It’s hard work keeping a planet in good shape. How, exactly, can each one of us make a difference when the challenges feel so daunting?
If you feel a twinge of guilt every time Earth Day rolls around, don’t! There are plenty of simple and easy ways to make a positive impact on the environment. Even better, when we all do them together, their impact is exponential.
1. Look for recycled materials and recycled packaging when you shop.
Choosing products made from recycled plastic—like this insulated, reusable lunch tote made from old plastic bottles—lessens your impact on the landfills. Also keep an eye out for products using recycled paper, plastic and cardboard instead of brand new packaging—every little bit counts!
2. Stop pretending you’re a race car driver.
Speeding down the highway may feel good, but every 5 miles per hour you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.17 per gallon for gas. You might also want to keep a lid on the road rage—aggressive driving (speeding up and braking quickly) can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds.
3. Skip meat one day each week.
Whether you’re a Paleo devotee or a committed vegan, most of us can agree that skipping meat for one day a week is good for the planet. Meat is extremely water-intensive—it takes 1,847 gallons to produce one pound of beef!—and also requires lots of land. Raising livestock also results in about 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Pass on plastic bags.
Globally, we use a staggering 1 trillion plastic bags a year. Considering they take almost 1,000 years to break down, that might not be such a great idea. There are lots of great new reusable options out there these days, so there’s no excuse to keep loading your milk and bread into plastic sacks.
5. Search for shade-grown coffee.
Though coffee plants grown in shade produce fewer coffeebeans, they host an incredible diversity of birds—150 species vs. only about 50 species on farms planted in the sun. Shell out a little more and you’ll be supporting biodiversity. The good news? Shade-gown beans are often more flavorful, so they’re worth a few extra bucks.
6. Toss in the paper towels.
Sure, they’re convenient, but Americans use a whopping 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year. That’s about 51,000 trees every day. This one is a no-brainer: reusable kitchen towels are prettier and last for years.
7. Use technology to pay your bills.
Let’s be honest—no one likes getting bills in the mail anyway. And by paying your monthly household bills online, you could save up to 18 million trees annually.
8. Shop for eco-friendly, non-toxic personal care products.
Many bath and body products—think lotions, makeup, deodorants, and creams—contain chemicals that can not only wreak havoc on your body, but also on the environment. Instead of conventional options, choose natural options with few synthetic chemicals.
Photo credit: Till Westermayer via Flickr