Some people say that just one individual can’t make a difference in having a real impact on the planet. Well for starters, I firmly believe that those people definitely don’t recycle.
Some people say that just one individual can’t make a difference in having a real impact on the planet. Well for starters, I firmly believe that those people definitely don’t recycle. I am certain that there is a lot of good just one person can do to preserve and protect our world, especially when we can influence others to chip in. The most incredible thing is, you don’t have to be an environmental activist to make an impact and reduce your ecological footprint.
A year ago when I moved in with my boyfriend, I was horrified when I watched him throw a glass bottle away as if it were a used tissue. Now, I have him sorting our recycling all on his own. I’m thrilled to know that I’ve changed at least one person’s behavior that didn’t require moving to the woods and using leaves as toilet paper. I live in Manhattan, New York, and practice each and every one of these ecologically sound habits, so I can assure you that you don’t have to grow your own food to make a difference (though if you do, that is incredible and I am extremely jealous!). Just try to incorporate some of these simple and easy practices into your lifestyle and feel good about the fact that you’re doing your part.
1. Cut Down on Meat Consumption
This may seem impossible, but I’m by no means demanding that anyone become vegetarian or vegan. Although, it is good for the environment and your health to cut down on the amount of meat you consume. It takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. It also exhausts tons and tons of oil, straining the globe’s resources. Give the environment (and your digestive tract) a rest and incorporate meatless forms of protein into your diet. Fry up some tofu, sprinkle salads with nuts, even cook with protein-rich yogurts or spread potatoes with cottage cheese for a filling, vegetarian meal. Start by making 2-3 vegetarian meals for dinner each week. There are millions of delicious recipes on the Internet that are sans meat and divine.
2. Get a Reusable Water Bottle
It’s absurd how many plastic water bottles are used and wasted. Over 85% end up in landfills. What is the best way to break this awful cycle? Bring your own reusable water bottle that you can drink from, wash, and use thousands of times without wasting a single inch of plastic. Just shove it in your book bag and refill from drinking fountains anywhere. Once you start consciously carrying your bottle everywhere, the act will become second nature.
3. Sign Conservation and Animal Rights Petitions Online
This may seem silly, but these petitions can be very effective in swaying legislation that can work for or against the environment and our furry friends. Anytime you pass a petition on a blog or Facebook that resonates with you, give it a sign. It takes only a few minutes to add your signature, thereby making a positive impact on the environment.
4. Carry a Tote
We already know that plastic is terrible for the environment. While plastic bags are recyclable, more often than not they get thrown away, stuck in trees, the ocean, or worse—animal’s throats. It’s best to simply reduce the amount of waste you leave behind. Carrying around a reusable tote is smart and convenient. Any shopping you do can be done with the same bag, over and over. I love to carry a reusable bag from Loqi, not only because it folds up into a tiny square that I can easily carry in the tiniest of purses, but because it’s long-lasting, water-resistant, washable, and light as a feather. Get one for only $11 ‘here’
5. Don’t Flush
This may seem gross, but once you start the habit of flushing less, you’ll feel good about doing more. Anything more than a pee is just nasty to leave behind, but it’s helpful and easy to flush every other time at home to conserve water. I’ve even gotten my bf in on this trick.
6. Turn Off the Lights AND Unplug
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but lots of people forget to power down the house when they leave. Check every room and be sure that lights are out. Believe it or not, when cords are left plugged into the walls, they still generate a small amount of electricity. Stop the flow and save some juice by unplugging lamps, alarm clocks, and cell phone chargers when not in use.
7. Get Better Bulbs
It wasn’t long ago that incandescent light bulbs were all the rage, but now reports indicate that LED light bulbs are the most efficient form of lighting. These bulbs boast a lifespan of 25 years and though each one costs around $25, you’ll spend only $65 for 5,000 hours of lighting as opposed to $352.50 on bulbs and electricity with an incandescent bulb. Next time your bulbs burn out, purchase LED ones and save tons of energy and cash.
I would assume that everyone recycles at home by now, but I’m afraid that this belief is nothing short of naïve. Chances are, your building or community has a recycling system. Anything plastic, metal, cardboard, glass, or paper should be put into a bin and sent off to the recycling center. Set up a separate trash can in your kitchen for recyclables and sort anything used accordingly. Super easy and effective.
9. Walk or Bike
Even using public transport keeps traffic pollution to a minimum. Walk when you can, or better yet, up the workout and bike to your next destination. Living in New York City has taught me that it’s normal and even healthy to walk 20 blocks or more to get somewhere. So dust off those sneakers and hit the streets.
10. Go Paperless
Your bank gives you the option to do this anytime you sign in to your account online, so make it a point to click the Paperless feature. Anytime you want to check your statement, it’s available through an app or the regular ole Internet, so do the trees a favor and keep statements from coming through the mail. It will help de-clutter your home in the process.
11. Order Naked
Most delivery services let you choose if you want them to deliver plastic silverware and napkins or not. If you’re at home, use your own forks and cloth napkins.
12. Get Thrifty
Not everything in your life has to be previously owned; however, the more you thrift, the lower your footprint and the lower your costs. Antique, secondhand, and thrift shops are full of gently used clothes and furniture that is asking for a new home. I supplement my wardrobe often with gently worn designer clothes from thrift shops like Beacon’s Closet that save me a pretty penny and garner lots of compliments. There are dozens of sites, including Craigslist, that let you purchase goods from others and even list your own, which I highly recommend for cost-effectiveness. The wooden side table in my bedroom? $17 from a yard sale on 25th Street. Doesn’t get much better than that.
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