Did you know that households are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of the impact humans have on the planet? There is a common misconception that large corporations are behind most environmental problems, but consumer buying habits determine what is produced. Find out how you can reduce your own environmental footprint thanks to green living.
Why Go Green?
You might not realize it, but the decisions you make each day have a direct impact on the planet. Using resources such as water or electricity, getting in your car, and even shopping for groceries have an impact on the environment. Did you know that Americans generate around 250 million tons of trash each year, and less than 40 percent is recycled? And did you know that each person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water each day? The good news is that you can make a few changes to your lifestyle and habits to reduce your energy consumption and avoid waste. You can’t completely eliminate your environmental footprint, but it is possible to greatly reduce the impact of your household on the planet and its resources. You could even end up saving money in the process!
Rethinking The Way You Shop
Your shopping habits have a major impact on the planet. Living green means being more aware of the brands you support, reducing unnecessary consumption, and being more mindful of waste.
Do You Really Need to Buy an Item?
Natural resources are used to manufacture products and greenhouse gas is emitted as products are transported to stores, which is why consuming less is good for the environment. Ask yourself if you really need a product you have been thinking about buying and look for alternatives. You could shop for second-hand clothes at local thrift shops, repurpose old furniture, or borrow some of the items you need.
Pay Attention to The Packaging
A lot of products are wrapped in several layers of plastic. Purchasing these products results in additional waste, and this plastic is often not recycled. Be mindful of this when shopping, and try finding products with recyclable packaging.
Look for Durable Products
Choosing a more durable product means you will end up consuming less on the long-term. Consider spending a little more on some items so you don’t have to replace them soon and generate more waste.
Support Fair Trade and Local Businesses
A lot of major corporations use controversial practices. They might for instance use harmful chemicals or treat farmers poorly. You can stop supporting these practices by shopping at local businesses instead or looking for fair trade alternatives. If there is a farmer’s market in your area, try to buy most of your food there. Buying food that is grown locally means you won’t support industrial agriculture and won’t spend money on produce that has been transported halfway across the country.
Reduce Food Waste
There are a few things you can do to reduce food waste:
- Plan meals in advance and make a grocery list.
- Prepare smaller quantities of food and put less food on your plate.
- Cook dishes with leftovers you will want to eat.
- Look for recipes you can make with leftovers.
- Store food properly so it won’t go bad.
- Keep a list of what you throw away to get a better idea of which foods you always end up wasting.
Try to get everyone in your household involved when it comes to avoiding food waste.
Reduce Your Energy and Water Consumption
Living green is also about learning to use less energy at home. You can reduce electricity, gas and water consumption by being more mindful and by following these tips.
Using Less Water
Make a conscious effort to take shorter showers and encourage everyone in your household to do the same. You can also save water by turning the faucet off when you brush your teeth. Inspect your plumbing system and look for small leaks. Damaged seals and leaking fixtures can greatly increase your water consumption. You can go further and invest in more efficient faucets, shower heads and toilets. A newer dishwasher or washing machine could also result in smaller water bills if you are replacing older appliances. Did you know that 20 percent of the world’s drinking water is used to flush toilets? If you use your toilet to flush items such as baby wipes, makeup wipes or tissues, you can reduce your water bill by throwing these items away in the trash instead. If you have a garden, look for plants that do not require frequent watering. Create some shades so the soil can retain humidity better.
Using Less Gas and Electricity
You should be able to reduce your utility bills and get closer to living green by following these tips:
- Improve the insulation in your attic, walls, and basement.
- Check crawl spaces and add insulation if needed.
- Replace old storm windows and doors.
- Always keep the fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.
- Wear warmer clothes instead of turning the thermostats up.
- Use a window fan rather than turning on the AC in the summer.
- Keep the inside of your house cool by not opening windows, doors, and curtains.
- Avoid creating moisture during the warmer hours of the day. This includes doing dishes and washing clothes.
- Remember to always turn the lights off when you leave a room. Rely on sunlight more if possible.
- Replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient products.
- Have your AC and heating systems cleaned and fine-tuned by a professional at least once a year.
Keep an eye on your energy bills to see if your efforts are paying off. If you have older appliances, replacing them with newer energy-efficient ones can make a real difference.
Cars emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Our current driving habits aren’t sustainable. You can avoid participating in depleting natural resources by driving as little as possible. Completely giving up your car isn’t realistic. However, you can follow these tips to drive less:
- If you need to go somewhere within walking distance, you don’t need to drive.
- If you live in an area with bicycle paths, get into the habit of riding your bike more.
- Look into using public transportation.
- Plan ahead of time so you only need to go to the grocery store once a week.
- If possible, plan on running different errands on the same day so you don’t make multiple trips to the same part of town.
- Talk to your neighbors and friends about carpooling, or try using a carpooling app.
If driving less is not really an option, think about getting a smaller vehicle or a car with better fuel efficiency.
Going Further with Green Living
Reducing your energy consumption and rethinking the way you shop is only the beginning. There are many other options to explore if you are serious about living green.
Growing Your Own Food
You can grow your own food if you have a yard or even some space on your porch or patio. Growing your own food will give you access to fresh fruits and vegetables that haven’t come in contact with chemicals. Lawns aren’t ideal for the environment. They require a lot of water and maintenance and occupy space that could be used to grow trees or food. You can start your own garden even if you don’t have any experience. Talk to your neighbors to find out about the plants that grow well in the area. Pick a spot with plenty of sunlight and start with some low-maintenance plants if you are new to gardening.
Going Off the Grid
Relying on renewable energy is going to considerably reduce your environmental footprint. The downside is that these systems can be expensive. There might be tax rebates in your state to help with the initial investment. You can choose to invest in a standalone system and store the energy you produce or remain connected to the grid. If you opt for this second option, you won’t have to invest in a battery to store the energy you produce and your utility company will give you a credit for the energy you produce. Solar panels and small wind turbines are the two most viable options for households. The best option depends on the sun and wind exposure of your property. Note that you can invest in a smaller system. You can, for instance, install some solar-powered outside lights, or install a single solar panel to power an appliance.
The great thing about living green is that you can start with one thing and gradually transform your entire lifestyle to reduce the impact of your household on the environment. You could, for instance, start with your energy and water consumption before looking for additional habits to adopt. Wherever you choose to start, the important thing is to begin your journey to living more consciously and embracing a greener life for our planet’s survival.