While it’s practically impossible to have no carbon footprint, it’s easy to apply some simple changes for a greener lifestyle. Here are our top 10 tips to make Captain Planet proud.
1. Ditch Your Ride. If you’re still in the driver’s seat of an engine-powered vehicle, get out. Unless, of course, that vehicle is a bus and you are transporting more than 20 happy people from place to place. One of the easiest and best ways to cut down on your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener environment is to use alternative transportation. Bikes, buses, subways, and your feet, graced with the ability to move your body from point A to point B, are some excellent options. If you must drive, find an eco-friendly car—VN Publisher Joseph Connelly owns a Toyota Prius—and use it minimally.
2. Get Unplugged. Even when they’re turned off, electronics that are plugged in use standby power of up to 20 watts in one day. While this may not be a lot for a single microwave or TV, it adds up quickly. By keeping everything unplugged until you’re actually using it, you’ll not only be adding to your green points, you’ll be saving money on your electricity bill.
3. RRR&C. This stands for reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost! With the average American creating more than four pounds of waste per day, most already know that the three R’s are standard ways to contribute to a healthier planet. But reducing the waste that goes into landfills doesn’t stop there. While not required by law in most places, composting is an easy way to reuse everything from banana peels to soiled take-out boxes. Not sure about what waste goes where? Check out our guide to recycling and composting.
4. Air and Sun Dry. And ditch your dryer. Spring is here, summer is just around the bend, and the sun’s natural heat is ready to do its work. Dryers are typically one of the highest energy-using appliances in a household, along with refrigerators and water heaters, and cost an average of $85 per year to run. Set up some drying lines in the backyard or on the porch (if you’re not shy about passersby getting a glimpse of your delicates), and leave your clothes to nature’s wonders.
5. Use Less Water. Whether it’s showering for shorter amounts of time, watering your plants less frequently, or washing your clothes on a more as-necessary basis and in larger loads, saving water is key. VN Editor-at-Large Laura Beck says she avoids showering as much as possible. Who needs to be clean when you can be green? Just kidding! But since the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water each day, little things like turning the faucet off tightly or using as few dishes as possible (so you won’t have to wash as many later) will make a difference.
6. Eat Your Veggies. As vegans, we are already making a huge step toward helping the environment. The United Nations has already acknowledged that eating less meat and animal products will have a positive impact on the climate. Currently, the livestock industry produces more than 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, uses more than 8 percent of total water consumption, and is a major cause of deforestation and lack of biodiversity.
7. Be Vintage & Crafty. VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland says she purchases used furniture whenever she can. Now that there are resources such as Craigslist connecting people, it’s even easier to find a coffee table with that perfectly distressed look (and it’s probably more authentic than the ones at Pottery Barn too).
8. Clean Cleaning. According to EPA estimates, indoor air pollution can be as much as 100 times higher than outdoor air, oftentimes due to toxic cleaning supplies. Non-chemical cleaning options such as lemons, vinegar, and baking soda are probably already long-time residents of your pantry, and will keep your home smelling and looking great, minus the dangerous environmental and health impacts.
9. Buy Organic. More than 700 million pounds of agricultural pesticides are used annually in the US, contributing to various environmental problems, from global warming to run-off into water sources, as well as human and animal health concerns. Buying organic foods is one way to take yourself out of the equation.
10. Lastly, Stay Informed. The debates of whether plastic or paper is actually more eco-friendly might go on forever, so changing those habits might be less productive than others. If there’s a new way to reduce water usage or someone finally creates affordable solar panels, then being in the know is important to staying green.