Being green doesn’t have to be hard – but sometimes it takes a bit of thought and the breaking of a few bad habits. Here are 8 ways you can start helping the environment right now.
Don’t recycle everything
We’re always told to recycle everything we can – but the truth is, over-zealous recycling can sometimes be worse than not recycling at all. Take that pizza box for example, it’s made of cardboard so the vast majority of people will put it in the recycling bin.
What they fail to realise is that the grease that’s saturated the box actually renders it useless – worse still, if it’s pulped, the grease can taint the entire batch of recycling, meaning the world is worse off for your good intentions! Check carefully what you can and can’t recycle – your local recycling centre or council will always help if you’re not sure.
A lot of organisations give the option to go ‘paperless’ with the communication they send to you. Banks and energy companies are at the top of the list – and even some forward-thinking employers will offer your payslips electronically.
Check online or over the telephone, if they offer paperless as an option it occasionally comes with an incentive – sometimes a small percentage off your bill. You save money, companies save resources – and everyone saves a few trees.
Buy some good bags and remember them
Since supermarkets introduced the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags across the UK the number consumed by shoppers has reduced dramatically. However, the plastic bag problem has not gone away entirely – meaning millions of bags still make their way into landfill every week.
The key to getting rid of them completely is buying and remembering some good quality shopping bags. They don’t cost a lot and are often far more spacious and comfortable to carry than smaller 5p options. Try keeping them by the door – or in the boot of your car so you don’t end up cursing your bad memory when you get to the check-out!
Learn about packaging
So many products come with packaging that’s intended to impress. The more materials that go into it, the more impressive it can look. While impressive to the eye, complex packaging is extremely hard to recycle, given its different components.
There are some good packaging companies out there – Curtis Packaging are a UK based sustainable packaging supplier who boast numerous environmental awards – on their website they offer some tips around what to look for from green packaging. Understanding what’s good and what’s bad is the first step toward being able to vote with your wallet when it comes to environmentally sound product packing.
Whether you do regular journeys to and from a place of work – or you’re planning a longer one-off trip – there’s a good chance that there’s someone else who’s going to be doing the journey too. You can start simple but using a work notice board to either advertise your willingness to offer a seat to a colleague – or ask for a seat in someone’s car.
If you both have cars you can take it in turns and both half your fuel costs and emissions. If it’s just one person driving, the other person can contribute to fuel costs. Whether your journey is long or short, using a site like Liftshare can be a great way to become green without losing convenience.
Learn your produce seasons
If you’re eating strawberries in winter then it’s likely that they’ve been on at least one plane journey on their route from plant to your mouth. The same is true of many other fruit and vegetable products that we take for granted when it comes to availability.
If you take the time to learn when products are in season locally and only buy them during this natural window then you’re once again voting with your wallet about the environment. Not only that, you’re supporting your local economy and taking steps toward eating food that hasn’t been unnaturally preserved.
Be careful with water
You don’t have to go to extremes to significantly reduce your water consumption. You don’t have to flush the toilet if you’ve just blown your nose and dropped the tissue in. You don’t have to leave the tap running while you brush your teeth. Putting a jug of water in the fridge means you don’t have to run masses of water before it turns cold and pleasant to drink.
Becoming aware of your water consumption is important. If you’re buying appliances, look for ones that use reduced amounts of water – it also equates to reducing the amount of electricity used.
Keep an eye on energy
Similar to water, there are lots of ways we can reduce our energy consumption. Be careful though, there are lots of red-herrings out there about what’s efficient and what’s not. Start with the tried and tested basics:
- Run your washing machine at a lower temperature – modern fabric detergents are designed to be effective at less than 30 degrees.
- Turn your heating down 1-2 degrees – you’re unlikely to notice the difference and you’ll reduce your bills and consumption significantly across the year. If you do feel a little chilly, put another layer on.
- Only boil the water you need – your kettle (or anything with a heating element for that matter) is zapping large amounts of energy when it’s working to heat up. The more water that’s in it, the longer it takes – using more electric. Boil only the water you need for quick reductions on electric consumption.
- Save the tumble drier for a rainy day – If you can dry your clothes outside you stand to save a small fortune in electricity costs – and make a big contribution to keeping the world green. Tumble driers are found to be one of the most uneconomical appliances in the house – so try to avoid unless totally necessary.
Awareness is everything!
Very few of us are perfect when it comes to being green all the time. Take time to think about your habits relating to the above and you’ll almost certainly find one or two areas you can make small changes in to help make the world a greener place!
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.