the summer when nobody is home during the day, saving you dollars (and saving gas and electricity).
- Buy energy-efficient appliances: If your water heater, stove, fridge, washer and dryer have seen better days, it may be time to swap them all out for energy-efficient models. The upgrades may even add aesthetic and monetary value to your home.
- Consider solar panels: This is a big investment, but the long-term payoffs can be great, especially if you intend to stay where you are for a while. Solar energy is the ultimate renewable power source.
- Use “green” cleaning products: Skip the detergents and use environmentally friendly items like white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice to keep your home – and the water supply – clean.
Remember: You don’t have to make massive changes all at once to make a difference. Adopt one or two new earth-healthy habits at a time, and decide what sort of major changes you can afford. Small, daily lifestyle changes are just as important as grand action when it comes to saving the planet.