It is up to us to take care of our planet and unfortunately we don’t always do a great job if it. Even so, there are many ways we as individuals can contribute to a better Earth for future generations
One of the ways we can do that is through green living.
What is green living?
Green Living is a term that refers to the practice of living a life more aware of the usage of the earth’s natural resources as an individual or as a society and reducing your impact on the environment.
Some of the most common ways people practice green living that you hear about are by recycling, reducing energy use, water usage, and fuel usage.
The definition of the phrase “green living” has changed over time and will likely continue to evolve as we as a society do the same. Another similar term you may have heard about is “sustainable living”. It is commonly used interchangeably with green living but is actually a little bit stricter when it comes to practicing the principles.
21 tips to help you practice green living
1. Buy organic food
Organic foods are grown by farmers without the use of synthetic pesticides and may also be up to one-third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Yes, organic food is more expensive in most cases and it’s hard to justify that extra cost when on a budget.
The actual nutritional difference may also be negligible, but in my opinion just knowing that you are contributing to a more eco-friendly environment and buying a higher quality product is enough to shell out the extra money.
2. Use refillable water bottles
Yes, plastic water bottles are recyclable, but most people (an estimated 4 out of 5) just toss them in the trash anyway. For that reason there are over 2 million tons of plastic PET water bottles overflowing U.S. landfills.
Although tap water has been proven to be safe for drinking time and time again, to most of us it just doesn’t taste as good. If you want something that tastes better and like drinking bottled water, consider getting a refillable water bottle and filling it up from a faucet with a water filter. Alternatively consider using a 5 gallon recyclable jug that has a deposit on it that contains spring water rather than filtered water that you can just get from your own tap.
3. Buy second-hand
There are many advantages to buying second-hand goods. When you buy something that has been used and no longer needed by it’s previous owner, it doesn’t take any new resources from the earth. Buying a new book contributes to trees being cut down, buying new shoes might contribute to the death of an animal for its leather, you get the idea.
Additionally, buying second hand is almost always cheaper… much cheaper.
Some ways you can buy second-had are:
- Go to garage sales
- Shop at thrift stores
- Buy from Craigslist, Facebook groups, or Ebay
4. Use recyclable shopping bags
Plastic shopping bags are non-biodegradable, clog up our waterways, are dangerous for wildlife, and can take up to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill.
Your state likely spends millions of dollars each year to send plastic bags to the landfill, and they may take up to a thousand years to decompose there. By using recyclable shopping bags you can help cut down on this cost and in turn save tax payer money as well as help the environment.
5. Reduce your fuel usage
This one may seem pretty obvious. The less gas we use the less that needs to be drilled from the finite source of oil the Earth has. Our cars emit greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming.
There are a number of ways we can reduce our fuel usage.
- Take public transit when possible
- Perform routine vehicle maintenance – Low tire pressure, dirty air filters, these things contribute to poor gas mileage
- Use high gears
- Avoid excessive idling
- Try ride sharing
- Get an electric car
6. Save energy
Saving energy, electricity in particular, is a great way to be part of the green movement! It reduces carbon emissions, promotes cleaner air quality, and helps us sustain the resource we have left on this planet. Not only that but it saves money and can increase your property value if you have made upgrades to your home.
Just a few things you can do to help are:
- Turning off lights when you leave a room
- Replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones
- Install a smart thermostat
- Buy energy efficient appliances, and energy efficient windows
- Make sure your home is properly insulated
- Install solar panels on your home
Definitely on of the biggest tips on this list and most common ones, recycling is a great way to start on the go green pathway. Not only can you recycle your plastic, paper and glass, but there are many different ways and forms of recycling. You can also recycle your old cellphones, empty ink cartridges, or even roof shingles when you get a new roof for your home.
The benefits of recycling are almost endless and there is really no downside aside from the fact that you have to put in a little more effort. Here are a few of the main ways recycling helps the environment:
- Reduces trash sent to landfills
- Conserves natural resources
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Saves you money
8. Conserve water
Water conservation is most important in certain areas with less rainfall, in other areas proper water management is important even though water isn’t in limited supply.
The water we use in our homes is always recycled, unless we are watering our lawns or something similar where it doesn’t go back into the water supply.
Consider that it costs money and natural resources to build and maintain the equipment and facilities needed to repeatedly treat our water. The less water we use, the less often this equipment needs to be replaced or undergo maintenance.
