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16 Ways to Be More Environmentally Friendly

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Our planet is home to more than 7.5 billion people and counting, and more than 325 million of them live in the United States. With so many people sharing limited resources, it’s important that each person do what he or she can to help conserve and protect the environment.

Though it’s possible to feel helpless when contemplating the vanishing rainforests, melting polar ice caps and disappearing ozone layer, the combined positive environmental actions of the population can and do make a difference. All it takes to get started on going green is a few ideas on how to be environmentally friendly.

Each of us has so many opportunities and ways to be environmentally friendly. Whether you’re already living an eco-friendly lifestyle or not, here are 20 eco-friendly living tips broken up into four main topics: Food; Water; Energy; and Recycle, Reduce, Reuse.


  • Plan Your Meals
  • Planning your meals out before a trip to the grocery store has many benefits. For one, you only buy the food you need, meaning you save time and money. Instead of making several trips to the grocery store each week for last-minute ingredients and whatever products catch your eye, you’ll have everything you need. You’re also much less likely to waste food that you don’t have enough time to eat before it goes bad. As an added bonus, you can better balance what you’re eating to make sure you and your family are meeting your nutritional needs.

  • Shop Local
  • When you shop from places that feature local products, particularly food at farmers markets, the things you buy haven’t had to be shipped far to get to you, meaning less use of fossil fuel and less environmental harm.

  • Eat Less Meat
  • The meat industry has an environment impact on several facets of the environment, including deforestation, water use, pollution and greenhouse gases. Adding alternative food, such as more eco-friendly protein sources, to your diet — beans, nuts, and soy products are a few options — while removing some of the red meat can make a difference.


    canvas tote at the beach

  • Conserve Water
  • There are so many ways to conserve water! A big one is to go green on getting clean. The majority of water use in the home takes place in the bathroom. Ideas to save on water in the bathroom include taking shorter showers, turning off the water while brushing teeth or lathering up, and installing water-saving toilets and shower heads (more on that later). In the kitchen, fill the sink with water rather to do dishes rather than leaving it running, and run the dishwasher only when it’s full. The same principle applies to washing a load of laundry. Yard maintenance is another area that can use a lot of water. Cut back on how much water you put on your lawn by watering in the early morning or evening when temperatures are lower, and be careful not to overwater. Install drip hoses instead of sprinklers for landscaping and garden plants.

  • Dispose of Chemicals Correctly
  • Many household cleaners, as well as paint and other substances, including medications, aren’t safe to put down the drain. These things cause pollution that is more difficult for water treatment centers to remove from the water. Keep your water supply clean and free from pollution!

  • Install Water-Saving Appliances
  • Water-efficient, low-flush toilets and high-efficiency washing machines can save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Older toilets can take four times as much water to flush as some of the newer toilets on the market — 7 gallons per flush compared to 1.28 gallons. Low-flow showerheads are another idea to cut down on your water use if shortening your shower time proves difficult.

  • Repair Leaks
  • Even a slow drip leak can waste hundreds of gallons of water a year. Check your toilets, faucets, and sinks for leaks and get them fixed right away.


  • Turn Off What You Aren’t Using
  • To save energy, make sure lights, TVs and other electronics are turned off when you aren’t using them. You can further save energy by unplugging the appliances you don’t use frequently.

  • Install Energy-Saving Appliances
  • If it’s getting to be time to replace an appliance in your home, shop around for a more energy-efficient, eco-friendly model. Though they are small, older light bulbs use up a lot more energy than new compact fluorescent light bulbs. New bulbs also last longer, so while they may appear to cost more up front than other products, between their longevity and energy conservation, they actually save you money in the long run as well as being green.

  • Moderate Your Heating and Cooling
  • Don’t set the thermostat to be overly cool in the summer or overly warm in the winter. Open windows at night to cool your home, and invest in heavy curtains to cover large windows to help maintain the temperature in your home in any season.

  • Use Your Car Less
  • The average American puts more than 10,000 miles on their car each year, with the largest share of miles coming from commuting to and from work most days of the week. All of that adds up to some serious pollution and lasting environmental damage. Many cities have or are in the process of adding improved public transit systems. Using public transit and going green means fewer vehicles on the road, lower emissions, cleaner air, and — bonus — a chance to avoid feeling road rage when someone cuts you off in rush hour traffic.

    Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

  • Recycle
  • Your city may offer curbside recycling, which is an excellent program to take advantage of. Familiarize yourself with the items that can be recycled, collect them in between pickup times, and watch as your garbage can fills more slowly because you’re separating out things that can be recycled. If curbside recycling isn’t available, seek out a local recycling center or drop-off location and plan trips to take your recycle items there.

  • Skip the Disposables
  • Paper plates and plastic cutlery may make picnicking easier, but single-use items are a terrible waste when there are plenty of reusable and sustainable alternatives. Whenever you’re about to purchase a one-use item, consider whether there is an alternative that could be used over and over again before being discarded. This helps the planet but can also save you a lot of money in very little time.

  • Use Cloth, Not Paper
  • It’s been estimated that 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used in the United States alone each year. Unlike many paper products, paper towels cannot be recycled because they are usually made from already recycled paper pulp. So instead of reaching for a paper towel to wipe up a spill, use an eco-friendly dishcloth. On a similar note, the average baby uses about 8 diapers a day, with an estimated 20 billion disposable diapers thrown away each year. Using cloth diapers can have a positive environmental impact by helping to cut down on the 3.5 million tons of diaper waste being added to landfills annually.

  • Don’t Drink Bottled Water
  • Unless you live in a place where the local water supply isn’t safe to drink due to pollution, there’s no need to drink bottled water. Not only is it a waste of money, but it also uses millions of tons of plastic each year — much of which is not recycled. You can use a pitcher with a built-in filter if you’re concerned about your tap water, and refrigerating your tap water can also help improve the taste. By the way: More than half of all bottled water originates from a tap somewhere, anyway.

  • Use Reusable Shopping Bags
  • Plastic grocery bags are a bane on the environment. They can’t be recycled in the same way as other plastic materials such as plastic bottles, they’re harmful to wildlife, and they take forever to break down. Do some environmental good by bringing reusable shopping bags with you to the store to carry home groceries and other purchases. If you forget your bags and end up using plastic ones, take them to a drop off area where they can be recycled properly (check out this location finder) — your curbside bin likely won’t cut it.