1. Insulate Your Home
Depending on the type of house you live in, it’s age and the kind of heating system you use, you might save from 30-90% on your heating cost just by putting enough insulation on your house, and making sure that your windows and doors are not letting any of the heat out. It’s not only an eco-friendly practice, but makes perfect sense from a financial point of view, the costs of the investment might pay off in 6-8 years or even less, depending on future price of oil and gas.
Of course, this will not only save you on your heating bill, but also allow you to use a lot less air conditioning. If this is done well, you may even turn off heating in the summer or air conditioning in the winter at night. (which you might do anyway) Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
2. Change Your Workplace
Believe it or not, you could make most of the impact towards a greener global community by starting things at your workplace. Unfortunately today most companies still only pay lip service to environmental practices and are far from walking the talk. Make the people above you aware of the inconsistencies in the company’s practices, (i.e. we’re an environmentally friendly company, but all our company cars are regular gas guzzlers. We really care about the environment, but still 98% of the energy we use comes from the energy company, etc.) To get things going, if a recycling program has not already been started at your company, start one yourself (or improve the program already in place). Learn more at Recycling in the Workplace. You can also encourage new practices or even policies towards the reduction of junk mail, the reduction of paper your colleagues use, etc.
Make sure your suppliers follow green practices. When you use hotels and conference facilities, for example, make sure that the hotel is one that’s among the eco-frienly hotels. (find these on GreenerVenues)
3. Change Your Eating Habits
It may surprise you to learn that our diets account for up to twice as many greenhouse emissions as driving. One recent study suggested that the average US household’s annual carbon food-print is 8.1 tonnes of “equivalent CO2 emissions” or CO2eq (a measure that incorporates any other greenhouse gases produced alongside the CO2). That’s almost twice the 4.4 tonnes of CO2eq emitted by driving a 25-mile-per-US gallon (9 litres per 100 kilometres) vehicle 19,000 km – a typical year’s mileage in the US.
Buy food (and drink – ideally tap – water) from local companies whenever possible. Each pound of local food you purchase prevents a quarter pound of global warming (C02) emissions. Support your area’s Farmer’s Market. If possible, grow your own fruits and vegetables using organic gardening practices. You can find local farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, restaurants that cook with regional cuisine, and food cooperatives through Local Harvest.
4. Drive Less, Drive Smart
Of course the best would be to get rid of your car. If you can’t do that, get an electric, can’t do that, get a Hybrid. If you can’t do that, then, of course, get a car with great mileage. Try to drive as little as you can, since less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school. If you have a way to choose where you’re going to live next, choose a place that allows you to drive the least.
When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. If there isn’t a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
The media has done a wonderful job of selling us on the attractiveness and benefits of buying “new”, “brand new”, “improved”, “next generation”, etc. products. However, we already collectively own so much that we could all survive for quite a while on the existing products – if we just reused them a few times!
• Garage Sales: Shop at and hold garage sales – this is a great way to reuse products.
• Donations: Donate your old stuff. You would be surprised how much stuff you can give away with people being happy for you doing it. Just a quick list: Cartridges and cell phones to Cure Recycling, art materials to a school, computer equipment to a recycling center, household items to charity, extra hangers to your local dry cleaners, etc. Throwplace.com lets you list items online that you would like to give to nonprofit organizations, businesses, or individuals.
• Use ebay, craigslist or other sites to buy/sell used stuff.
• Switch from disposable to reusable products: batteries (some battery rechargers will also recharge regular alkaline batteries), food and beverage containers, cups, plates, writing pens, razors, diapers, towels, shopping bags (yes, bring your own shopping bag, after all people in many countries do it, they bring bags, baskets, etc.) All these disposable products collectively add a huge amount of waste and contribute to an enourmous amount of extra production that could be used for better things.
• Share with your neighbors and friends, join with them to purchase infrequently used products such as lawn mowers, ladders, etc. (another way to encourage them and teach them about eco-friendly habits).
• Recycled Content: Ask your local retailers to stock more products made from recycled materials and buy products made from the highest recycled content whenever possible.
When you do buy something new, do think about what you’re buying. Besides being a great way to save money, reducing impulse buying is a great way to make sure you’re helping and not hurting the environment. In general, think before you buy any product – do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)? When you are thinking about buying something, try the 30-Day Rule — wait 30 days after the first time you decide you want a product to really make your decision. After all, you survived without this product, you are likely to survive another 30 days without it.
6. Invest In Energy
Investing in renewable energy production is the same as investing in a home or office building. Buying energy from a utility, on the other hand, is like renting – at the end of fifteen years you don’t have anything to show for it – and you are left vulnerable to the fluctuating costs of energy. One investment option is solar panels which can produce energy for 40 years or more – far longer than it takes to pay off the installation costs (currently around 15 years for homeowners and only 7 years for businesses). Wind power, where available, has a far quicker payback period.
7. Encourage Others to Conserve
Although you can do a lot yourself and by changing your habits you can reduce a lot of unnecessary waste and pollution, you will do even more by sharing information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors and co-workers. You would be surprised how unaware a lot of people still are about why it makes a difference and why they should bother.
One step even further: take the opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment.
8. Plant a Tree
Plant a forest. Can’t do that? Well, at least plant a tree! If you have the means to do so, start digging. (well, if you’re going to do it in somebody else’s backyard, you may want to ask the owners first J But seriously, if you want to find out where you can do that, contact your local municipality.) So why is this so important? During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Quite prominent and great cultures and societies have become extinct mainly because of overdeforestation and its effects. To a certain extent we are on the same track unless we change course. Do your part in preventing this: at least plant a tree.
Trees are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.
9. Change a Lightbulb
Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat
If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.
10. Lights Off
Whenever possible, keep lights off during the day. Consider installing a skylight if more light is needed. Encourage family members to get in the habit of turning off lights when they leave a room. Reduce “standby power” (the energy used while an appliance is switched off or not performing) at home and at work. The easiest way is to unplug appliances that are not being used. You can also plug your appliances into power surge protector strips (with multiple electrical outlets) and turn the power off at the strip.
Although these are the things the most dedicated of us would want to do, they are things that few of us could actually devote our lives to, and perhaps not all of us should, either. Following the principles in the above list of top 10, however, will certainly help you make world a better place. You can keep your regular job and most of the things on this list wouldn’t cost you more than some extra attention.