It’s no secret that the world in which we live is in trouble. When you look at the big picture, though, and think about things like our massive dependence on oil and natural gas, the millions of tons of plastic that are filling our oceans and all of the waste that’s clogging up our landfills and damaging the environment in which they are located, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. As just one person, you might feel like you are powerless in the fight against these major problems that are threatening the world in which we live.
While you may be unable to single-handedly clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or keep gas-guzzling vehicles from emitting their pollutants into the air, there are plenty of little things that you can do that have a big impact. Keep reading to discover a few simple ways you can help the environment!
Make the Switch to Reusable Shopping Bags
If you were only to do one thing to help the planet, making the switch to reusable shopping bags would be a great option. When plastic shopping bags are thrown away, they end up in landfills or–worse–in other places, like the ocean or environment. Animals sometimes mistake them for food, and the results of this can be deadly. They can also suffocate animals that become trapped inside them. And, of course, they take a long, long time to decompose.
Using a reusable bag eliminates this problem. And since some of them are actually made using recycled plastic bags, buying one could help keep more than just your own bags out of landfills and the environment!
When you do need to take a plastic bag, reuse it when you are finished rather than just throwing it away. You can use them when you go shopping again, to store things in your home, etc. When you’re done with them, look for a bin where you can deposit them to be recycled. Many grocery stores have them. There are also resources to help you determine where you can recycle plastic bags in your area.
Plastic grocery bags aren’t the only things that can be recycled, of course. Many of the things that you use on a daily basis can likely be recycled when you are finished with them. Materials like paper, cardboard, plastic, metal and glass can be broken down and reused to make new products. This is, obviously, a lot better than sending them to landfills!
If you don’t already recycle, it’s easy to get started. Check to see if your garbage disposal company offers recycling services. Chances are, they do. Find out the requirements, and you’ll be on your way to living a more sustainable life in no time. Even if your garbage disposal company doesn’t offer this service, your community likely has bins where you can drop off your recyclables.
Keep in mind that things like electronics and inkjet cartridges can be recycled, too. While they usually can’t go out with your regular recyclables, there are all sorts of programs that will take them off your hands. Earth911 has an excellent tool that will help you determine where to take or send all sorts of recyclables.
Consider the Sustainability of Your Wardrobe
The fast fashion industry has had a huge impact on the environment. Clothing has largely become a “throwaway” item and frequently ends up in landfills. Also, in our efforts to make clothing more affordable, we’ve mostly stopped producing it in the United States and, instead, buy from overseas manufacturers who employ less-than-ideal business practices. Some facilities do immeasurable damage to the environment and others violate the rights of their employees. If you don’t want to support the type of company that uses sweatshop labor or fails to uphold environmental standards, be careful who you buy from. Support reportable brands that care about sustainability, such as Fruit of the Loom, Econscious and Bella+Canvas. Take the time to do some research to learn more about the brands that supply the clothing you need, and choose ones that employ sustainable business practices.
You can also build a more sustainable wardrobe by shopping for second-hand clothing rather than buying everything new. Thrift stores and other second-hand shops often sell garments that are in like-new condition at a fraction of the regular retail price. This allows buyers to score great deals while doing their part to help the planet. It’s a win-win.
Conserve Water and Electricity
Cutting back on the amount of water and electricity you use can be hugely beneficial to the environment (and your wallet!). Most of us waste a lot more water than we realize. To conserve, turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth, install a low-flow showerhead and toilet and fix leaky faucets or hoses right away. You can even do your part to conserve by shaving a minute or two off your morning shower each day and being mindful of the amount of water you use when washing your dishes.
Reducing the amount of electricity you use is good for the planet, too. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and switch them off when you don’t need them. Invest in a programmable thermostat. Unplug chargers and other devices when you are not actively using them. Believe it or not, most of them draw power constantly when they are plugged in–even when they’re not in use. If your budget allows, upgrade to more efficient appliances.
Commit to Taking Small Steps Every Day
As one person, you may not be able to “fix” the entire world. But by making small changes to your daily habits, you can have a positive impact on the environment. Whether it’s using a reusable travel mug instead of a disposable coffee cup, remembering to turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth or throwing an empty plastic bottle in your recycling bin instead of the trash can, taking small steps every day can have a big impact.