Sustainability: 10 Things you Should Do Starting TodayFebruary 28, 2011
The popular movement to adopt sustainability as a core virtue has made impressive progress in recent years. Environmentalism has gone from a barely noticeable fringe movement to a powerful mainstream force that has dramatically transformed the marketplace and changed which companies can succeed today. This trend has also brought an environmental consciousness to our attention in a way that is similar to how the feminist movement brought concerns about women’s rights to our everyday considerations. Here is a short list of ten things you can start doing today to improve the sustainability of your lifestyle.
10. Recycle as much as possible
This is one of the best ways to minimize your environmental impact. There is little doubt about the fact that we are quickly running out of places to store and dispose of our waste. Recycling anything from plastic bottles and used paper to old cell phones and clothes automatically means that there is less stress on our landfills as well as less demand for materials that must be extracted from the natural environment.
9. Use LEED certified architects and contractors
The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a third-party certification program that helps promote concern over sustainability in approaches to building construction and design. Certified companies have shown a dedication to using environmentally friendly materials to build more resource efficient homes and commercial buildings. Consider hiring certified businesses on your next remodeling project or when designing a new home. Studies have shown that an extra 2% initial investment in sustainable building can bring back a return of up to ten times that much throughout the life of the building.
8. Make informed food choices
One of the major concerns today is over the sustainability of our farming practices. Many commercial farming techniques cause the land to be unusable after a short period of time and use pesticides which can contaminate the surrounding ecosystem. There are alternatives which take better care of the land and are better able to be utilized well into the future. Finding out where to buy produce that is grown in this way will not only help promote farmers who use sustainable practices, but it will also encourage others to follow suit. Buying locally grown food also helps cut down on emissions that are associated with shipping.
7. Plant a garden
While most of us don’t have the time to grow enough food to live off of, many do have room for a small outdoor or indoor garden that can provide a few meals or fresh garnishes. In addition to cutting down on your grocery bills and environmental impact, gardening can be a rewarding hobby that helps to see what your efforts at sustainability are working to protect.
6. Learn more about the goods you consume
Aside from food, there are many other consumer products that are being produced, packaged and distributed in more sustainable ways. Do some research before buying things like carpets, paper towels, or furniture. There may be companies that are making the same product with similar or even better quality but in a much more sustainable way. A few minutes of looking online can help you make better decisions about the sustainability of a particular brand, and this can make a significant difference in the long run.
5. Reuse packaging materials
This can include anything from sending packages out in boxes that you received from someone else to finding creative ways to reuse the bags your bread comes in. Choosing to do this instead of buying new baggies to carry lunch in or boxes to store old papers in can save you a lot of money over the course of a few years, and will also make a big impact in the effort to improve the sustainability of your consumption habits.
4. Monitor your energy consumption
This is one of the easiest ways to make a big difference. Even unplugging appliances when they are not in use or keeping the windows shut when the heat or air conditioning is on goes a long way towards reducing your environmental footprint. For the more dedicated souls, a great idea is to find ways to take your home off of the power grid by installing solar panels and other sources of renewable energy to make your house self-sufficient.
3. Maintain your car and use it more efficiently
Little things like changing the oil regularly and keeping the tires inflated can improve the gas mileage of your car. In addition to doing things like carpooling when possible and running more errands at once so you don’t have to make as many trips, some people choose to upgrade their vehicle by installing a new intake or exhaust system that dramatically improves their car’s emissions.
2. Purchase efficient home appliances
In addition to building more efficient homes, filling them with refrigerators or washing machines that are able to accomplish more work while taking fewer resources is a great way to cut down on energy bills as well as your overall environmental impact.
1. Donate to charitable organizations that are dedicated to sustainability
There are many non-profit groups that focus on promoting awareness about environmental concerns and working toward a world of sustainable development. Helping out a few carefully chosen charities can go a long way toward making a big legislative and cultural impact.
After you have tried out some of these suggestions, perhaps the most important thing you can do is educate yourself and promote awareness among others. Even if you do everything in your power to make your lifestyle more sustainable, there is only so much that can be done by any one person. Spend some time reading books and watching documentaries that deal with these issues, and share what you find with the people that you know. If you encourage one other person to adopt some of the changes that you have, then you have just doubled your impact.