It's the New Year, and with that comes New Year's resolutions. Mine this year and every year is to be more mindful of my impact on the environment. What makes a resolution successful has everything to do with how easily it can be integrated into your everyday life.
All of these tips require little to no money or resources but rely on limiting your consumption. The best way to limit your effects is not by remediating the problem, but avoiding the problem in the first place. Here are some things you can start doing today to lower your carbon footprint.
1. Lower your thermostat in the winter.
Lowering the temperature one degree saw a decrease of $10 on their monthly heating bill for some during this study done by the Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Conversely, raise your thermostat in the summer.
The less often you run your air conditioning unit, the less energy you will use.
3. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth.
Keeping the water running while brushing your teeth wastes about five gallons of water, according to the MWD. Once this water runs through your house it is brought back to a water treatment facility and processed, even though it hasn't been affected by use. Water is also a limited resource in some areas, so it's in everyone's best interest to be mindful of how much water they use, and how much they waste.
4. Buy local when possible.
27% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Buying local decreases transportation use which heavily relies on petroleum products, specifically gasoline. The farther a product travels to get to you, the larger of a carbon footprint it carries.
5. Refuse straws.
Single-use straws are not biodegradable and are unable to be recycled due to their small size and inability to be properly sanitized. This means tons of plastic sits in landfills or is dumped into oceans where its consumed by aquatic life. Scientists are finding more and more sea creatures washed on shore with stomachs full of plastic.
6. Drive less.
This is a given. Lower your consumption of petroleum products by walking short distances and taking advantage of public transportation when possible.
7. Invest in reusable bags... and don't forget them at home!
Limiting your use of plastic bags decreases the amount of plastic produced. Invest in canvas bags and keep them in your car or at your front door so you never forget them. Bonus, you won't ever have to worry about recycling plastic bags again.
8. Turn off all lights and electronics when not in use.
Decreasing energy use is in your wallet's best interest. Like I remind my roommates through countless sticky notes and texts, if you're leaving the room, turn off the light!
9. Wash your clothes on cold.
Not heating your water before washing will save a ton of energy on your gas bill. Also, washing on cold prevents stains from setting, is gentler on clothes, and stops colors from bleeding. Win-win-win.
10. Accelerate slower from stops when driving.
Acceleration has a big impact on gas mileage, especially when driving in the city. Take more time to accelerate to the speed limit and it will take more time to need to visit the gas station.
11. Invest in reusable water bottles.
It's 2018. It's time we admit what bottled water is: a scam. They're expensive, wasteful, and unnecessary. Producing bottled water uses 17 million barrels of oil, equivalent to adding 1.3 million more cars to the roads. And if you like bottled water for the taste, 24% of bottled water sold in the United States is just filtered tap water. Save your money and just run your tap water through a Brita filter.
12. Same with coffee mugs.
Expect to also see a small discount when you visit your favorite coffee shops. Starbucks will take off ten cents from your drink when you use your own mug, and Dunkin Donuts offers any sized hot or iced coffee in your own mug for 99 cents.
13. Donate old clothes instead of throwing them out.
Much of our clothes are now made of manmade textiles which are made of way more plastic than you would think. Many clothing items are not biodegradable. Instead of sending your clothes to sit for hundreds of years in a landfill, donate them. You'll reduce waste while also helping someone in need.
14. Avoid meat and dairy one night a week (or more).
Agriculture is the greatest immediate threat to ecosystems around the world. Large amounts of land are deforested for farming and heavy pesticide use and waste runoff degrade the soil and pollute our water. Without going full vegan, cutting our meat and dairy specifically can cut down on industrial pollution.
15. Support environmental legislation.
State and local elections are incredibly important and always happen once a year! This is your opportunity to elect representatives that have you and the environment in mind. Choose representatives based on their opinions of environmental protection. Now more than ever we need legislation to protect public land trusts and regulate industrial pollution.
16. Be mindful of companies you support.
If you're thinking "hey, do all of these things really make a real difference?" this tip is for you. Only buy from companies who values align with yours and publically boycott those who don't. Your voice and your money have power. With the advent of social media, there is no knowing how much impact the next generations will have on climate change. There is still hope, but it's on us to do the work.
Happy New Year. Implement as many of these tips as you can into your daily life. Not only will they save you some money here and there, but you can feel better about your energy consumption and carbon footprint.