One of the best gifts that we’ve gotten from the past decade is the concept of eco-friendliness, which requires us to make environment-conscious decisions and refrain from actions that may lead to an increase in pollution or damage to the environment. Eco-friendliness has been around for the past few decades. However, in previous years, it was one of the most widely discussed topics worldwide. But how to be more eco-friendly?
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humanity at the moment, which is why governments introduce various programs and campaigns to educate people about being environmentally friendly and trying to avoid further damage to the earth. Thanks to us, global temperatures are rising every year, and soon we’ll face an even more significant challenge than the pandemic.
Even though the governments and various international organizations are doing everything they can to mitigate the risk of global warming and environmental destruction, the responsibility also falls on our shoulders. There are some baby steps that you can take to start the journey towards being eco-friendlier in your daily life.
Let’s have a look at all the ways you can begin leading an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Why Is It Important To Become Eco-Friendly?
One of the primary reasons why most people in the world are talking about eco-friendliness is that they’re made aware of the impact that our actions are having on the environment. Using plastic and toxic materials, dumping industrial waste, producing harmful gases – these are just some of the ways we harm the environment.
And when we do something to harm the environment, it hits back at us. As you might’ve heard many times, the use of certain hazardous gases has caused the depletion of the ozone layer, which shields the earth from the scorching rays of the sun. Consequently, the earth is experiencing much higher temperatures than it did a decade or two ago.
The worst part is, every year, the earth is heating a degree or two more, which means that when the next decade rolls around, the situation will go out of hand. We’ve already witnessed that the ice is rapidly melting in the North Pole. Plus, the rising temperature also becomes a significant factor in causing wildfires, and there were more than 50,000 wildfires in the world in the year 2020 alone.
The environment maintains a perfect balance. Whenever we do something to harm it, it tries to mitigate the risk by tipping the scales to the other side. But with the amount of damage that it has endured in the past decade alone, the scale is severely tipping towards environmental destruction, which will cause floods, fires, and many other unforeseen natural calamities.
You might think, “I don’t own a chemical factory, so I don’t dump toxic waste into the river and cause pollution. How am I responsible for global warming?” Little do you know, there are hundreds of small unconscious actions that you take daily that cause damage to the environment.
Therefore, it’s time to make eco-friendly decisions and try to balance the scales once again; otherwise, it would cause doomsday for us.
What Environmental Problems Are We Facing?
There is a myriad of environmental problems and disasters that we’ve brought upon ourselves, mainly due to our negligence. We’ve taken so much from the earth and nature, but we forgot that taking is followed by giving back. The responsibility to save the environment from damage is ours, and it’s something we don’t recognize.
Here are some of the environmental problems that are upon us:
Erosion is caused by the weakening of a piece of land or area, mainly due to the excessive construction that we’ve carried out everywhere and anywhere we find space. Another reason for erosion is extreme weather conditions.
Due to excessive construction and erosion, there has also been an increase in soil degradation, which leaves the soil damaged and unsuitable for cultivation. As a result, we’re also losing the space that we have for farming and agriculture. This can lead to food shortages and famines in the coming years if we’re not careful.
Since the day you’re born, you must’ve heard the word ‘pollution’ a billion times. Everyone talks about it but, sadly, nobody does anything to mitigate it. The most prominent causes of pollution are the smoke produced by our vehicles, as well as factories. There are three main types of pollution: water, air, and land. We’ve become major contributors in all three of them.
Air pollution is one of the major types of pollution, and it severely affects our health.
Deforestation refers to the excessive cutting down of trees in the forests and the reduced possibility of new trees growing. Forests are mainly destroyed to make way for projects and constructions, such as highways, roads, oil plantations, and much more. Consequently, a piece of land that had a million trees is now a monument of a million bricks.
Forests are crucial to human life, as the hoard of trees gives out oxygen and takes in carbon dioxide. They’re also responsible for keeping the temperature low in the surroundings. Now that most of the forests are wiped out, there’s not much to protect us from the adverse environmental effects we’re heading towards.
