Going green can seem like a daunting and expensive task. Home upgrades, new cars that don’t use fossil fuels, organic foods, and fabrics. Deciding where to even start and how much you can afford to do can sometimes intimidate those new to the environmental awareness scene.
Changing your lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly doesn’t need to be difficult, expensive, or messy. In fact, once you get started, you may just find that living green is more fun and rewarding than a more wasteful lifestyle.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s our ultimate guide to making inexpensive and easy changes that will make you more eco-friendly.
Hone your recycling habits
One of the easiest ways to decrease your environmental impact is to recycle.
The practice of recycling has been around for many years and is growing in popularity. More and more communities are offering curbside recycling, multiple recycling drop-off facilities, electronics recycling, and incentives like bottle return funds to increase participation.
This being said, it is quite surprising that many people still don’t recycle as much as they could, with many recyclable materials ending up in landfills every year instead.
Taking this first step is as simple as setting up a recycling bin in your garage or basement – or even right next to your garbage can as a visual reminder. Many facilities no longer even require you to sort your items, which makes the process even easier.
Unlike landfills, which charge fees based on the weight of your trash, most recycling facilities cost you nothing to use. Just remember, with recycling, practice makes perfect; the more you do it, the easier and more habitual it becomes!
Tip: Once you get comfortable recycling your everyday items, aim for the bigger stuff.
Many communities offer specific days to bring in appliances and electronics for recycling. Several companies even recycle their own electronics and finding out which companies offer this option is as simple as looking online or calling the company’s toll-free customer service number. Plus, lots of facilities also take things like paint, batteries, and oil, so find out what your options are!
Reduce your energy consumption
Reducing your energy consumption can sound like a major task, but you don’t have to make a bunch of big changes all at once. Start with a simple switch: the light switch. Reducing your energy use can be as easy as turning off the lights.
Take advantage of the outdoors by opening the blinds, making use of natural light, so there’s no need for artificial lighting during the day.
Make sure the lights are off each time you leave the room, even if you intend to return shortly; according to the BC Hydro website, “for most home lighting, there is no extra energy draw when a light is switched on. While fluorescent lamps do use a tiny bit more upon start-up, if the light is off for more than five seconds, you’ll save energy” (May 7, 2010).
As with recycling, practice makes perfect; if you get into the habit of turning off the lights each time you leave a room, eventually it will become an unconscious action. You’ll be helping the environment without even having to think about it!
Tip: Having trouble remembering to switch off every time? Place a sticky note on lamp bases and next to the light switches in your house as a visual reminder.
Reduce your paper trail
With the popularity of online banking, billing and electronic communications these days, you have another easy way to be eco-friendly: opting out of receiving paper copies of bills and bank statements.
Paying bills online instead of mailing cheques creates less opportunity for waste, and can save you a few dollars a month in stamps and paper. Even if you recycle conscientiously, it’s better to avoid using the paper altogether when you have the opportunity to do so.
Tip: If you’re not set up for online banking, it’s easy to do, and most banks charge you nothing to sign up. In fact, since many banks charge you for the paper statement they send you each month, opting to bank online instead of receiving those statements can save you a few extra dollars in bank fees too!
Shop at farmers’ markets
Buying produce and other locally grown products at farmers’ markets help in a number of ways.
One, you’re supporting local farmers and their crops. Two, less energy is being wasted because the items don’t need to be transported from far away to your store. Finally, you’ll be eating food that you know is safe and fresh.
Switch to LED lightbulbs
LED lightbulbs cost a little more initially, but over the course of their long lifespan, they save up to 80% of the energy used by a standard incandescent bulb.
It’s as easy as unscrewing one bulb and screwing in another, and you will save money on your electricity bill, too!
Once you are getting the hang of recycling, take a look at the contents of your garbage can. You’ll probably notice that a large percentage of your garbage is now made up of things like potato peelings, apple cores, coffee grounds, and spoiled food.
Most kitchen waste can be composted, except for meat and dairy, which will cause your compost to smell and attract pests. Garden waste such as grass clippings and dry leaves can be composted too.
