Monday marked the start of Pollution Prevention Week. And what better way to celebrate than by shrinking your footprint at home? If you want to do your part but can’t fit planning into your busy schedule, you’re in luck. Here are five quick and easy ways to reduce your pollution just in time for the planet-changing holiday.
1. Conserve energy
The No. 1 suggestion the EPA gives for reducing air pollution at home is conserving energy, and we have a huge library of tips that will help you do just that. To get started, try opening your windows on pleasant days, turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms and hanging clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. And, if you haven’t already, swap out your old incandescent lights for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
Another huge culprit of household energy use is vampire power – which is the energy your appliances and electronics consume when they are plugged in but not running. Avoid the inflation of your energy bill (and your footprint) by unplugging appliances like microwaves, toasters and coffee makers when they aren’t in use and putting electronics on a power strip.
2. Get smart about disposal
Recycling common materials like plastics, glass and aluminum reduces your personal footprint. But there are some materials that absolutely must be recycled to avoid possible contamination of soils, air and water supplies.
If you’re dealing with potentially toxic materials – which include paints, motor oil, batteries and heavy-duty cleaners – and aren’t sure how to dispose of them, check out Earth911 to find a solution near you. Never pour potentially hazardous materials down the drain.
Also, remember to recycle your meds. Both prescription and over-the-counter medication can potentially contaminate groundwater if disposed of improperly. Most drug store chains, including CVS, offer recycling programs for medications.
3. Care for your car
Decreasing your driving by opting for a bicycle, public transit or your own two feet is a great way to reduce pollution. But when you do need your car, caring for it properly can have a big impact on emissions.
Check your tire pressure often, and give your tires a little air when they’re running low. Keeping your tires at the proper pressure gives you better gas mileage and also increases the longevity of your tires, which cuts back on rubber waste. Also, make sure to have your oil changed regularly and your engine checked often. A simple air filter replacement could add dozens of MPGs to your vehicle.
4. Ditch the plastics
It can seem pretty impossible to completely eliminate the use of plastics from your life. But cutting back on plastic use dramatically shrinks your footprint, as it takes loads of energy to produce plastic from virgin materials and many forms are very difficult to recycle.
To curb plastic use, try shopping with a reusable canvas tote, hydrating with a reusable water bottle or coffee mug and packing a lunch in reusable containers. When you do use plastic, try to purchase minimally-packaged items made whenever possible. And always remember to recycle!
5. Drive smart
If you live in a sprawling suburb or rural area, going carless isn’t always an option. But just because you drive doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with all the enviro-guilt associated with your car’s emissions.
Maintaining your car is important, but a few quick adjustments to your driving habits can help you increase gas mileage even more. Accelerate gradually, obey the speed limit and use cruise control whenever possible. Also, ditch the long drive-thru lines at banks and fast food restaurants. Just park your car and go in on foot (lines are often shorter inside, anyway).