I know that there are few things in life more gratifying for you than finding a good bargain or helping the environment. Well, let the clouds part, a flock of starlings take flight, and cue the angels: you’ve just hit the jackpot, because I’ve found 10 ways you can do both at the same time.
1. Drink Tap Water/Use a Reusable Water Bottle
Thirsty? Consider the water on tap. In 2012, U.S. water bottle consumption was at 9.7 billion gallons, with sales growing at a rapid rate. In terms of waste, this means roughly 2 million tons of discarded water bottles that can take up to 1,000 years each to biodegrade. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the demand for the production and transport of water bottles, and drink something that is just as safe or safer than bottled water is — tap water. Plus, it’s much less expensive. Putting your filtered tap water into a reusable bottle will further lessen your environmental impact.
2. Get an Energy Audit
Why waste your energy? A home energy audit, which may be offered as a free service through your power company, determines how much energy your home is consuming and helps you identify ways to save money and become more energy efficient. Tips can include sealing air leaks, replacing air filters, swapping old light bulbs for more efficient lighting, and unplugging electronics when they are not being used.
If you’re tired of dealing with so much garbage in your life, it may be time to try composting. Throwing your yard and kitchen waste (like leaves and table scraps) into a compost pile rather than into a trash bag can reduce your household waste by 20 to 30 percent, which means a reduction in landfill waste. It’s also good for your soil. I can’t promise any words of wisdom, a la Fraggle Rock’s Marjory the Trash Heap, but you will likely have a more lush garden.
4. Recycle & Freecycle
Of all solid waste, which is 75 percent recyclable, only 34 percent was recycled, according to 2009 statistics. Although that percentage may be higher today, recycling in America has not reached its full potential. There are multiple benefits to recycling, including reducing landfill waste and our carbon footprint. Contact your local waste management company if you do not already have a recycle bin. Many companies offer curbside collection on scheduled days. Also, before you purchase a new item that will take lots of energy and lots of resources to produce, check out Freecycle, which is a website committed to reducing landfill waste by connecting people donating items with people in search of used items.
5. Shop with Multipurpose Bags
BYOB, or “bring your own bag.” Use canvas or cotton bags you have lying around the house to do your grocery shopping with. Single-use plastic bags that are available at grocery stores pollute our oceans, harming marine life; contaminate our soil; and, as they photodegrade, only break down into smaller toxic fragments. Some sources claim that some reusable bags need to be used more than 100 times before they’re better for the environment than single-use plastic bags, but I know that I personally make four or more trips to the grocery store a week, not to mention the other places I shop.
6. Check Your Tire Pressure
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends checking tire pressure on a regular basis to help keep your tires in tip-top shape, which will keep greenhouse gas emissions lower by improving your fuel economy. Keeping the proper air pressure in your tires keeps your rolling resistance (or how much effort is expended when your tire rolls down the road) low. Refer to your owner’s manual for the appropriate tire pressure for your car, and go to the gas station to check the pressure and inflate your tires, often at no cost.
7. Use Your Legs
Of course, why emit greenhouse gases when you don’t have to? Walking or biking to work, to the store, or to the bank will not only reduce your use of fossil fuels and your emissions, it will also help keep you in shape. Research shows that most harmful emissions from cars are belched into the atmosphere in the first few minutes after first cranking the engine, so replacing short car trips with a stroll or a bike ride could have major air quality benefits.
8. Clean Up
Volunteering your time to clean up local beaches, parks, or roadways is a great way to make an immediate tangible difference when it comes to the environment. It’s also a great way to meet new like-minded friends.
9. Eat Greener
You can green your life in the most literal sense of the word by eating more of them, specifically local, seasonal, organic fruits and veggies. By eating local, you avoid the fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with shipping your food long distances. If you eat meat, eat less of it.
10. Borrow Stuff
The process of manufacturing and shipping new goods is very environmentally taxing. It takes energy and raw materials to produce something new. Buying used or borrowing from your friends is a great way to do your part to avoid waste and reduce demand for new items. Also, instead of throwing away items like furniture or clothing, donate it or pass it down. Just make sure your friends know about your new “borrowing” habit before you take their things.
The good news is that these are far from the only free ways to achieve a greener life. Anything you can do to produce fewer emissions from combustion engines, consume local goods, and reduce your waste is a good place to start. So get creative and put that inner miserly tree-hugger to work.
Image source: Jzniosh / Wikimedia