Living in a big city, sometimes the realities of what we’re doing to our atmosphere hit me hard. When I travel to beautiful, rural areas—particularly those of a high altitude—I look around at the blue skies and green grass and think, “Ah. Our planet is fine!” But then, when I look down, towards the nearest city, and see a distinct, seemingly impenetrable sheet of haze over it I realize, “Oh damn. Maybe it’s not fine down there.” And when I return to the city, it becomes quiet clear: we aren’t being good to our planet. The air quality is not great. There are little pieces of plastic and cigarette butts on the grass, even in the “Nice neighborhoods.” Perhaps nobody put it there—perhaps it blew out of a nearby dumpster—but it still isn’t good. I do feel compelled to at least do my part to not be a part of this issue, even if I alone can’t save the planet. Here are small ways you can reduce your carbon footprint today.
Eat less meat
Though we want to support our farmers, those in the livestock business are creating more greenhouse emissions than fossil fuel. Cattle is the worst offender, but poultry and other popular livestock still require a tremendous amount of water and produce an astounding amount of emissions. Go veggie when you can.
Easy on the dairy, too
Cattle cause a problem two-fold. Even if you aren’t eating beef, if you’re consuming dairy products, then you’re still contributing to the upkeep of these high-emissions farms.
Shop sustainable boutiques
If a brand new piece of clothing seems so cheap it’s too good to be true, well, it probably was made under less-than-eco-friendly (or humane) conditions. Shop thrift and consignment stores, or boutiques that have made a vow to use sustainable materials and manufacturers.
Buy local produce
If it wasn’t grown in your area, that means that planes, trains, or semi-trucks were used to get it to you. And that’s never good for the environment. Shop at Farmer’s Markets, or stores that carry a lot of local products. Even your local chain market may carry local products, and you can encourage them to carry more by buying those.
Walk when you can
Walk to those little errands that are just half a mile away. It’s not worth the gas. If you walk fast, you’ll be there in 20 minutes or less. And you know that, by the time you found parking, it may have been nearly 20 minutes door to door with a car anyways.
If you need another reason to stop being an aggressive driver—besides, you know, the potential for accidents—consider the environment. Speeding up and slamming on the breaks uses far more fuel than driving calm and peacefully.
Splurge on the non-stop flight
Long layovers aren’t just grueling—they’re bad for the environment. Well, indirectly. Takeoff and landing are the most fuel-consuming parts of a flight. So when you save a little money by doing all of the stop-offs, you’re funding the problem. So splurge on the non-stop flight, and stop trying to kill four hours in airports.
Plan meals better
Every piece of food you throw out winds up in a landfill, and those are not friends to our environment. Plan meals well so you stop accidentally letting food expire. It’s one way you may be leaking money, too.
Wash clothes in cold water
Washing your laundry in cold water can conserve hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Furthermore, a lot of your clothes are likely meant to go in cold water, and you just don’t know it.
Use the dryer less
Here’s another way you could be doing laundry incorrectly and contributing to our environmental woes: putting everything in the dryer. Many items do best line drying, and the dryer uses a tremendous amount of energy.
Buy Energy Star appliances
Energy Star appliances are guaranteed to be more energy efficient than their competitors. So when it is time to buy a new dishwasher or dryer, look for that Energy Star logo. Remember that using less energy and water could result in a utility bill savings for you, too.
Support environmentally friendly companies
Whatever you regularly buy, from soap to shoes to bedding, there are environmentally friendly brands making it. So take the time to research these, find the ones you like within your price point, and make them your go-to vendors.
Keep a little garden
Even if all you can manage is a little herb garden on a windowsill, do it. It’s far more environmentally conscious than driving to the grocery store and buying herbs that were shipped from far away and it can contribute to better air quality in your home.
Turn down your water heater
Turn your water heater down to 120 and save some CO2. You probably rarely turn your water up to the highest temperature possible—you’d scald yourself—so why keep the heater up at that temp?
Roll down your windows
Only use the air conditioning in your car—and home for that matter—when it’s truly necessary. Remember when the windows are rolled down and you’re driving fast, you get a good breeze. And in the home, sometimes a couple of standing fans and open windows go a long way on a hot day.