solutions to renewables and buying locally sourced organic produce, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to ways we can help save the environment. Climate change, biodiversity loss and resource scarcity are global challenges but they should not leave us feeling powerless. Sometimes, solutions are so diverse and unexpected that they can even catch us by surprise. So here are ten bizarre ways that can help save the environment:
#1 Shop virtually
You might think that online shopping is a great service in terms of saving you time, giving you greater product choice as well as giving you access to greater prices, it is actually better for the environment too! According to studies, buying online almost usually involves less energy use and fewer carbon dioxide emissions than in-store shopping1.
A 2009 study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Institute found that online retail uses less energy while its carbon footprint is a third smaller than that of brick-and-mortar retail. Another paper from MIT found that online shoppers have a carbon footprint which is around two times smaller than that of a traditional shopper2.
As online shopping continues to grow, it will be important for consumers to put pressure on retailers and distributors to ensure that the way in which goods are delivered is environmentally friendly.
#2 Clean your fridge
And we are not talking about cleaning just the inside of your fridge. It may sound bizarre but a cleaner fridge also means that the energy it uses to cool things is used in the most optimal way. So, take the time to clean the back of your fridge as studies have found that dusty coils can increase energy consumption by 30%3.
This is a win-win for both your pocket and the environment!
#3 Eat more beans
The impact of our diet on climate and the environment is very well-known. For example, studies support that widespread adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% with vegetarian and fish-eating diets contributing about 3.8kg of CO2 per day, while vegan only 2.9kg4. New research is now suggesting that adding some beans to our life would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as ensure that we are eat nutritional food which costs less!
As reported in our article “Meat our clinate goals”, a study from a team of researchers led by Loma Linda University researcher Helen Harwatt, PhD., concluded that by simply eating beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately achieve approximately 50 – 75% of its greenhouse gas reduction targets for the year 2020. The team also explored the health benefits that this could also bring about: by swapping beans for meat the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes could be reduced5!
#4 Live in trash
Well, not really. You should continue recycling and composting but there are more ways to re-use trash. As an engineer from the University of Leeds has proved with his work, trash such as recycled glass, sewage sludge, and incinerator ash, can be used to make construction material. “Bitublocks”, as they are called, keep litter out of landfills and can be repurposed to build houses. They also have a more positive environmental footprint as they take less energy to produce compared to concrete blocks1.
#5 Keep a trash journal
Again, this is not to be taken literally. The idea is to keep track of the amount of food that ends up in our trash. We are mostly unaware of the true extent that food items that we purchase go bad before we use them and end up in the bin. This is a huge waste of resources with global proportions. It is also difficult to tackle as we are prone to making the same mistakes when grocery shopping.
So by keeping track of which food items end up being wasted, you can correct those behaviours and also save some money1! What is more, you can get help from dedicated apps that can help let you know when something in your fridge is about to expire.
#6 Clean dishes in a dishwasher
Most people who have a dishwasher use it regularly. What is even better is that using it when fully loaded means less hot water is consumed than if you washed the same dishes by hand. However, for this to be the case, it is important that the dishwasher is full6! If you can, use the economy setting and if possible start your machine in the middle of the night. Not only are prices lower during the night but it is the time when the least efficient and dirtiest power stations aren’t running which in turn means that each unit of power will have a slightly lower carbon footprint7.
#7 Eco-friendly car wash
As is the case with your dishwasher at home, it is also estimated that the most environmentally friendly way to keep your car clean is to get it to your local garage for a car wash. This process is less wasteful in terms of water and energy compared to cleaning your car at home8.
#8 Pay your bills electronically
While most consumers opt for electronic payments for convenience, receiving your bills online and paying for them in the same way can go a long way to helping the environment.
It is estimated that if every American household used eBills, this would reduce solid waste in American landfills by more than 800,000 tons a year!
In terms of greenhouse gases, this would lead to a reduction of about 2.1 million tons, while our environment would continue to benefit from an estimated 18.5 million trees a year which would not need to be cut out to make paper9.
#9 Install or use revolving doors when you can
While most of us would not think about it twice, in 2006, a team of graduate students at MIT looked at the impacts of using revolving doors. By studying what happened on their campus, they found that swinging doors allowed as much as eight times more air to pass through the building than the revolving door. This means that using revolving doors only, would save more than 75,000 kilowatt-hours of energy which amounts to about 1.5% of the total required to heat and cool the building10.
#10 Paint your roof white!
Light colours attract less sunlight. If you apply this logic to buildings and urban areas, it becomes evidence that painting roofs white and using light-coloured materials on surface roads and pavements would help make cities cooler in summer, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from air conditioning. In looking into this issue, scientists were surprised with how this simple change could make a big impact.
It is estimated that a city or town where roofs, pavements and roads have light-coloured surfaces could provide a CO2 offset of between 130 billion and 150 billion tonnes – which is equivalent to taking every car in the world off the road for 50 years11!
So here are 10 different ways you can help the environment. And have you noticed something? Most of them either make your life easier or help you save some money! What could be better?