Happy Earth Day! Every year on April 22, millions of individuals across the globe come together to show their support for environmental protection. Celebrated in 192 countries every year, Earth Day helps us remember that the health of our planet is our collective responsibility and, if we can make smarter, greener choices every day, we can help make our world a better place for future generations.
Sure, it’d be great to buy a hybrid vehicle, start a vegetable garden or invest in greener kitchen appliances. But many of us simply do not have the time or money for such activities. You may be surprised to learn that there are simple actions you can take every day that can have a significant environmental impact, and they take less than 5 minutes to accomplish.
Here are ten simple ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint:
1. Turn your lights off when you leave a room. Okay, we’ve all heard this one before. But when you think about how easy it is, you’ll wonder why you haven’t taken the time to do it before. Lighting is responsible for about 11 percent of a home’s energy bills, so you can save a big chunk of change by flipping the switch, as well.
2. Buy in bulk. Next time you are at the grocery store, consider buying the big package of toilet paper instead of the smaller one. Not only will you save money (the paper will be used eventually), you will avoid the emissions created when packaging individual items. If your family doesn’t use large quantities, consider splitting the package with a friend or neighbor.
3. Use blankets to warm up instead of central heating. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree can save you a ton on your heating bill and make a significant dent in your household’s emissions. Not to mention, your grandmother will love the fact that you are using that blanket she knitted for you for your birthday.
4. Practice patience when baking. How many of you check on your cake or casserole in the oven to see how it is coming along? Most of us are guilty of this impatience when cooking. However, every time you do this, you allow heat to escape and it actually makes your meal take longer to cook (and use more energy). In fact, consider turning off your oven a few minutes before the food is finished. The trapped heat will stay hot enough to finish cooking your meal.
5. Turn the water off while you brush your teeth. Just this simple act can save 8 gallons a day per person. Yes, you read that correctly. Men, consider turning the water off while you shave, as well. So simple, yet so impactful.
6. Switch to paperless billing. Let’s be honest, paying bills by snail mail is so old school. With all of us on the Internet for hours a day, consider asking your cable, electricity, water and gas provider to send you “paperless” bills instead. All it takes is a simple phone call or visit to your provider’s website. In fact, many billers offer a discount for signing up (because it saves them a ton on printing and postage). If you can save $1.44 on each of four monthly bills, you can save $70 a year.
7. Skip the paper coffee cup. Did you know that Starbucks discounts your coffee purchase by 10 cents a cup if you bring your own mug? If you have a daily coffee habit, that can lead to a savings of $36.50 a year. Of course, if you make your own coffee at home (or break the habit altogether), you can save even more, to the tune of $358 a year or $14,000 over the course of your career. (Wow.)
8. Cut the junk mail. Junk mail is not only an annoyance; it’s extremely wasteful. If you are sick of all of the junk mail you receive, register with the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAchoice service. It takes just a second to register and you will see a significant reduction in your junk mail after about three months or so. Every country is different though, so research your local post office and see what their policy is.
9. Flex your flex benefits. If your company allows “working from home,” this is a fantastic way to cut your personal carbon emissions. If the 41 million Americans with telework-compatible jobs worked from home just one day, the environment would be spared 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas, the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year. If you need help convincing your manager to let you WFH, check out this blog post for some tips.
10. Replace one business trip with a video call. For many businesses with geographically-dispersed locations, business trips (even one hour trips) are standard. Consider replacing just one of those trips with a video call instead of an on-site, in-person meeting. Don’t have a video conferencing solution to use? Grab a buddy and download a free 14-day LifeSize ClearSea client trial for your PC, smartphone or tablet, and do your next meeting via video.
These are just 10 simple tips to make your life greener, but we know there are many, many more out there. If you have your own tip, share them with us in the comment box below.