Everyone has some form of impact on their natural environment-- in an industrialized world, this is an unavoidable reality. However, the extent to which people negatively impact their environment can absolutely be mitigated through a number of means. Whether it's making large efforts or simple ones, there are many ways that everyone can do their part to help preserve the health of the environment.
Simple Things to Do at Home
There is not one culprit that people can hold responsible as the singular cause of environmental destruction. While global climate change may be the environmental cause du jour, it is certainly not the only issue facing humankind. Much like there are numerous causes to environmental destruction, there are numerous things that everyone can do at home to help mitigate this damage. Changes don't have to be big, and many incremental changes can add up to a major shift.
- Light bulbs are an easy switch. Compact fluorescent bulbs last longer and use less energy than incandescent bulbs, so you will save money by using them.
- Many municipalities already offer good recycling programs. All glass, cans and paper should be recycled, along with as much plastic as possible.
- You may notice that cleaning products can be harsh on the eyes and nose. They can also be hard on the environment. For most household cleaning, you can use baking soda, white vinegar and Castille soap. You will save money and cut down on dangers for small children.
- Invest in a set of canvas bags. You can use these for a lot of shopping. Most people use them for groceries, but bring them along when buying books, toys or even clothes. If they are too bulky, there are many others that fold up and slip into small purses.
- Utilize greywater for things like flushing the toilet and watering the garden. If you use natural soaps without harsh chemicals, the water from your bath or shower can be reused on your garden. Also, this water can be reused to flush your toilet. All you need to do is put a bucket in the shower with you to collect the water, then dump it down the toilet to flush.
- Use your electronics until they're completely dead and impossible to use. Consumer electronics create an immense amount of waste, and not only when it comes to the components piling up in landfills. Electronics use a number of minerals that are often mined in countries without proper environmental protection protocols. Buying fewer electronics will help you to drastically reduce your imprint on the environment.
- Use heavy curtains on your windows. Heavy curtains play a great dual purpose in your home when it comes to energy savings. Not only will they help keep sunlight and heat out of your home in the summer, but they also help retain heat during the winter. This way, you aren't using up as much energy to heat and cool your home.
- When possible, buy bamboo kitchen tools. Spatulas, spoons, and salad tossers are generally very easy to find in bamboo. Bamboo grows quickly and bamboo fields use very little space to yield a productive crop.
- Buy organic, shade-grown coffee. The coffee industry is one of the most destructive agricultural industries on the planet. Shade-grown coffee is coffee that has been grown in such a way as to create an agricultural ecosystem that promotes animal habitation in harmony with the growth of the coffee. This is much better than the pesticide-laden monocultures that most coffee plantations are.
- Buy second-hand clothing at thrift stores. The cotton industry is another industry that uses an obscene level of pesticides, and there is a lot of energy that goes into creating even a blank t-shirt.
Look for Reductions
You've heard the phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle" as one of the mantras for simple ways to save the environment. You might be surprised how easy this is to act on.
Reductions at Home
- Take shorter showers. Most people don't really realize how much water is used in every shower they take, and water conservation is quickly becoming one of the most important environmental issues facing humanity.
- Repair your clothes when they tear. The clothing industry is simply enormous, and a lot of people will buy a new pair of jeans every time they tear a little hole in the old ones. This is a massively wasteful process, and it can be easily mitigated by simply taking some time to repair your torn clothes.
- Unplug your appliances when you're not using them. Some people don't realize that their appliances pull electricity from the grid even when they're powered down. This is what's known as a "vampire draw," and it accounts for an average of 5 percent of the yearly electrical usage in American homes.
- One of the most important things you can do is reduce. You probably send all the junk mail you receive straight into recycling, but if you visit DMAchoice.org to opt out of receiving the mail at all, you'll be doing the planet and your postal carrier a big favor.
- Instead of using foil or plastic wrap to store leftovers, use reusable containers. Glass is your best option and it has the advantage of being microwaveable.
- Old clothes that are unsuitable for charity shops can be cut up into rags, so that you can stop using paper towels. They won't take up much more space in the washing machine.
Reductions at Work
- Try biking or riding the bus to work. Not only will this lessen the amount of greenhouse gasses you put into the atmosphere, but it will also end up saving you money.
- Research local incentives on green development and approach your boss with them. See if there is some sort of interest at your workplace in being more environmentally friendly.
- If you use a computer at your job, try upgrading it to more advanced components. LED screens use a fraction of the energy that the older monitors use, and you could also start unplugging your computer when you leave at night.
- Bring a lunch with you to work. This cuts down on the urge to go out to eat at a restaurant for lunch, which can lead to Styrofoam takeout boxes and many other types of waste.
Going a Little Further
While there are hundreds of small ways to save the environment at home and at work, you should consider making a slightly bigger impact by doing the following:
- Get involved with a local environmental non-profit. There is always a need for volunteers that are dedicated to the environment, and there are a lot of ways to engage a local non-profit with your unique skills.
- Start replacing your current appliances with Energy Star models. This can be a little pricey, but most states have some sort of incentive program to help citizens pay for these types of upgrades.
- Buy from local vendors and manufacturers. This is one of those things that, on the surface, seems like a very simple thing. However, it takes a lot of work these days to find locally manufactured goods, and they are often more expensive. After all, you can easily find a big box store on almost any corner in every major city, making them a very convenient way to get the things you need. When you buy from local stores, farmers, and manufacturers, you are eliminating the energy used to ship goods from one place to another, resulting in a very positive impact.
You Can Make a Difference
Little things really do mean a lot, and the more eco-conscious you become in your daily life, the more you are doing to preserve the planet for the long haul. While it isn't always convenient or easy to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, it is a way of life that will provide you with greater peace of mind.