Extinction of Animal Species
Another major threat to the Earth is the extinction of animal species, and we’re to blame. Land animals, especially those that live inside forests, lose their natural habitat due to deforestation and can’t survive much longer. Moreover, we actively hunt many of the land animals and also cast our vast nets into the rivers and seas, which leads to a decline in the fish population.
Animals deserve to live as much as humans do, and they’re also important to humans in many ways. For instance, most animals either provide food or can be consumed as food, and if we keep adding more and more animals to the endangered or extinct species list, we won’t be left with much.
So you see, we’re facing several major environmental problems, and since it’s our responsibility to preserve the environment and get it back on its feet, we must start taking action right away.
The main reason for this is the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which have nearly doubled in 200 years. It’s caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial activity.
How Can I Become More Eco-Friendly?
After reading all the stuff there is on the internet about being eco-friendly, you might be convinced to start, but you may be blank as to what the first step is. If you’re in this situation, don’t worry. Thousands of people face this dilemma and fail to decide where to start. Let us help you by guiding you through all the steps you can take to lead a life based on eco-friendly decisions. So, let’s dive in!
The first step to starting an eco-friendly life is to choose items and products that cause the least or minimal harm to the environment. This can be something as small as your straw to something bigger, like your clothing. All this requires extensive and effective research, and thanks to Google, you can get all the information you need within a few seconds.
Let’s have a look at the steps you can take to contribute towards an eco-friendly lifestyle.
While you’re not a big of a polluter as major corporations, there are many things that you do around the house that can aid in pollution. As a homeowner, you have the power to bring about significant environmental change by following a few steps.
Use Renewable Energy
A major step towards becoming environmentally friendly is to swap out your electricity supply to a renewable energy source. Chances are, your house is powered by electricity that comes from a non-renewable source, like oil or gas. They’re major proponents for environmental destruction, which is why you should think about making the switch towards renewable energy.
Solar panels have become largely popular in the past few years, and they make use of the sun as their energy source. When the rays fall onto the photovoltaic surface of these panels, it stores the energy and converts it into electricity through the help of an inverter and battery. It can produce enough electricity to power up your home at night as well.
Solar energy is significantly more environmentally friendly than oil or gas and yes, solar will save you energy costs. Other renewable forms of energy include water and wind, but these aren’t something you can try at home.
A simple switch for you is a huge switch for the planet. Your local utility company may have a green option – if they do, choose it! Ninety-one percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. comes from non-renewable sources, of which 77% is derived from the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). Fossil fuel combustion comprises the single largest category of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the US and worldwide. CO2 emissions contribute to climate change by trapping heat inside the earth’s atmosphere. We can reduce CO2 emissions and our carbon footprint not only through energy conservation, but also by ways of using cleaner energy: solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact hydro and others.
Fossil fuels are nonrenewable because, though made in nature, fossil fuel deposits require hundreds of millions of years to form. Oil, coal and natural gas will eventually run out. Replacing fossil fuels and non-renewable uranium used for nuclear power, with renewable sources that are sustainable, will secure our energy future.
Currently, non-hydro renewable energy sources make up 2.4% of the U.S. energy supply, but renewable energy can provide a larger portion of the nation’s energy needs and reduce environmental impacts and risks from using fossil fuels and nuclear power to generate electricity. More than 750 utilities across the nation offer a green pricing option. Alternatively, or in addition, consumers can purchase renewable energy certificates or RECs (also known as green tags), which support green power that may not flow directly to their meter.
You can live an eco-friendly life is by switching out your non-renewable and costly heating system for something that utilizes renewable energy. Heaters are powered by different energy sources, such as gas, oil, electricity, and biomass. Out of these, electric and biomass heaters are eco-friendlier, and you can use them to heat your homes.
You can also swap out your gas or oil-powered heater for a heat pump, which has a low energy consumption and eliminate the need for oil tanks or gas pipes. You can also utilize solar energy to heat or boil water so that you don’t have to make use of gas. Another benefit of using renewable energy for heating is that you get to save big on your energy bills.
