This April 22, more than one billion people around the world are expected to participate in Earth Day activities. They will march, sign petitions, meet with elected officials, clean neighborhoods, and take other sustainability-focused actions. Thinking about Earth Day has us wondering: what about the day after? What else can we do on the other 364 days of the year that are not Earth Day?
Here are some ideas for greening your every day. Most are simple and easy to achieve, and can make a big difference.
Commuting with Environmental Consciousness
One opportunity to make an individual environmental impact comes from the daily commute. Transportation by car accounts for about half of the carbon footprint of a typical American family with 2 cars (the largest source of household emissions). And it’s getting worse: one study says that worsening traffic congestion in US cities is causing commuters to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and almost 7 billion extra hours–42 hours per rush-hour commuter—just sitting in traffic. The national price tag? $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.
There are a few ways to make your commute more environmentally-sustainable:
- Take mass transit—It’s true, making the switch to take mass transit can decrease your household carbon footprint by 8 percent. Bonus: potential savings on gas and more time to relax, read, or catch up on work during your commute. Taking mass transit for even one day a week, or part of your commute, can help!
- Telecommute—Not having to commute at all makes for the greenest commute! Consider checking with your employer about work-from-home options like a 4-day week with longer days.
- Walk or bike—the only thing better than not commuting is to power the commute yourself! Not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for your health! Start small—with part of the commute or one day a week—before working up to more.
If you do have to drive, consider carpooling—the more people in a car, the more energy-efficient the commute. It’s even easier to carpool these days with digital technology. Do keep your car tuned regularly and running as efficiently as possible. If it’s an option, consider an electric or hybrid vehicle.
While you’re out and about
End Plastic Pollution is the main theme of Earth Day 2018, and it’s an important goal to remember especially when you’re on the go. Instead ofbuying plastic bottles of water when you’re out of the house, bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill all day long.
When headed to work, you might want to pack a reusable beverage container for your coffee or tea. Or if you can, pack lunch in a reusable container (instead of buying lunch) to cut down use of disposable plastic containers and bags. If you do end up with plastic disposables, make sure to recycle whenever possible. Another tip: bring a reusable shopping bag when shopping for groceries or other items.
Around the house
Below are easy, earth-friendly actions you can take at home each day. Many focus on reducing energy use since, in a typical American home, about 15% of energy use is for cooling, 10% for heating water, and 10% for lighting.
- Get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room.
- When you leave for work, turn off your heater or air conditioner, or set as little heat or air conditioning as possible. In winter, the heater should be set to 68° F when you’re home and lower when you’re away or sleeping; in summer, the air conditioning should be set to 78° F when you’re home and higher when you’re away or sleeping. Better yet, install smart thermostats so you can set it and forget it!
- Take short 5-minute showers.
- Fill up dishwashers before you run them.
- Run laundry loads in cold water as much as possible.
- Use earth-friendly soaps and cleaning products to keep chemicals out of the environment.
- Sort recycling from trash and consider composting food scraps.
- Explore renewable energy options for your home, including Community Solar
Make a difference every day
The more people choose to make conscious decisions in daily living, the more our environment will benefit. Your daily actions to reduce, reuse, and recycle may even inspire others around you to do the same. Together, let’s celebrate Earth Day each and every day!