Beyond Recycling... Important Little Changes You Can Make Right Now To Help The Environment Be Less Sad

Being better to the environment doesn't have to be an overhaul of your life! There are super simple changes you can make to your everyday routine that will reduce the amount of harmful impact you have over the span of your life. If you have anything to add, please share in the comments!


1. First of all, let's get some facts out of the way...

1. The earth cannot digest plastic. It is not bio-degradable. That means that once it exists, plastic is never going to be gone.

2. Plastic in the ocean now outnumbers sea life six to one.

3. One in four mammals is at risk of extinction.

4. Plastic chemicals released into our water, like BPA, DDT, and PCB, are absorbed by the body. They disrupt hormones and your endocrine system. Its a big issue. The health effects of DDT include cancer, male infertility, miscarriages and low birth weight, developmental delay, nervous system and liver damage. PCBs also contribute to cancer and cause disorders of the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

5. Oxygen-starved dead zones that cannot sustain life now cover an area roughly the size of the state of Oregon.


6. Only 1% of Chinas 560 million city residents breathe air that is considered safe by the European Union.

7. Less than 1% of the worlds freshwater is readily available for human use.

8. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil, 4,100 kilowatts of energy, 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space and 60 pounds of air pollution. Wow!

9. At least 50 million acres of rainforest are lost every year, totaling an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined.

10. If the entire world lived like the average American, wed need 5 planets to provide enough resources.

2. Okay, here's an easy one: straws

Some people need straws in their drinks for medical reasons (mobility issues, for example). But if this isn't you... why not ditch those pieces of plastic and sip from the cup like a boss?! Ain't no tiny tube of plastic gonna get between you and your drink.

3. While we're on the topic of unnecessary meal accessories... why not ditch napkins?

I get it. It's way easier sometimes to just rip a paper towel or grab a napkin then it is to go aaaall the way to the cupboard, grab a cloth, and go aaaaall the way back to the spill. And then you need to put the cloth in the laundry (which means you have to be willing to do laundry... ugh). But seriously... just use a damn cloth when you can.

4. Now what about plastic cutlery?

Ain't nothin' better than take-out. Well, actually, come to think about it, there are a lot of better things, like a vacation, or your loved ones, or that puppy you saw on the way home from work, but you (Continued)

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but you get the point. Anyway, when you decide to indulge, ask the restaurant to skip the plastic cutlery because NEWS FLASH: you're eating it in your own house, and I know I'm assuming but I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you have cutlery in your drawer.

5. Bike or walk to work, use public transit, arrange a carpool

For some people this is impossible. I get it. You live in the middle of nowhere and work in another remote part of town where you couldn't possibly share a ride to and it's not accessible by transit because it's at the top of a mountain and your bike got a flat tire and you've got bad knees. Sound like you? If not, maybe you've got some arranging to do.

6. Be like Sweden... no ridiculous car trips

Have you ever hopped in the car just to go to the variety store down the street? A friend's house that you could easily walk to? Or somewhere else that is ridiculously easy to get to? The city of Malm, Sweden started a whole campaign around this, to try to get their residents to quit it with the ridiculous car trips. Check out their promotional video:

[vimeo_embed expand=1]

No ridiculous car trips from Martin Lang on Vimeo.

7. Buy local when you can

If you can buy your food local, not only do you get fresher food, you get the benefit of knowing that you have stopped 1,300 miles of needless travel that it takes (on average) for non-local foods to travel from field to your plate. If you can't wrap your head around that, try this: it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York. Check out some farmers markets if you can, or see if your township has a food box program you can join.

8. Turn the dang lights off!

I'm not going to go on about this one. You know the drill. But I will say this: if you or the people you live with are notorious for leaving the lights on, post a reminder sign in a high-traffic area or near the light switch to help them remember.

9. While we're at it with the lights, think about your... (Continued)

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9. While we're at it with the lights, think about your bulbs

Traditional lightbulbs are energy suckers. Electric lighting burns up to 25% of the average home energy budget. And get this: you're being ripped off. The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandescent bulb costs 5 to 10 times the original price of the bulb itself. Replace them with LED bulbs and the earth and your wallet will be thanking you.

10. Okay, I get it. You don't like the gross "fluorescent glow" of an LED lightbulb.

Not so fast... you're not getting away that easy. Have you considered CFL lightbulbs? They are simply miniature versions of full-sized fluorescents. Or, you can purchase the Cree LED bulb a light that was recently invented for people who want to save energy and have the warm cozy glow of traditional bulbs.

11. Use clothing to offset your thermostat

Okay, I know how nice it is to come home in the winter to a warm, cozy house. It's tempting to crank the thermostat all the way up and bask in the pretend-tropical heat. Next time, try opting for thick socks, long johns, and a sweater before you resort to your thermostat. If you can't remember, put a note over your thermostat that says, "Have you put on a sweater yet?"

12. Print a list of the things you can recycle and put it on your fridge

It's hard to remember what can and can't be recycled. Thankfully, most cities have recycling guides that are easily google-able (ahh, the beauty of the internet!). Print it off and post it on your fridge for quick reference.

13. Drivers! Make sure your tires aren't getting tired

So for all those times when you need to use a car, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Low tire pressure wastes money and energy, and causes pollution. An informal study by students at Carnegie Mellon University found that the majority of cars on U.S. roads are operating on tires inflated to only 80 percent of capacity. The average person who drives 12,000 miles yearly on under-inflated tires uses about 144 extra gallons of gas, at a cost of $300-$500 a year.

14. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Or better yet...(Continued)

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14. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Or better yet, a backpack

If you can't remember to bring reusable bags, toss a few in your car / backpack / bike basket and keep them there for times when you swing by the grocery store. Also, if you use a backpack it's way easier to carry your groceries home (for all you "walkers out there).

15. When it comes to packaging, "the more the merrier" rule doesn't apply

You know those packaged foods where you open the package but then everything inside is individually wrapped in its own tiny package? Yeah... that's no good. Try opting for products that use less packaging and buy in bulk if you can.

16. No flyers please!

Reduce the amount of unwanted (wasteful) mail you receive by putting a "no flyers please!" sign above your mailbox. Who wants to sort through useless junk mail anyway?

17. Get some Macklemore swag

Macklemore had it right when he sang, "I wear your granddad's clothes / I look incredible / I'm in this big [cut] coat/ From that thrift shop down the road." Every garment purchased second-hand means one less new one produced, which is important because regardless of material, the production of clothing is costly to the environment. Plus, you can get your new threads on the cheap!

18. You know what I'm about to say about plastic water bottles, don't you?

Quit it. It's 2017. Did you know that making bottles to meet Americas demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year; And thats not even including the oil used for transportation? Perhaps you prefer bottled water because its filtered. But according to Dr. Gina Solomon (a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council) there is no reason to believe that (Continued)

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bottled water is safer than tap water. Often when you buy bottled water, youre simply paying Pepsi or Coke for the same Municipal water you could get for free from any drinking fountain or faucet. I love my Kishu Charcoal filter to ensure my tap water is free of nasty lead that can be in the pipes of older buildings. I simply fill my kanteen with that filtered water before heading out the door! You can get a Kishu to-go filter too if you want to be extra safe when filling up from public drinking fountains and such. Lets #TakeBackTheTap!

19. Electronic is the new paper

There are a bunch of simple ways you can start opting for the electronic (aka less wasteful) version of something compared to paper. Convert to electronic statements and bills. If someone offers you their business card, take a picture of it instead. Switch to electronic tickets for planes, trains, and venues (when you can). Yay! The world is getting happier as we speak!

20. Take a reusable mug to the coffee shop.

Most places will be very receptive to this. Starbucks will even give you 10 cents off your drink. Sure, it's not a whole lot, but it's their way of saying "thanks for caring."

21. Libraries are for more than just books

Many libraries offer services and check-out items far beyond the reaches of literature. Games, construction and gardening tools, sports equipment, and hobby supplies are just a few of the many wonders in libraries across the world. Not only is this helpful to your wallet (free!) but it's a great way to get more use out of items that are shared between members of the community. Call your local library or look on their website to get an idea of just how much you could be taking advantage of. Some cities even offer completely separate libraries for tools, like the Toronto tool library!

22. Use old clothing for rags

Instead of buying more rags or throwing out clothing that is too tattered to be donated, try cutting your clothing into squares to use as rags. With all the money you save, you'll be going from rags to riches! Okay, not exactly, but still...

23. Consider an electric razor instead of the cheap, throwaway kinds

Sure, it's an investment upfront, but the money you'll save not having to buy new razors all the time will actually help you to save in the end. Plus, it's better for the environment. I know that not everyone has the ability to buy the more expensive, reusable type of razor, but if you're reading this and (Continued)

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looking for a way to help your community, donating reusable razors to homeless shelters is a great way to help people and the earth.

24. Skip buying plastic garbage bags

Skip plastic garbage bags and simply put your trash into the can itself. This will require you to wash the can from time to time, but if you are composting well, it wont get too messy. Especially garbage cans in bedrooms, where the main waste is tissues and paper, it won't be too bad.

25. Have you heard of beeswax wrap?

Beeswax wrap is incredible. Instead of plastic wrap, you can wrap your food or whatever else you usually wrap in plastic in beeswax wrap. Not only is it eco-friendly and reusable, it breathes similar to the natural peel or rind of a fruit, so keeps your produce at its freshest.

26. Skip the receipt

This one is simple: when you don't need to keep a receipt, ask the cashier or server not to print the customer copy. The world has one less useless piece of paper with ink on it and the bottom of your bag becomes less cluttered with old crinkled up receipts.

27. Don't use plastic bags in the produce section (just wash when you get home!)

Okay, you know those clear plastic bags that you use to put your produce into at the grocery section? Most fruits have been shipped in trucks, handled by several people, and most likely put in contaminated crates by this point so a flimsy plastic sheath isn't going to do much at this point. You're going to have to wash your produce when you get home anyway, so scrap the individual bags.

28. Think about ditching Q-tips

If you can, think about ditching Q-tips, or using them with less frequency. If you use them for blotting makeup, try a re-usable sponge.

29. Set your fridge between 35 and 38 degrees and pull it a few inches away from the wall

The optimal temperature of 35 to 38 degrees will keep your perishables fresh and cold, and while setting the temperature colder seems tempting, it just increases your energy bill. If you dont have a fridge that demarcates exact degrees, you can get a fridge thermometer to find out.

It helps to pull your fridge 12 inches away from the wall because itll make it easier to keep your food cold.

30. Seal it up!

Make sure windows are properly sealed. Make sure your oven is properly insulated and updated. Make sure the hood range above your stove isn't letting in cold air.

31. Be more critical of "Best before" labels

Best before means BEST freshness before, not ROTTON after the date. If you're not sure, look up how to actually spot if a food has gone bad and do the test yourself. Don't let dates fool you, many foods are still edible well past their best before date.

Intro sources: 1, 2

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