It’s the time of year again where everyone starts talking about making changes. We want to live better, do better, be better. Maybe you are already working on finding ways to help the environment. Maybe you think that reducing your carbon footprint involves life changes that you aren’t ready for right now. But the reality is that helping the environment does not necessarily mean you need to pack up, sell everything you own, go off the grid, and live out of VW bus (although for some of us it’s still a dream).
Big issues, as in very large, complex projects such as helping the environment and reducing the overall carbon footprint, are best met with practical, everyday changes. This has been proven by the global movement for recycling. You may not feel like you are doing much when you drop off those three bags of recycling at the local school’s recycling bin, but multiply that action times a million people doing the same thing, once a week for a year, and you are part of something much bigger. And the super cool thing about it, is that you can save money while helping the environment.
Buy local whenever possible
42% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.
Buying local products can have a huge impact on reducing your carbon footprint and has the added benefit of supporting your local economy which is vital to a strong community.
- Shop local farm stands, orchards, farmer’s markets for produce whenever possible. Not only will your food be fresher, and most often more affordable, but knowing your potatoes didn’t just take a 7 day trip down the highway means you have helped reduce gas emissions.
- Rather than ordering that entertainment stand from the web and paying for shipping and possibly funding a company that does not replace what it uses, hit local yard sales or flea markets for the piece you are looking for. You can also hire the guy on the corner to make your piece or approach your local school and see if there is a student in a shop class that would like to take on a project.
- When you buy local, you vote with your money. If you don’t like what is happening with big business and your food supply, or what you have read about work conditions across the sea, then purchasing goods from people you know can help. Buy a used sweater from a local thrift shop with a label that you know has an ethical sustainability policy. When you do this, you save money and reuse items (which saves resources).
Speaking of reusing
Reusing goods is the simplest way to save money. It is money already spent. Get a second life out of an item that will just take up landfill space. And while recycling is awesome, it takes energy to recycle. So when you can turn that baby food jar into table decorations for a kids birthday party, you are getting more mileage out of what you purchased.
- Reuse everyday items such as plastic food containers, bags, boxes for household purposes.
- Upcycle broken furniture, transform waste into art. Be inspired by the art and message of Maine Smith.
- Check out this incredible list of ideas for making something new out of something old.
Back to recycling
One might think that recycling is a part of life for most people, but clearly all of us need to be doing more. According to greenwaste.com because of recycling efforts, aluminum cans only make up 1% of total U.S. waste, however in 2004 Americans still threw away 55 billion aluminum cans. And this one will really blow your mind….Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic bottles every hour. If you have waste that cannot be reused, but can be recycled, do it.
- If you don’t want to go to the trouble to separate items and try to cash in on what recycling centers will pay for scrap metal and aluminum, consider finding someone who may want to. It’s easier than you think. Take out an ad, post on a social network, talk to your friends.
- If you recycle now, but want to help create impact, consider taking on a small project. Does your local ballpark recycle? Or do the cans fill up each night only to have plastic nacho containers and sports drink bottles land in the landfill along with dropped ice cream cones and half eaten slices of pizza? Get local community members together and form a plan. Imagine the impact of one busy summer ballpark making the switch. For help and ideas on kicking off your own local project check this out.
- Call your local sanitation service. Many companies will provide bins for pick up. If not, look into other sanitation options. Who knows you may find a more affordable option while in the process.
Get serious about e waste
E waste is a hot topic. There’s a reason for that. According to DoSomething.org, a social site dedicated to young people working for change…
E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America…
It takes 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor…
E-waste…equals 70% of overall toxic waste.
For more information on the effects and life cycle of e waste watch this video
If you want to help cut back on electronic waste consider:
- Do you really need a new device?
- Can you sell your old device?
- If you cannot re-home your old phone by selling it or donating it, be sure to dispose of it by recycling.
- Donating your old computer to an afterschool program, a family in need, or giving it to someone who may be able to rebuild it and flip a profit are options to consider.
When it comes down to it, the simplest way to save money, reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment is to practice sensible consumption. Many American’s have an obsession with buying something new. Not only can you help out your finances and your environmental impact by simply taking the time to think about whether or not your purchase is really necessary, if you are a parent you can help the next generation break the cycle of consumption and waste by teaching them a few core values from the start:
- Taking care of the planet is important.
- When we save money by refilling a reusable container rather than buying cases of conveniently packaged items each week, then we may have more money for trips local festivals, a theme park, or vacation to the beach.
- Focus on giving your children opportunities more often than material possessions.
- Make buying second hand items a normal practice in your home rather than a practice related to a certain financial status.
- Never throw away what can be donated to someone else.
- Grow stuff. Tomato plants, flowers, herbs…kids still love getting covered with mud.
Keep these tips in mind while making practical, sensible changes to how you do life. Engage your partner, family or community. Keep it fun. You will save money and help change the world we live in.