Monday, May 3, 2010

Don't bother with this for Earth Day

Looking to make some greener choices in your daily life, but don't know where to start or how to take the next step? You're not alone. It can be hard to know what will really make a difference.


Besides the prospect of having to completely revamp your lifestyle or spend a lot of cash on "going green" can seem daunting. Luckily, such drastic steps are unnecessary.

There are plenty of simple changes you can make that will have a positive impact on the planet (and in most cases are better for your health and your pocketbook). Focus your time and money on things that will really make a difference instead of sweating the small stuff or feeling like there's no point in making any change unless you take a huge leap.

Below are things you DON'T HAVE TO DO to live a more sustainable life, with suggestions for what you can do instead. Of course, you can choose to do them if you wish!



Buy a hybrid
Instead, take good care of the car you already own, and don't let the engine idle. I know you've heard it before, but if everyone made these simple steps it would have a measurable impact on global warming emissions.
Better yet, figure out a way to carpool two times a week or telecommute one day a week if you can. When it's time to buy a car, choose the most fuel-efficient car in the class of car you need. Some smaller cars not only rival hybrids when it comes to fuel efficiency, but also have lower price tags.

Buy green products
Instead, focus on buying less stuff. It's tempting to think that purchasing a bunch of "eco-friendly" products is the best way to be supportive of the environment. But resources are used to make, package, ship, and ultimately dispose of all products, green or not.
When you do have to buy new, then of course, it's best to choose products with sustainable attributes such as those that are energy efficient, are made of recycled or recyclable materials, or have minimal packaging if you can. But first try prolonging the life of what you already own, borrowing or renting something you'll use infrequently, swap what you no longer need, or buy a used product.

Always buy organic
Instead, focus on buying what's in season and local for produce that tastes better, is more nutritious, and doesn't have to travel thousands of miles to reach your table.
If you can afford to buy organic, then spend your money on the fruits and veggies that tend to have the most pesticide residues such as peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, and nectarines. You can skip organic versions of onion, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, and others since they're typically light on pesticide residues.
One thing we all could do (whether we care about creating a more sustainable lifestyle or not) is to try not to waste food. If every American were to reduce their food waste by 25%, it would have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention your budget), according to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report.

Go vegetarian
Instead, focus on consuming less meat and dairy products. How? Smaller portions. Stop eating meat one day a week. Don't eat meat at every meal. Anything goes.
The kind of meat you choose is also important. Red meat is harder on the planet than poultry and pork. The NRDC says that swapping red meat for poultry and skipping dairy twice a week are two relatively painless ways to make a big difference. It's also healthier and easier on your wallet.

Invest in solar panels
Instead, buy green power from your local utility. An increasing number of U.S. consumers have the option to buy electricity from renewable sources, such as wind or hydro, from their electricity supplier or another utility.
Better yet, take steps to use less energy around your house. Some ideas of small changes that can add up to big savings: Replace six incandescent bulbs with CFLs, use a programmable thermostat, set your computer to hibernate mode, switch off unused lights, seal leaks, insulate your attic, and wash you clothes in cold water.


Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.



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