Some easy ways to limit your water usage:
- Buy energy efficient appliances i.e. dishwasher, washing machine
- Wash dishes by hand
- Take short showers
9. Grow your own food
Having your own vegetable garden is a great way to reduce your impact on the planet. You not only are saving money but providing healthy, pesticide-free food for your family, but you’re also reducing carbon emissions produced by the trucks used to carry those vegetables to the grocery store.
In addition to that, the food tastes better, it can be a great activity with your kids or spouse, and you’ll have a sense of pride knowing that you grew it and fed it to your family.
10. Always opt for paperless billing
Whether it’s your utility bill, WiFi bill, or bank statements, they are printed on paper that was made by cutting down a tree at some point.. even recycled paper was once new paper. Opt for paperless billing and get it sent to your email, I do it every chance I get. I think I have one bill where I’m forced to either mail it in or go down there in person, every other bill is payed online and done 100% paperless.
This is better for the environment because it uses less paper for the bill, less paper for the envelope it’s in, doesn’t require a stamp, and is just easier all around the board.
11. Purchase in bulk
Purchasing items in bulk that you know you’ll always use like paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, trash liners, and even foods that you regularly buy is beneficial in several ways.
Items packaged in bulk will not only create less trash but will also save you money in a couple of ways. You’ll limit last minute trips to the market to get something you ran out of and less trips to the market equals less fuel used.
In short, buying in bulk will:
- Save you money
- Save on gas
- Create less waste
12. Eat waste free lunches
A waste free lunch is one where the only waste you have at the end of your meal are things that are biodegradable such as apple cores or banana peels. You would also use reusable water bottles and lunch containers and have no disposable packages or wrappers such as plastic bags, juice boxes, paper napkins, and disposable utensils.
13. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
Green cleaning is a category of green living. It basically means you ditch all of the household cleaners with harmful chemicals and replace them with more environmentally friendly, plant based ones.
Green cleaning products:
- Give you a healthier home
- Save you money
- Are safer
- List exact ingredients so you know what you’re using
14. Donate or sell stuff
We all accumulate stuff over time and every once in a while it’s good go through your closets or garage and either make a trip to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or other thrift stores. Alternatively you can have a yard sale and sell you things at a discount, this is a form of recycling as well and you can even make a little money doing it.
Freecycle is a non-profit network that allows you to give stuff away in your area. You have to create an account then join a group that allows you to gift re-usable goods rather then sending it to the landfill.
15. Use rechargeable batteries
Americans buy almost 3 billion batteries each year to power household items, and a large amount are disposable. Disposable, alkaline batteries cannot be recycled but are also not considered hazardous waste and can safely be thrown in the trash.
However, using rechargeable batteries can be reused hundreds of time. They create less waste and save you more money. For more info about different battery types, which ones are hazardous, and which ones you can recycle, visit this battery disposal guide.
Composting is the process of breaking down organic matters into a soil conditioner called compost, it’s essentially recycling kitchen scraps. Creating compost can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months but once complete, you have a great fertilizer that will improve the soil of any garden.
Some of the benefits of composting are:
- Builds good soil structure
- Enables soil to retain nutrients
- Protects against drought
- Helps maintain a neutral pH
- Protects plants from diseases
- Feeds earthworms and other microbial life
17. Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics to follow that promote the conservation of the outdoors. You hear many outdoor enthusiasts talk about Leave No Trace when referring to hiking and camping. In a nutshell it means respect the outdoors and leave everything as you found it in it’s natural state.
There are seven principles of LNT to follow:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
18. Buy green gifts
Buying eco-friendly gifts for the holidays or for birthdays is a great way to promote green living. In purchasing the gift you are buying something that has less of an impact on the environment and the person receiving and using the gift also becomes a contributor to sustainable living. They may also pay it forward and buy a green gift as well.
You can find some green gift ideas here.
19. Educate others
Simply spread the word to friends and family about the benefits of green living. Try not to be too pushy about it, that really turns people off. Giving a green gift is one way to educate, start composting with your children, volunteer with your spouse, start a blog about sustainable living, or any other way you can think of.
The best way is to just lead by example, start practicing green living habits and let people know you are.
20. Go green at work
Start practicing all of these eco-friendly habits at work as well. Encourage others to recycle their aluminum cans and plastic bottles, pack no waste lunches, use both sides of a piece of paper, or ask your boss if you can telecommute one or two days a week cutting down on your fuel usage.
For other ideas about going green at work check out this article.
21. Plant native plants
Planting native plants is important because they are adapted to your local environment and once established will need less care. This means they may:
- Need less or no pesticides
- Need less water
- Improve air quality
- Attract native wildlife
- Save you money
- Be lower maintenance