What does eco-friendly mean?
In short, eco-friendly means behavior that is not harmful to the environment. According to Dictionary.com, eco-friendly is an adjective, but it is not just a descriptive term, it is a verb, it is something you do. By which we mean making more conscious decisions throughout our day-to-day lives about how we can adopt and/or further an eco-friendly lifestyle. The most notable ways to be more eco-friendly is to reduce, reuse and recycle but it goes further than that. Reducing one’s carbon footprint while conserving water and energy are some of the most impactful ways we can all live eco-friendlier lifestyles.
Why is it important to become more eco-friendly?
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Anonymous
Consider your eco-friendly journey as daily habits and practices that will enable future generations to live on healthy soil and breathe fresh air instead of thinking about how earlier generations contributed to pollution and climate change. The habits we form today will have a rippling effect and will no doubt affect the children of tomorrow. That is why it is in everyone’s best interest to make environmentally sound decisions today. Start wherever you are and however you can, even the smallest stone thrown into a lake, can make ripples all the way to the edges of the water.
Effortless ways to start your eco-friendly journey
Below are ways to start your eco-friendly journey and information to help you and those around you make environmentally sound decisions.
Use Canvas Bags for Shopping
Buying canvas bags to store in your car when going grocery shopping is a quick and effortless way to avoid using plastic bags. Most shoppers buy groceries 1-2 times a week, totaling 50 or more bags a month on average per shopper. While these plastic bags are recyclable, most do not get recycled at all and end up in landfills. If these bags do not get used, the environment will be much better off. Another way to live more eco-friendly is to buy food locally. Most cities have farmers’ markets 1 to 2 days a week, at varying hours open to the public. Not only will buying locally reduce the use of packaging, but it will also contribute to a healthier lifestyle and boost the community economy.
Reuse Containers to Refill Products
Lots of stores are now offering consumers the choice to refill products using their own containers. Products like coffee, dish detergent and water are now being offered all over America in refillable containers. Glass mason jars are perfect for this. If you do not have any glass jars on hand, hold on to the current detergent container or coffee bin you already bought from the store and reuse those until you can get a hold of more sustainable material. This choice is also more cost effective than having to buy these products off the shelves again. If you are someone who even occasionally buys the 24-pack of water bottles because you prefer filtered water, there are several filters you can buy and easily attach to your home kitchen faucet. Once you buy reusable water bottles, you can skip lugging the heavy packs of water into your cart at the grocery store.
Use Glass versus Plastic Bottles
Plastic containers hit the market in the 1960s and became popular in the 1970s because of cheap production and the reusable nature. However, reusability is not the only thing to consider when aiming to be more eco-friendly. Now we know microplastics are very harmful, not only to the environment and animals but also to one’s health. To recycle plastic, the recyclers must heat the plastic, which causes the occurrence of microplastics. We have recently found these microplastics in the deepest parts of the ocean and even in newborns’ bloodstream, because of these reasons, it is best to avoid plastic altogether. Glass containers have been on the rise because they are more sustainable than plastic and pose no harm to the health of humans, plants, and animals. It is time to recycle those old, stained plastic containers and opt for glass ones.
Buying organic foods is not just healthier for the body; they are indeed healthier for the environment. Organic food is food grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or other artificial agents that are damaging to the air and the land.
Avoid Single-Use Plastic Containers
When shopping for food or non-editable products, it is best to avoid single-use plastic containers. Packaging for single-use plastic items has a one time use then discarded. Instead, look for alternative items packaged in glass or aluminum.
Reduce Unnecessary Purchases, Shop Economically
It is hard to go into a grocery store and buy only what is on your shopping list. However, living an eco-friendlier lifestyle also means buying only what you need. It is difficult for many of us to stroll our shopping carts past all the sale signs and pass up what you think is a good deal, but you are not actually saving. Think of it like this: if a store advertises 3 products for $10 when only one of those products costs $4, you may think you have saved $2 if you buy 3 of the products, when you are spending an additional $6 you didn’t intend to. If you find passing up on these ‘sales’ too difficult, opt for the ‘order online-pickup in store’ choice. This way, you are not even tempted.
How to compost easily and effectively?
Composting is a natural way to recycle that supplies enriched soil perfect for gardening. It not only reduces the amount of waste hauled off to landfills, but it also reduces methane emissions and decreases your carbon footprint. Composting has increased in the U.S. to curb our food waste problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of the world’s food goes to waste or is lost. You can compost food scraps, leaves and even tea bags.
Look for a space in your front and back yard, typically 12 to 24 inches wide with a similar length. Your compost pile should be in a dry shady area, preferably near a water source to make it easier to moisten your compost. However, a water hose will do. Your city may offer a free compost bin upon request, so be sure to check your city’s website before getting started. The best practice is to keep the compost covered. If your city does not disperse bins, a tarp will do simply fine. You should also check for free recycle bins as well if you do not already have one. Recycle bins are the first step to separating recyclables from landfill items. You can typically find them on your city’s website.
