Our little blue rock needs your help. The effects of industry and wasteful humans have taken a toll on the planet. We waste food and water while polluting the air and contaminating the water. Initiates by many countries and some corporations have started making a difference and activists have raised awareness to a new level, but there’s still plenty of things you can do to make a difference.
The common term for doing your part to help the planet is “going green.” It amounts to several minor changes you can make to your lifestyle and some pretty significant changes as well. You can take your new green advice and ideas to work with you and try to get your company or employees on board too. Anything is better than nothing when the planet’s health is concerned.
How to Make a Difference
For this article, we focused on things you could do right now or lifestyle changes that won’t cost you much money or time, usually. It’s not that hard to make a few changes to your lifestyle and help out the Mother Earth. You don’t have to save the world by yourself, and you don’t have to annoy your neighbors about their efforts, you just need to get started to make a difference.
On a side note, consider talking to your boss about adding green programs at your workplace, assuming they haven’t added any recycling programs or energy saving initiates. If you’re the boss or owner, well, that just makes it easier for you to start recycling or using energy saving devices. Small changes may add up to significant differences.
Stop Wasting or Abusing Water
Humans waste a crazy amount of water each day. Check your toilets, faucets, and other plumbing for freshwater leaks and get them repaired right away. A home with a leaky toilet and one or two dripping faucets may waste over 100 gallons of water each day. The parts to fix most leaky toilets or faucets don’t cost a lot, and you can repair them without the aid of a plumber.
While not directly related to saving water, install a filter on your kitchen sink and start drinking tap water instead of bottled water. Saving water can make a difference. You’ll save money and contribute less waste to the environment. We know the filters generate waste, but some municipal water is impossible to drink due to the way they treat the water for contaminants. The filters usually last for months anyway.
Turn off the water when you brush your teeth to save water. If you brush your teeth for the recommended amount of time, usually two or three minutes, with the water running, you may waste over 80 gallons of water each week. Teach your kids and other family members to use the same technique. It only takes a moment of your time, and it may save a lot of water.
Skip taking long showers or bathing in your bathtub. A long, hot shower is fantastic after a long day at work or a hard workout at the gym, but it wastes water and energy. Filling the tub with water uses about three times the water a shower might require. This lifestyle should be passed on to your kids and family as well.
Recycle Everything You Can
According to the EPA, the United States generated over 260 million tons of waste in 2015, and almost 140 million tons of that waste ended up in landfills. The good news that we recycled nearly 120 million tons of garbage, but the bad news is we only recycled 120 million tons of waste. The most common items people recycle include:
Many people already practice recycling, and they are doing a great job, but you may be able to recycle many things you have considered since these items aren’t everyday waste items. Computers, appliances, light bulbs, furniture, and even hair dryers can get recycled. Check locally to find out where to take these items in your area. Some local appliance repair shops may accept them and recycle them for you. Make a difference by looking at ways to recycle all the time.
Walk or Ride a Bike to Work
This tip may not be right for you if you commute over long distances, but it’s perfect for anyone that works near their home. However, it takes about 45 minutes to walk three miles if you walk at a brisk pace. That said, walking is good for you and a brief walk before work may increase your productivity. It only takes about 15 minutes to ride three miles on a bicycle.
If you must drive to work, take care of your vehicle. Improperly inflated tires hurt your vehicle’s fuel economy and cost you extra money in gas and new tires due to uneven wear. Driving ten mph slower than usual will also improve your gas mileage unless you regularly drive over 90 mph in which case you should slow down to around 60 or 70 mph on the interstate.
While not ideal, consider carpooling, taking the bus, or riding a train instead of driving to work. The trains and the buses are going to run anyway, so riding them is better than driving your vehicle. Carpooling follows the same idea, instead of four people driving four cars to work only one car is necessary. It’s a small change but it helps, and you don’t have to walk for miles. Not only does this make a difference but it's a great way to exercise.
The most common excuses for not trying composting is it’s hard to do, and it makes your yard stink. Composting isn’t hard, and your yard won’t stink if you use it for fertilizer. This practice can make a a difference in garbage disposal if done properly. There, the problem is solved, and now you can get started composting. It really is a simple way to reduce the amount of solid waste you contribute to landfills. Over time it may even cut taxes since landfills get used less as a result.
We don’t have the space to explain the entire process, but the information is out there if you search for it. Talk to a friend or neighbor that does it or get advice from your local home supply store. You can add things like newspaper, fruit, vegetables, leaves, grass, chipped up wood, and most kitchen wastes to your compost instead of sending it all to a landfill.
Most of the solid waste your kitchen and yards produce makes great compost ingredients. However, avoid adding invasive plants to the compost if you’re trying to get them to stop growing in your yard. Discard any wood chips or other plant materials that may carry diseases as well since these items might contaminate your compost. Don’t try adding pet litter or charcoal to the mix either.
Reduce Your Energy Use
Invest in energy efficient appliances and wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible. Over a third of the power your washing machine uses is energy used to heat water for washing clothes. The water heater does the work, but the washing machine is the reason it needs to heat more water. It may save you up to $300 each year in energy costs as well.
Replace your air conditioner’s thermostat with a programmable one that lets you choose off-peak times when the AC may not be necessary even if the temperature rises a few degrees. It’s unlikely you’ll notice the temperature change while you’re sleeping or away at work. However, don’t get too liberal since letting it get too hot or cold will increase energy use while your AC struggles to correct the temperature.
Take care of your air conditioner. Clean or replace air filters each time you pay your power bill. Get your air conditioner serviced each spring before cool air is needed and repeat the process in the fall when it’s time to start using the heater. Check with local contractors or home warranty providers to see if they offer a maintenance package that may save you money instead of paying a per call fee.
Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or another type of long-lasting, energy efficient bulb. These bulbs last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use less than half the energy of the ordinary light bulb. These little light bulbs have already saved homeowners millions of dollars in power bills and prevented millions of tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the air.
Turn off the lights in parts of the house you aren’t currently in and don’t leave the ceiling fans running all the time. It’s easy to forget about a ceiling fan since they’re so quiet but turning them off when you’re not home or using a particular room may save you a few hundred dollars each year. It helps to make a difference in protecting the planet as well.
Some Final Notes
Saving the planet and protecting the environment should be priorities. There is something you could do now that you haven’t been doing or some small change that may make a big difference. If you want to do your part and start helping or find new ways to help the Earth, check the EPA’s Greener Living website for a wealth of information and guides on saving energy and reducing your wastes.