20 Small Ways to Make a Big Difference

We all live very busy lives – and that means making major lifestyle changes can be a challenge at best. However, we can all afford to make a few small changes in our daily lives in order to make a more positive impact on our environment!

  1. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags
    • One person using reusable bags can remove 22,000+ plastic bags from the environment. Most grocery stores sell these bags at checkout for $1-$2, and offer incentives for using them by charging for plastic bag use.
  2. Shorten Your Shower
    • By shortening your shower by two minutes, you can save ten gallons of water. You can use a timer to see how long your showers usually are – the US average is about 10-15 minutes. Showering and bathing accounts for the largest percentage of indoor water use (27%). Try to get your shower down to five minutes or less!
  3. Meatless Mondays
    • Meatless Monday is exactly what is sounds like – every Monday, pledge to not consume meat. Committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet can seem daunting or challenging, but changing your diet one day a week can make a big difference.
  4. BYO Cup or Straw
      • If you bring your own cup to get your coffee in the morning, most coffee shops will fill your cup if you ask instead of using their single-use plastic cups. If your coffee shop won’t do this, consider bringing a hard plastic reusable straw and skip the disposable one. Straws end up in the ocean and harm our ocean life, which is a problem that can easily be solved by eliminating plastic straw use. Take the No Plastic Straw Pledge here!

  5. Bye to Plastic Bottles
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (for real)
    • Reduce your use of plastics, and reuse them if there’s no way to avoid purchasing them. Recycle – do it – seriously. Recycle all of your paper, plastic, bottles, and cans. The most important thing about recycling is buying products made fromm recycled material – that’s what keeps the chain going.
  7. Switch to CFL
    • CFL bulbs are brighter, last longer, produce less heat, reduce carbon emissions, and save you money. What’s the downside? Nothing. Switch your bulbs!
  8. Compost Compost Compost
    • Most of us know what composting is, but few of us actually do it. Reduce your garbage can waste by putting organic matter into a compost bin. Compost can be used as a fertilizer instead of chemicals and and keeps waste out of landfills.
  9. Switch to Non-Dairy Milks
    • You’re not a baby cow, so why are you drinking milk made for baby cows? Enjoy your coffee or your cereal with almond, cashew, coconut, soy, rice, hemp, flax, sunflower, pea, or oat milk instead. These alternatives are better for you with up to 50% more calcium and no cholesterol. Non-Dairy milks are easier to digest because our stomachs weren’t made to digest cow’s milk, which is why lactose intolerance is so common. Most, if not all coffee shops and restaurants offer dairy-free alternatives now, so it’s not as hard as it used to be to make the switch!
  10. Buy it naked!
    • Buy your foods naked. This means don’t buy products with unnecessary packaging! They sell some vegetables on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic alongside loose vegetables – why do you need that trash? The less people buy foods that are unnecessarily packaged, the less they will appear in grocery stores.
  11. Say No to Palm Oil
    • Palm Oil is a major contributor to deforestation and habitat degradation. In order to keep up with the demand for this oil, rainforests are being destroyed at an alarmingly high rate. This runs this risk of animal extinction in our rainforests and exploits child labor.
  12. Turn off the Lights (and the Tap!) 
    • When you leave a room, shut all the lights off! Don’t burn unnecessary energy when you’re not using it. Likewise, don’t run water when you’re not using it – this includes when you’re brushing your teeth and doing dishes. Don’t leave it running!
  13. Do Laundry Only When it’s Full
    • Newer “high efficiency” washers still use 14-25 gallons of water per load. Try to run the washer once a week – if that’s not possible, then only run it when you have a full load. Between washes, use items like towels more than once to dry off after a shower – they don’t need to be washed after a single use.
  14. Buy Fair Trade
    • There are infinite reasons to purchase fair trade products – in short, it’s better for people and it’s better for the planet. In a time where workers around the world are exploited and underpaid, Fair Trade brings back dignity for workers around the world. Check out the documentary “The True Cost” for a real inside look into the harsh realities of our “low-cost” consumerism.
  15. Use a Rain Barrel
    • Using a rain barrel has unlimited benefits, from reducing your water bill to reducing runoff pollution. A rain barrel collects rain and stores it for your personal use – so instead of washing your car or watering your plants with running water in a hose, use a rain barrel to conserve water and benefit the environment and your wallet!
  16. Grow Your Own
    • You’ll probably be surprised to hear that growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint – why does it matter where it’s grown? The answer lies in journey your food takes before it reaches the grocery store. When we spend money on any product, we’re supporting that business, and many of the big produce businesses are harming our environment (and us!) with pollutants, pesticides, and chemicals. Though it may seem a daunting task to have your own vegetable garden, growing your favorite herbs could be a great place to start!
  17. Don’t Drive
    • Take public transport whenever you possibly can! This is easier for some than others – I know for me, I live in the middle of nowhere so it’s a lot harder! However, an alternative is to carpool as often as possible – this saves money on gas and reduces carbon emissions. It’s important that we limit the number of cars on the roads in order to cut down on transportation emissions.
  18.  Donate and Shop Secondhand
  19. Clean Up Litter
    • You don’t need to commit to an entire trash cleanup day to make a difference. It’s as simple as, when you see litter – pick it up! Don’t ignore it and walk away!  The Litter Project encourages all people to pick up one piece of litter a day. We can all afford the two seconds it takes a day to do that!
  20. Check Your Coffee
    • In today’s instant coffee-pod world, drip-style coffee makers are virtually antiques. Believe it or not, those coffee pods are not recyclable, with four different kinds of waste (plastic, metal, paper, and coffee). These have definitely increased convenience, but are a step in the wrong direction for our environment. There are now compostable and recyclable coffee pods, as well as reusable ones. (Using reusable pods is also much cheaper!)
      Kill The K Cup from Charles Wahl on Vimeo.

It may seem a daunting task, but take up one or two of these habits and changes for a few weeks to get the hang of it and see how many you can add on to your daily routine. If all of us make small changes in our lives, they will add up to make a large impact on the world we live in!

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