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They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and many of us have daily habits that are slowly destroying the environment. Here is a list of 10 things we can easily change to reduce our impact on the planet, with suggestions for ways to develop new, environmentally-friendly habits instead.
1. Leaving The Lights On
You’ve probably heard this a million times before but turning the light off when you leave the room, even if you’re only going for a few minutes, really does make a difference to the environment, since it saves a finite source of energy that can’t be replaced. There is more information here on the energy benefit of turning off the light when you leave the room (savings vary depending on the lighting source). If you’re forgetful or other people in your household are, you might benefit from putting stickers, or post-it notes next to light switches to remind householders to save energy by turning lights off when leaving the room.
2. Boiling The Kettle
Many people guess the amount of water they need when they boil the kettle, and they end up boiling too much. Boiling a kettle actually uses a lot of power- enough to light a whole household- which also costs the householder money. There are energy efficient kettles available that can help to reduce energy usage, and kettles that measure how much water is needed for a single mug or a pot of tea. An easy way to ensure that you aren’t boiling away this valuable resource is to measure the amount of water you need first, for example with the mug you are going to drink out of or the pot you are planning to cook with.
3. Eating Farmed Meat
Maybe you’re not ready to take a step in the veggie or vegan direction, but if you’re eating farmed meat, you’re supporting an incredibly environmentally damaging industry. Many acres of rainforest are cleared to grow soy crops and grains to feed cattle, and overgrazing of cattle is a major reason for global soil depletion and source of climate pollution. This is partly why box schemes for meat boxes are on the rise all over the world, but you might also consider going vegan or vegetarian on alternate weeks, or specific days, which will reduce your carbon footprint significantly. This is the general idea behind Meat Free Mondays.
Whether you’re flying away on business trips or commuting to work on a daily basis, the way we travel is one of the biggest environmental polluters in our lives. You may not be able to give up these habits, but taking steps to reduce them will impact the environment, local pollution levels, and your health. Consider ditching the car once or twice a week and cycling or walking to work instead, and lift sharing or carpooling with work colleagues on alternate days. Fuel economy decreases rapidly over 60 mph, so keep within the speed limit when you drive, and make sure your tyres are inflated, as fully-functioning tyres can also save the amount of fuel your vehicle uses.
5. Wasting Paper
We live in a world of mass paper usage, where recycling can easily ease an otherwise guilty conscience and prompt even the most devoted reusers to waste paper. We may all be guilty of throwing away pieces of paper that could otherwise be reused at least once, if only for note-taking purposes and to-do lists, but it’s easy to forget that recycling still uses energy, which can be reduced if you decide to reuse. Take a look at our handy guide to reducing paper waste at home and at work, and see what other small changes you can make to change this daily habit.
6. Leaving The Tap Running
Whether you’re washing the dishes or brushing your teeth, leaving the tap running while you do so wastes a vast amount of water. It may seem like a small water saving, but soaking dishes before washing them and turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth really does reduce the amount of water you use. Again, stickers or post-it notes placed next to taps can help to remind you to save water when you can.
7. Sending Biodegradables To Landfill Sites
It’s remarkably easy to compost at home, and you don’t need a garden to do it. A small container with a lid, placed in the kitchen, will suffice. Some composting enthusiasts will pick up your compost material for free and add it to their own compost bins, because they understand the value of biodegradable material rather than seeing it as waste. You can obtain a composting bin for free via networks like Freecycle, or make one at home using scrap materials and an online tutorial. When you stop throwing food peels, tea bags and reusable other items from the kitchen into the landfill bin, you’ll wonder why you didn’t stop earlier. This small lifestyle change will drastically reduce your carbon footprint, the amount of waste your household produces, and the amount that you send to landfill sites. It also creates a rich compost that will benefit the soil in your garden or someone else’s. Many home-composters who do not have gardens choose to donate, exchange or sell their compost to other gardeners, as it is immensely superior to the mass-produced product.
8. Using Plastic Bags
It’s hard to make the connection between the single plastic bag you get at the grocery store once a week, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, there is a strong likelihood that the plastic bags you bring home end will end up in the ocean, or worse. Consider buy a tote or cloth bag instead and make a habit of keeping it in your pocket or bag. Onya is just one company that sells durable and reusable bags that come with keyring attachments, so that you can keep them ‘on ya’.
9. Ignoring Plastic Packaging
For many environmentalists, food packaging is the elephant in the room. This is because so many of our lifestyle choices involve buying goods that may only be available in plastic packaging. One step you can take to counter this is to contact the product manufacturer and ask them directly whether they might consider reducing the amount of packaging they use. Chances are that if it’s a small or ethical company they will take your thoughts on board. You can also check the recycling numbers on the products you buy that are packaged in plastic to see whether you can recycle them locally, and commit to buying only those products in future.
10. Flushing The Toilet
This is not the easiest habit to change, although the use of compost toilets is on the rise worldwide. However, flushing your toilet just once or twice less a week will make a difference to how much water your household uses (diluted urine is purported to be a safe and excellent liquid fertiliser), and adding a brick to your toilet cistern will reduce the amount of water the toiler uses with each flush.
This may all seem overwhelming but remember, taking small steps to change daily habits will significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The question that remains is – which habit will you tackle first?