11 Easy Ways to Start Helping the Environment (Today!) | Sustainable Living
We All Live Here
Let's take good care of our only home.
You know that saying, “Not all heroes wear capes”? Well, it’s true. Some heroes just use a different toilet paper. When it comes to nature, we all want to do our part to lessen our footprint. Everyone wants to feel like they’re contributing to a better Earth—because why wouldn’t we? We live here! The problem is that when it comes right down to it… many of us aren’t quite sure how to go about it.
Sometimes it seems like if you’re going to help the environment, you have to go all or nothing. It feels like unless you’re living completely off the grid, reading books by candlelight, and eating entirely out of your own sustainable garden… you aren’t doing your part. But we promise you don’t have to start showering exclusively in rainstorms just to lessen your carbon footprint...
Every Bit Counts
In fact, it may not seem like it, but when it comes to helping the environment—every little bit counts. Imagine it this way: if you gave a dollar to help a cause you believe in, it probably wouldn’t go very far. But if everyone in America gave a dollar? Well, suddenly you’ve got a whopping 327 MILLION dollars (and some odd change) going toward that cause.
It’s the same with the environment... When everyone commits to chipping in just a little bit to make things more sustainable, all of a sudden big changes start happening. And it all starts with us. So if you’ve ever wondered how to make a contribution towards sustainability, here are some seemingly small changes that can help the Earth in a BIG way.
1. Switch to Reusable Bags
Plastic bags are a staple of nearly every grocery store, and our landfills prove it. These one-time-use inventions not only take up to 500 years to decompose in the dump… but they also are filling up oceans and causing problems for wildlife—both in the sea and on land. Animals have even been known to mistake them for food and suffocate as a result.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution to ending this particular epidemic: use reusable bags. Unlike plastic, reusable bags are eco-friendly and can be customized in any style you like. Some of them even come insulated so you can keep frozen food cold for longer. Just try to do that with a plastic bag! There is only one drawback to reusable bags—and it’s remembering to bring them with you. You don’t always know you’re going to be shopping, after all. So our pro-tip on this one? Always pack an extra in your trunk. This way, you’ll quite literally never leave home without one.
2. Print Only When Absolutely Necessary
If you’re a student or a business professional, chances are you are using your printer all day long—and all those printed pages can add up. After all, they’ve got to come from somewhere, right? Turns out all these harmless little papers are contributing to a real problem: deforestation.
Around the world, old-growth forests are dwindling at a frightening speed… and it can take up to fifty years for an established rainforest to grow back after being clearcut. So how can you help? Well, for one… limit your printing whenever possible. The digital age has given us nearly unlimited access to paperless options. From signing documents to turning in term papers and filing reports, there is almost always a way to skip the paper middleman. And believe us—the forests will thank you.
3. Rethink Your Bathroom Paper
We know this is kind of a strange question but… have you ever taken a second to really think about toilet paper? It’s kind of just… there. And in the back of your mind, you know it’s made out of trees. But how often does it truly cross your mind? Well, no deforestation conversation would be complete without it, because toilet paper production is responsible for a full 15% of the world’s deforestation issue. Which is a huge problem! But, of course, it’s not like you can just skip it, because... *shudder*.
Thankfully, there are a ton of more sustainable options, especially now that startups are entering the scene. Several new companies have begun producing bamboo and hemp toilet papers, which are renewable and much, much cleaner in their carbon footprint. These make it much easier to answer the call of nature without destroying nature in the process.
You’ve heard it all your life, “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” It’s a simple thing to do, but there’s an old saying… “If it’s easy to do, it’s just as easy not to do.” And recycling is a very simple thing that often gets overlooked, precisely because it’s such a simple task. Many garbage disposal companies offer recycling services, and getting started is usually very easy. Just separate recyclables from non-recyclables and put the bin on the curb alongside your trash cans.
When you’re out and about, most businesses offer a spot to place your recyclable items. And even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to hold onto them—you’ll probably find a recycling container at your next stop. Just being a little more proactive about how you dispose of your plastics can actually make a huge difference. Not only does the trash not end up in the ocean or a landfill, but it takes on a new life as a brand new plastic item.
5. Carpool or Use Public Transportation
When you’re always stuck in the car by yourself, trips can get a little lonely. Not only that, but all those carbon emissions can also do a number on the environment. We know you’ve still got things to do and places to be, but why not jump in the car with some friends and combine the trip? Your morning commute can become a lot more fun when you’ve got a group of people to joke with. Plus, it’s cheaper to have everyone chip in a bit for gas money than for everyone to pay to drive themselves. Also, if you live in a more populated area, you might find that public transportation gets you around for a lot cheaper than a tank of gas. When you take the bus or carpool, you can minimize your carbon footprint and still get where you need to go.
6. Get a Reusable Drink Container
1500 plastic water bottles are used every second in the US alone. Most of those, we hate to say, will end up in the garbage or floating out to sea. And this is a really big problem. The ocean is big… but not nearly big enough to use as our own personal dumping grounds. Brilliant minds are currently working on ways to tackle the enormous plastic buildup of our waterways, and the first step is simple yet so critical: stop adding more fuel to the fire!