Most of the cleaning products that are used around the house consist of chemicals and materials that are harmful to the environment. These products include detergents, cleaners, preservatives, and much more. You can replace these harmful products with those that include sustainably grown ingredients. When you’re out shopping for cleaning solutions, look for the ingredients. Avoid those which contain synthetic ingredients.
It’s easy to stock your cleaning cupboard with non-toxic cleaning supplies, and you don’t have to sacrifice the sparkle. Ever wonder what all those scary symbols on your cleaning products mean? They mean they are dangerous to your health. Most conventional cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that put humans and the environment at risk. Chemical ingredients can range from mildly irritating to poisonous and can cause respiratory tract irritation, skin inflammation, eye irritation, nausea, headaches, dizziness and even vomiting. Some are known or suspected carcinogens.
Spraying and wiping surfaces with dangerous toxins just doesn’t make sense: you are polluting your home while trying to clean it. There are safe alternatives to the caustic brews that have become so mainstream, and we don’t have to trade a clean house for a safe house. Nontoxic products are now widely available—and are as effective as they are safe. Manufacturers try to scare us into buying anti-bacterial products, but the truth is that we don’t need them and we’re much healthier using non-toxic alternatives. Like these eco-friendly stain removers for example.
Here’s some scary news: when we purchase a conventional cleaner it’s impossible to know all the dangerous solvents and disinfectants we’re bringing into our homes because manufacturers are not required to list ingredients. Manufacturers of Earth-friendly cleaners, however, have nothing to hide and for the most part willingly disclose their safer and natural ingredients to the consumer.
Look for earth-friendly cleaning products at local natural food stores. There are more and more to choose from every year.
You can easily make your own household cleaners with commonly available and familiar ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, castile soap, borax and others. Look for titles on the subject of natural cleaning at your local library, or follow recipes found online.
The ten most common hazardous household materials to avoid, according to the EPA.
Avoid hazardous products. The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act requires prominent label warnings on hazardous household chemical products to alert the consumer to potential hazards.
POISON: highly toxic; ingestion or inhalation can result in death in severe cases.
DANGER: extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic.
WARNING or CAUTION: moderately or slightly toxic.
Reusable Water Bottles
We all purchase water bottles, but we don’t pay any attention to what they’re made of. Since the majority of them are plastic bottles that are not recycled, they end up in the ocean, which causes a major threat to sea life, as well as a high rate of pollution. Each water bottle degrades into 10,000 microplastic bits, and if you multiply this with a million bottles, you’ll understand why it’s so important to recycle or reuse.
The best way to take care of this problem is to buy water bottles that can be reused. For this purpose, buy a water bottle that carries enough water to sustain you for the entire day so that you can carry it every day. This way, you won’t have to buy new water bottles now and then, and this will also save you some money. Tap water is usually drinkable, but you can also use filters.
Bottled water typically costs about 10,000 times the cost of tap / filtered water, so by using your own bottle instead of buying one individual, disposable plastic bottle every day, you could save $500 a year. Besides contributing 365 more bottles to our landfills where they take 1,000 years to decompose, you could also prevent some serious health risks. Chemicals that leach from the plastics have proven to cause birth defects, low sperm counts and an increase in testicular cancer. So for your own and your children’s health, if you are going to buy water, look for a glass or steel bottle that you can reuse.
Buy products with less packaging
Everything we buy seems to come in disposable packaging—but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. By simply choosing products that use less packaging and recyclable packaging, you can make a big impact.
Packaging has increased dramatically over the last half century and now makes up the largest share of municipal solid waste (MSW). Even if Americans were recycling everything they could today, there would remain packaging materials—namely certain plastics—for which there are few or no established recycling programs, leaving you no choice but to toss it in the garbage.
The vast majority of recycling programs only accept PET (type 1) and HDPE (type 2) beverage containers. This means that types 3-7, including yogurt tubs, condiment bottles, shampoo bottles, etc. are tossed into landfills by the billions every day. When you can, choose recyclables—and recycle them—instead. Learn more about recycling codes at our plastic guide.
• Evaluate a product’s packaging using these simple questions
– Is it without packaging or minimally packaged?
– Is the packaging marked as containing recycled material?
– Is the packaging material readily recyclable (i.e. aluminum, steel, glass, unwaxed paper, PET or HDPE plastic.)?
