A recent report from an international panel of climate scientists speculated that we may have already crossed the point of no return when it comes to climate change. As the effects of global climate change begin to manifest themselves, there is an increasing sense of urgency among the general population and a growing acceptance of the need to address the issue as soon as possible. As a result, there are a large number of people who are actively looking for things that they personally can do to improve the situation.
The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can do if this is your goal. All of us have a role to play in making the world greener and protecting the environment, just as we all have a stake in the outcome if we fail to do so.
If you are one of the many people who have just jumped onto the ‘eco bandwagon’, then this post is for you. Below we lay out some of the most effective ways that any individual person can start doing their bit for the environment. You will find that many of these techniques don’t just help reduce your carbon footprint, they can also help to reduce your energy bills and your overall energy usage. If you have kids, these are all great family activities for teaching them about the environment too.
Go Green in the Kitchen
For many of us, our kitchens are generating a significant amount of unnecessary waste that we produce. There are lots of opportunities to improve your eco credentials by making minor adjustments to the way that you approach your kitchen. For one thing, you should try thinking more about the ultimate source of the ingredients and products that you buy.
It isn’t hard to find fair trade and organic alternatives to less responsibly sourced products that we are more familiar with. You can also make a difference to the amount of waste that you produce by not throwing out produce the moment it reaches its best before date. When it comes to things like fruit and veg, as long as it is not visibly inedible, there is no reason to throw it away.
Another common source of inefficiency in the kitchen is water usage. Whenever a recipe calls for a pot of water, such as pasta or spaghetti, many people fill it up with far more water than they actually need. This might not seem like a big deal, but not only can these small amounts add up over time, wasting water is one of the most difficult environmental challenges that we face, and so anything you can do to improve your water usage will be a big tick in the win column.
A growing number of people are also turning away from meat products altogether in an effort to minimize their environmental footprint. How effective this is as a tactic depends on who you ask, but most scientists now seem to agree that reducing the amount of meat that we eat would bring benefits for the environment. Not everyone will be able to make the switch to a vegetarian diet. However, just reducing the amount of meat that you eat can make a difference – you do not need to stop eating meat entirely for it to be a worthwhile thing to do.
Some people advocate going full vegan if you want to make a difference to the environment. However, there is now evidence that suggests that intensive farming of vegan products like soy can present environmental issues of its own. In short, this is all complicated and there are a lot of factors involved in determining the footprint of the food we eat and the ingredients we buy.
The best thing that you can do is to research to the best of your ability and find out as much as you can. It’s nigh on impossible, not to mention expensive, to be entirely carbon neutral in your diet, but you can still make your best effort.
Get the Gardening Bug
One way of helping yourself to cut down on the amount of waste that your kitchen is generating would be to start growing more of your own produce. There are a whole variety of herbs and vegetables that can easily be grown indoors or outdoors, so there are at least some ingredients that you can’t begin to cultivate for yourself regardless of where you live. There are lots of other reasons to get into gardening; it is a great hobby for relaxing, and is an awesome activity to share with your kids as they start to grow older and more curious.
If you look online, you can find grow kits that make growing a variety of herbs and vegetables really simple. These work out a bit more expensive than if you acquire the seeds, soil, and everything else yourself and then grow the plant that way. However, grow kits are great for beginners and are usually the most reliable way of getting results. If you have never grown anything before, then it is a good idea to start with one of the kits so that you have a better chance of success and you can learn the most basic elements without having to worry too much about the end result.
You can also start a compost in your garden which will provide you with a steady supply of nutrient-rich and bacteria resistant soil that will see anything you plant flourish with relative ease. A compost is another great way of scoring some eco points, as it will enable you to make use of things that you would otherwise simply throw out. If you do any kind of gardening at all, then a compost is an excellent investment.
Of course, you should strive to use organic pesticides in your garden, not the off-the-shelf chemical ones. There are lots of perfectly natural pesticides that you can cook up in your kitchen using easily available ingredients. These pesticides will be harmless to your plants and will deter insects effectively.
