I love that word.
The best thing about eco-friendly practices is that the things we do that are gentle on the earth are almost always better for our health.
A quick example: when you take the stairs instead of the elevator, you reduce global carbon emissions, yes! And you also get your heart beating faster, jumpstart your metabolism, oxygenate your blood, and feel healthier and more energetic.
The kinder and more eco-friendly we are to the earth, the kinder we are being to ourselves.
Some fascinating research was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Research Letters, on what constitutes truly eco-friendly practices.
That is, ways that we humans can change our behavior to make a real and lasting impact on reducing carbon emissions.
You already know that carbon-based gases are heating up the planet, causing worldwide climate change, which is having a detrimental effect on the environment. So how do we reverse course?
The researchers, one Swedish and one Canadian, concluded that four eco-friendly practices, if implemented globally, make the biggest difference to reducing human carbon emissions.
The most impactful actions you can take are:
- Having one fewer child
- Living car-free
- Avoiding airplane travel
- Eating a plant-based diet
According to the study, “These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less).”
Read the full study in PDF form here.
I’m not going to tell you to have fewer children (I have four. The oldest is 18, our “baby” is eight now), to ditch your car (I still drive one—a plug-in hybrid), to avoid plane travel (I travel a lot to give talks or do media trainings), or to be a vegetarian (after 20 years of not eating meat, I am back to being an omnivore). I think those are all good suggestions. But my 18 fixes are a little easier to implement.
The 18 Best Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly in 2018
- Go commando with your trash. Stop using plastic kitchen or garbage bags. Turns out you don’t need them. You save hundreds of dollars and the landfills are spared of plastic.
- Carry an espresso spoon in your bag. I keep 3 in my purse. You’ll never need to use a plastic spoon again.
- Plant a tree. Every time you have to fly, plant a tree to offset your carbon emissions. Or give a donation to Lomakatsi Restoration Project or Friends of Trees and they’ll plant some for you.
- Bring your own doggie bag when you go out to eat. You already bring your own bags to the grocery store. Now you can up your game and bring your own glass container to restaurants in case you have leftovers you want to bring home. A mason jar works perfectly.
- Use metal straws. Another super simple way to cut down on plastic and garbage. Kids love them.
- Have a bucket in your shower. Catch the gray water to use for indoor houseplants, outdoor gardens, and even to make your own laundry detergent.
- If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. To save. (Just keep the lid of the toilet shut during the day and make sure you’re always well hydrated so your bathroom doesn’t start to smell.)
- Compost your hair clippings. Next time you get your hair cut, collect the clippings in a reusable bag. You can put them in the compost. Hair is good for plants, especially for growing roses.
- Give previously loved gifts. There’s really no reason to buy gifts for children (or adults!). Previously loved gifts are just as special. And when you stop buying new things you stop contributing to ongoing carbon emissions. It’s much more eco-friendly to buy secondhand, borrow from friends, or DIY.
- Wrap gifts in old calendars. Or maps. Or brown shipping paper. Reusable cloth gift bags work well too and are fun to sew from scrap fabric.
- Host an abundance swap. Instead of buying new gifts for the holidays, host an abundance swap. An idea that is purported to have originated in Ashland, Oregon, there are now over 30 of these eco-friendly community events around the United States. Here’s how it works: Have everyone bring 3 to 5 gift-worthy items from home. Give each attendee a colored nametag. A volunteer can pick the colors out of a hat to determine the order. Color one will pick a gift first, color two second, and color three third. So if red is chosen, everyone with a red nametag can pick one item while the other swappers wait for their turn. Then green. Then blue. If there is a lot left at the end, give the group five extra minutes to take anything else they want. Then the leftovers can be donated to a local charity.
- Shower less. It turns out it’s better for your biome not to be squeaky clean.
- Shower shorter. Five minutes tops. You save the water to reuse (see #6) and save even more money on your water bills.
- Use a fountain pen. The refillable ink cartridge means no more plastic pens go into the landfill ever again. My husband’s go-to every day fountain pen is made by a German company and costs $21.50. The pricey one on his wish list is this number, that’s made of solid aluminum. For either, you buy bottled ink and a piston to suck it up separately. His favorite fountain pen ink is non-toxic and vegetable-derived. Rumor has it (perpetuated by the company’s CEO) that it’s so safe you can drink a bottle of the stuff with no ill effect. We’re still waiting for the live demonstration.
- Repurpose your recycling. Instead of recycling it, use it for kid-friendly crafts, like these. You can find hundreds of other DIY eco-friendly ideas on Pinterest.
- Swap your plastic for Bee’s Wrap. This awesome reusable substitute for plastic wrap won’t disrupt your endocrine system.
- Bike share! These community-wide programs are taking the Pacific Northwest by storm. You borrow a bike in one part of town and return it in another. The cost to share the bike is modest. The benefits to your waistline, heart health, and the earth immeasurable!
- Make your next car a plug-in. Our plug-in hybrid gets over 55 miles per gallon. Electricity drives cars much more efficiently than gasoline—even electricity generated by coal and natural gas. As more sustainable sources of electricity are available, the environmental dividends go up. Our town’s electricity comes from hydroelectric dams. There are a lot of excellent electric car and hybrid options already and many more on the horizon to look for in 2018 and 2019.
Wishing you a supertastic, gentle-on-the-earth, eco-friendly new year.
p.s. What did I forget? Share your best eco-friendly ideas, large or small, in the comment section below.
p.p.s. Want more inspiration? Read my 99 suggestions for how to be more sustainable in the next 9 minutes.