Sure, there are lots of little ways to use less and recycle more of our natural resources, but which actions will make the biggest impact on safeguarding our planet? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, here are 10 things you can do that will really make a difference.
1. Avoid Waste: Recycle - For every trash can of garbage you place on the curb, about 70 trash cans of waste were generated in making that trash. To reduce the amount of waste you produce, buy products in returnable and recyclable containers and recycle as much as you can. The energy saved from recycling a single aluminum can will operate a television for three hours!
2. Bring Your Own Bag – Use reusable shopping bags whenever possible. Twelve million barrels of oil were used to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags used in the U.S. last year. Keep a collection of reusable bags in your car and be sure to wash them regularly (especially those used for groceries). If you forget your reusable bag, your answer to the question, “paper or plastic?” should be based on which you are more likely to reuse and recycle.
3. Nix Bottled Water – for the cost of a reusable BPA-free stainless steel water bottle, you can keep hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bottles out of landfills. Not only that, it takes 26 bottles of water to produce a one liter plastic bottle.
4. Reduce Junk Mail – If you’re like most people, you receive many catalogs that you didn’t request and don’t want. In the U.S., all these unwanted catalogs add up to 19 billion catalogs each year. All those catalogs require more than 53 million trees and 56 billion gallons of wastewater to produce. Then there’s the environmental cost of fuel to deliver them. But you can stop the deluge with a visit to Catalog Choice.org.
5. Change Laundry Habits – Switch to natural “green” detergents, use cold water, and re-think how you dry laundry. Today’s plant-based, earth friendly detergents are concentrated, biodegradable and just as effective as conventional detergents—even in cold water. By using cold water on the wash and rinse cycle you can save 90% of your electrical usage to wash clothes. For heavily soiled clothes, use warm water instead of hot and still save over hot water.
The dryer can be a huge energy hog unless you remember these tips:
- sort clothes by weight and do not over dry
- clean the filter after each load
- dry only full loads
- Or, skip the dryer altogether. Be retro chic and hang a clothes line!
6. Fix Leaky Toilets – Most toilet leaks are silent so you might not be aware that anywhere from 30 to 500 gallons of water may be going down the drain every day. To check for leaks, add a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If after 15 minutes or so you see dye in the toilet bowl, then you have a leak. Luckily the problem is usually an old or ill-fitting flapper valve—an easy and inexpensive DIY fix.
7. Choose Recycled Toilet Tissue -- If every household in the U.S. purchased just one four-pack of 260-sheet recycled bath tissue, instead of conventional tissue made from new fiber, it would eliminate 60,600 pounds of chlorine pollution, preserve 356 million gallons of fresh water and save nearly 1 million trees. And, you won’t pay a hefty price for being green--recycled toilet paper costs about the same as regular toilet paper.
8. Pass on Paper Towels – Try reusable microfiber towels instead of paper towels. When you are finished with them, toss them in the wash and reuse them again. When you must use disposable towels, look for recycled products. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of regular paper towels (70 sheets) with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.
9. Use Kitchen Appliances Wisely – If you have a dishwasher, using it can save more water than washing by hand provided you don’t pre-rinse dishes before placing them in the washer. Simply scrape large pieces of food off the dishes and let the washer do the rest. You can also cut your electricity use in half by using the air dry setting instead of heat dry. As for the refrigerator, clean the condenser coils twice a year and keep the refrigerator set between 38 and 42 degrees for maximum efficiency.
10. Adjust the Thermostat – In the winter, set your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 55 degrees before bedtime and when you are going to be home. In the summer, set the thermostat to 78 degrees or more.
National Resources Defense Council
The Daily Green