8 Ways to Reduce Your Impact Today

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This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

Many of us are feeling strapped for cash right now. Add to this the fact that our usual daily responsibilities don’t go away just because the economy has taken a nose dive, and you have a real recipe for stress. With a full-time job, an active social life and perhaps a kid or a pup to raise, it’s tough to always fit in a commitment to the environment, especially if it seems to require added cost or responsibility.

Take heart, though, because there are many ways to save money and reduce your impact on the planet. Once you are done with the usual suspects like changing your incandescent light bulbs to low-energy CFLs and shopping with reusable bags, check out these equally easy ways to simplify your high-wattage life:

take out box

Image courtesy of dotpolka

1. Say ‘No’ to To-Go

Even if you are constantly on the run, it is possible to reduce the amount of waste you generate by packing your own mugs, water bottles and reusable food containers. The majority of to-go containers are made from plastics that do not recycle easily, and a plethora of reusable options are now available. Each paper cup and plastic fork costs money, and you can be sure this cost is passed onto consumers. As an added monetary bonus, many retailers offer rebates for those who bring their own mugs and bags.

2. Water Well

Water is a precious resource, which is often a fact overlooked in developed countries where all one needs to do for clean, safe water is turn on the tap. However, millions suffer from lack of clean water, and the available supply of potable water on the planet is dwindling. You can decrease your H2O consumption by following a few simple steps:

  • Flush and run sparingly – The average toilet uses between 1.6 and 5.5 gallons of water per flush. If you are already “letting it mellow,” save even more water by only turning on the tap when absolutely necessary – no need for the water to run when brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, for example.
  • Make sure it’s really dirty before washing – Clothing, dishes and your body should only undergo the wash and rinse cycle when necessary. Use the same water glass all day, and wear those jeans more than once.

3. Hang It Out To Dry

After the fridge, the clothes dryer is the second largest consumer of home power. Most of us are not willing to give up cold milk and crisp veggies, but we can easily use the dryer less often, which can add up to a significant savings of energy and money.

As an added bonus, letting your clothes air dry extends their usable lives (it is much less taxing on the stitching and fabric), it is a good excuse to get outside and the end product smells better too! If you live in a place where drying clothes outside right now would mean wearing duds that are cold and wet, consider using indoor drying racks to accomplish the same energy-free job.

4. Lights, Camera, Out!

Many electronic devices like chargers for phones and cameras, televisions and computers continue to draw energy even when in the “off” position. To avoid this phantom power use, unplug such devices, or plug everything into a power strip which you can turn off when not in use. Encourage these same practices at your workplace, and no matter where you are, always turn off unnecessary lights.

5. Be a Wise Post-Consumer

In the digital age, we still rely on a steady stream of paper in our offices, kitchens and bathrooms. Here are some easy suggestions for keeping more trees outside:

  • Print sparingly – When you do need to hold a document in your hand, be sure it has been printed and/or copied on both sides, and of course, be sure to recycle when done.
  • Buy the highest level of post-consumer, recycled paper – From toilet paper to notebooks, there is rarely a reason to use virgin paper. Look for the percentage on the packaging (such as products made with 100 percent recycled and/or 50 percent post-consumer materials), and also look for paper that is processed chlorine free (PCF).
  • Class it up with cloth – Reusable napkins are not just for fancy dinner parties. They can be washed and reused indefinitely. The same goes for old T-shirts or towels, which can be repurposed as rags and used instead of their paper counterparts.

6. Resist the Urge to Splurge

A lack of excess cash can also serve as a great excuse to consume a bit less. Here are a few suggestions for ways to help you consume less:

  • Take a consumption vacation – Consider taking the day or week off from making any new purchases, with the exception of necessities such as health products and food. Remember that you are not only saving money, but you are also reducing the waste created throughout the life cycle of each new product, the packaging used and the transportation and emissions necessary to get products from original resource to manufacturer to consumer.
  • Buy nice or buy twice – For these necessities, make sure that you are buying the highest quality, most energy efficient, eco-friendly model available within your budget. From appliances (Energy Star) to food (Local Harvest), there are low-impact alternatives for almost everything on the market.

7. Bid Your Car Adieu

We are a society that loves our cars, but there are many alternatives to a day spent solo in your gas-guzzling ride. Backing out of your car rut can also provide new opportunities to socialize and get some exercise:

Public transportation

Image courtesy of L.A. Urban Soul

  • Get on the bus – Many cities and towns have excellent public transportation systems that include buses, subways and trains. You’ll be surprised at the new friends you make or the added reading time you find when not behind the wheel.
  • Carpool with friends or co-workers – There are several rideshare services available now that will help you make a match.
  • Get on a bike or walk – While it might take a little longer to reach your destination, the fresh air, lack of carbon emitted and exercise more than make up for the extra minutes.
  • Phone it in – Explore telecommuting or teleconferencing options with your employer to significantly reduce your daily commute.

8. Ban Planned Obsolescence

The more we view potential waste as building blocks for new products, the lower our overall impact will be. Granted, some products (“gum” comes to mind) are decidedly single-use items, but with a little creativity, many others can easily be creatively repurposed.

Feature image courtesy of Kevin Dooley

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