You should also look into ways of gardening that conserve water. A simple way of doing this is to build your own rain catcher if there is enough rainfall where you live. A rain catcher will enable you to gather rainwater automatically and then store it for use in your garden. If you get enough rain, then you might be able to simply leave out some containers next time it starts coming down and then gather them up and seal them afterward. This rainwater is no good for drinking unless you boil it first. However, it is fine to put on your plants and is a great way of watering them essentially for free.
Vote with Your Wallet
If we all made a concerted effort to only spend our money with businesses who showed that they were serious about the environmental commitments, then we could easily sway their opinion. A growing number of businesses are waking up to the importance of environmentalism, not just as a social and moral obligation, but also as a growing business concern. Not only will many of the effects of climate change be devastating for a number of industries and caused widespread economic issues, but consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment and are demanding that more action is taken. While governments around the world differ in their political views and attitudes towards climate change, there is near-universal consensus among citizens themselves that businesses need to be voluntarily taking their environmental obligations more seriously.
If someone asked you to give money for a charity, then you would want to know everything about that charity and how it will spend your money. In particular, you want to know that the charity is going to actually do good work and not just take your money in order to pay someone’s wages. And yet when we buy products off the shelves in stores, this is exactly the logic that we use, giving no thought to how the product in front of us got to where it is or who the business behind it is.
By being just a little bit more inquisitive and a little bit more willing to switch brands and perhaps spend a little bit more money in exchange for a more ethical product, it is easy to begin shopping much more ethically. It is also remarkably easy to find information online about the environmental record of various businesses. The most egregious offenders in terms of pollution are now well-publicized, and while they continue to do good business, it is relatively easy to identify their products on the shelves.
The catch here is that there is a huge amount of concentration at the top; a handful of businesses account for a huge proportion of global trade, and also coincidentally are the biggest polluters. Shopping 100% ethically and ecologically consciously is not just difficult, but it is also expensive. Not everyone is in a position to make such a dramatic change to their spending habits, but even making a few small changes could actually have a significant impact on what kind of ecological footprint you are leaving behind.
This green philosophy should extend to the services that you use as well as the product that you buy. For example, if you have air conditioning or heating units in your home, then the next time you need an AC repair or AC tune up, schedule an appointment with Semper Solaris. Semper Solaris is a perfect example of the kind of business we are talking about. They have made a commitment to ecologically friendly business practices, and that commitment is at the heart of everything they do. In addition to providing air conditioning units, they also provide solar panels, which is another fantastic way of making your home greener and reducing your carbon footprint.
Embrace Solar Power
Solar technology has come a long way over the last few decades, and while it was once the butt of many jokes for its perceived low to no power generating qualities, solar panels are now much more efficient and can generate a reasonable amount of electricity. Many parts of the US will offer subsidies to homeowners who choose to have solar panels fitted to their homes.
California, for example, offers many generous grants and subsidies to encourage the uptake of solar energy generation throughout the state. This can make solar paneling a great investment for your home both as a way of making your energy usage more efficient and potentially increasing the value of your home to a future buyer. If you are serious about getting into the eco-warrior game, then solar panels are a must.
Improve Your Energy Efficiency
Adding solar panels to your home is just one way of improving your energy efficiency and reducing the amount of energy that you need to use on a day-to-day basis. There are plenty of other ways that you can achieve this, and each of them can make a significant difference in your monthly utility bills as well as your environmental footprint.
Other things that you can do to improve energy efficiency include improving the insulation around your home. A better-insulated home will be able to retain heat better and will, therefore, require less heating during the winter months. Conversely, during the summer months, a better-insulated home will be able to maintain a cooler temperature inside and will be less susceptible to heat from the outside.
You might also want to consider adding another layer of glazing to your windows, or fitting a thicker seal around the edge that will reduce heat loss. Of course, the downside to this is that there will be less circulation of air around your home. One solution to this problem is the use of a heat recovery system which will both cycle and heat it at the same time. These systems can enable you to greatly reduce your heating bills.
