Have you noticed an increase in extreme weather events? With wildfires growing in size, hurricanes getting stronger and mass flood events becoming more commonplace, it’s the Earth’s response to the way humans treat it.
When setting your New Year’s resolutions, try making those that help our planet and better the environment. It will impact everyone in a positive way.
It doesn’t need to be hard either. Simple steps to reduce, reuse and recycle can add up. Often many of these changes take little effort and can often save you money.
Here are some ideas:
1. Love aluminum more
Did you know that recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours? The current amount of energy saved in one year just from recycling aluminum cans in the United States could light the entire city of Denver for more than 10 years, according to the Action Recycling Center in Colorado.
That’s because aluminum is infinitely recyclable, making it an ideal container. In fact, about 75% of all aluminum ever produced in the US is still in use today. Aluminum is one of the only materials in the consumer disposal stream that more than pays for the cost of its own collection.
“Americans throw away more than $700 million worth of aluminum cans every year,” according to the Aluminum Association.
Think of how much of an impact it would make if we recycled more cans.
Action Recycling points out that the amount of aluminum Americans throw away every three months could rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
2. Say no to single-use plastics
No one wants to hate plastic entirely. It has its purpose. In many instances it is a vital material.
For example, bicycle helmets, child safety seats, medical equipment and cell phones are all made with plastic parts. It’s the single-use plastics such as plastic water bottles, straws and grocery bags that raise the biggest concerns.
- Plastic water bottles. Try using a reusable bottle instead, and only use the single-use bottles in emergencies, or when you do not have access to reusable bottle.
- Plastic straws. When you go to a restaurant, unless you actually need it, tell them you don’t want a straw. This alone can impact reducing plastic in our oceans.
- Grocery bags. Most stores now sell their own reusable grocery bags or you can ask for a paper bag which can easily be recycled or composted – We’ll get to composting a little later.
Besides these options, you can help remove plastic in the ocean from the comfort of your couch. When you answer a trivia question on the Free the Ocean website, the company will remove a piece of plastic from the ocean.
Advertising on the site funds the cause to actually remove the plastic.
You can go back each day to answer a new question, and hey, you might learn something new in the process.
3. Power down devices
We all love our devices. They help us when it comes to needing directions, staying connected with friends and family and providing the ability to work from home.
When you’re not using devices, appliances or you’re not in a room, simply turn off the lights and other electronics.
4. Don’t prewash dishes
If everyone stopped rinsing their dishes before placing them in the dishwasher America could save 150 billion gallons of water in just one year, according to Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company to brand Finish. How much water is 150 billions exactly?
“That is roughly the equivalent to 230,000 Olympic swimming pools,” says Pedram Javaheri, CNN meteorologist. “Or it would take you 39,800 years of continuously running the shower to use that much water.”
The company believes in this so much that they have started what they call the Skip the Rinse Pledge. The campaign states that for every person taking the pledge, Finish donates $1 to the Nature Conservancy.
“The reason is that most dishwashers costing $500 or more, sold in the past five years or so have a sensor that determines how thorough a wash is needed,” explains Consumer Reports on using your dishwasher efficiently. “At the start of the cycle, it rinses the dishes and then checks how dirty the water is to determine the proper amount of time and water to get everything clean. If you’ve already rinsed off much of the muck, the sensor misreads the dishes as already fairly clean.”
That means prewashed dishes only get a light wash. So if you have a relatively new dishwasher, let it do its job.
5. Make your home more energy efficient
By simply adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees – especially if you aren’t home – will not only reduce your bill, but will help reduce energy use.
Another tip to make your home more energy efficient: swap out old bulbs with more efficient ones.
Albeit a little more expensive initially, swapping out old bulbs saves you money in the long run. Typically, more energy efficient bulbs shine brighter, so you won’t need to turn on as many lights. Plus, they can last up to five times longer than regular light bulbs, so you don’t have to replace them as often.
Adding insulation or double paned windows can also make your home more efficient since your heating and air conditioners won’t need to run as frequently.
6. Opt for email receipts when available
You can cut down on paper waste by asking for email receipts. Many companies now offer email receipts as a secondary option to paper ones including Apple, Macy’s and Home Depot, to name a few.
It’s also more convenient if you have to make returns. How many times have you had to go back and search through desk paperwork, or your purse or wallet to look for a receipt in order to return something? Now you just pull up the email and voila!
Another easy way to reduce paper waste is to pay your bills online, if possible. Not only is this more convenient, some companies even offer auto-pay so you don’t have to set a reminder to pay on time. Just make sure the company you’re paying still lists the full bill they would normally send so that you can check it over.
One additional way to cut paper waste is to opt out of junk mail. Many people don’t like getting junk mail anyway.
The Federal Trade Commission provides information on their website on how to get yourself removed from the lists.
7. Plant a garden
One great thing about a planting a garden is that size doesn’t matter.
You can create a giant garden bed full of fruits and vegetables in your backyard, or have just a few small potted plants inside your home. Either way, you are benefiting the environment in multiple ways.
For starters any time you plant a tree, flower, shrub, or place a potted houseplant in your home, you are adding a natural resource that reduces carbon and produces oxygen.
Planting a garden allows you to grow some of your own vegetables and fruits, versus buying produce and that reduces your overall carbon footprint as well.
8. Swap your coffee filters and coffee pods
Coffee drinkers delight in this daily ritual. But it also means accruing waste daily.
By simply switching your coffee filters or single use coffee cup or pods with more sustainable or reusable ones, you can help cut down on frivolous waste.
9. Consider gift wrap alternatives
Some gift wrap is recyclable when it doesn’t use foil or glitter or any other such additives that interfere with the recycling process. But so many other alternatives exist for wrapping gifts.
Natural baskets are a great alternative, not only because they are pretty, but they are easy to carry if you are gifting heavier items.
Fabric scraps and old scarves make for pretty alternatives, and can also add a little padding to more delicate gifts.
However, if you prefer the more traditional look of paper, try paper grocery bags, tissue paper, old calendar pages or even newspapers. Not a fan of the black and white look of a newspaper? Comics work.
10. Create a Home Compost Bin
Banana peels, egg shells, apple cores, coffee grounds and vegetable scraps usually end up in your trash bin. But scraps can also be recycled into black gold, or free compost for your garden.
Composting lowers the amount of garbage that ends up in a landfil. It also creates nutrient rich soil that can be used later in and around your home.
The biggest deterrent for many when composting is the smell. If you have the room, move the composter outside. Also, when collecting the compost inside your house, use a container with a lid or seal to keep your kitchen from smelling until you can place the items inside your composter.
If you don’t have room for composting in your space, try connecting with a compost pick-up service in your local area such as CompostNow. These services – for a fee – will pick-up your compost with a chance to earn compost later.
CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink contributed to this story.