Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root
Most people agree that preserving the environment is ethical and wise, but it can be difficult to break certain habits to go green – or simply greener. Putting a plan into action is a great way to train your mind to act in the environment’s best interests.
It breaks less favorable habits and makes you feel good about your positive impact. From the food we buy to the way we clean our homes, there are so many things we can do to preserve the world in which we live.
Ride Your Bike or Carpool
It’s amazing how far you can go on foot or on a bicycle! Most households use multiple vehicles for transportation, and most of us are in the habit of driving everywhere – even to locations that are an easy 5-10 minute walk or bike ride. Reserving the use of your car for trips that aren’t within walking or biking distance is a great way to stay healthy while helping to preserve the environment.
But not everyone has the luxury of biking, walking or taking public transit to work. For those of us who don’t, buddying up with co-workers as carpooling is cost effective and it reduces your personal carbon dioxide output throughout the year. Condition your mind to know that small adjustments like sharing a ride can have a sizable impact over time. Ask around the office to find out if the company you work for reimburses for carpooling – many do! Small monetary kickbacks for sharing a car to work can add up!
Bring Reusable Bags to the Grocery Store
Most people have a plethora of reusable grocery bags because they’re handed out at events and are very inexpensive to acquire. I keep at least four in my car at all times so I can rely on these canvas or cloth bags for lugging my groceries when I go shopping instead of returning home with lots of plastic or paper bags. When I do end up with plastic or paper bags from the store, I save them for future use or recycle them.
For transporting fruit and vegetables, I bring washable vegetable bags to the store or farmer’s market rather than using the single-use plastic bags found in the produce section. I can rinse out my reusable bags and use them time and again.
Shop the Outer Perimeter of the Store
We’re told to shop the outer perimeter of the store — the meat and produce sections — to stay healthy, and doing so is better for the environment as well. Fresh produce and meats require less packaging and therefore have less of an impact on the landfill. When given the option, choose sustainably raised meats from eco-friendly farms.
Additionally, if you live in a climate that’s conducive to maintaining a garden, growing your own produce is a cheap, fun and rewarding experience, while having a positive impact on the environment. It reduces the amount of trips you take to the grocery store, is sustainable and eliminates the need for plastic bags to transport the goods.
Store Leftovers in Reusable Containers
Rather than place your leftover food in sealable plastic bags or using loads of plastic wrap or foil, put your leftovers in sealable containers. I even put chopped vegetables in containers instead of relying on storage that just gets thrown away.
Recycle and Compost
So many bottles, packages, boxes and containers can be recycled. It takes almost no effort to toss recyclable packaging in the recycle bin rather than the trash, so this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint – by making sure your waste is re-purposed rather than sitting in a landfill. I pay close attention to which brands use recycled materials in their packaging and I feel good about selecting those brands over others that are less environmentally conscious.
You can also save your organic waste, like fruit peels or vegetable scraps, and compost it. Even if you don’t use the compost in your own personal garden, having your own system to process biodegradable material is a marvelous way to do your part to reduce the volume of landfills.
You can clean your house with a simple vinegar solution rather than store-bought aerosol cleaners, which are harmful to the environment. Use reusable washcloths rather than paper towels to minimize the amount of waste generated from regular cleaning. You might also consider using environmentally-friendly paint, home furnishings and carpet to ensure that your home is free of volatile organic compounds.
Although the clothing industry has improved its environmental impact in recent years, it still has a long way to go. The jean industry is one of the dirtiest in the United States, yet we continue buying pair after pair. Buying used from thrift stores or exchanges is a good choice when purchasing clothing. When buying new, select brands that use recycled materials in their garments. Choose jeans made by companies that use friendlier dying processes, and be sure you only buy what you need.
Living a green life and setting a good example for your friends and family is exceptionally rewarding. Sure, we only have one life to live, but being cognizant of the damage we cause the planet can motivate us to be as helpful to the environment as possible. All it takes is a little extra time and some research to make your life as green as you can. Preserving nature so that future generations can enjoy it is worth the additional effort!