– Is the packaging material biodegradable, you want to avoid not eco-friendly packaging like styrofoam that is hard to recycle and does not biodegrade
• Reuse packaging: Containers, such as yogurt tubs, can be great for storage. Read up on safe plastic use.
• Use bulk food stations where you can fill reusable containers with grocery items from nuts and grains to cooking oils.
• Encourage producer responsibility:
– Request that suppliers reduce packaging and use packaging that is compostable, recycled or recyclable. Read about the move towards eco-packaging .
– Support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) initiatives such as the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2003, S. 1867
• Reduce takeout packaging by setting a goal to pack lunches and eat meals at home more often. When you do take-out, refuse the chopsticks and napkins and use your own. Use eco-friendly lunchboxes instead of disposable containers. When organizing events try using reusable items or plates that biodegrade.
• Use reusable cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, use less wrapping paper and get rid of plastic straws.
Environmentally Friendly Cars
Our vehicles are a major cause of global warming, as they emit alarming levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases into the atmosphere. This way they increase your carbon footprint heavily. Nowadays, the trend of hybrid and electric cars is picking up speed, and you can also join the bandwagon to make your life much eco-friendlier. Electric cars run on batteries rather than gasoline or diesel, which are major contributors to air pollution. Hybrid cars start on gasoline but switch to electric power after a certain speed.
Another option is to use a smaller vehicle, with less fuel consumption. Do you really need that SUV to do the daily grocery shopping? The difference between a small and a large car is dramatic. Even the best large car or SUVs only get about 20 miles per gallon on the highway, whereas a small car or hybrid can get 40 mpg or more. You can see how enormous this difference is when you consider the fact that the difference between 25 mpg and 20 mpg can total 10 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the car’s lifetime. With gas prices rising to ever-greater heights, having a small car can impressively reduce the financial burden of filling the tank.
You can also use car sharing services, this way less cars are needed that means much less waste and less pollution during the manufacturing process. You can use other means of transportation that are more eco-friendly such as train (but avoid air travel as much as possible).
Go green with clothing
Every year, tons and tons of fabric waste ends up in landfills, after which it is either disposed into the ocean or burnt – and in both cases, it becomes a nuisance for the environment. Moreover, the clothes that we dispose of also end up the same way, and the materials from which they’re made take up to 200 years to decompose completely.
The solution for this is to support and buy from brands that offer recyclable clothing, which can be repurposed rather than disposed of. Many large companies have vowed to take significant steps to promote eco-friendliness. That’s where you should start buying your clothes.
Fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. The manufacturing process puts an enormous burden on the environment. However there are companies who pledged to produce sustainable cloths from materials such as e.g. organic cotton that present little threat to the ecosystem.
Did you know that growing cotton uses 22.5% of all insecticides used globally? Buying organic cotton without the chemicals is one of the easiest switches to sustainable apparel that you can make, but what about other eco-friendly fabrics?
Environmentally friendly fabrics can be considered sustainable for a variety of reasons. First, the fabric needs to be renewable, meaning the resource can be replenished in a short amount of time. Secondly, the fabric should have a small ecological footprint. This footprint takes into account the amount of land needed to grow the crop and the amount of resources such as water it takes to create the final product. Lastly, eco-friendly fabrics should avoid the use of chemicals and pesticides.
Although there have been no long-term health studies on the effects of conventional fabrics, it is widely accepted that chemicals in clothing can seep into your skin and can potentially cause harm over time. Also, organic clothing is an alternative for people with allergies to the chemicals or pesticides used in most non-organic fabrics. When shopping, look for certified sustainable clothing brands.
Purchase 2nd Hand Clothing
Reusing clothing is great for the environment because there are no new materials, fuel, or energy spent in manufacturing. Besides the environmental benefits, you can often get terrific bargains when shopping for used clothing. It takes patience, but you can find inexpensive treasures in the aisles of your local consignment or vintage clothing store.
Our goal should be to waste as little as possible by keeping clothes in our closets and out of landfills. Buying used clothing is an easy, economical, and stylish way of helping the environment.
