Small Steps, Big Impact: 10 Simple Ways to Live a More Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

10 Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly

More than 480 billion plastic bottles are sold worldwide each year. That's about 1.3 billion per day! And with only 10% of those bottles actually being recycled, it's no surprise that they are collecting in our rivers, streams, and oceans, leaking toxins into the water we consume.

 About 8-9 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. To put that into perspective, that's the equivalent of a full garbage truck every single minute. Our seas and oceans cover over two-thirds of the Earth's surface and play a vital role in regulating our climate. Plastic can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade, so any plastic ending up in the ocean will be there for generations to come.

 We all must do our part to reduce our waste and plastic consumption, not only for our own health but for the health of all the plants and animals who live in our oceans.

Cleaning The Planet – One Person at a Time

We all have a part to play in the reduction of waste on our planet. Each and every one of us can make a massive difference by slightly altering wasteful habits. One of the best places you can start is by switching to a reusable water bottle. A standard Poland Spring plastic bottle contains 16fl oz of water. The recommended water consumption per day is eight 8fl oz glasses of water or four plastic bottles. By switching to a reusable bottle, you could save over 1500 plastic bottles per year! Using a reusable water bottle will eliminate your use of single-use plastic bottles and, therefore, both reduces your carbon footprint and your contribution to plastic in our water systems.

 Do you want to establish more eco-friendly habits but are unsure where to start? Setting small, attainable goals is the best way to transition from an eco-friendly beginner to a pro in just a years' time.

Here are ten ways to become more eco-friendly! 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We all remember hearing the phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle" since we were kids. But these three principles are the simplest ways to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly. The first step is to reduce the amount of waste you're consuming. If you cannot eliminate the waste altogether, the next step is to try to reuse it however you can. You could reuse containers for leftovers, or repurpose jars into planters, etc. And lastly, if you have no use for the waste, take advantage of your local recycling program and make sure to properly separate waste based on local instructions instead of throwing things into one bin.

 Alright, now let's get to the ten steps you can take this year to become more eco-friendly!

Step 1 – Use a Recyclable Eco-Friendly Water Bottle & Stop Using Single-Use Plastic Straws

The first and easiest way to become more eco-friendly is to stop purchasing plastic water bottles. By investing in a reusable water bottle, not only will you save yourself money long-term, but you'll also hugely reduce your contribution to single-use plastic pollution. You can fill your water bottle almost anywhere so you can stay hydrated on the go.

 The second part of this step is to stop using plastic straws. Simply ask for your beverages without them when ordering at restaurants and bars. If you strongly prefer to drink your beverages with a straw, then consider bringing your own reusable straw with you when you go out.

Step 2 – Use Canvas Grocery Bags

The second step on your journey to becoming more eco-friendly is to switch to canvas grocery bags. At first, it may be hard to remember to bring them with you everywhere, but soon, it will become second nature. Single-use plastic bags litter our oceans and waterways, where they clog up drains and are often consumed by marine life. About 34% of dead leatherback sea turtles have ingested plastics, and with Americans using 100 billion plastic bags a year, it's not a huge surprise.

 By using canvas grocery bags, you can reduce your contribution to plastic pollution and inspire others to do the same.

Step 3 – Use Recyclable Food Containers

The third step in your eco-friendly journey is using recyclable food containers instead of non-recyclable plastic ones. When you're purchasing food from the grocery store, try to choose items in recyclable packaging such as cans or glass since they are easiest to recycle. Find out what kinds of plastic you can recycle in your local recycling program and avoid food packaging that you are unable to recycle locally. Even better, take your own containers and buy things in bulk whenever possible.

Step 4 – Recycle The Right Way

You may already have a recycling bin in your home, but if you're not recycling the right way, then you may be doing more harm than good. Most recycling systems will have a bin for plastics, glass, metals, and paper, but the items you put into the bins need to be clean. For example, you cannot recycle a pizza box with cheese or grease remnants. If your recyclables have food residue on them, you can risk contaminating the whole batch, which means more work for the recycling center, and less chance they can sell it.

 Additionally, not all types of plastic are recyclable. If you look on plastic containers, you'll notice a number surrounded by chasing arrows. These numbers will indicate the kind of plastic packaging and whether or not you can recycle it. The types of plastic you can recycle will depend on your local recycling facility, but generally, the thinner and flimsier the plastic, the less likely you can recycle it. Most #1 and #2 plastics can be recycled as long as they are clean, but always check with your local recycling center first just to be sure.

Step 5 – Make A Compost Bin

A compost bin is a great way to ensure that your food scraps don't end up in a landfill. Many communities now offer a composting service, so you just need to store your food scraps in a separate bin from the rest of your garbage. A combination of recycling and composting can nearly eliminate the waste that your household contributes to landfills.

 If you have a garden of your own, you can also use the compost from your bin as a natural fertilizer.

Step 6 – Be Mindful of Printing Paper

There is rarely any reason to use printing paper in this day in age. While you may need to print out a contract, or a boarding pass, most of the time, everything is done digitally. If you work in an office, consider putting new policies in place around printing paper. You should only be printing when absolutely necessary. It never hurts to put up a sign on the copy machine as well, just as a reminder.

 If you do have to print something, always triple-check that the information is accurate to avoid reprinting any documents.

Step 7 – Use Eco-Cleaning Products to Clean Your Home

Many of the cleaning products that we use in our homes contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to ourselves and the environment. Chemicals like ammonia, chlorine, and phthalates found in household cleaners will eventually end up in our water system, causing environmental damage and damage to our health.

 There are many eco-friendly cleaning products you can use instead, which are biodegradable and non-toxic. You can also make your own eco-friendly cleaner using vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Not only will it clean your surfaces as effectively as some store-bought cleaners, but it will also save you money and leave your home smelling fresh. Plus, you can reuse a spray bottle, meaning less plastic waste.

Step 8 – Choose Eco-friendly Transportation

Transportation makes up around about 20% of global CO2 emissions. If you use transportation to commute daily, it can make up a considerable portion of your carbon footprint. The average passenger vehicle in the United States drives around 11.500 per year and emits about 4.6 metric tons of CO2. Just think how much you could reduce your footprint by switching to an eco-friendlier method of transportation.

 Use public transportation where you can, or carpool to work with colleagues. Not only does this cut your carbon emissions, but it's also way cheaper than driving. You could also invest in a hybrid or electric car, which can hugely reduce your environmental footprint and save you money on gas over the long term.

Step 9 – Join Environmental Groups

There are some fantastic environmental groups that are already established who are making a significant positive impact on the planet. By joining forces with these groups, you can help them continue to do their eco-friendly work and become an advocate to inspire others. Whether you're interested in doing beach cleanups or supporting the rainforest, there are environmental groups out there who need your support.

 You can support environmental groups by donating, becoming a member, volunteering, attending events, and sharing their content with your network.

Step 10 – Spread the word

And lastly, the best way to become an eco-friendlier individual is to advocate for a more sustainable world. There is nothing quite as powerful as word-of-mouth when it comes to spreading awareness about the impact our decisions have on our environment. Often people are unaware of just how much humans are destroying our planet with waste and pollution. Education is key, and by talking about what you've read today with friends, family, and others in your network, you can start a domino effect of change.

 Attend local rallies and efforts for restricting and banning single-use plastics. Your voice truly does matter.

Be the change

Simply by reading this article, you're already taking a step in the right direction. By implementing these small goals over time, you can become an eco-friendly pro and encourage others to do the same. If you find these tips helpful, please share them with anyone else who is ready to work towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.

 Thank you for doing your part to keep our planet, and its oceans clean!