Let’s be honest. We could all do a little more to help reduce our carbon footprint, right? The good news is the things we do to help conserve nature’s resources are easy to implement, help us be more healthy and can even safe us money. Riding a bike instead of driving, for example. Or eating locally grown, organic food rather than processed food. If you’re unsure how you can start living life a little greener, start with one of these simple resolutions.
1. Take the First Parking Spot You See
So often, we find ourselves driving around parking lots or city streets trying to find a close parking spot. But this has environmental costs. We waste about 47,000 gallons of gas per year, searching for parking spots, which releases 750 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This year, get yourself some free exercise and save on gas money by grabbing a spot in the back of the lot.
2. Walk or Ride Your Bike More
Cars and trucks give off about 20 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, according to The Nature Conservancy. That’s a good enough reason to ride your bike, carpool or walk to places where you don’t have to drive. And when we do need to drive, make sure your car is running efficiently by keeping the tires fully inflated and performing the necessary tune-ups and maintenance checks. Regular maintenance extends the life of the car, and riding a bike helps extend the life of the driver. Nobody loses there.
3. Plant a Garden
The average American eats about 22 pounds of tomatoes a year, and most of those tomatoes don’t come from our own backyards. Most supermarket produce travels from Mexico or California, and unless you live in or around one of those places, that’s quite a distance. Decrease your food miles by planting a small garden with a few tomato plants … and cucumbers … and zucchini … and okra … of your own.
4. Buy From Local Farmers
Obviously, whether it’s lack of access to green space or not enough extra time, not everyone can start a garden. What you can do, however, is choose where they buy your food. We’ve all heard the statistic by now that the average meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, which wastes a considerable amount of gas if you consider three meals a day for more than 300 million Americans. Yikes! This year resolve to join a CSA, buy from your local farmers market, or even to go straight to the source and help pick your own food at a nearby farm. This will lower the amount of miles your food travels and the amount of carbon emissions you are personally responsible for, while helping your local economy, your health and the planet.
5. Compost Your Kitchen Scraps
Methane is a highly noxious greenhouse gas––several times more harmful than carbon dioxide. When we throw food scraps into the trash and they wind up at the dump, they create methane when they break down––lots and lots of methane. (In fact, according to the Washington Post, 23 percent of our overall methane production comes from landfills). However, with so many great composting options––from small vermicomposting bins with red wiggler worms to outdoor composting barrels––no one should have to throw away food scraps. You can use that compost around garden plants, sell it or give it to a friend who will, as a bonus, love you forever.
6. Plant More Trees
Trees are a special type of plant that suck in carbon dioxide, filter out sulfur dioxide and other pollutants, and create hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pounds of oxygen a year. It is said that one mature tree can supply enough oxygen for anywhere from two to 18 people per year. Plant at least one tree for every two people in your family—and why not a few more just for good measure. You can even plant one in a container if you’re short on land.
7. Buy Better Meat
Factory farmed meats are one of the leading causes of greenhouse-gas emissions, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gasses, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It’s not necessary to stop eating meat altogether—just stop eating bad meat. Good meat—whether its beef, pork or chicken—comes from animals rotationally grazed on pasture. Pasture raised meat not only provides you with omega 3s among other beneficial fats and vitamins, it’s better for the animals and the environment, as well, helping prevent erosion, sequester carbon and build soil. Ask around your local farmers’ markets for farmers who employ rotational grazing to raise their meat.
8. Waste Less Water
The average American uses 100 gallons of water a day, according to the Environment Protection Agency. That means that every 24 hours, our country uses about 350 billion gallons of water. Wow! But water is a finite resource—only about 1 percent of the planet’s water is potable. To save water around your home—as much as 30 percent— install more efficient sink fixtures and better faucets and check regularly for leaks. Now, imagine what we could save if you took more drastic water-saving measures: Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Only take a couple showers a week (which not only saves water, but preserves the natural oils and beneficial bacteria that live on your skin).
9. Finally Change Your Light Bulbs
Changing to compact florescent light bulbs (the fun curly ones), can save you as much as two-thirds the energy used in your home. And, if we’re being honest, we’ve been meaning to do this for some time. While you’re at it, consider resolving to turn off lights when you leave the room and unplug chargers and appliances when not in use.
10. Turn Down the Thermostat
For every degree you turn down your thermostat in the winter, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save 1 to 3 percent on your energy bill each year––though one study in Michigan shows you can save as much as 5.4 percent per degree. A good recommendation is 70 degrees F while at home and 62 degrees F while away, which is most easily managed with a programmable, or smart, thermostat. Also check the insulation around your windows and doors to make sure you’re not loosing heat, thus forcing your heating system to work harder.