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We all know the adage that there’s power in numbers. When it comes to sustainability that’s especially true.

As individuals, our actions—choosing cloth over paper napkins, buying in bulk, using refillable water bottles—add up. When we come together as a community of friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, we strengthen these earth-friendly measures.

You’re probably adhering to the Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle principle already. But there are some surprising choices you can make today that will safeguard natural resources for tomorrow.

Calculate Your Eco Footprint.

It’s eye-opening to learn how gently (or heavily) your household treads on the planet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a carbon footprint calculator to benchmark your current impact, along with suggestions to help you reduce it.

Eat and Shop Locally

veggies

Hometown restaurants and boutiques are more likely to source from local or regional vendors than big-box operations. It’s smart business to keep dollars circulating within your own community. Local dollars stay in the community longer than dollars spent with non-local businesses, according to research. That translates into more jobs, more resiliency, and more vibrancy.

Plant Trees and Pull Weeds

Learn about invasive plant species where you live. Join forces with like-minded folks to pull non-native grasses; replace a thirsty lawn with xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes with drought-tolerant vegetation that requires little or no watering. Plant trees that thrive in your ecosystem, encouraging native plant, animal, and bird species to flourish.

Grow a Garden

More and more people are coming together to nurture community gardens. Learn about composting. Share tools. Make friends. Maintaining green spaces also ensures access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers for low-income and vulnerable populations. By joining a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) you can support seasonal farm harvests within your area.

Ride Share

Bike, walk, carpool, or take public transit whenever possible. If you’re using your own vehicle, pool errands. I personally limit my driving to no more than three days a week. Bonus: I slash traffic-related stress.

Downsize and Donate

donate

I’ll admit: I’m guilty of shopping more than necessary. The minimalist movement really got me thinking about how Less is Now. I’ve started asking myself one question, “Do I really need this?” Then I sleep on the potential purchase. My bestie only buys something new if she can offload something she already owns. But you can still acquire new-to-you items at thrift shops or yard sales. The Freecycle Network lets you give and receive freebies in your zip code.

Use Natural Cleaning Supplies

I’m allergic to many chemical cleaners. Fortunately, the time-tested trio of baking soda, vinegar, and water works great without assaulting my nose and lungs. I also avoid pesticides and fertilizer use, as they poison the animal food chain. These simple steps can save more than 100,000 types of commercial chemicals from entering our oceans.

Install Solar

Consider renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro. The long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs, and many local utility companies help subsidize the switch. At a minimum, schedule an energy audit, upgrade to energy efficient appliances, and insulate your home.

Explore Bartering

cash or barter

Bartering is an age-old system of trading goods or services that eliminates the exchange of cash. I currently barter copywriting services for dental cleanings. Can you swap fresh citrus for dog walking? Bookkeeping for tutoring? Personal training for tech advice? Get creative. Someone you know has something you need and vice versa.

Flex Your Political Muscle

Lobby and write your elected representatives to create tax incentives for environmentally sensible practices. These actions include protecting wetlands, expanding greenway corridors, and fast-tracking renewable energy sources.

Advocate for Sustainability Curriculum

Is your school teaching kids about their environmental impact? Ask your officials to incorporate sustainability education into the curriculum.

Spread the Word

Raise sustainability awareness in your circle of influence. Work the topic into water cooler talk. Arrange for a sustainability expert to speak at your church, HOA, school, sorority, or social club.

Consider renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro. The long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs, and many local utility companies help subsidize the switch. At a minimum, schedule an energy audit, upgrade to energy efficient appliances, and insulate your home.

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