Whether or not you believe in the science of climate change you can probably agree that we, as a species, need to do more to respect our planet and lead more sustainable lifestyles. After all, we only get this one planet. And, as much as we all love Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, we’re still very far away from being able to explore the universe the way humans in science fiction do.
So where do you start? How do you live a more sustainable lifestyle? Here are some tips to help you do exactly that.
Cut Back on Fossil Fuels
Nobody–at least, nobody in this article–is going to tell you to stop using fossil fuels altogether. That would be crazy! Very few people can afford to take themselves entirely off the grid. Instead, we’re just going to tell you to reduce your dependency on them.
For example, if you live in a deregulated energy market you could switch to a power provider that uses renewable resources. You can track them down through a local energy comparison website.
If your local energy market is regulated, don’t worry! Most energy providers now have an opt-in system where customers can choose to pay a slightly higher price to have their power delivered from renewable sources instead of standard fossil fuels. Opt in! The rate hike is relatively small.
Beyond this, start using your body instead of your car! Walk to places within a mile of your house. Use transit if your city has it or a bike for places that are further away. Save your car for when you need to haul large quantities of things from one place to another.
Most of us know that we should be recycling our cans and our bottles. Those are not the only recyclable materials out there! In fact, most things you buy these days are able to be recycled. If you’re not sure what should go in the recycling bin, call your local recycling center and ask for a list. Your city will also likely provide a list of what they’ll pick up for you.
Beyond the basics of sending recyclable plastics out to a center, look for ways to recycle goods within your own home. Most people are already in the habit of the plastic tubs and jars in which food is packaged. Look around for other ways to recycle. For instance, that sock that has a hole in it? If you don’t know how to darn it up, turn the sock into a dust rag! Old shirts can be cut up into rags as well. There are lots of ways to reuse and recycle household goods.
Reduce the amount of waste you produce. If you’re looking for ways to recycle within your home you’re already halfway to this goal, the primary aim of which is to reduce our dependencies on landfills. One of the best ways to do this is to start composting. Tossing your organic produce onto a compost pile drastically reduces the amount of trash you throw out every week. If you live in an apartment, you can start a small worm bin or you can donate your compostable items to a local composter.
With the exception of food, you can buy pretty much everything you need secondhand (though we don’t recommend going this route with mattresses or upholstered furniture–unless you plan to break them down for other uses). Instead of buying new clothes and furniture, scour thrift shops and the Internet for what you need. You’ll spend way less on secondhand items than you would on brand new and you reduce the amount of waste being produced by your family.
Donate and Give Away
Instead of just chucking your old or broken items into the trash, why not donate them to charity or give them away to people who need them? There are ways to donate almost everything you own, from old computers to furniture. Even broken down toys and furniture can be stripped for parts by someone. Check around your local metro area for rebuilding shops like this one in Portland and send your stuff there instead of throwing it away.
These hints likely all seem really basic but trust us: basics are the best place to start. Once you’ve gotten used to reducing and recycling, you can move on to the bigger things like harvesting rainwater, installing solar panels, etc.