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Eco-Friendly Living: 10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Make a Positive Change


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About This Lesson

What you do each and every day has a big impact on the environment. More and more people are coming to realize that. If you want your actions to have a positive effect instead of a negative one, you are in luck. There are plenty of things you can do right now that can help slow environmental damage and start the healing process. 

1. Choose Cloth Over Paper

People used cloth napkins and rags for cleaning for years, but most families today use paper instead. Switching back to them can be a great way to cut down on household waste and help the environment. For a fun way to measure the impact of this swap, toss all of your paper towels and napkins into a separate trash bin. At the end of a week, you will have an idea of just how much of your kitchen garbage is composed of these everyday products. 

2. Cut Back on Power Use

Cutting back on household power usage helps the environment and lowers your utility bills, so it's a win-win choice. Don't know where to start? Adjust your thermostat up or down by 10 degrees when you aren't home to see a significant impact without costing a dime. Replace older incandescent light bulbs with newer, energy-efficient LEDs. Or, invest in a whole-house solar panel system to make a more significant commitment to renewability.  

3. Compost Household Waste

Composting is a relatively simple way to get rid of food scraps and some paper products. You don't need a large, outdoor pile to do it, either. Both fermenting bins and vermicomposting can be done indoors and take up very little room. 

4. Ditch Single-Use Plastic

Water is a crucial nutrient, but the billions of plastic bottles tossed aside every year have serious environmental consequences. Instead of continually buying individual bottles of water, invest in a high-quality refillable bottle and keep it with you throughout the day.   

5. Borrow or Rent Tools

Large pieces of equipment and smaller handheld tools are often purchased without any thought to their production, yet manufacturing can contribute significantly to pollution and resource depletion. The next time you need a specialty tool, ask around if anyone has one you can borrow or rent. You will save the cost of buying a new tool and also help the environment.  

6. Repurpose Older Items

When items reach the end of their useful lifespan, the first reaction is often just to toss them. Unfortunately, that creates burdens on landfills and contributes to environmental degradation. Instead of throwing them away, see if they can be repaired or repurposed. Check with local charities to see what types of items they will take as donations. Your old car could, with a little work, stay out of the landfill and become an invaluable resource to a struggling family trying to get to work.

7. Install a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels attach to a downspout and collect rainwater. They provide a free source of irrigation water during dry times between rain. A 1,000 square foot roof can collect over 300 gallons of water with just a half-inch of rain. That's a lot of water that is simply running off into storm drains. 

8. Insulate the Pipes

Unless you have a point-of-use water heater installed at every tap, you are probably wasting energy heating unused household water. Installing simple pipe insulation along long runs in your hot water pipes can help minimize the amount of heat lost and reduce waste. 

9. Recycle Responsibly

It might come as a surprise that much of what is recycled actually ends up in landfills because it isn't properly sorted or cleaned. Instead of just mindlessly tossing all plastics or metal objects into your recycling bin, take the time to find out exactly what can (and can't) be recycled where you live. Plastic utensils, greasy food containers and grocery bags are common examples of hard to process items that can cause a whole truckload of recyclables to end up getting trashed. 

10. Buy Local Produce

With year-round availability of most produce items, people have gotten out of the habit of eating what is in season. Yet, buying locally-produced fruits and vegetables cuts back on transportation-related pollution and helps support your local economy. 

Even little swaps can lead to big changes if everyone adopts them. Start small and build as you develop environmentally-friendly habits that adopt the three Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. 


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