Over the years, I've adjusted my habits to live a greener lifestyle... which is actually a polite way of saying I have a conniption fit when someone doesn't recycle. My perhaps irrationally sharp ire aside, though, there's really no excuse; there are countless little ways to go green right now, no matter how busy you are or what your budgetary constraints might be. And I don't care what anyone says: They do make a difference, without a shadow of a doubt.
You don't need to take it to an extreme, either. Sure, Sheryl Crow once said that each person should only use one square of toilet paper per bathroom visit, excluding "pesky occasions" when you might need two or three. Personally, I find this a bit overzealous; rest assured, though, that there are plenty of small changes you can make to your everyday behavior that won't disrupt your lifestyle or cause you precious time or money. In the process, you're taking responsibility for the effect you have on the planet as an individual (because we are all responsible), and helping to limit the damage we cause in the process.
Don't wait another day. Start today, with these greener habits. Try all of them. Pick one of them. Just do something.
1. Have Meatless Monday. (Or any day of the week — just one, people!) You'll save water, reduce greenhouse gases, and decrease fuel dependence — among many other benefits.
2. Turn your computer and monitor off once you're done with them. Even in sleep mode, they're still using energy.
3. On a similar note, unplug electrics when not in use. As long as they're plugged in, they're sucking up energy.
4. Do you get a ton of junk mail? Unsubscribe! They'll usually provide a telephone number in very, very small print or tell you how to do it online.
5. Bring your own mug to the local coffee shop. Some places even give a discount for this, too.
6. Shop local whenever possible. It reduces how far your food has to travel to reach you.
7. Swap your chemical-packed cleaning products for earth-friendlier ones. You can often make these yourself with ingredients like white vinegar, coconut oil, and baking soda.
8. Have one dairy-free day a week. Skipping just one gallon of milk is the equivalent of saving water for 27 showers.
9. Don't hand wash dishes — use the dishwasher. It's faster, and you could save as many as 20 gallons of water.
10. Eat grass-fed beef. Raising this cattle emits fewer greenhouse gases.
11. Find an alternative for your vinyl shower curtain, which might be giving off 108 different chemicals into the air.
12. Go to the carwash (15-32 gallons of water total) instead of washing your vehicle at home, which can use 10 gallons of water a minute.
13. Fix leaky faucets or pipes. This can add up to five gallons of water a day.
14. Stop drinking bottled water and switch to a reusable bottle. The process of making plastic bottles uses more than 17 million barrels of oil a year — not to mention how damaging the waste is.
15. Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which require 75 percent less energy than incandescent lightbulbs.
16. Use reusable shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags can take anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years to decompose.
17. Drive a little slower. Your car will guzzle less gas.
18. Avoid accelerating too quickly, for the same reason.
19. Eat organic! It helps preserve soil quality and balance out the environment. Plus, pesticides — ew.
20. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. This can save up to five gallons of water a day.
21. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
23. Ditch plastic wrap. It's awful for the environment. Instead, use glass containers, etc.
24. Print on both sides of the paper, if you absolutely have to print something.
25. Go seafood-free more often. At the rate we're fishing the world's water ecosystems, they will collapse completely by the year 2048.
26. Avoid common household items that might unwittingly be bringing icky stuff into your home.
27. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible. A whopping 85 percent of the energy the machine uses goes to heating the water.
28. Let your clothes air-dry on a drying rack.
29. Use rainwater for houseplants and the garden.
It sounds cliche, but it's true: The little things do add up. And our planet needs our help more than ever, so it's long past time to start trying to make a difference.