Sometimes when we hear about the many environmental problems that are happening in today’s world, we can easily become overwhelmed. This is understandable, but the truth is that collectively, we can all make a difference with helping the environment regarding choices that we make every day.
From recycling and efficient heating solutions to renewables and buying locally sourced organic produce, we are spoilt with choice when it comes to ways how 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.
The following are simple things that you can do to help the environment. What other ways can you think of to help the environment?
Easy things to do to help the environment
#1 Plant a garden
By planting a garden in your yard, in containers on your patio, or in a community garden, you will not only get the freshest, healthiest, and tastiest produce available, you will also dramatically reduce the energy and water resources that it takes to produce and transport all of that food on a commercial scale.
When you grow your own garden, you can also employ many ecological gardening methods that aren’t typically used on a commercial-scale, such as sheet mulching, and hugelkultur that efficiently save water and build healthy soil.
#2 Support local farmers
By purchasing food directly from local farmers in your area, such as at a farmers’ market, you invest in your local community’s economy and reduce most of the distance that your food has to travel before you eat it.
You also have the opportunity to get to know the people who are producing the food you eat, and you can ask them if they produce it in environmentally-friendly ways such as grass-fed meat or biodynamic growing methods.
#3 Compost your food waste or keep a worm bin
Organic waste is a major part of the waste stream, and when it decomposes in landfills, it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent in global warming potential than carbon dioxide is .
By composting your fruit and vegetable scraps in your backyard or in a vermicompost (worm composting) bin (You can even keep one indoors all year round below your sink or in your basement!), you will keep a great deal of your organic waste out of the waste stream, and create a nutrient-rich compost that your garden or lawn will absolutely thrive with! Your houseplants might appreciate some of that great compost as well!
#4 Recycle and purchase products with a high post-consumer content
When we recycle all of those newspapers, soda cans, plastic butter tubs, and glass spaghetti sauce jars, we reduce the energy, water, trees, and other natural resources that are required to produce more of them from raw materials.
Choosing to purchase products made from recycled materials helps to ensure that the cycle of recycling is completed and creates a demand for these products.
#5 Reuse things
Buy used or share the abundance! This is a very important part of the recycling cycle that we don’t tend to focus on nearly enough. If you must purchase something brand new, choose quality so that the product will last for a long time.
If you can, try to creatively reuse products for different purposes, such as using a plastic milk or soda jug as a bird feeder.
Also, if you can lend an item to your neighbor or a member of your community, such as a gardening tool or a wrench, this will prevent the need for each person or family to buy the same thing.
Reusables are your daily friends!
Plastic disposable water bottles are becoming a big problem in the waste stream and are littering the landscape all over the world. Avoid your contribution to this problem by buying your own reusable water bottle that you will use over and over again.
Disposable plastic shopping bags are a huge waste of finite fossil fuel resources and they are also a large source of litter in the environment. Even when they are properly recycled, plastics can only be recycled so many times before they become unusable as a material.
The answer to this problem is to use reusable bags that you take with you when you go shopping. You can even make or decorate your own reusable bag- a great craft project for children!
#6 Turn down your thermostat
By turning down your thermostat by a few degrees in the winter and up by a few degrees in the summer for your air conditioning, you will use less electricity, save on your energy bills, and reduce your carbon footprint.
#7 Take shorter showers
Even reducing your shower time by a few minutes can save a lot of water and energy that is used to heat the shower water.
#8 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 shopping .
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 shopper .
#9 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 percent .
This is a win-win for both your pocket and the environment!
#10 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 percent with vegetarian and fish-eating diets contributing about 3.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide per day, while vegan only 2.9 kilograms .
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 to 75 percent 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 reduced !
#11 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 blocks .
#12 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 behaviors and also save some money !
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.
#13 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 full !
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 footprint .
#14 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 home .
#15 Keep your tires properly inflated
Keeping your tires inflated not only ensures that they will last longer, but you will realize much better fuel efficiency for your vehicle.
#16 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.
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 paper .
#17 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 percent of the total required to heat and cool the building .
#18 Paint your roof white!
Light colors attract less sunlight. If you apply this logic to buildings and urban areas, it becomes evidence that painting roofs white and using light-colored 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-colored surfaces could provide a carbon dioxide offset of between 130 billion and 150 billion tones – which is equivalent to taking every car in the world off the road for 50 years !
So here are 18 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?