When it comes to living a more eco-friendly life, even small changes can have a major impact. While we can’t change the world around us, we can make informed choices that are kinder to our planet and its resources. Here are ten ways you can make your life more environmentally friendly—many of which are free, while others are smart investments that benefit your personal health as well as the planet and its inhabitants.
Drive Less And Walk More (or Bicycle)
One simple and cheap way to make your life more sustainable is by driving less and opting to walk or bike wherever it’s feasible.
If driving is the only option, try to be more mindful about making your trips out as efficient as possible to reduce both gas consumption and your carbon footprint. You can also reduce your speed on the highway since driving 60 MPH and over exponentially increases gas consumption. Get in the habit of getting your vehicle regular oil changes and keeping the air in your tires at the optimal level. Not only does regular maintenance make your car run more efficiently, but it also reduces a car’s emissions that contribute to air pollution.
Driving less is also better for your health, which may be the most compelling reason to reduce automobile usage. Some studies suggest that adding only 25 minutes of brisk walking daily can add up to seven years to your life. Another study found that people who choose to walk or bike tend to suffer less from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Drive An Electric Car
Not everyone is able to upgrade an outdated vehicle. But, if you are in the market for a new car, consider purchasing an electric car. The second largest contributor to our collective carbon footprint is transportation. Even the simple choice of leaving your car at home two days a week can reduce your emissions by up to 3,000 pounds a year. Reducing greenhouse emissions is one of the keys to slowing climate change.
Driving an electric vehicle reduces or, in some cases, eliminates greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, some estimates state that on average Americans can avoid creating 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide emission a year by driving an electric car. While electric cars don’t solve all of our environmental concerns—and even create a few of their own—the technology will continue to improve and become cleaner as more renewable energy becomes available on the utility grid.
Consume Less—And Spend Wisely
Another cheap and easy way to live a more sustainable life is to consume less. Like the old saying goes: reduce, reuse, and recycle. When you do purchase goods, do so wisely. Every product you purchase has an environmental footprint that includes the materials used to make the product, manufacturing of the product, and packaging.
Purchase your groceries as needed so food items don’t go to waste. Buy goods that are fair trade, organic, and ethically made. Before you make any purchases, ask yourself if you really need what you are about to buy. If so, consider buying a gently used version in lieu of something new. Since packaging often ends up in landfills, look for compostable packaging or more environmentally friendly options.'
Shop With Reusable Bags
When you do go shopping bring your own reusable bags to cut down on plastic bags that often end up in landfills and waterways. It’s estimated that one hundred billion plastic grocery bags are used in the United States each year, which works out to be 1,500 bags used per family. Just make sure you buy a sturdy bag that is washable so you have it for years to come.
Don’t Throw Away Food Items—Compost Them
Another easy way to reduce your footprint is to compost your organic food and yard waste. If you have a garden, you should definitely consider composting. Not only does composting reduce landfill waste, the decayed matter adds nutrients like carbon and nitrogen back into depleted soil, which helps plants grow. If you are growing food, this is a great thing especially since you won’t need to rely on chemical fertilizers. Compost also helps with water retention so that you don’t have to water your plants as frequently.
Switch To An Eco-Friendly Mattress
Aside from where we live and work, our beds are where we spend the bulk of our time. If you happen to be in the market for a new mattress, consider choosing a more sustainable option by switching to an eco-friendly mattress. With more and more manufacturers making healthier options for consumers, there are a few certifications that ensure consumers are getting what they pay for.
One of those certifications is CertiPUR-US, which ensures the foams used to make the mattresses are manufactured without ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (“Tris”) flame retardants, mercury, lead, heavy metals, formaldehyde, or phthalates as regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CertiPUR-US certification guarantees that the foams are performance-tested, durability-tested, emissions-tested, and content-tested by independent, accredited laboratories.
Another certification to look for when it comes to sustainable sleep is FSC, which stands for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This certification ensures products come from forests that are not only managed responsibly, but also provide environmental, social, and economic benefits including conserving ecosystems, protecting biodiversity and waterways, conserving forests, reducing agrochemical use, and safeguarding the wellbeing of workers and local communities.
Clean Indoor Air Means Healthier Living—Invest In A Good Air Purifier
According to the EPA, the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors—and the pollutants inside homes and offices are two to five times greater than the air outside. Pet dander, dust, pollen, gases, VOCs, mold, viruses and bacteria, and a variety of other unseen, yet potentially harmful, contributing factors affect our indoor air—and, in turn, can have a negative effect on our health and productivity. To combat indoor air pollution, and to live a healthier life, consider buying an air purifier that reduces these pollutants from the air.
Consider Zero Waste Personal Care Products
The beauty industry (including personal care products) markets a substantial amount of waste when it comes to packaging. When you think about it, most products are wrapped in cellophane to reduce product tampering before you even get to the actual product box, which is often made from very thick cardboard—with, perhaps, additional plastic bits—that may or may not be recyclable. Then of course there is the vessel in which the actual product is contained, which is also typically plastic.
While the use of plastic is inevitable in our lives (think computers, building materials, performance textiles and clothing, and more), there are now several personal care brands that offer products in a bar form, wrapped in paper, that take the place of liquid shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and even pet care products.
Ditch Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles And Go Reusable
Single-use plastic water bottles offer convenience. However, that convenience comes with a steep price—like filling up landfills and polluting our waterways. They also require an incredible amount of resources to produce. Some experts estimate that one year’s worth of manufacturing single-use water bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil.
A more environmentally and health conscious choice is to use a reusable water bottle. While good options may cost a little more up front, in the long term they are cheaper and don’t pose the health risks of reusing a single-use plastic bottle.
Use Programmable, Smart Thermostats
No matter where you live, you will either need to use heat or air conditioning at certain times of the year to make your interior spaces livable. To optimize your cooling and heating, conserve energy usage, and reduce your costs overall, consider upgrading your thermostat to one that is programmable.
“Smart” thermostats offer a variety of benefits, allowing you to track your energy use and control your thermostat remotely. Programmable thermostats also keep track of your movement and usage patterns and so that they adjust accordingly. It is estimated that an American household spends on average $900 a year to heat and cool their properties. With a smart thermostat you can save an average of 8 percent, or roughly $50 a year, while reducing your energy consumption.