20 ways to be more environmentally friendly in 2020
Plenty of people choose a new year to make lifestyle changes like eating healthier or exercising more. But how about a resolution to help Mother Earth? The best part: You can always start small and work in more environmentally conscious options when you’re ready.
Here are 20 ways to make more eco-friendly lifestyle changes this year:
Start recycling: Check with your curbside collection to see if they offer curbside recycling service. Get a separate bin and bags specifically for recycling. If your residence offers valet trash service, make sure recycling is included and the people picking up your bags know the difference.
Buy in bulk: Items like beans, coffee, rice, nuts and even spices are often cheaper when purchased by the ounce or pound. Check with nearby grocers to see which exact items can be purchased this way and if there are rules about containers.
Reduce the amount of plastic bags you use: Carry reusable tote bags, and consider purchasing reusable produce bags to cut down your plastic use. Collect any extra plastic bags or soft plastic you might toss in the trash and recycle them at special dropoff spots (flexible plastics are not usually recyclable at home, but some stores like groceries offer collection bins).
Reduce your meat/dairy consumption: Both of these industries require a significant amount of natural and human resources (water, land, feed, labor, etc.). So whether you just take part in “Meatless Mondays,” switch to dairy-free products or adopt a more plant-based diet, every meal free of meat or dairy can help.
Don’t let good food go to waste: Food waste is an all-too-common issue affecting both our wallets and the environment. Regularly check on the groceries in your fridge or pantry and plan out the best ways to use them before they expire. This especially includes leftovers.
Research composting: Whether it’s a small counter-size jar or a large curbside bin, look into options for composting food scraps, leaves and other materials in your neighborhood to divert them from landfills.
Switch to recyclable or plastic/package-free products: Is that bottle of shampoo, conditioner or body wash in your shower actually recyclable? If not, consider changing your routine to include products like bars for soap or haircare, or bottles you can recycle after they are empty. Bamboo toothbrushes offer an alternative to plastic versions, which aren’t recyclable and won’t biodegrade.
Use less water at home: Install low-flow water fixtures like shower and faucet heads. If you need to, consult a professional for help swapping in a low-flow toilet. Don’t forget these tried-and-true tips: Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, opt for shorter showers instead of baths, and if you can avoid it, don’t run appliances with small loads of dishes or clothing.
Take advantage of rebate or discount programs for purchasing energy-efficient appliances: Many utility companies offer incentives for purchasing these high-ticket items.
Join the reusable/compostable straw movement: Reusable or compostable straws made of metal, silicone or paper are one of the most popular ways to cut your plastic consumption. If you don’t need one, or can bring your own, let servers know to not give you a plastic straw. Some straw sets come in a case or sack to make them easier to take on the go. If you can get multiple sets, consider having a set at home, work and in your car or bag.
Hit up thrift stores or clothing swaps: Find good deals on used home items or clothing, plus reduce your contribution to the fashion industry’s environmental impact.
Change up your coffee routine: Brew coffee at home to take in a travel mug. If visiting a coffee shop, bring a clean, reusable mug or cup for baristas to pour your drink into instead of a disposable coffee cup, which are often neither recyclable nor compostable. In addition, trade out disposable coffee filters or single-use plastic cups with a reusable filter to add grounds.
Ditch the disposables: Single-use items like plastic utensils, plates and cups aren’t always recyclable or are often tossed in the trash. Keep reusable dishware and utensils at your workplace or use biodegradable options. At home, silicone baking sheets offer an alternative to aluminum foil for oven pans, and beeswax food wraps can be reused in place of plastic cling wrap.
Go paperless: Companies that charge you a monthly fee may have the option to send bills electronically rather than through the mail. Your place of employment may also offer direct deposit service as well as electronic pay stubs and timecards.
Do what you can to avoid driving a car by yourself: Consider taking public transportation, using rideshare pools, scooters, biking or walking.
Adjust where and when you work: If the option is available in your line of work, ask your manager about flexible arrangements such as working from home or away from the office, and whether the days or hours you work can be shifted for shorter, smoother commutes.
Skip occasion-specific and excess gift wrapping: We all know gift-giving holidays like Christmas and birthdays can generate extra waste due to wrapping and tissue papers, ribbons and more. Instead of wrapping presents with paper, choose gift bags or satchels that can be reused for multiple occasions.
Take advantage of public library systems: Save money by checking out a library copy of a book for free instead of purchasing one. Some libraries also offer audiobooks or e-books, no paper needed.
Work on your green thumb: Gardening as a hobby can help reduce stress and encourage healthy lifestyles. Think about getting a plant to help improve the air quality. Do your research beforehand, especially if you have a pet, to determine which plants work with your lifestyle and environment.
Contact your government representatives: Let’s face it, even if consumers make every environmentally conscious decision available to them, that only solves a portion of the problem. Ask the politicians who represent you about their plans to address environmental issues.