20 Tiny Everyday Changes You Can Make to Help the Environment
Yes, big changes are needed, but little ones add up. These simple lifestyle choices can reduce your carbon footprint—and make a major impact.
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Earth is in trouble
Scientists around the world are in almost unanimous agreement that our planet is facing a catastrophic climate crisis. Carbon emissions and greenhouse gases are on the rise and wreaking havoc on the Earth’s atmosphere, and experts believe that human activity is largely responsible. While instituting changes on a grand scale would obviously help reverse the problem, the little things do add up. By making some small changes today to reduce your carbon footprint, you can help give the environment a fighting chance.
Master the art of packing light
Dragging half your wardrobe around in an overstuffed suitcase doesn’t just wreck your back—it also takes a serious toll on the environment. Planes, trains, and automobiles burn massive amounts of fossil fuels to transport heavy baggage, bombarding the atmosphere with carbon emissions. In fact, the transportation sector is the single biggest culprit in this department, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Be a responsible traveler by packing only what you absolutely need and by choosing a smart carry-on, like this one from Solgaard, instead of a huge suitcase. Limiting your luggage to 33 pounds (15 kilograms) can save up to four gallons of fuel—and eliminate those hefty excess baggage fees. Here are some other easy swaps that can reduce your carbon footprint.
Clean up your skin-care routine
The quest for a flawless complexion comes at an unfortunate price to the planet. Beauty-product packaging relies heavily on plastic, which has an enormous carbon footprint throughout its life cycle. Plastic’s production alone is projected to generate about 850 metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019, according to the Center for International Environmental Law. Luckily, there are lots of eco-conscious skin-care products out there, like these reusable microfiber face wipes by croon. Each wipe can be used up to 400 times to remove makeup, cleanse, and exfoliate. Best of all, croon’s packaging is made from 100 percent recycled materials—and not a trace of plastic.
Unplug your coffee machine
It might not occur to you to unplug electronic items like your coffee machine, microwave, and computer when they’re shut off or powered down. But they’re actually consuming “vampire energy” in their dormant states. Since most of the energy used to power homes is made of fossil fuels, little leaks add up to serious environmental damage. Vampire energy actually accounts for 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Harvard University. You can remedy this—and lower your utility bill—by unplugging your appliances.
Prevent junk mail from piling up
Junk mail is a major nuisance, but did you know that it’s also predatory to the environment? The average adult gets 41 pounds of junk mail per year, which has a carbon footprint of about 48,000 cars, according to the Matador Network. Today is the day to end the madness. Sign up for the services of a site like DirectMail.com or USJunkMail.com to get your name off mailing lists and stop getting most of that unwanted mail.
Buy a tee, plant a tree
What if you could reduce your carbon footprint simply by taking the shirt off your back and replacing it with one that prevents deforestation? Amour Vert, a sustainable clothing manufacturer, plants one tree for each tee you purchase from its inventory of chic basics. Slip on a super soft tee made from sustainably harvested beechwood fibers—free of pesticides, biodegradable, and luxuriously soft, plus organic cotton, and automatically contribute to the company’s partnership with American Forest. According to One Tree Planted, each new tree will eventually remove about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air, converting it into oxygen you can breathe for two years. To keep your trees in tip-top shape, check out these 20 secrets your arborist won’t tell you.
Fine-tune your driving skills
Carpooling and investing in hybrid cars aren’t the only things that can reduce your carbon footprint (though they do help). Making little adjustments to your driving style can also get you on the right environmental track. Things like accelerating slowly, obeying the speed limit, and trying to avoid stopping short can help scale back your car’s carbon emissions by up to 30 percent, according to Carbon Fund. Making sure your car is running smoothly helps, too.
Breathe life into your backyard
The concept of photosynthesis is simple: Plants “inhale” carbon dioxide and “exhale” oxygen. Since this natural conversion process helps pull excess carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, planting a garden is an easy way to do your part. Pro tip: Try an edible garden. Not only will you be growing your own “organic” food, but if you replace 20 percent of your store-bought food with home-grown food, you’ll also generate about 68 fewer pounds of carbon emissions per year, according to the Climate Action Business Association.
Swap supermarket sweets for fair-trade treats
Opting to bypass major manufacturers and shop fair trade whenever possible is a carbon-footprint game-changer. Not only does the industry support the economies of developing countries, but it also holds product suppliers to rigorous environmental standards. To sell fair-trade products like chocolate, coffee, and produce, farmers must diligently monitor and cut back on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Plenty of companies have gotten in on the fair-trade game, like the award-winning chocolate company ME to WE, which ensures that farmers earn a fair wage and that education is accessible to children in Ecuador’s local communities.
Make treasures from trash
One pretty effortless way to reduce your carbon footprint is by upcycling: the creative and cost-saving art of reinventing things you no longer use instead of trashing them. The benefits are hard to dispute. Just ask the EPA, which coined the term “sustainable materials management” to describe the plight of consumerism. Allegedly, the phenomenon contributes to about 42 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some companies are doing the thinking for you. Take Rumpl’s NanoLoft puffy blankets, for instance, each of which is now made from 60 post-consumer plastic bottles! We bet you didn’t know you could upcycle or recycle these 11 items.