While problems like melting polar ice caps and the ocean’s massive garbage patches are daunting to say the least, there are a lot of ways to improve the planet much closer to home — in fact, without even leaving it.
Here are 10 easy hacks to help you do your part on the home front.
1. Stash reusable bags everywhere
Plastic waste is the scourge of the ocean. After you swear off single-use plastic bags, stay true by stashing reusable bags everywhere — on the coat rack by the front door, in your car, and in your purse or briefcase.
2. Recycle plastic bags
If you do end up with plastic bags, recycle them. Most towns do not accept these bags in curbside recycling, but many grocery stores and some superstores do. You can also put zip-close food storage bags, produce bags, “air pillow” mailers and newspaper bags in these bins, which are usually located near the store entrance or exit.1
3. Turn off the tap
Clean, drinkable water is one of the most precious commodities on the planet. To use less, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. This could save up to 4 gallons.2 If you need to distract yourself while brushing, instead of listening to whoosh of natural resources being wasted, try doing some calf raises and knee lifts.
4. Purchase from eco-friendly manufacturers
The makers of Aria® toilet paper, paper towels and napkins plant three trees for every tree used, so you can enjoy softness and strength with a clear conscience. The products are made with energy-efficient manufacturing and come in packaging that’s 51 percent plant-based and also recyclable. Larger rolls mean fewer cardboard cores and less packaging.
5. Compost without the heap of effort
Food waste takes up a surprising amount of landfill space and emits greenhouse gases. But composting can be a challenge if you don’t have the time, energy or backyard. One solution: Search online for a compost pickup service that will deliver a collection bin to your door and collect it when it’s full.
6. Buy used
Whether you need clothes, a cordless drill, a high chair for your toddler or a lacrosse stick for your teen, before you head to the store, see if there isn’t something used that fits the bill on a site like Craigslist, Nextdoor or a local Facebook group. Or check out Freecycle to see if someone’s giving one away for nothing.
7. Preheat selectively
Ovens use no small amount of energy, so don’t heat yours for longer than necessary. If you’re roasting a chicken or baking cookies or pie crust, you’ll want to preheat. But for casseroles, lasagna and the like, or even a pot roast, put it in without preheating.3 If a toaster oven will do the trick, even better.
8. Buy a new washer, and keep it cool
If your washer dates back more than 15 years, it’s time to buy a new one. Washers built before 2003 use much more water and energy than newer ones.4 If you own a newer model, set it for warm or cold water instead of hot. Since washers and detergents have gotten better over the years, your clothes will still get clean. When using cold water, use a cold-water detergent for best results.
9. Reverse your ceiling fan in winter
Look for the direction switch on the fan motor housing and flip it. (Turn off the fan first.) Reversing the fan so it turns clockwise creates an updraft. That sucks up cool air from near the floor and sends down warm air from near the ceiling, potentially allowing you to turn down the heat.5
10. Buy in bulk
Containers and packaging accounts for close to a third of municipal solid waste in the United States.6 It also takes energy to produce. Buying in bulk helps cut down on the packaging you bring home — and saves you money. Focus on items you know you’re always going to need more of, such as laundry detergent, shampoo and toilet paper.