5 Everyday Changes That Impact the Environment for Good
Whether we care to admit it or not, the arrival of a new year often leads many of us to take stock in past accomplishments and set goals for the year ahead in the form of dreaded “resolutions.” Get more exercise, eat healthier, focus on career – these are just a few of the more popular declarations. And yet, like most things in life, adhering to these promises you’ve made to yourself is generally easier said than done.
Fortunately, this is not a post about your New Year’s resolutions. In fact -- we’re even going to take it one step further and say this post isn’t even about you. Rather it’s about forming powerful habits that will benefit our planet and generations to come. You just happen to be the method by which they will be achieved. Best of all, the following suggestions will take up far less of your time, making them easier to adopt, both now and in the future.
1. Curb water use
This one is a little obvious, but many of us don’t think about the amount of water we use each and every day. We run faucets while we wash dishes and brush our teeth, take more than our fair share of long showers, run sprinklers on 90-degree days. In the East, where precipitation is a 12-month affair, this may not seem like a big deal. But in the West, where the climate is more arid and the replenishment of aquifers and reservoirs is far less certain, it’s a much bigger issue.
A few ways to conserve water: Shut off faucets when not directly in use, water lawns after sunset or before sunrise to lessen evaporation, purchase a rain barrel for plant irrigation instead of using a hose, take shorter showers (and eliminate baths) and refuse the complimentary glass of water at restaurants (unless you plan on drinking it).
2. Scale back on car use
Yes, we know. It’s cold this time of year. Darn cold. Which means for most of you, if you want to get from point A to point B without turning into an icicle, you’re going to use your car to do it. That’s fine. We get that. But you can still lessen impact on the environment by bundling your errands into one trip instead of three. Or, if your destination is less than a mile away, consider piling on some layers, grabbing a hat and gloves and hoofing it. Nothing like a short, brisk winter walk to wake the senses! For longer trips, consider letting someone else to do the driving and take the bus or train instead. According to a recent study, a 20-mile round trip commute using public transportation can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4,800 pounds. And that’s just if one person does it.
3. Reduce dependency on plastic bottles
Despite our best efforts to “go green,” nearly 90 percent of all plastic bottles still end up in landfills. That’s a huge problem when you consider how much bottled water is purchased each year. And yet contrary to popular belief, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for water out of the tap are far more stringent than the FDA’s standards for bottled water. Consider buying a reusable container and filling it up at home. If you’re still not convinced your faucet is giving you the good stuff, purchase a screw-on filter or Brita-type pitcher and fill from there. And if you do use plastic, be sure to recycle.
4. When you go ‘takeout,’ take less
The average American uses approximately 2,200 napkins a year, roughly six a day. If we each took just one less each day, over a billion pounds of paper napkins could be saved from our landfills each year. At the same time, if you’re just popping in for a meal you plan on eating at home, consider leaving behind the plastic utensils and assorted condiment packets. Reducing the amount of disposable packaging and assorted takeout accessories you most likely won’t use anyway can have a positive impact on the environment.
5. Keep America beautiful
If everyone in American picked up one piece of litter today, we’d have over 300 million fewer pieces of litter. Sure, nobody likes getting his or her hands dirty – especially when it comes to picking up after someone else. But turning a blind eye to that candy wrapper in the gutter near your driveway is not the solution. By properly disposing of just one piece of litter each day, we can prevent refuse from collecting in our waterways, forests, oceans and beaches and harming wildlife in the process. Best of all, it only takes a second to do it and you’ll feel good about protecting our great outdoors.