Taking care of our families, our careers, our bodies are all essential to sustain an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Extending that list to include taking care of our environment is a no-brainer. How can we enjoy the beautiful mountain plants in China if we’ve destroyed it? We can’t enjoy life or have the generations after us enjoy it if we don’t make conscious choices to take care of it now.
Below are the 25 go green ideas that can be implemented today:
1) Use a Better Light Bulb
If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. Most compact fluorescent bulbs are affordable and available at your local hardware store.
Don’t like the color of light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other places where it won’t irk you as much.
2) Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
Each year 15 billion batteries produced and sold and most of them are disposable alkaline batteries. Only a fraction of those are recycled. Buy a charger and a few sets of rechargeable batteries. Although it requires an upfront investment, it is one that should pay off in no time. And on Christmas morning when all the stores are closed? You’ll be fully stocked.
3) Go Paperless
Some banks will pay you a dollar or donate money on your behalf when you cancel the monthly paper statements you get in the mail. If every household took advantage of online bank statements, the money saved could send more than seventeen thousand recent high school graduates to a public university for a year.
4) Pay Bills Online
According to MindBodyGreen, by some estimates, if all households in the U.S. paid their bills online and received electronic statements instead of paper, we’d save 18.5 million trees every year, 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste.
5) Ditch the Coffee Stirrer
Each year, Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers. But skipping the stirrer doesn’t mean drinking your coffee black. Simply put your sugar and cream in first, and then pour in the coffee, and it should be well mixed.
Determined to stir? Break off a piece of pasta from the cupboard. You can nibble after using it, compost, or throw away with less guilt.
6) Say NO to the Plastic Bag
Each year the U.S. uses 84 billion plastic bags, a significant portion of the 500 billion used worldwide. They are not biodegradable, and are making their way into our oceans, and subsequently, the food chain. Stronger, reusable bags are an inexpensive and readily available option. Lots of cities haven now taken the initiative to do their part by banning plastic bags all together.
7) Go to the Car Wash
Professional car washes are often more efficient with water consumption. If everyone in the U.S. who washes their car themselves took just one visit to the car wash we could save nearly 8.7 billion gallons of water. Plus, you can sit and relax while they do all the work!
8) Donate, Don’t Throw Away
Before you throw something away, think about if someone else might need it. Either donate to a charitable organization or post it on a web site designed to connect people and things. Throwing away items that someone else can use is probably one of the most wasteful actions I can think of.
9) Reduce Your Junk Mail
The average American receives 40 pounds of junk mail each year, destroying 100 millions trees. There are many services that can help reduce the clutter in your mailbox, saving trees and the precious space on your countertops.
10) Turn Off Lights
Always turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Fluorescent bulbs are more affected by the number of times it is switched on and off, so turn them off when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. You’ll save energy on the bulb itself, but also on cooling costs, as lights contribute heat to a room.
11) Lawn Maintenance
If you must water your lawn, do it early in the morning before any moisture is lost to evaporation. Have a few weeds? Spot treat them with vinegar. Not sure if you should rake? Normal clippings act as a natural fertilizer, let them be. If you’ve waited too long, rake by hand — it’s excellent exercise.
12) Recycle Old Cell Phones
The average cell phone lasts around 18 months, which means 130 million phones will be retired each year. If they go into landfills, the phones and their batteries introduce toxic substances into our environment. There are plenty of reputable programs where you can recycle your phone, many which benefit noble causes.
13) Recycle Aluminum and Glass
Twenty recycled aluminium cans can be made with the energy it takes to manufacture one brand new one. Every ton of glass recycled saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil needed to make glass from virgin materials. We consume so many beverages that come in aluminum cans and glass that recycling them is a must.
14) Take Care of Your Car
Not only are you extending the life of your vehicle, but you are creating less pollution and saving gas. A properly maintained vehicle, clean air filters, and inflated tires can greatly improve your vehicle’s performance. And it might not hurt to clean out the trunk—all that extra weight could be costing you at the pump.
15) Recycle Wire Hangers
Wire hangers are generally made of steel, which is often not accepted by some recycling programs. So what do you do with them? Most dry cleaners will accept them back to reuse or recycle.
16) Reduce Your Bath-time Frequency
Have a no-bath week, and take showers instead. Baths require almost twice as much water. Not only will you reduce water consumption, but the energy costs associated with heating the water.
17) Don’t Let the Water Run
You’ve heard this one before, but maybe you still do it. You’ll conserve up to five gallons per day if you stop. Daily savings in the U.S. alone could add up to 1.5 billion gallons–more water than folks use in the Big Apple.
18) Shorten Your Shower
Every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten gallons of water. If everyone in the country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal twice the amount of freshwater withdrawn from the Great Lakes every day.
19) Plant a Tree
It’s good for the air, the land, can shade your house and save on cooling (plant on the west side of your home), and they can also improve the value of your property.
20) Adjust Your Thermostat Accordingly
Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree cooler in the winter. Each degree celsius less will save about 10% on your energy use! In addition, invest in a programmable thermostat which allows you to regulate temperature based on the times you are at home or away.
21) Cruise Control – Use it!
You paid for those extra buttons in your car, so put them to work! When using cruise control your vehicle could get up to 15% better mileage. Considering today’s gasoline prices, this is a boon not only for the environment but your budget as well.
22) Shop Local
Consider the amount of pollution created to get your food from the farm to your table. Whenever possible, buy from local farmers or farmers’ markets, supporting your local economy and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.
23) Go Second-Hand
Consider buying items from a second-hand store. Toys, bicycles, roller blades, and other age and size-specific items are quickly outgrown. Second hand stores often sell these items in excellent condition since they are used for such a short period of time, and will generally buy them back when you no longer need them.
24) Don’t Buy Plastic Bottles
Nearly 90% of plastic water bottles are not recycled, instead taking thousands of years to decompose. Buy a reusable container and fill it with tap water, a great choice for the environment, your wallet, and possibly your health. The EPA’s standards for tap water are more stringent than the FDA’s standards for bottled water.
25) Make Your Own Wrapping Paper
You can reuse gift bags, bows and event paper, but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and give your child stamps or markers to create their own wrapping paper that’s environmentally friendly and extra special for the recipient.
And the list goes on and on. Going green is not only for the tree-hugging, long-haired, hippie from Berkeley. Making better choices to lessen the harm caused to our beautiful planet not only makes sense but as shown above, small changes can go a very long way. For a more sophisticated look at how environmental issues impact energy concerns, enroll in Energy Economics and the Environment.