The holidays are almost here and it’s time to check your gift list to be sure you’re not forgetting anyone. There are gifts for Mom and Dad. You have the kids covered, and you just picked up something for Grandma and Pop. But what about Mother Earth. For all she gives us, we really should think about how we can return the favor. One of the best gifts we can give our celestial home is a commitment to some simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in our impact on the planet.
The livestock industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions on Earth than vehicular transport. Not only do cattle methane emissions account for 37% of all human-produced methane, forests continue to be cleared to feed the ever-growing industry. By reducing the amount of meat and other animal products you and your family eat and choosing vegetables, legumes and other healthy, meatless options you can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
A brightly lit screen on you laptop, desktop computer or tablet can greatly increase the energy use of your devices. To reduce the amount of energy needed to power them (and keep your battery going strong for longer), reduce screen brightness to the lowest level you can still comfortably see. On desktop computers, set the display to turn itself off when it isn’t being used, and power down when you’re finished using it. When you upgrade your devices, recycle the old ones.
Collecting and employing the use of inexpensive reusable shopping bags whenever you shop is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic and paper bags that end up in landfills. Some grocery stores even offer reusable bags with thermal linings, which will keep your hot items hot and cold items cold – and separate from other foods. Keep a few bags of varying sizes handy in the car for all of your shopping trips.
Want to save money, give more meaningful gifts and make a softer impact on Mother Earth? Consider giving homemade gifts this holiday. It all adds up – the packaging of a store-bought item as well as its transport from the manufacturer, to the retailer, to your home. Making your own gifts is fun, it fosters creativity and let’s you put more thought into what you give. To really make a difference, create your own giftwrap as well.
Keep it local. By purchasing locally grown and produced products, you are supporting your neighbors and communities. Local farms and businesses not only produce outstanding products, they provide our communities with jobs and economic development opportunities that benefit the whole region. Buying local products also cuts down on transport and packaging impacts. Besides, there is nothing like the fresh taste of locally grown food.
Adjusting your thermostat settings by two degrees will not make a noticeable difference in the room’s temperature, but it will save energy and reduce your home’s consumption rate. In addition to powering down your computers and electronics when they’re not in use, turn off the lights when you don’t need them. Being more mindful of your heating, cooling and lighting can prevent thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year.
We are a wasteful nation. About one third of all food in this country ends up in landfills. So what can we do about it? Carefully plan meals and purchase only what you can reasonably use. Save or donate leftovers. Compost organic items like banana peels and coffee grounds. Cook and eat at home rather than at a restaurant. By reducing waste you reduce your carbon footprint.
Save energy and water by washing full loads of laundry. Take the hassle out of sorting by having separate laundry baskets designated for whites, colors and darks, and only washing the laundry when a basket is full. Heating a washing machine full of water takes a lot of energy, but in most cases, cold or warm washes just as well as hot. Cold water can always be used during the rinse cycle.
Check out services that can help you remove your name from mailing lists for credit card offers, catalogs and other unwanted junk mail. This simple act can save you from receiving hundreds of pieces every year. In doing so you will help reduce the staggering 4 million tons of junk mail printed annually, destroying millions of trees, adding to landfills and consuming more energy for their production and disposal than 2.8 million cars.
Did you know that the average amount of water used in your bathroom accounts for about 75 percent of the water used in your whole home? A bathroom faucet flows at a rate of about two gallons per minute. To reduce water use, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. You can save eight gallons of water per day or 240 gallons every month. If only 10 percent of the 325.7 million Americans took this simple step, imagine how much water could be saved in a year!
By making these small but meaningful changes to your daily routine, you can live a little greener and make a huge positive impact on the planet. Happy holidays, Mother Earth.