Here are some things we all can do to leave a smaller footprint:
- Remember your reusable bags - With more than 1 million plastic bags ending up in the trash every minute, taking reusable bags to the store is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint -- but the hardest part about using them is simply remembering to take them with you. A Chico Bag is almost impossible to forget and stuffs down into a small packet for easy transport.
- Bag your lunch for work in a reusable lunch sack and in washable containers. Use last night's leftovers for a really easy lunch. Don't forget to send your child's lunch in the same manner. They'll appreciate a healthy lunch in lieu of the salt, fat laden school lunches.
- Install a gray water system.
- Build a rain barrel to get free water for your garden and plants. (Tip: In the winter, collect snow, scoop it into a pail, and bring it inside so it can melt and be used for watering indoor plants.)
- Shop at secondhand and charity shops before hitting the mall or your favorite boutiques. You can usually find some great gems.
- Recycle, Recycle and Recycle some more. There are places to recycle everything these days. Find out how and where to properly recycle your light bulbs, old electronics and batteries!
- Before you throw anything away, ask yourself if you can use it in a new way or if someone else could use it.
- Start composting — it's simple and you get free fertilizer.
- Recycle anything and everything you can. Even if you have to drive items to a depot once a month, it's worth it to save raw materials.
- Switch your monthly bills to e-billing. Even if you print them out at home, you'll eliminate the postage carbon footprint and reduce paper use (no envelopes and annoying "special offer" inserts).
- Refuse to buy foods that are unnecessarily packaged, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce Your Paper Waste. Copy on both sides of paper. Reduce documents to fit two pages onto one. Use lighter weight paper. Find alternatives to mail Use email, voice mail and fax modem transmissions whenever possible. Eliminate unnecessary subscriptions. Do a "paper" audit. Make recycling easy. Place recycling bins in high traffic areas.
Save Energy and Money
- Instead of meeting with clients use your smart phones power and have some "face time" with them without leaving your office.
- Use a bike for short trips. It takes a certain amount of dedication to permanently give up a car in favor of a bike, but even an eco-slacker can make it work for short trips that don't require hauling a lot of stuff: picking up milk at the local grocery store, after-dinner ice cream at your favorite dessert spot, your morning yoga class, brunch with friends at the coffee shop. Ride your bike for trips shorter than 2 miles and you could cut your carbon footprint significantly, save money on gasoline and car maintenance, and increase your fitness level — all at the same time.
- If you have to make an appliance purchase, try to make sure it is Energy Star Rated to save on your bill and to help the planet use less resources to run everyday items.
- Choose solar items instead of gas, electric powered items to run your household items
- Eliminate phantom power — It takes approximately one second to unplug the charger for your cell phone, mp3 player, e-reader, or iPad — but if you really can't be bothered, then let nifty, energy-efficient gadgets do the work for you. Use power strips to turn off all your appliances at once; put your television, DVD player, game system, and stereo on a timer so they automatically shut off overnight; and invest in chargers that stop drawing current when the device's battery is full. You could cut your energy bill by as much as 10 percent annually — without lifting a finger.
- Switch to green power — Switching your home to run on green power sounds like a big job — installing solar panels, geothermal energy, or a tankless hot water heater is not a job for the construction-impaired. But you can also make this happen without getting out of your chair: Call your local energy company and see if they offer renewable options (most do). You might see a small jump in your bill, but it's an easy way to make a big change.
- Replace your light bulbs — think LED but CFL's are good too!
- Switch to an electric kettle for boiling water. Electric kettles use less energy than their stove-top counterparts, and there are stainless steel options available if you're wary about boiling water in plastic.
- Walk more, particularly if your destination is less than 30 minutes on foot. It's good for your health and the environment.
- Take public transit. Students often have a transit pass included in their fees, and some cities even have free public transit, so use it!
- If you can live without a car, do it. In most cities, the cost of a transit pass is still less than you'd shell out for insurance, gas, and maintenance or car payments.
- In the market for a new car? Choose a green hybrid or electric.
- If every U.S. household used the most-efficient washers, it could save the equivalent of up to 40 million barrels of oil a year!