Buy used clothing without leaving your house! Check our list of the best online thrift shops.
Eat Less Meat
You don’t need to go all vegan, but reducing your meat consumption per week can have a significant impact on the environment. Meat and dairy products are sourced from animals and sent for processing and packaging. During meat production, a significant amount of greenhouse gases is emitted into the atmosphere.
Therefore, you can make a big difference if you eat less meat, by massively reducing your carbon footprint.
Eating less meat is a great way to not only improve your health, but also curb the destruction of forests.
For most diets, the USDA recommends up to five or six ounces of meat a day, which is about a third of a pound—yet the typical American eats about twice that amount. While meat can be a key part of a healthy (and delicious) diet, it is best consumed in moderation. Eating less meat and more fruits, vegetables and grains, is known to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer as well as to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock produce more than one third of many gases, such as methane and ammonia, that contribute to global warming and hazards like acid rain. Nearly one third of the earth’s land is used for livestock, and over 70% of Amazon forests have been destroyed for grazing land.
It can be difficult to change your diet. Cutting back on meat, however, does not mean going completely vegetarian. Consider starting by going meat-free at lunch, or dedicating one night a week to a meatless dinner. Know your vegetable sources of protein—in many instances, whole grains and beans have more protein per calorie than meats. Try some salad and noodle dishes complemented with meats, or even give meat substitutes like tofu a shot. Your body, and the environment, will thank you.
Eco-friendly Soap and Shampoo
Have you ever taken a glance at the ingredients of your shampoo or body wash? If you do that, you’ll notice that it’s full of chemicals and preservatives, most of which are extremely harmful to the environment. When you apply them to your hair and wash them down, they go into the drain and end up in the ocean, thus causing significant water pollution.
A solution to this problem is to opt for non-synthetic shampoos and soaps. Most products are advertised this way, so you can easily choose them among the others. Otherwise, you can read the ingredients and do a quick Google search to check if they’re safe to use or not.
Next time you’re in the supermarket purchasing soap, laundry, or dishwashing detergent, check the labels before you buy. Using soaps that are phosphate-free is important for protecting the health and purity of our nation’s fresh water lakes, rivers, and streams.
Phosphorus (in the form of phosphate) is an important ingredient in many soaps and detergents due to its powerful cleaning abilities. Its strength as a cleaner, however, is now seen as far less important than its damaging effects on fresh water bodies. Though a critical nutrient for plant growth, too much phosphate added by pollution can wreak havoc on a lake by causing algae to grow faster and more abundantly than is healthy for the water. Not only will this make the water unpleasant in appearance, it emits a bad odor, makes swimming difficult, and makes filtering the water for drinking more complicated and expensive. Excessive algal bloom can also be devastating to fish in rivers and lakes by restricting their supply of oxygen.
Many state governments have already taken action to introduce statewide phosphate bans in soaps and detergents. Washington was the first of these states, implementing a ban that will by 2010 limit the allowable amount of phosphate in dishwasher detergent sold in the state to a negligible amount. Numerous states have followed suit, but in areas where a ban is not being enforced, it is important that we are more careful in selecting our soaps.
Recycle old phones
Did you know that cell phones can be recycled? Many people don’t. In fact, the EPA estimates that fewer than 20% of the cell phones that can be recycled each year actually are. Even if people know that it is possible to recycle old phones, many still don’t know how or where to recycle them. Recycling cell phones can help reduce some seriously scary stuff from entering your environment. Cell phones contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, which, if left to languish in a landfill, can leach into the earth or water. The plastics and metals that cell phones also contain require large amounts of energy to manufacture. According to the EPA, recycling just a million cell phones a year would cause a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to removing 1,368 cars from the road. All parts of a cell phone can be recycled in some cases, including the battery, the charger, and the box the phone comes in.
Recycling a cell phone can have social impact as well. When phones are donated in good working condition, some programs donate them to worthy charities that provide cell phones for the underprivileged. Most cell phone stores have teamed up with the EPA to encourage people to donate their old phones. There are many other, smaller organizations and charities that will collect your old phone. Recycling your old phone is an easy and powerful way to make a large, positive impact—so keep your eyes open, and find a home for your phone when the time comes to get a new one. If you use keep it in a case, make sure you buy an eco-friendly phone case that is either biodegradable or recyclable.
