The Environment and You: 5 Ways You Can Make a Difference

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Environmental difference
Image by Bill Smith via Flickr Creative Commons license.

Although some people beg to differ, the actions we take can and do have an impact on the environment around us. Simple actions such as recycling your plastic containers instead of tossing them in the trash, or choosing to walk instead of driving your car, do make a difference. In fact, it is often the little steps taken by many that have the most significant impact. We don’t have to rely on big business to make all the changes. Our daily actions are important too.

So, what can you do? What actions can you take to make a positive change in your life? How can you adjust your daily routine to make it more environmentally-friendly? How about starting with these five simple steps:

1. Reduce your overall consumption:

I know it sounds really simple when you think about it, but it is a vital step we all need to take. Start by looking around your house. Donate or sell items you no longer need. Re-purpose items you may not have used in awhile. You may find some of the things you have in your house could be used for another purpose. Getting a little creative means you may not have to buy new materials or goods. Simply use what you already have. Once you’ve done this, take a look at how you can reduce your consumption. Only buy those items you can really use.

This goes for food as well. Buying in bulk may seem like a good idea, but unless you are going to be able to eat all you buy before it goes bad, then it is a waste of food and money. Buy only what you’re going to eat. Here again we recommend you get creative. Figure out ways to use all the food you’ve purchased. Then, as stated in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, go ahead and rescue ugly or overlooked fruits and veggies in order to put them to good use. These foods are usually just as tasty as their good-looking counterparts, however when you buy these you’re helping to eliminate food waste.

2. Practice Root to Stem Cooking:

Practicing “root to stem” or “root to leaf” cooking is another way to minimize food waste and help the environment. Instead of cutting the stems or leaves off certain vegetables and throwing these away, find recipes you can use which incorporate these parts. Once you’ve used as much of the vegetable as you can, compost or regrow the rest. Composting the veggie remains gives new life to other plants and vegetables. Regrowing veggies from kitchen scraps can give you more food for less money while preventing unnecessary waste.

3. Curb Energy Consumption:

Most of us use energy in one way or another every minute of the day. The problem with this is many people are unaware of exactly how much energy gets consumed. Did you know leaving counter appliances plugged in uses energy even when the appliance is not on? It’s called “vampire energy”. You can curb your energy consumption by unplugging appliances and electronics not in use. You might find this room by room guide from CleanTechnica helpful as well.

Adjust your home’s thermostat. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it at or above 78 Fahrenheit degrees in the summer and 68 Fahrenheit degrees in the winter. When you are away from your home, these can be raised or lowered respectively to help reduce costs and prevent your home A/C or heater from turning off while you are gone. Another tip is to open windows or doors during the cooler evening hours to help air out your home and bring down the temperature naturally. Although you may not want to cool down your home at night during the winter months, you should air it out periodically to help reduce indoor air pollution. Doing this is better for you and for the environment.

Don’t forget to turn off lights in hallways and rooms when you leave those areas. During the daytime hours, blinds can be pulled closed to keep the house cool or opened up to let in natural sunlight instead of using energy by turning on lights.

4. Keep An Eye On Water Usage:

Whether or not you live in an area prone to droughts, keeping an eye on water usage is key for the environment. We don’t need to waste water just because we have it so easily accessible. Many people have to overcome numerous obstacles simply to gain access to fresh water. Those of us who have it at our fingertips need to be responsible and not waste water. Conserving water will  save you money too.

Ways you can conserve water include:

  • using grey water to water outdoor plants and gardens,
  • turning off water while brushing your teeth,
  • only using the dishwasher or washing machine once fully-loaded,
  • setting time limits on showers,
  • getting or creating your own low-flow toilet, and
  • buy reusable water bottles for your family.

5. Make Changes to Your Driving Habits:

Making simple changes in your driving habits can be extremely beneficial to the environment. According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas emissions from a typical passenger vehicle are around 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Of course this figure will vary depending on the type of vehicle, fuel used, fuel efficiency, drive time and more. Adding a proven liquid fuel catalyst can reduce harmful emissions and improve overall fuel economy. It can also help your vehicle run cleaner and greener.

Carpooling to and from work is another way to make a difference. You should also avoid idling whenever possible. Keep up with recommended, routine maintenance on your vehicle. Make your next vehicle a hybrid. Bike, walk or take public transportation at least a few times a week rather than drive your vehicle.

Protecting the Environment

The more we can do to help protect the environment for future generations, the better off we will be in the long run. Although it is true the Earth will go through cyclic changes, doing our part for the environment is a responsibility we all must bear. Fortunately it doesn’t take much. Additionally, the more we make environmentally-friendly choices and demand others (like businesses and governments) do the same, the broader the impact.

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