If no outdoor area is available, you can still compost inside your home or on your balcony. Compost bins are available for purchase; however, you can make one as well. Large bins from hardware stores or freezer bins will work simply fine. You can also use a countertop composter. To help keep the smell down, use a ratio of 3:1, meaning try to use 3 times the amount of non-food waste in your compost bin.
To help get you started on your composting journey, here is a list of items that are easily compostable. This is going to provide you with nutrient rich soil through natural decomposition.
Note: To keep critters and flies away, fruit and vegetables need to be buried 10 inches below the compost. Once the soil at the bottom is dark and rich in color, the soil is ready for use. The total composting process usually takes 2-6 months.
Things you can compost inside the home include:
- Crushed eggshells
- Coffee grounds
- Pet fur
- Shredded cardboard
- Shredded black and white newspaper (not magazines)
- Shredded wool rags and shredded cotton
Items that are compostable outside the home:
- Grass clippings and leaves
- Wood chips
- Yard trimmings
Make sure to avoid these items in your compost bin:
- Dairy (butter, milk, eggs)
- Diseased plants
- Charcoal ashes
- Toxic materials
- Cat or dog waste
- Items labeled as non-compostable
How to reduce your carbon footprint?
There are several ways to reduce your carbon footprint to help reduce the number of emissions transmitted into the environment and the earth’s atmosphere. An effortless way is to bike to work 1 to 2 days a week. A lot of us are still working from home, so adapt this to running errands instead of hopping into your car. If you are currently working a hybrid schedule, you can ditch the car altogether and bike the 2 or 3 days a week you are required to go into the office. The average car emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, so even cutting out a little driving time can drastically help the environment. Not all of us are active or live close to work, so you can also opt to buy an electric bike. These can go up to 25 miles per hour and often last up to 50 miles on a single charge.
The carpool lane is much faster and a fantastic way to reduce you and your carpool friends carbon footprint as well. Ever consider public transportation? If not, now’s the time. Most cities offer public transport throughout most towns. While riding the bus, you will be able to text and call friends, even apply your makeup, or finish your breakfast, things no one should do while driving. Public transport is undoubtedly cheaper than the cost of fuel right now and if you buy a weekly or monthly pass, you can save even more money. Some cities even have bus-only driving lanes, cutting down the wait in traffic and making your commute shorter!
Buying a new car soon? Consider buying an electric vehicle, this way you can reduce your carbon footprint and save tons on the soaring fuel prices. Electric cars not only use renewable energy, but they are also much more energy efficient. Electric cars convert 59 to 62 percent of energy into vehicle movement than gas powered cars, which only convert around 20 percent. This means electric cars put more into the vehicle’s movement than a car that uses gas.
Fun activities made eco-friendly
Who does not love a game of beer pong? But what the environment does not love is the excessive use of plastic cups. Great news, Ball has released an aluminum cup that is a lot more environmentally friendly than the original red cups. These aluminum cups are reusable and keep beverages colder up to 5 times longer. Using these reusable cups also means saving money because there is no need to repurchase them for the next game. Once you win the game of beer pong, simply wash the aluminum cups and store in a dry place for safekeeping. Red solo cups have become a staple in American culture, but now it is time to make environmentally friendly cups the new staple.
Birthday parties, weddings, graduations, and baby showers are notorious for confetti and understandably so. Confetti creates an exciting atmosphere for celebration and creates impressive effects for photos, but those plastic bits are hard to recycle and rarely ever are. Instead of the traditional confetti, grab a hole puncher from your local craft store and punch holes into tree leaves. This way, when it is thrown into the air, it can fall where it may and not harm the environment. Stores now even sell hole punchers in the shapes of hearts and stars, so you do not have to lose out on any of the fun shapes or excitement as you throw the confetti into the air.
During the summer months, we all love the smell of BBQ, but even more I love the taste, however, grills that require charcoal are the least eco-friendly choice. Instead of opting for a charcoal grill, upgrade your grill to gas or electric. If you cannot afford to upgrade right away, choose to burn wood instead. A wood grilled burger is just as tasty as a charcoal grilled one and stores have cherry or apple wood for a great added flavor to your food.
Children and adults alike all love to tear through themed and colorful wrapping paper on holidays and birthdays, however, wrapping paper is non-recyclable. Because of the laminates and additives in traditional wrapping paper, it ends up in a landfill once it is discarded. There are now recyclable wrapping papers on the market for purchase, so no one must trade beautifully wrapped gifts for environmentally sound options.
