Fun fact about me: I am a tree-hugging, eco-friendly, nature-loving geek. I am also attending Arizona State to earn a degree in conservation biology. I guess you could say I really like our planet. But what I don’t understand is why everyone isn’t like this. We only have one planet and the sad truth is that it’s dying right before our eyes. April just so happens to be Keep America Beautiful Month and Earth Day is in a couple of weeks so I thought I’d dedicate this month to saving our home, although we should already be doing this anyways. Here are my top tips on how you can help the planet with everyday things you can do no matter where you live, what your income is, or whatever your daily routine may be. These are all really easy, inexpensive, and make a huge impact in helping the planet. I’m like the embodiment of Mr. Krabs and Captain Planet combined. Let’s reduce our carbon footprint and leave a giant handprint, instead.
1. Use a reusable cup and water bottle. I work at Starbucks and even though I don’t drink coffee, I do drink a lot of tea…like a lot of tea. I almost never use a disposable cup but nobody is perfect so there is the occasion when I forget to bring one with me or just don’t plan on getting a drink. But a majority of the time, I do use a reusable cup and water bottle. Not only am I helping reduce the amount of waste that gets put out, but I get a discount for using a reusable cup (ten cents off your drink at Starbucks and I know there are a lot of other places that give discounts, too) and the water bottle encourages me to drink more water. On top of that, I’m not using a disposable paper sleeve which also saves quite a few trees.
- Reusable mug: 19 lbs of CO2 saved, 21 lbs of waste diverted, 138 gallons of water saved
- Reusable water bottle: 18 lbs of CO2 saved, 7 lbs of Waste Diverted
- Reusable Sleeve: 69 lbs of CO2 saved, 10 lbs of waste diverted
2. Bring your own bags. I am going to be completely honest. I forget my reusable bags a lot. I don’t really do my grocery shopping like a mom on the weekend shopping for her family of five. So, when I forget them, I already don’t have a lot and usually just carry everything myself and bring it home because I’m that determined to use as little as possible or no disposable grocery bags. You don’t even need to buy any. Almost all of the bags I got as a “deal” from a store, they were a gift, or I saw them at the dollar store. I have about eight which is too many but it’s good to have a couple extra in case I have more stuff than expected.
Yearly Impact: 12 lbs of CO2 saved, 6 lbs of waste diverted
3. Do your errands in one trip. If I go out, I go to as many places as possible while I’m out so I don’t have to do it again later. Sounds a bit lazy but as I learned from my boss at summer camp: “One and done!” Why waste the gas to run around all the time to spend money? Paying for gas costs a lot of money and I wish I had a vehicle that ran on vegetable oil or electricity instead. That’s why I try and do everything at once to save money and the planet because it is pretty hard to live without either.
Yearly Impact: 175 lbs of CO2 saved
4. Turn off the water. I never understood why growing up we were told to turn off the water when we brushed our teeth. Didn’t everybody do that already? Turns out, no, not everyone does. And it boggles my mind to this day. We know we are running low on non-contaminated fresh water. Yet we waste it like it will always be here. We probably won’t run out of fresh water but there’s a key word in that statement: probably. Even if we’ll never run out, we still shouldn’t waste it. Also, while the shower is a great time to contemplate the meaning of life, don’t just stand there letting the water pour down the drain. Contemplate and clean. You’ll save water and you’ll be doing what your original intention was in the first place, showering.
- Turn of the water: 401 gallons of water saved
- Speedy shower: 98 lbs of CO2 saved, 913 gallons of water saved
5. Eat less meat. I am a pescatarian, so I am basically a vegetarian except I do eat fish. However, because I am aware of the destructive fishing methods, I make sure that the fish I eat is sustainably sourced by using the Seafood Watch app created by Monterey Bay Aquarium (not sponsored, by the way, just a fan, and a future job applicant). But other than the fish, my diet is entirely plant-based. I am in no way saying you should cut meat from your diet if you don’t want to, however, by eating less meat, you are having a huge impact on the earth not only ethically, but also environmentally. Even a “Meatless Monday” will make a huge difference. Not to mention how great your body feels after eating lots of fruits and veggies.
Yearly Impact of a “Meatless Monday”: 163 lbs of CO2 saved, 16479 gallons of water saved
6. Go paperless. As much as I love reading a physical book, my kindle is wonderful. I can get sometimes get one of those books-for-a-dollar deals as well as a much cheaper regular price because most of the time, it’s cheaper to publish an e-book rather than physical copies. On top of that, something I am gradually doing with my junk mail is opting out of it. You can use the app Paper Karma (again, not sponsored) to help get rid of unwanted paper ads and junk mail since I’m sure you can find the same thing on their website and any deals via email. Also, bills are already unwanted so try opting for bills that get sent to your email to avoid more trees from being cut down.
