April is Earth Month, this week is Earth Week, and tomorrow is Earth Day. However, we believe that every month should be Earth Month, every week Earth Week, etc., etc. As a human being alive on this planet, you’ve heard about or even seen the overwhelming evidence for global climate change. Well, why don’t we do something about it? As it turns out, there are many eco-friendly habits we can easily incorporate into our lives. We asked Susan Place of Green Living Journal for some ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint, and she helped us put together this list.
1. Ditch Bottled Water
If you’re still drinking out of bottled water, stop it. Stop it right now. According to The Water Project, there 2 million tons of discarded water bottles in U.S. landfills. “Water bottles are a good place to start,” says Place. “There’s no reason to buy bottled water when we have excellent tap water. You can just get a reusable bottle of water and fill it up.” Place is referring to the water in the Portland, OR area — if tap water doesn’t taste great where you live, you could (and should) improve the flavor with an inexpensive filter pitcher.
You probably use a lot of disposable products that could be easily replaced with reusable ones. The Environmental Protection Agency says that paper products make up 27% of municipal solid waste. “Napkins, tissues, and paper towels can all be replaced with reusables,” says Place. “There are great products like Skoys, sponges, and rags that absorb moisture and can be easily laundered.” If you haven’t tried Skoy cloths yet, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and check them out.
3. Go Electric
Though most of the electricity in this country is still produced by burning coal, the proliferation of wind and solar power is turning electricity into a truly clean energy source. Instead of buying new gas-powered tools and appliances, consider going electric. “If you get rid of your lawnmower and get an electric lawnmower, you won’t have gasoline and oil on your property, and you won’t have to worry about spillables,” says Place. Electric weed whackers, hedge trimmers, and other non-gas tools can help reduce air pollution.
4. Rent, Borrow, and Buy High-Quality
Here at The Manual, we’re all pretty enamored with Things (with a capital “T”). However, we strive to be smart about what things we buy and promote. When you buy new items, we recommend that you spring for high-quality stuff that will last for years. Alternatively, you might also make an effort to borrow or rent certain items. Susan Place extols the virtues of getting equipment at “tool libraries,” which are popping up all over the country: “You can just borrow something you don’t need all the time, or you can rent something that you don’t need daily,” she says. “If you do have to buy something, it’s a good idea to buy U.S. and shop locally.”
5. Limit Your Driving
Of all daily habits, driving is perhaps the most damaging to the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars and trucks account for almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. If possible, leave your car at home and embrace walking, biking, public transportation, and carpooling. “We try to limit our driving as much as we can, though I know that’s very hard in our culture,” says Place. “In permaculture, they call it ‘stacking;’ every time we go to do one thing, we try to stack it so we accomplish many things in one trip.”
As far as green living tips go, this list doesn’t even scratch the Earth’s beautiful green surface. There are many, many, more things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint without breaking your stride. If you feel compelled to change your habits more drastically, however, that would be fine, too — this planet needs all the help it can get. For more tips about green living and the latest environmental news, we strongly recommend checking out the Green Living Journal.