All of the earth’s resources are valuable. While our day-to-day takes up some of these natural resources, there are small changes we can make to be more sustainable, whether collecting water from the shower to quench thirsty house plants afterward, or pointing lights down rather than up to prevent light pollution. We asked environmental experts for a few easy ways to lessen our impact.
Each year, 275 million tons of plastic waste are created globally, researchers say in a study recently published in the Science Journal. Of that amount, between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans.
“The first thing you can do to stop waste and clutter from entering your home is to simply say no. Think before accepting something that is handed out to you, such as flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards and plastic bags. Accepting these things requires effort to dispose of them later and creates a demand to make more in the first place.”
– Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home
The average three-minute shower requires more water than families in developing countries have for cooking, cleaning and drinking each day, reports the World Health Organization.
“Think about ways to conserve and reuse your shower water, such as stopping the water flow while shampooing or collecting rinse water in a small bucket to feed houseplants.”
– Tyler Riewer, strategist at Charity:Water
One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people, and city trees in Los Angeles have removed nearly 2,000 tons of air pollution annually, reports the Journal of Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. Contact with nature can also potentially alleviate mental fatigue and help restore attention, according to research from the University of Washington. So helping a garden grow is good for the earth and good for you.
“We don’t always have to search for the nearest park or head out of town to get our nature fix. Thanks to the Million Trees project, all New Yorkers are encouraged to take care of the trees on their block or in their neighborhood. You can add household compost to the plot and fertilize the soil.”
– Cerise Mayo, director of Nutshell Projects
Look towards the land nearby to grow some of your own meals, too.
“Starting a small vegetable garden is simple. No yard? Plant a rooftop garden or check out The Nature Conservancy’s tools and tips for creating a school garden.”
– Justin Adams, Managing Director for Global Lands at The Nature Conservancy
Food waste is now the third-largest source of destructive global warming gases, says a recent study from the UN Food & Agriculture Organization.
“You can often stretch leftovers and scraps into another meal–and keep food out of a landfill in the process. To make the dough for my honey oatmeal bread, I knead the scrapings from my porridge pot. I also use bruised fruit in baking or cooking. And the last of my lasagna becomes the base for a robust minestrone soup. These quick fixes not only save time, but also create a more rich and flavorful meal.”
– Wendy Trusler, chef and writer of The Antarctic Book of Cooking & Cleaning
Up to 50 percent of all outdoor lighting is wasted, which adds up to more than $3 billion in energy cost and releases 21 million tons of CO2 per year. To offset that amount of emissions, 875 million trees would need to be planted annually, calculates the International Dark Sky Association based on data from the Energy Information Administration.
“You can make a difference by using only fully shielded, dark-sky-friendly fixtures, so your lights shine down, not up. This requires less illumination and places light only where it’s needed. Look for the IDA Seal of Approval on lights and fixtures.”
– Scott Feierabend, President of the International Dark Sky Association