- Paper ads: 181 lbs of CO2 saved, 69 lbs of waste diverted, 603 gallons of water saved
- Paper bills: 63 lbs of CO2 saved, 6 lbs of waste diverted, 75 gallons of water saved
7. Check your tire pressure and adjust it accordingly. The act of driving is already expensive and damaging to the earth. Your low tire pressure could make it worse. It will improve your mileage thus saving money and the planet in one go. On top of that, maintaining your speed will also save you a lot of money while keeping carbon emissions low.
- Tire Pressure: 148 lbs of CO2 saved
- Speed: 908 lbs of CO2 saved
8. Switch your light bulbs. CFLs and LEDs help a bunch. They cut back on your energy bill and help you see in the dark (after all, we’re not nocturnal). You don’t even have to remove the ones that still work in your home, I mean they work, don’t they? That’s just creating more waste. If one burns out, just replace it with either a CFL or LED bulb. You’ll notice they often produce more light and use a lot less energy, thus saving you a lot of money.
- CFLs: 185 lbs of CO2 saved
- LEDs: 203 lbs of CO2 saved
9. Wash in cold water. Another thing I never understood, was why people washed their clothes in warm water. I have shrunk so many clothes because I accidentally forget to switch the setting from warm to cold when I do laundry. And on top of the shrinkage, most clothes don’t even need to be washed in warm water. 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes is just for heating up the water! That’s crazy! Think of all the money and energy you’ll save by washing your clothes in cold water.
Yearly impact: 345 lbs of CO2 saved
10. Go and enjoy the outdoors. Go on a hiking trail, to a playground, or visit a town, state or national park. By going to these places, you not only get the opportunity to enjoy nature but also the chance to preserve nature for future generations. The more you go, the longer it will be there for others to enjoy. And if you really like going to these places, volunteer your time to do clean up days at parks and clear trails for people to have safer and more enjoyable walks.
11. Turn off your lights. This is another one of those things I was always told growing up and I always thought why aren’t people doing this anyway? When you leave an empty room, even for a second, turn off the light. When you go back in, just flick it back on. Easy as that! You save energy, you save money, you help the earth!
Yearly Impact: 441 lbs of CO2 saved
12. Use sustainable hygiene products. For starters, I have a rechargeable toothbrush with a disposable brush head. I will be looking into the best way to discard the brush head when I have to replace mine in a few weeks. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment below. My antiperspirant/deodorant, soap, shampoo, and conditioner are all sustainably sourced, cruelty-free, and any packaging can be repurposed or recycled. Also, a bit of a TMI, but my feminine hygiene products are all good for the environment. I use a Diva Cup which is great, and I keep emergency products in my bags that are cruelty-free, don’t have harmful chemicals, and they give back to girls who would otherwise miss out on an education due to not having what they need for their cycle.
13. Thrift shop. I have two main seasonal attires. In the colder seasons, I wear primarily sweaters and in the warmer ones, I wear almost exclusively Hawaiian shirts. Both of which I get from my local thrift stores. Thrift shopping is a great way to inexpensively get new clothes. And if you are really creative, you can even upcycle the clothes to make them more your style. If you don’t wear a lot of the clothes you have or feel like you have a lot of clutter, you can always donate that stuff to your local thrift shop and give them a new purpose. Thrift stores are loaded with great finds at unbelievable prices, so you don’t have to break the bank.
Yearly Impact: 213 lbs of CO2 saved, 58 lbs of waste diverted
If you noticed the trend, a lot, if not all of the top tips I listed save you money while saving the planet. It is a win-win situation for literally everything on the planet. I do every single one of these already plus more and I keep track of it all on JouleBug. I am not sponsored by them but I do really like the app. JouleBug is an app I use to keep track of the sustainable actions I do every day. In fact, all of the “Yearly Impact” data in this post is directly from this app! The past couple of months I seriously slacked in tracking what I did but in the spirit of this month, I am keeping track of every sustainable action I do every day for the entire month of April. I encourage you all to download JouleBug and do the same. There are challenges you can join and so many badges you can earn. I hope you try these tips for being green and more. And if you are feeling super generous, share this post to your friends and even challenge them to be more sustainable in their everyday life!
My starting stats* on JouleBug:
171 lbs of CO2 saved
24 lbs of waste diverted
498 gallons of water saved
*This data is my inconsistent logging of actions from when I downloaded the app in October 2018 to April 1st, 2019.