In some properties, a considerable amount of heat is being lost through pipes other surfaces. Much of this heat loss is hidden and goes unnoticed, but properly insulating pipework can significantly improve the efficiency and reduce the amount of heat being wasted. If you have an insulated pipe in your home, you might be surprised by just how much money you could save by adding insulation to them.
A simple hack for controlling the temperature in your home is to use thick curtains as a way of controlling insulation. By pulling the curtains closed over the window, you can help to either trap heat in or keep it out. Meanwhile, you can pull the curtains apart in order to allow more air to escape.
One final small but important component of good energy efficiency is ensuring that you aren’t leaving your electronics running for longer than is necessary. Try to get into the habit of turning everything off when you leave a room and not leaving things idling on all day. If you and your family can all get into the habit of turning things off once you are done using them, then you will see your electricity bill plummet, especially if your kids have previously been leaving TVs and games consoles on all day.
We have touched on water waste already, and how important it is to reduce the amount of water that we use. If you can take a shorter shower and or install a low-flow showerhead in your shower, then you should notice that your water usage drops quite significantly. You can also do your bit to help by reducing your bottled water purchases as much as possible. Even if the water quality in your local area is not the best, it is much cheaper and better for the environment for you to fit a water filter to your faucet and achieve the same thing as buying bottled water.
Check Your Local Recycling
Recycling is one of the most important things that any of us can do in order to do our bit towards keeping the environment in good shape. Most recyclable products and packages are marked as such, that it is easy enough to remember the most common types of recyclable items.
Paper – The most common recyclable in the US is paper. The EPA estimates that paper makes up around a quarter of all the solid waste that the United States generates every year. Of this huge amount of waste, around 66% of it is recycled, leaving the rest to be thrown into a landfill. However, the 66% that is recycled is used to make a new product, including new paper as well as disposable cups and an array of other items.
You can make a point of buying recycled paper instead of regular paper if you want to help contribute towards more sustainable approaches. Most products that are made from recycled paper will be labeled as such, so it should be pretty easy to distinguish them from the regular paper products.
Gift wrap – Another very common but often overlooked recyclable material is gift-wrapped and gift bags. These are the kind of things that people hold onto because they plan to one day use them again, even if they don’t actually get around to doing so. Recycle decorative boxes instead of leaving them in the back of a car, as it will help to reduce the amount of paper and cardboard that we need to use producing new ones every year. Not all of the gift wrap on the market is recyclable, but it should be pretty easy to determine whether a roll that you are looking at is or isn’t.
Batteries – Batteries can also be recycled, and should never be thrown out with the rest of your trash. Many places that sell batteries offer in-store recycling bins, and lots of Walmart stores will have these available to customers. There are also occasionally community collection events depending on where you live, so keep an eye on your local press for more information.
Plastic – When it comes to plastics, there are a large number of plastics that can be recycled, but this by no means applies to all of them. The EPA estimates that only around 8.4% of all the plastic generated in the US is ultimately recycled. The situation is complicated by the fact that different authorities and different recycling programs will only accept different types of plastic. As yet, there is no general-purpose plastic disposal point that people can turn to. All you can do is find out what plastics are recycled locally, and make an effort to sort those from the others in your home.
Glass – Glass containers are easy to reuse around the home, so you should have no problem repurposing those if you want to keep them around. However, you can also take them to a recycling point where they will be reused. Glass is very easy to recycle, and yet only a little over a quarter of it actually ends up being recycled. It is cheaper to make new glass from recycled glass than it is to create glass from raw materials, so there is good incentive amongst the glass industry to encourage recycling.
Living a more ecologically friendly lifestyle does not have to be a difficult undertaking. It might not sound like a lot to take on at once, and for many people, it will be a significant lifestyle shift to introduce more ecologically friendly practices into their lives. However, if you make these changes gradually and incrementally, then it is a lot easier to make them stick. Once you start to feel the benefits of your new attitude to both your carbon footprint and your energy bills, it will be much easier to stick to the changes you have made.
A greener and brighter future is only possible if there is a concerted effort from all of us to do our bit. Lots of people are still not doing anything because they feel that their individual contribution doesn’t matter. However, every contribution, no matter how small, is vital in the fight against climate change.