21 Little Things You Can Do To Help The Environment That Are Super Easy & Will Save You Money

Indian Kashmiris walk next to maple trees in autumn in Srinagar on November 18, 2016. Trees are changing colours while the days become shorter as winter approaches in the Kashmiri summer capital of Srinagar. / AFP / TAUSEEF MUSTAFA (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

Saving the environment may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. If you think about the little things you can do to help the environment, you can make a big difference yourself just by changing a couple of habits. Yes, it's still a huge deal that the ice caps and glaciers are melting at alarming rates and that the Trump administration is not expected to make climate science a priority, bearing in mind that most Republicans still don't believe that climate change is a thing. Of all of the terrifying results of this election, this might be scariest one for the world overall. However, you don't have to feel hopeless, because there's a lot you can do yourself.

These little tweaks to your behavior may not seem like a huge deal, and it may seem pointless to do such little things. But when we're talking about habits that you repeat every day — and that other people pick up and repeat as well — they end up having a huge effect. So pick and choose the ones that apply to you (no one's perfect, after all) and that you haven't already adopted, and just be mindful about how you go about your daily business. If you take just a few of these tips to heart, then the situation's not quite as hopeless as it seems.

1. Buy Cold Water Detergent

Nowadays, you don't have to wash your clothes and linens in hot water in order to get the best clean. If you get some cold water detergent, you can save energy and money on heating the water you use for all of your laundry.

2. Ditch Your Drier

Eschewing the drier for a drying rack or clothes line (if that's available to you) will also save you tons of money and energy. It does make the laundry cycle take a little longer, but if most of Europe can handle life without a drier, you can too. Don't worry, you'll get used to it with some adjustment, and then it'll just be a totally normal thing.

3. Wear More Sweaters Inside

If it's winter, it feels totally right to bundle up inside your home. And again, it will also save you lots of money and energy.

4. No More Bottled Water

You've definitely heard this one before, but there are huge benefits to going for a reusable bottle over the disposable ones. Choose the best water bottle for your habits, and then a lovely side effect will be that you'll always be hydrated if you're carrying it around all the time. Pro-tip if you go for an insulated metal bottle: they're great as thermoses, and they'll keep the drink's warmth or coldness for hours.

5. Flush Less

Yes, it may seem a little gross, but water conservation is a big deal, and you'll save a lot of water if you don't flush the toilet every time. You'll still want to keep everything sanitary, though, so follow the tried and true drought-time rule: if it's yellow, let it mellow. If you really can't handle the thought of that, you can also do some good by peeing in the shower.

6. Be Mindful About Getting Around

This is another one you've heard before: avoid solo car trips if at all possible. Whether that means taking public transport, carpooling, biking, or just making sure that you always combine as many errands as possible into one efficient trip, using the car as little as possible is the key goal. Before you hop in that Uber, just take a moment to think — is there also a bus that could take you where you're going?

7. Think Before You Fly

Air travel is definitely unavoidable sometimes, but it's also got the highest environmental impact of any mode of transportation. Could you get where you're going by bus, train, or even a shared car?

8. Buy Local Produce

Eating local isn't just a hipster trend; if you buy as much as you can that's grown or produced locally, you can save a huge amount of energy on shipping. Don't beat yourself up if you want to splurge on some out-of-season fruit every once in a while, because buying locally and in-season most of the time will make up for it.

9. Shop Online

Dream come true, right? But apparently it's true — shopping online is actually good for the environment. Next time you need an excuse for why you bought another pair of shoes online, use this one.

10. Make A Grocery Store Plan

The key here is not to buy food that you won't use, so plan out your meals before you go to the store so you'll know exactly what to buy. Another choice here is to swing by the store more often, so you'll buy less at a time and the stuff you get will have a smaller chance of going bad.

11. Learn Your Way Around An Expiration Date

Food that's past its expiration date isn't necessarily unsafe to eat. I'm not saying you should eat moldy bread or milk that's gone bad, but don't throw something away just because its sell-by date is past. Check to see if it's still good, and if your senses tell you that it is, then trust them.

12. Get That Travel Coffee Mug

There's been a lot of talk about Starbucks' coffee cups, but in a perfect world, no one would use them at all. Luckily for you, coffee shops often offer discounts for using reusable thermoses, so you can save money while you save those cups.

13. Don't Forget Your Tote

Too much discarded plastic in the world is a huge issue, so take that out of your life by using reusable grocery bags. Keep one in your purse for spur of the moment shopping trips, keep them in your car, keep them on your apartment door handle, wherever will help you remember them. Another trick is to reuse those plastic bags you put produce into, either as wrapping for your food in the fridge or for a second (and third, etc.) round of produce at the store.

14. Drink Loose Leaf Tea

This is one of those tiny things that you hardly even have to think about. If you're a tea drinker, get a tea infuser (some of which can be totally adorable) and some loose leaf tea and ditch the tea bags. Each tea bag doesn't produce a huge amount of waste, but every little bit saved counts.

15. Don't Get Utensils With Your Take-Out

If you're getting take-out or delivery to eat at home, the delivery guy usually comes with plastic utensils already in the bag — but it doesn't have to be that way. Take an extra few seconds to make a note in your order that you don't need the utensils, and problem solved.

16. Buy Used When You Can

Used books, furniture, appliances, electronics, cars, and clothes can all be high quality and cheap if you get them at the right places. A lot of resources go into producing new items, so you want to avoid being a part of that as much as possible. Every used item you buy and then use until you can't anymore is an item that doesn't end up in a landfill.

17. Get Sustainable Paper Products

Learn what eco-friendly paper products look like, and seek them out whenever you can. Ideally, you want products that have been created sustainably, and it is possible to find them. They might be a bit more expensive, but if you're following all of the other tips to save money, you'll have a little extra.

18. Always Use The Revolving Door

There is actually a purpose to them: they keep the heat or air-conditioning inside and therefore save energy. If it means that you have to wait an extra couple of seconds to get inside, it's worth it.

19. Don't Run The Faucet

Get in the habit of turning the water off when you're brushing your teeth and lathering up your hands to wash them. You'll have to think about it the first couple of times you do it, but then it'll just become automatic, and you'll save a ton of water.

20. Wash Your Hair Less

This is better for your hair (the less you wash it, the healthier it'll be), better for your wallet (you'll save on hair products), and better for the environment (you'll be sending less chemical waste into the sewer systems).

21. Eat Less Beef

This isn't about sentimentality or how adorable cows can be. It's purely about environmental impact, and it's clear beyond a doubt that beef production has a significant negative effect on the environment. Keep the bacon and salmon fillets, but cut the burgers and steaks as much as you can.

These are just a few ideas; there are undoubtedly countless more, and I challenge you to find as many as possible. If we all do as much as we can, then collectively we'll make a big difference. When you put it all together, these are minor changes with big effects.

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