If, like Heleo, your abode is on the East Coast, you’ve been doing a lot of basking in the sun this winter. You’ve miscalculated your outfit almost every day. You’ve switched back and forth between hot and iced coffee ten times. Winter just won’t seem to start.
While it’s unclear if the unseasonably warm weather is the result of global warming, there’s no question that climate change is real. Last month in Paris some of the world’s greatest minds got together to try to solve the issue. But you’re no Bill Gates. What can you do? A lot, actually. No billion-dollar company or Nobel Prize required.
Here are five simple planet-saving things to do that won’t cost you anything (they might even save you some money).
Lay Off the Utilities
When you use less gas, heat, water, or electricity, you are saving money. Period. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all night wrapped up in wool blankets or write by candlelight. Just remembering to turn down or switch off your utilities while you’re away from home can make a huge difference.
You probably know the drill for conserving water: turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, take short showers instead of baths, and minimize your use of the dishwasher and washing machine.
As for heat, lowering the thermostat just five degrees at night can help you save 8 percent on your overall heating costs. Throwing on a pair of socks to keep yourself warmer at night is a small way to save the environment.
Don’t Add to Paper Production
These days, almost everything – news, literature, taxes and bank statements – is available digitally. Switch to digital if you haven’t already. You’ll probably find that it’s more convenient anyway.
If you’re a hardcore (paper) book-lover, buy used books! Used bookstores everywhere are closing and they could use your business. Have a specific request? Or want to stay in the comfort of your own home? Check out one of these many used books sites.
Speaking of used goods…
Shop at Thrift Stores
This one is my personal favorite because you 1) save the world while 2) saving cash and 3) looking super sharp.
But thrift store shopping takes too much time, you say, or I’m not cool enough to figure out what’s cool. Try visiting one of your favorite online fashion blogs first, or checking out recent pics of your favorite actor or actress. Choose three pieces you definitely want, and screenshot them. If you go to the store with these pieces in mind, odds are good you’ll find at least one of them within twenty minutes – and that you’ll spot a few other gems on the way.
Reusing old clothes not only prevents you from spurring the production of new clothes, it lightens the load that goes into landfills every day. Which brings us to our next tip:
Are you sure you’re doing it right? Incorrect recycling is just as bad as not recycling at all. In fact, recycling plants have been known to throw away entire batches of recycled goods if they see one inappropriate piece.
Some recycling tips you may not know: styrofoam doesn’t count, you’ve got to clean off all food waste (so something like a pizza box or a used paper plate is almost never okay), and don’t use plastic bags.
But everywhere is different. Take a couple minutes to look at your state’s government website and make sure you know the rules.
You can wait three more days. Between single-serve containers and the extra packaging required, overnight shipping is an environmental disaster. And aside from Amazon Prime, it’s likely the more expensive option too.
If all this seems like a lot, try starting with two of the above tips. Once you’ve got those down, you can come back to this article and try to incorporate a few more. Remember: it’s not all or nothing. Even the littlest change in habits adds up in the long run, and planet Earth will thank you.