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It’s the first day of spring and you may feel inspired to get outside, open the windows, dust off your shelves and declutter your home. With a little forethought, you can do all of these things with very little environmental impact. And with Earth Day just a few short weeks away, now is an excellent time to commit to lowering your carbon footprint and doing your part to slow climate change. Here are some tips and tricks for reducing your environmental footprint this spring.
In the U.S., as much as a quarter of an average American’s environmental footprint comes from personal transportation. Riding a bike or using public transportation can help rein in the amount of carbon dioxide you add to the environment. Indulge in the refreshing sunlight and breeze on a bike and the opportunity to read while commuting via public transportation.
Try calculating whether you live at a bikeable distance to your workplace or other common stopovers like the grocery store. If you’re not used to using your bike as a means of transportation, it helps to equip yourself with a bike lock, helmet and bike basket or carrying cases. You can also wear a backpack to add more carrying capacity for groceries.
If you live in an area where biking and using public transportation aren’t good options, carpool with a few of your co-workers instead of driving yourself. Fewer vehicles on the road means decreased carbon emissions — even if you are only cutting the number down by one or two. Plus, carpooling can help you lower your dependence on fossil fuels. If your budget allows, consider investing in an electric car to lower your carbon footprint even more.
When work or leisure activities require air travel, fly with airlines that have carbon offset programs, if possible. Taking non-stop flights burn less fuel than flights with layovers.
The circular economy trend has inspired many businesses — including Nike and Dell — to reconsider the life cycles of their products. By extending the useful lives of the material objects in your personal life, you can greatly improve your environmental footprint and reduce the amount of waste that you contribute to landfills.
Rather than throw out old clothes, household goods or unused appliances, consider extending their useful lives. Here are some ways you can prevent goods from entering the waste stream during your spring cleaning ritual this year.
For clothes, consider tailoring and alteration, repurposing or consignment. And if you go shopping for some new spring essentials, avoid fast fashion, which has become a huge contributor to global warming. Plus, the fast fashion industry commonly relies on modern slavery to produce cheap, poorly made apparel. Instead of buying several inexpensive fast fashion pieces, invest in versatile, high-quality pieces that will be reusable for many occasions.
Keep household goods and unused appliances out of the trash by donating or reselling them. If you are unsure where to donate or recycle, consider offering up your old household goods for free in a local buy-nothing group. Chances are, you will find someone who will happily visit your home and take away the items you no longer need. If you need new household appliances to replace the ones you’re getting rid of, be sure to choose ones that are Energy Star certified. For any excess packaging lying around, try your best to salvage reusable bins and containers or recycle them.
Springtime is a great time to cut down on the packaging, transport and pesticides and fertilizer runoff that come with conventional store-bought produce. You can do so by planting your own food in a personal or community garden or shopping directly from farmers at your local farmers market. The more organic, local and seasonal produce you buy, the less negative impacts it will have on the environment. Local seasonal produce requires less energy to grow, and since it isn’t being transported around the world, it generates less carbon emissions. And once you have had a taste of delicious, locally grown food, you’ll likely end up with less food waste because it’s just so good!
Eating less meat is good for the planet, too. Red meat, in particular, requires a lot of resources to produce, and cattle release a lot of methane into the environment. When you do eat meat, try to purchase it from local farmers rather than major corporations. While corporations are destroying the planet, most smaller-scale farmers practice sustainability. They also treat their animals with a greater degree of respect.
Did you know our household energy, electricity and water consumption accounts for over a fifth of our overall ecological footprint in the U.S.? There are three main areas we can cut down: heat, electricity and water — and making your home more energy efficient doesn’t have to be difficult.
Heat and electricity are easy to cut down on during spring as the weather warms up and the sun shines longer. To lower your daily energy use, be sure to turn off your lights and unplug unused appliances and devices that use small amounts of electricity even when they’re not turned on. This includes cell phone chargers.
Take advantage of the days getting longer and lower your home energy consumption by welcoming natural light into your home. Sunlight will also make your home a bit warmer, so open up the curtains and let it shine in rather than switching on your furnace and consuming natural gas. You could even install solar panels to further enjoy the renewable energy that sunlight provides.
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, too. That way, when you need to switch on the lights, doing so won’t consume as much energy. Avoid switching on your air conditioning for as long as possible. Open up some windows and enjoy the fresh breeze. When you need to turn on your air conditioner, turn your thermostat up a couple of degrees. You’ll adjust to a slightly warmer temperature quickly, and the planet (and your energy bills!) will thank you.
When it comes to water, one easy way to cut down on water resource use is to take shorter showers. An eight-minute shower generally consumes 20 gallons of water, while running hot water for just five minutes consumes as much electricity as a 60-watt light bulb consumes in 22 hours. Limit your showers to five minutes and relax in the sun instead of in the shower! Don’t forget to make other small changes, too, like turning the water off while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, or switching to waterless personal care products like shampoo and conditioner bars or body wash bars.
For your outdoor water use, plant a regionally native groundcover that doesn’t require the same level of irrigation as a grassy lawn. Get creative with vines, wildflowers and hearty shrubs or ferns. Choose plants that will look great and thrive in the natural weather conditions of your area. Springtime is the best time to take advantage of your green thumb!
This spring, commit to doing your part to protect the planet. Reuse and recycle when you can, and take steps to consume less energy at home. Remember that you do not need to make huge changes all at once. Making even the smallest of changes will lower your impact on the planet.