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Hey you! Raise your hand if the first things you think of when you hear the phrase “climate change” are renewable energy (solar, wind, etc.) and electric cars…
OK, maybe it’s not the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind, but I know that it is somewhere on everyone’s mind who is concerned about living an eco-friendly lifestyle.
And while these changes are great, most of us don’t have the upfront investment that is required to purchase solar panels or the next generation Tesla!
Side note: Riding in a Tesla SUV is on my bucket list! Don’t be afraid to hit me up if you DO happen to own one, you lucky one you! 😉
But even the small changes, the changes that every single one of us can make, can reduce our environmental impact significantly! And what changes are they, exactly? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a list of 10 small eco-friendly changes that have a big impact:
I can hear you right now:
“Well duh, Amanda!”
But hear me out! While most of us already do recycle to some extent, most of us aren’t maximizing how much we recycle. In fact, if I asked ten people on the street what numbered plastics their town includes in their recycling, I bet nine of them wouldn’t know the answer.
So, before you dismiss recycling because you already do it, check to see if you could be doing more. Maybe the cup that you get your coffee in every morning could be rinsed and thrown in recycles! Or maybe you can recycle your wine corks at your local grocery store! Or maybe you could even start composting! The recycling opportunities are endless!
2-) Purchase products made from recycled materials
In my post on how to reduce your environmental impact with kids I mentioned that some of Little Grasshopper’s favorite toys come from Green Toys. Green Toys are made from recycled milk jugs, and they have a huge selection to choose from. Little Grasshopper’s favorite is the tool set, and if I were a kid again I would totally ask for the pink tool set for Christmas!
But don’t stop at toys! I’ve bought clothes made from recycled plastic bottles (polyester is in fact plastic) and yarn from factory cutoffs. Even my business cards are made from recycled cotton! Pretty cool, right?
3-) Limit paper towel usage
Limiting paper towel usage is one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact, yet I think it’s the step many people are most hesitant to take. And I’ve been there too! After all, what else will we use to clean up messes?!
But trust me when I say this: it’s not bad at at all once you start taking baby steps towards limiting your paper towel usage! Our family is at the point where I buy one wholesale pack of paper towels and it lasts us a whole year! Not too shabby, eh?
To make the transition easier, choose one thing you will stop using paper towels for and instead use old towels or reusable cloths. Will you use a soapy washcloth instead of paper towels to wipe down your counters? How about reusable napkins instead of paper napkins for dinner messes? Once you get used to using an alternative for one mess “type”, add on a second mess type.
4-) Choose local ingredients
You know that fruit you buy that comes from Ecuador (or other Central or South American country)? Yea, chances are that fruit had to go on a boat and/or fly thousands of miles to get to you. And that equals a lot of fuel!
A better option is to buy local produce, via either a farmer’s market, CSA, or farm-to-table organization. I personally belong to a local organic farm-to-table, and it’s been a great experience! Bonus: We also eat healthier because the produce delivery ensures we always have fresh fruit and vegetables even if I don’t make it to the store!
5-) Meal Plan
Normally we think of meal planning as a way to budget and save money on food, but good meal planning also ensures that you minimize food waste. This is especially important for those foods that you can’t get locally (see point 4)!
6-) Opt out of junk mail
Let me ask you a question…what percentage of mail that you get goes directly into trash/recycling? I know it’s a lot! In fact, over 109 BILLION (as in NINE zeroes, y’all!) pieces of junk mail are delivered in the US EACH YEAR! To put that in perspective, that’s more than 35 times more in junk mail each year than Oprah Winfrey is worth in dollars ($3.1 Billion, in case you’re wondering)!
Reduce the amount of paper used/produced by opting out of all those pre-approved credit card and direct marketing offers. In the US, the FTC suggests using Opt Out Prescreen for opting out of credit card pre-approvals and DMAchoice.org for opting out of direct marketing mail. It only takes a few minutes, and the earth will thank you!
7-) Skip individually wrapped packaging
While individually wrapped snacks and other foods are convenient, all that packaging comes at an environmental cost. Reduce your footprint by purchasing items in bulk that are also packaged in bulk. Then divide things up into individual reusable containers when you get home. It’s only a small amount of additional work for a big environmental impact, PLUS you’ll save money because you won’t have to pay for the “extra” convenience.
8- ) Swap lightbulbs
If you’re still using conventional incandescent lightbulbs, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to reduce your electricity usage (and your electric bill!) and to make your home safer if you have little ones.
The two main alternatives to incandescent lightbulbs include CFL bulbs and LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be more expensive, but they last the longer and don’t get hot to the touch (which is much safer if your kiddos can reach any of your lights!). CFL bulbs can take a while to “warm up” and give the full amount of light. CFL bulbs also contain mercury and therefore have to be disposed of with hazardous waste. We have used CFL bulbs in the past, but now we use strictly LED bulbs and have been much happier with them!
9-) Swap cleaners
Many household cleaners include unnecessary and non-eco-friendly ingredients (I wrote more about this here). Swapping out those cleaners with eco-friendly cleaning products (or old-fashioned cleaning products like vinegar, lemons, and baking soda) will greatly reduce your environmental impact!
10-) Minimize plastic use
OK, I saved the best for last: plastics.
It’s not up for debate: as a society we need to reduce our plastic usage. Period.
Think about where you use plastics. Do you use them to store food? Do you buy water bottles? Do you order delivery frequently? Do you use acrylic yarn for knitting/crocheting?
Believe it or not, most of our plastic-using habits have great alternatives. For example, you can use pyrex for storing food leftovers and lifefactory glass water bottles for carrying water around. When you do order out (let’s be realistic, who wants to completely give up delivery?!) you can ask the restaurant to hold the plasticware and napkins.
There you have 10 small eco-friendly changes that have a big impact. What small steps have you taken to reduce your carbon footprint? Let us know in the comments!