If you follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page, you may have seen my latest screenshot of our crazy New England weather this week. While I snapped it in the evening with the temp at 67, there were reports of places in Massachusetts that reached 80 degrees…80 degrees people. In February. And the next day? Why, it snowed, of course.
While it’s easy to laugh this off and think, “That’s New England for you!” (And even easier to simply embrace the warm spring day), it’s also not normal. At all. And it further highlights the growing impact of global warming on our Earth.
It’s moments like this that make me pause and reflect. I find myself asking, what else can I do to live a greener lifestyle? What can I do at home to make a positive impact on our planet? Admittedly, these questions can feel a bit discouraging at times. I wonder whether my small efforts even make a difference.
But, then I realize that if everyone regularly did these small acts, they would add up to a big impact. And that does make a difference.
So in this post, I’d like to share with you several simple strategies to live a greener lifestyle. They’re concrete, accessible, and you can start making a difference today.
How to Live a Greener Lifestyle
Start at Home
Living a greener life doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, much of what we can do starts right at home. Check out these simple changes that can make a major difference:
In the kitchen:
- Air-dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s dry cycle.
- When making tea, only boil the amount of water that you need.
- Use a lid on your saucepans so that the water boils quicker.
- Recycle – it’s not just milk jugs, cans, and newspapers any longer; there are so many things that you can recycle now. Not sure what you can and can’t recycle? Check out this simple cheat sheet for reference. (Be sure to learn your own city’s guidelines as well, as some may differ.)
- Use a travel mug and reusable water bottle.
- Switch to Energy Star-qualified appliances. They’ll save you money in the long run, and you often get a tax rebate on them.
- Keep your freezer full of food; it runs more efficiently that way.
- Use reusable food containers when making lunches.
- Use fluorescent or LED light bulbs; they use substantially less energy, and they last longer!
- Lower the temperature on your thermostat to comfortably cool in the winter and comfortably warm in the summer. (The Nest thermometer is especially popular for “learning” your habits and automatically adjusting the temperature for you.)
- Lower the temp to 55 when you leave the house in the winter. (Vice versa with your a/c in the summer.)
- Unplug it! According to the NY Times, “about a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode.” Yikes!
- Take short showers.
- Add additional insulation in your attic.
- Consider using renewable energy like solar heating.
Your Car and Driving Habits
So, here’s the deal. According to National Geographic, “[m]ost of an automobiles’ environmental impact, perhaps 80 to 90 percent, will be due to fuel consumption and emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are driving global warming.”
That’s pretty alarming, especially since so many of us drive on a daily basis. The good news? We can make a big difference by making small changes in our driving habits. Here are some great places to start:
- Eliminate unnecessary weight in your car. The more the car has to do, the more gas it needs to do it. If you have an unused bike rack, ski rack, sports equipment, strollers, etc. reevaluate what you really need on a daily basis, and remove what you don’t use.
- Avoid the sudden need to accelerate. According to Jamie Deaton, “Say you’re driving down the road and see a light up ahead turn from yellow to red. Rather than keep your foot on the gas and brake at the last second, you should take your foot off the gas and slowly approach the light. Not only will coasting save gas, but you might not even have to come to a full stop before the light turns green again, meaning that your car will have to overcome much less inertia to get going.”
- Use cruise control.
- Avoid idling your car.
- Make sure your tires have the proper pressure.
- Plan your trip to combine several errands, and avoid rush hour, if possible.
- Does your company have a carpool option? Use it! If not, see if anyone would be interested in starting one with you.
- If possible, opt for a hybrid or electric car for your next purchase.
Your Shopping Habits
It’s incredible how much stuff – food, products, clothing, etc. – is wasted these days. And this type of consumer culture can really impact our earth. Fortunately, like the tips above, there are many small, manageable actions you can take that add up to a big difference. And this is especially true if we all chip in and do our bit.
The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Most of us grew up learning about the 3 R’s, but how closely do we follow these guidelines? Sure, we recycle our milk jugs and soda cans, but are we really doing everything we can? After doing some research, I discovered several additional actions that I can take to boost my 3Rs. Hopefully, you can use them, too!
- Before you go out shopping, make a list of everything that you need.
- If you’re food shopping, for example, plan your meals for the week and buy only what you need. It sounds simple – and it is! But it also makes a big difference when you’re not buying unnecessary stuff that eventually turns into waste.
- When buying new clothes, focus on the “classics” that stay in style. I am the first to admit that I am no fashionista – there’s a reason this isn’t a fashion blog! That being said, it is possible to stay fashionable while focusing much of your wardrobe on perennial styles. Eco-Friendly Fashion is filled with great tips.
- Before throwing something out, think about whether you could use it for some other purpose.
- Paper towel tubes make great art supplies.
- Turn a jam jar into a makeup brush holder.
- My dad always tears up his old t-shirts and uses them for cleaning rags. I love this tip because it simultaneously reuses while reducing the need for paper towels as well. Brilliant!
Of course, the recycling trend has caught on the best of the 3 Rs. But as I mentioned before, the amount of recyclable products has really skyrocketed. So take a few minutes to learn the recycling guidelines for your community.
Similarly, make note of the different recycle bins available at stores near you. (Grocery stores, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.) Many of them let you recycle plastic bags, batteries, even computers and printers with Best Buy. So when you’re out running errands, combine your trips, save on gas, and take advantage of this free resource!
Additionally, consider incorporating these greener lifestyle shopping hacks in your daily routine:
- Use reusable grocery bags. This is a trend that’s really catching on, and I love it. I used to have the hardest time remembering to bring my reusable bags with me to the grocery store. Then, I found these tiny bags that you simply stuff into a pouch. They’re lightweight and durable, and I keep two of them in my purse at all times. This way, I’m never without my reusable bags. Simple!
- If you forget your reusable bag, ask for paper.
- Go a step further – ask your city to switch to paper only; my city just banned plastic bags at the beginning of 2018; it’s fantastic! (If you live in California, props to you; you’ve been leading the way for years already 🙂 )
- Use biodegradable doggy bags (I use Pets N Bags for walking Bruno, Pogi’s bags for my cat, Rascal, and these Unni compostable bags for the mini trash bins around the house.
- Look for products with minimal (or no) packaging.
- Look for packing and products made from recycled material.
- Buy eco-friendly cleaning products. The EPA labels these items as “Safer Choice.”
- Search for furniture made from renewable or recyclable materials.
- Purchase recyclable products.
- Buy natural, eco-friendly fabrics: bamboo, silk, hemp, organic cotton, linen, etc.
- Borrow from a friend or neighbor if you don’t need the item often. Then, repay the favor!
- Teach your children the importance of living a greener lifestyle by following the 3 Rs. (Jack Johnson has a great song on the Curious George album all about it:))
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the state of our earth, but don’t get discouraged! There are so many simple things that we can do every day to make a difference. If we all do our part, we’ll be on our way to living a greener lifestyle while improving the world in which we live.
Looking for more ways to live a greener lifestyle? Get my list of 80 simple suggestions here!
What are your favorite ways to live a greener lifestyle? Do you have any tips to share? What do you find the most challenging? Have you had any crazy weather where you live recently? Let me know below!