Each day, we see the consequences of a “throw-away” society and businesses putting short-term profits above long-term environmental impacts. Our landfills have reached capacity, our oceans have massive floating garbage islands, and the tap water in many of our cities is filled with contaminants. It’s become all too apparent that we must find ways to sustain our natural resources so we can support our lives now as well as protect them for future generations. We can all change a few habits to correct the consequences and live more sustainable lifestyles. Here are just a few ways you can protect the environment as well as save money:
· Repair possessions instead of throwing them away – If something stops working, see if it’s repairable before you throw it in the trash. YouTube, DoItYourself, and DIYNetwork provide instructions for fixing most items when they stop working. Sometimes the fix is as simple as cleaning out a filter.
· Install low-flow showerheads – You can save over 2,000 gallons of water and over 300 kilowatts of electricity to your water heater per year.
· Buy in bulk – It’s cheaper and reduces the amount of packaging. Most cooperative grocery stores offer goods in bulk, but more mainstream stores now offer bulk items as well. If the store allows it, consider bringing your own container to eliminate wasteful packaging.
· Use fluorescent or LED bulbs – If you still have any incandescent lightbulbs, replace them with newer energy efficient bulbs. Incandescent bulbs average about 1,000 hours, while fluorescents last an average of 10,000 and LEDs an average of 30,000 hours.
· Buy efficient appliances – Look for the efficiency rating on the appliance and picked the highest you can afford. Ratings go from A (the best) to G (the least) and are based on how many units of energy the appliance uses per hour.
· Maintain your car – Regular maintenance and tune ups will maintain your car’s fuel efficiency as it ages.
· Carpool and combine trips – When you have multiple errands to run, plan your schedule and the route so you don’t have keep returning to the same place multiple times. Carpool with friends and neighbors whenever possible.
· Add caulk and weather-stripping – Check your windows and doors for drafts. If the old caulk or weather-stripping is brittle or missing, remove it and add a new seal. With a good seal, you can save 5-10% on your energy bill each year.
· Reuse paper bags and envelopes – Creating paper requires a lot of fuel and water, in addition to trees. If you use paper bags, give these items a second or third life. Use them to collect recycling, to take items you’re donating to a thrift store, or as gift wrap. Reuse return envelopes as note pads, to collect coupons, or add them to your kids’ craft supplies.
Living sustainably isn’t difficult, but it is of critical importance now. But we must find ways to meet today’s needs without compromising the future needs of our children and grandchildren.