Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Ways You Can Help the Environment Today

Easy changes you can make today to help save the planet.

I can be easily discouraged when I think of the state of our environment. Issues like global warming, massive droughts and various global ecosystem failures can sometimes be seen as challenges far too big and too rapidly advancing to be affected. Truth be told, I’ve wondered, how can I, just one little person, honestly have a positive impact on a problem so unfathomably vast? Have you ever felt that way, too? Well, turns out actually, one little person can do a lot. And, yes, each small step — turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, automating the thermostat, taking mass transit, etc. — is making a difference.

I think it’s fair to say that we all become a little dispirited from time to time. But every single person caring for the future of our planet counts — and collectively we are making a difference. If you’d like to join the party, start with these five small changes that you can put into practice today! They are simple positive changes, but they are mighty. Just remember, “small changes, big impact.”

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Cut out junk mail. It’s annoying, creates clutter and hurts the environment. Just by cleaning up your junk mail, you help save trees, water and emissions, too. According to catalogchoice.org, more than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are mailed to U.S. households each year, including 12 billion (!) catalogs. Over 100 million trees are cut down every year to produce our junk mail. Often, these trees come from highly sensitive forests, such as those in Indonesia and Brazil. Deforestation contributes to both habitat loss for wildlife and global climate change. Whoa. Go to optoutprescreen.com to stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers and sign up on catalogchoice.org to reduce the amount of unsolicited catalogs sent to you.

Forego the plastic packaging. Two things: producing plastic emits massive amounts of pollution into the air and plastics are not biodegradable. This means plastic is bad coming in to the earth and bad going out (by not going out). When plastic is here, it’s here to stay. So what can we do today? Let your veggies and fruits roam free by forfeiting the thin plastic bags at grocery stores. Pack reusable utensils in your lunch. Download your music. Purchase a refillable water bottle and refrain from purchasing plastic water bottles. Side fact: Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour but recycle only one in five. The list goes on… and as obvious as this sounds, bring your own grocery bags to the store. Stash them in your car or carry them in your bag to always be prepared.

Skip red meat once a week. I became a vegetarian last year due to health complications but, after looking into meat production, I am now even more glad that I made the switch. Mass-produced beef is severely resource-intensive. To produce one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water and more than seven pounds of grain. Seven pounds of grain for one pound of beef!? By the way, livestock consumes about 70 percent of America’s grain. To put this in context, one pound of meat is approximately three burgers. So let’s eat less of it, right? If you gave it up once a week, you would save 840 gallons (!) of fresh water it takes to produce a single serving of beef.  In addition, to raise cattle and transport the meat to the supermarket shelves puts an enormous amount of stress on the environment.

Switch out your lightbulbs. You may already know this, but switching from traditional incandescent lightbulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (C.F.L.) has an immediate and lasting positive effect on the environment. How about this? If every American household replaced one regular lightbulb with a C.F.L., the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. Huh?… Really? That’s incredible. Though the price for a C.F.L is a little higher than traditional light bulbs, they last 12 times longer and a 30-watt C.F.L. produces as much light as an ordinary 100-watt bulb. Make the switch today!

Be electricity-efficient. Have you ever heard of “electricity leaks?” Electronic equipment found in nearly every home are wasting huge amounts of energy. When these devices — TVs, computers, cable boxes, etc. — are left on standby, they they are still using about half of their running power. Every year, the energy wasted this way can be compared to that of the output of 26 power plants. So avoid the useless drain by plugging them into a power strip and turning it off when they are not in use. Also, did you know that most cell phone chargers continue to draw electricity even when the phone isn’t plugged into it? Speaking candidly, the thought has never crossed my mind. Most cell phone chargers average five watts per hour, so if it is continually plugged in, more than 40 kilowatt-hours every year, or about 93 pounds of CO2, is being wasted. This also applies to laptops, iPods, digital cameras and more. So what do you say? Let’s unplug all chargers when they are not in use.

And just to throw it out there (because knowledge is power): the average faucet releases about three gallons of water a minute. So if the faucet remains on for three minutes while you brush your teeth or wash your face, nine gallons of water has been wasted. And that’s before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. It adds up quick, so we should all do our part to love this planet and live for a healthier future! Small changes, big impact.

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+What else can we add to this list? I know there is a lot more out there! Please share in the comments. 

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Comments

  1. I love the links you provided to opt out of junk mail! That stuff is so annoying and unnecessary.

    Also, I definitely recommend the documentary “Cowspiracy” (it’s available on Netflix). It goes into detail about how much animal agriculture is affecting our climate. (Actually, animal agriculture is pretty much the NUMBER ONE worst thing for our planet!)

  2. My husband and I changed our diet drastically last year. We have beef maybe once a week, if at all. We eat mostly chicken and sometimes turkey. I’ve never been one to leave the water on while brushing my teeth, that’s just weird lol. Thanks for sharing the links to opt out of that annoying junk mail clutter.

  3. Good tips! Personally, we have gone vegan at home (2 years now): more compassionate, healthier and greener.

  4. Well I’ve already done pretty much all of these, but I had no idea I could actually opt out of junk mail! That’s great to know since I throw literally 100% of it away immediately after I get it.

  5. Great post! I would add that the ‘beef’ that is mass-produced is also a living, feeling creature, which is yet another good reason to leave it out of your plate.

  6. I’ve been using EarthWise reusable mesh produce bags and they rock. You can get other brands too on amazon or some grocery stores sell them (or you can make them!). Because sometimes letting 10+ apples roll around in your cart isn’t the easiest to juggle :)

  7. I cut out meat years ago and all other animal products months ago! Animal agriculture is so terrible for the environment. And I’ve never felt healthier!

  8. If you use a dishwasher, turn off the “heat dry” option as it uses more energy to dry the dishes. Air drying never hurt anyone. :) Another tip is if you have to use the dryer for your clothes and you have multiple loads, do them back to back. Letting the dyer heat up, cool off, then heat up again uses a ton of energy too. These are fairly easy habits to adopt and hopefully we can see little differences in our individual lives and then as a whole community.

    Cheers!

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