- Lowering your water heater's temperature to 120 will suffice for most household needs and cut energy costs. Don't overheat.
- Vow to save water by taking shorter showers, planting low water plants in your garden, running only full loads of laundry and dishes in the washers.
- Never buy bottled water again — Trade your bottled water habit for an at-home filtering pitcher and you can help make a dent in the 1.5 million barrels of oil used to make plastic water bottles each year; pair it with a reusable bottle (like one made of glass or food-grade stainless steel), and you'll always be prepared to tackle your thirst. Bonus: With bottled water no longer on your shopping list, you could save as much as $1,400 this year.
- Stop using virgin toilet paper and use the 100% recycled kind instead. They are just as soft and fluffy as the virgin kind! Give it a try.
- Cut back on paper towels — If you're grabbing a paper towel for everything from wiping up spills and cleaning your counter to scrubbing the bathroom and keeping your hands clean at dinner, it's time to make a change. Instead, invest in a few Skoy Cloths, cotton cloths and some fabric napkins; then drop them in the wash when you run a load of laundry. Using these alternatives is just as easy as using the paper versions and you only need to buy them once — plus you can help eliminate the 3,000 tons of paper towels that end up landfills every day.
- Become a weekend vegetarian — Cutting meat out of your diet just two days a week can decrease your carbon footprint by about 1/3 of a ton — and coming up with meat-free meals for Saturday and Sunday isn't as hard as it sounds. Try pancakes and fruit for breakfast; fresh salads or roasted vegetable sandwiches for lunch; and veggie pizza, bean soups, and creamy risottos for dinner. And since doubling a recipe rarely adds any time to your prep work, you can make extras to eat throughout the week (and trim your carbon footprint even more). Try to go meatless one day a week. You've probably heard of Meatless Monday that celebrities are promoting. Make yours any day of the week!
- Don't buy CD's and DVD's this year. Either rent them or stream them live to your computer or TV.
- Brew your own Fair Trade coffee — Carrying your own coffee in an insulated travel mug helps you reduce waste from cardboard cups and carrying sleeves — which are thrown away at a staggering rate of 58 billion each year. For greener at-home brewing, choose a Fair Trade blend that supports farmers; add organic milk instead of artificial creamers; and try a French press (instead of a traditional brewer) to save electricity.
- Order from your local CSA — Going to the farmer's market always sounds like such a great idea — until Saturday morning rolls around and you realize you have to get up early, have enough cash, and fight other customers for the best strawberries. Instead, have your local CSA program do the hard part for you by putting together a box of their best produce each week — and, if you're really feeling lazy, have it delivered right to your door so you get fresh, local fruits and vegetables without giving up your lazy coffee-and-crossword mornings
- Grow your own fruits, veggies, and herbs.
- Paint only with no-VOC formulas.
- Switch to all-natural cosmetics. A good rule: If the ingredients list looks like a lesson in chemistry, steer clear; if you're stumbling over Latin, you're looking at the names of plants.
- Switch to a nail polish brand that is made without toluene, DBP, and formaldehyde. (Piggy Paint, London, and American Apparel Nail Lacquer are a few options.)
- Eat organic — it may not be nutritionally superior, but it's a lot better for the planet.
- Protect from Chemicals. Avoid pesticides as much as possible, especially if you have young children. If you are using pesticides, use only in ventilated areas and follow all instructions. Keep in mind that manufacturers are typically allowed to sell their stocks of pesticides even if they have been banned due to health risks. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos are two examples of banned pesticides that you might still own or which may still be sold in stores.
- Avoid products with formaldehyde, like pressed wood and carpets. If you have brought something containing formaldehyde into your home make sure the area is well ventilated.
- Commit to buying green fashions — think organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and other sustainable, natural fibers, as well as recycled fabrics.
- Annoyed by excessive food packaging? Tell your grocer or the manufacturer. Fire off an e-mail or write a formal letter expressing your concern. (As a rule, every letter a company receives represents about 50 people of a like mind.)
- If you must take a taxi, call the company that has a fleet of hybrids or electric cars.
- Buy products with recycled content — you will be surprised how many really wonderful products there are that are either totally made from recycled content to completely recycled materials.