Bring a Reusable Coffee Cup
An easy way to help ease our waste problem, using your own mug will also save you money.
Mmm, coffee. Millions of Americans enjoy a fresh cup every morning (sometimes two or three)—many purchased from a coffee shop such as Starbucks. Ever think about the environmental (and financial) costs involved in all those paper cups?
220 billion paper cups are used per year worldwide, and 130 billion of those are used in the United States alone. 16 billion are used for coffee, the production of which is equal to over 6.5 million trees cut down, 4 billion gallons of water wasted, and enough energy used to power nearly 54,000 homes for a year. Not to mention the millions of pounds of waste in landfills. You can save money and reduce damage done by a seriously harmful source of trash by carrying your own stylish mug.
Bringing your favorite travel mug to your local coffee shop is an easy and convenient way to make a difference. If you’re staying to enjoy your drink, ask to have it served in the café’s own ceramic mug. Of course, the greenest, cheapest coffee option is to brew your own at home.
Starbucks now offers all customers who bring in a reusable mug a 10-cent discount on their beverage. That may not sound like a huge savings, but it adds up, and Starbucks has seen some impressive results: customers bring reusable mugs to Starbucks 22 million times every year, saving almost a million pounds of paper.
Once you find your perfect reusable mug, you will no longer want to drink out of those chintzy cups that don’t keep your coffee hot. And you’ll feel good about keeping that cup out of the trash – which will just enhance your coffee buzz.
Use Rechargeable Batteries
Instead of buying the average, single-use, alkaline batteries, opt for rechargeable batteries. They are more expensive up front, but they will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run, and save hundreds of batteries – along with their paper and plastic packaging – from going into the trash. Furthermore, properly recycled rechargeable batteries will keep many toxic substances out of your environment. Make sure you dispose of batteries properly.
There are many kinds of rechargeable batteries, but nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) are the best you can get from several standpoints, including performance, cost, and low toxicity for the environment. Just remember to buy a charger, too. Also remember to recycle all batteries (NOT in your regular recycling – at stores or by mailing them in) when you are done with them.
Creating a compost pile at home will help you get closer to a zero waste life. With compost you improve your level of sustainability as your organic thrash will not end up in a landfill and you also save the fuel that is needed for transportation. At the end of the day, with this type of waste management you can produce fertile earth for your plants.
Nothing lasts forever, and you can’t control where your used products will end up. However, you can make sure to buy non-synthetic and biodegradable products so that you can be assured that they’ll either be recycled or they’ll decompose quickly, rather than doing any harm to the environment. When you’re shopping for anything, just keep an eye out for biodegradable products. E.g. buy biodegradable plates for parties you organize. This way, you’ll be doing the environment a huge favor. Pay attention to misleading environmental marketing, e.g. biodegradable balloons are not really eco-friendly.
Chemical free products
Generally it makes sense to avoid heavy chemicals in any product that you get in contact with. Make sure that you always check for a chemical free or less polluting alternative. For example, did you know that you can find paints that have reduced chemicals, such as Zero VOC paints?
Donate Instead of Discarding
If you think closely, many of the things that you discard throughout the year – clothes, old phones, devices, boxes, etc. – end up in landfills and cause a significant amount of pollution. There’s a simple solution for this: simply donate your stuff to the less fortunate. This way, your items will still be in use for another 3 or 5 or 10 years, and this will minimize the risk to the environment. A general rule of thumb is to try to produce zero waste as much as possible.
And these are some of the many ways you can start on the journey to an eco-friendly lifestyle. The environment is badly injured, and it’ll drastically affect our lives, even if you don’t realize it now. Therefore, you can take small steps to ensure that you don’t add to the earth’s misery.
One of the best things you can do is to tell your friends and family and make more and more people aware of the benefits and impact of leading an eco-friendly lifestyle. Keep spreading the word, and maybe you’ll be able to influence millions of people to save the environment from further damage.