Switch to reusable grocery bags
Plastic grocery bags seem to multiply by themselves in drawers and cupboards, but they are also a hazard to marine life such as sea turtles, and they create a large amount of garbage in landfills.
Reusable grocery bags are now available at most stores for a reasonable price, and apart from being kinder to the earth, they are also sturdier for carrying heavy milk jugs and canned goods. If you find you often forget to bring them with you, try storing one in your handbag or keep a few of them in the trunk of your car.
Why should you bring your own bags to the store? Producing both plastic and paper bags consumes non-renewable resources. Recycling bags also requires energy.
SHOP BAGS FROM ETSY + MORE
Use green electricity
Do a bit of research on the electricity providers in your area to see if any sell electricity generated from renewable sources, such as wind or water. Prices can be very competitive, and making the change is as easy as making a phone call.
Cancel catalogs that get mailed to your home
This aspect often gets forgotten about, but lots of paper gets wasted by mailing catalogs to your house that you would never order products from.
In order to save some more trees, cancel the catalogs that just end up in your trash. There are several websites that offer catalog cancellations or go specifically to store websites and ask not to be mailed paper catalogs. This will also help to decrease the amount of junk mail you receive.
More tips to go green
Shop Green At the Grocery Store
1. Use reusable canvas bags for your groceries instead of plastic or paper. Keep the bags in your car, so they’re available every time you stop by the store.
2. Buy local products when available. Local produce and dairy are fresher, and less energy is used to get them to you.
3. Buy organic when possible. Fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers on plants mean fewer pesticides and chemicals in our water, air, and soil. If you can’t afford to go all organic, concentrate on replacing the most pesticide-laden products with organic options.
4. Buy from bulk bins. Bulk beans, pasta, cereal, and other items are less expensive for you and take less packaging. Store the products at home in glass or plastic containers you’ve saved from other products.
5. Recycle plastic shopping bags – most stores collect them.
6. Avoid single-size packages of snacks.
7. Use a refillable water bottle rather than buying water in individual plastic bottles.
8. Avoid buying items packaged in molded plastic.
9. Decline plastic shopping bags – insist on paper bags if you don’t have a shopping bag with you
Green Guide to Eating Out
1. Bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop. Many shops will give you a small discount for your effort.
2. Keep silverware and a napkin in the glove box of your car and use these to take out meals instead of plastic utensils and paper napkins.
3. Tuck a zip-top plastic bag or a reusable plastic container in your purse and use it for restaurant leftovers instead of those over-sized styrofoam clamshells.
4. Search our restaurants that use local produce and other ingredients.
Greener Living At Home
1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs. Some utility companies will supply these bulbs free or at a discount.
2. Hang laundry instead of drying it in the dryer. Hang damp shirts and dresses on hangers right away, and they’ll wrinkle less. Clothes will last longer, and your utility bills will be lower.
3. Collect water in a basin while you wait for the water to warm up. Use the basin water for plants.
4. Use rags instead of paper towels.
5. Walk or ride a bicycle to run errands.
6. Plant a garden or a few herbs in a pot on the windowsill.
7. Recycle containers you cannot reuse.
8. Use washable plates, cups, and cutlery along with cloth napkins all the time.
9. Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels; wash and reuse.
10. Compost your kitchen scraps
Green Travel Tips
1. Use public transportation instead of renting a car at your destination.
2. Re-use your towels and sheets during your stay at a hotel.
3. Hand wash clothing in the sink or tub and hang to dry instead of using a hotel’s dry-cleaning service.
4. Plan a vacation close to home.
Environmentally friendly lifestyle choices do not need to be painful. It may take a little bit of time and effort to learn how to create the best compost heap or sew your own grocery bags, but you can also choose to invest more money and purchase a self-contained composting unit or pre-sewn bags.
Other green choices, such as switching to LED bulbs or green electricity, require a single investment of time and money but continue to save you money and support the environment well into the future. When you feel confident with these initial changes, look for other places in your life where you can reduce, reuse, or recycle. You may be surprised at how easy it is to live green!
There are so many little things each of us can do every day that makes a difference in the health of the Earth. The combined effort of each person does make a difference.