Single-use water bottles only make the cleanup process harder. Before the real cleanup can begin, we need to stop making the mess. Reusable water bottles are an easy way to do that. They make it so we can stay hydrated without adding more litter to our oceans and landfills. It isn’t just water bottles, of course. Take your favorite sports drink, for example. A great way to minimize waste is to buy it in bulk and fill up your reusable bottle as you go. Plus, many coffee shops will give you a discount if you order your drink inside a reusable mug. Save the environment AND save money? Sounds like a deal. As a bonus, most of them help your drink stay warmer (or cooler) longer. Any downsides? We don’t see any.
7. Save Electricity
It may not be obvious at first, but there’s actually a direct connection between the environment and your energy use. Cutting down on your electricity not only reduces the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants, it also helps protect the very air you breathe and reduces climate change. When there’s less demand for electricity and energy, there is less demand for harvesting fossil fuels.
Simply by washing your clothes in cold water instead of warm, lowering your air conditioner a little, of turning off lights when you aren’t in the room, you can help save trees, coal, natural gas, and more. What’s more—excessive energy use can actually harm animal habitats, which often get destroyed in the mining, logging, and material extraction that go into humanity’s hunt for fossil fuels.
While we can’t exactly go back to the Stone Ages and wave goodbye to electricity altogether, we can still be mindful of how much we’re using and when. For instance, take your charger out of the wall while it’s not charging. Why? Even when it’s not actively charging your phone or computer, if it’s plugged in, it’s still pulling electricity. Unplugging electronics while they’re not in use will not only save you money, they’ll help the environment too. Win-win!
8. Use Natural Cleaners
We all like to feel clean, but when we’re using bleach to scrub our toilet and then flushing it down the tubes... do we really know where it’s going? Conventional cleaners (which are often made with formaldehyde, chlorine, and other not-so-delicious ingredients) can easily seep into the water supply. And water treatment plants often have a hard time trying to treat such a large volume of chemicals.
The water we drink is precious, but sometimes we’re actually adding harmful compounds to it without realizing… simply because it hasn’t crossed our minds that we’re doing it. What can be done instead? Glad you asked! There are all kinds of natural cleaning products available on the market. (Some more natural than others.) But the best-kept secret if you really want to go au naturel with your cleaning? You can find wonderful cleansing agents right in your home! White vinegar, natural salt, baking soda, lemons, and hydrogen peroxide all have amazing cleaning properties… without the potentially harmful side-effects of those heavy-duty store bought cleaners.
9. Plant a Tree (Or a Forest!)
Want to hear something sad… and a bit scary? 15 billion trees are lost each year due to deforestation. That’s billion… with a B. Of those, only about 1.5 billion are replaced. Now, we all know that trees filter the air. They take carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. But what we might not know is what would happen if they were all gone. Like what if… *poof*... they disappeared? Well, besides the fact that our healthy oxygen levels would plummet, it would also accelerate climate change, drive countless species to extinction, and take away huge amounts of food sources.
You may think we’re far away from cutting down every last tree on Earth. And you’d be right. However, those side-effects from a lack of vegetation are actually already happening. Insect populations are decreasing by 2.5% every year… and other animals are having their homes wiped out at an alarming rate. So what’s the answer! Plant a tree. Or—how about a whole forest? There are countless way you can sponsor the replanting of old growth forests and combat deforestation. We know—you can’t always just up and fly to the rain forest to replant trees. But you can always donate to an organization that can.
10. Save Water
The Earth is made up of 71% water, so at first glance, you may think, “What’s the point of conserving it?” Well, while there’s A TON of water on the planet, only about 3% of that is freshwater… and only about .5% is available for drinking. The other 2.5% is actually locked away in glaciers, ice caps, the atmosphere, or the soil. (Or it’s simply too polluted to drink.) So really, there’s only a very small percentage of the Earth’s water available to us for drinking…
In the same way as electricity, where there’s less demand for it, there’s less energy required to process and deliver it. Less processing and delivering equate to reduced pollution and reduced fossil fuel use. How exactly can you save water? It can be as simple as turning the faucet off as you brush your teeth or turning on the shower only when you’re ready to get in.
Here at Treehut, we’re serious about providing clean water to every person on the planet. We believe change starts with us, which is why we donate 50% of the retail prices of our Charity: Water edition watches towards clean water for all. When we come alongside others, we can do amazing things—including bringing fresh water to 663 million people who need it. Find out more here.
11. Be the Change You Wish to See
It’s not just about your actions—it’s about sparking others to take those same actions. Your example could be the difference between those around you taking steps to help the environment… or continuing with business as usual. Often, if others see that you’re serious about helping the Earth, they’ll be excited to follow suit. Give it a try—we bet you’ll like the results!
A Small Step Makes a Big Difference
No one has to do it all, but everyone should do something. And who knows—your steps might just be the starting point for someone else to also begin caring about their carbon footprint. Sometimes all people are waiting for is a little inspiration. Why not be someone’s inspiration today? And if you’re interested in helping people get clean water in underdeveloped nations, you can read more about Charity: Water here. Let’s save the world together!