Homes made eco-friendly
Renewable energy is a terrific way to maximize and solidify your eco-friendly lifestyle. Solar panels are a fantastic way to create clean reusable energy, the downside is that it can be pricey. Companies like Solar Run offer solar panel installment for the same monthly cost as your current energy bill until you have paid the installment in full. That way, you do not have to have the funds upfront. Solar panels are not just for homeowners, if you are renting a home, you can place the panels in the backyard to collect sunlight and take them with you when you move. If you are renting an apartment, you have the choice of purchasing smaller panels that you can hang in your windows and use that energy to charge your cell phone and power smaller electronics. This is one of the best ways to save money long term as the sun will always rise and supply renewable energy. Keep in mind turning out the lights in rooms that are not in use and/or switching out your bulbs for lower wattage/LED light bulbs can go a long way in conserving energy. Electronics use energy when plugged in, even when they are not in use. This is called phantom electricity. Electronics such as cell phone charges, TVs, coffeemakers, and more are all using energy just by being plugged into the wall. When these items are not in use, unplug them and watch how much money you save!
We are all taught to brush our teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes, which makes for great dental hygiene. However, to conserve water, make sure you are not leaving the water running while you are brushing your teeth. A running tap will use 3-5 gallons per minute. This practice can save you over 7,000 gallons of water a year. Now think of what you can also save on your monthly water bill. Another way to conserve water is to reduce your daily showers to 5 minutes total. This will also save you tons of water and money. Local and online stores now sell shower timers. They attach to your shower wall using suction cups, so installation is easy. These products allow you to keep track of your bathing time because, let us face it, we can all lose track of time in the shower. Another effective way to keep track of time in the shower to conserve water is to pick your favorite 5-minute song and sing it aloud (or in your head) while in the shower. Once the song is up, hop out and pat yourself on the back for conserving one of earth’s most valuable resources.
Cleaning the eco-friendly way:
Eco-friendly cleaning products reduce harmful contributions to land pollution, the air and water. Many people are not aware of the harmful environmental effects of commonly used cleaning products. They advertise cleaners such as bleach and Lysol as being easy to use and effective in killing germs. However, these products are harsh chemicals and irritants that are avoidable. The harmful effects are spreading widely as alternative non-toxic cleaning products are hitting the market. Grove Collaborative is a sustainable company offering eco-friendly cleaning products such as hand soaps, laundry detergent, floor cleaners and much more. It also supplied these products to their consumers in glass and/or biodegradable packaging.
Eco- Friendly Hygiene
People throw out over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes each year just in the U. S, adding 50 million pounds of waste. Natural bamboo, beech or cornstarch toothbrushes are a great alternative as they biodegrade in 6 months and avoid plastic bristles.
You can also purchase eco-friendly body wash, shampoo and deodorant, making your bathroom routine zero waste. Public Goods is a great product line offering these products and more.
Upcycling: Turn Trash into Treasure
There are creative uses for items you usually discard. Take used can goods, for example, these make great planters for new or old plants. To prep the can, all you must do is remove the labeling and carefully puncture a small hole in the bottom and voila! Your growing succulent has a new home. We can also use these for starter flowers.
Once the plant gets bigger, then you can transfer it to your front or back yard. Aluminum cans are small enough to fit comfortably on the windowsill of a kitchen, making them perfect to grow herbs.
Do you plan to toss out used candle jars? Not anymore. These jars are perfect for storage and often come in glass or metal packaging, making them very sustainable and sturdy. All you must do is to freeze the jars and the leftover wax will pop right out with a butter knife. Once you remove the labeling, the options are endless. Use them to store cotton balls, Q-Tips, pins, or anything you choose.
Are you thinking of recycling unwanted socks? Consider repurposing them instead. If socks can keep our feet warm or from sweating, they can do the same for beverages. Try cutting off the tops and slipping them over a cold beverage to prevent condensation from getting your hands wet. You can also put them over the mugs of hot coffee or tea to keep from burning your fingertips – this way you are not also tied to only picking up your mug from the handle.
Less Meat = Eco-friendly
Livestock is currently responsible for almost 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing greenhouse gasses contributes to a warming effect around the globe, this concept is better known as global warming. From 1990 to 2019, the total warming effect from greenhouse gasses added by humans to the Earth’s atmosphere increased by 45 percent. We can help to decrease this effect by cutting meat out of our diet. Twenty-two percent of the global population is vegetarian, and that number is steadily rising. Changing eating habits can be difficult and does not have to happen overnight. Many people have chosen slowly to reduce meat from their diet. One can start with one day a week, like a no-meat Monday, and opt for healthier alternatives that are still filling.
Foods such as pasta, potatoes, and rice are still very filling and can easily replace the meat in your meal. You can also keep making your favorite dishes, just opt to replace the meat with vegetables. An example of meat replacement may include substituting meat sauce for your spaghetti for just the tomato-based marinara sauce.
Another choice is to substitute vegan meat. Tofu or beans are usually used as non-meat substitutes, but they taste great. Morning star is an amazing brand offering everything from bacon to chicken sandwiches. Once successful with no-meat Monday, expand it to another day of the week until you have successfully cut enough from your diet.
Remember, it takes a village to ensure we all live on a healthy planet, so share this article with friends and family and start an eco-friendly journey together!