After years of caution from scientists and the likes of Al Gore, the international community is finally tackling climate change head on. Although the worldwide effort gives many of us a sense of optimism, some of you are no doubt wondering, how can I do my part? Individual actions can collectively play a huge role in climate change and there are 11 simple ways you can help save the environment, too.
Later this year, the United Nations is hosting a summit in Paris where world leaders will hunker down to produce a legally binding universal agreement on climate. The fight against climate change is clearly one that requires a global, concerted effort, and it is commendable that governments are willing to do so. But what can one person do to help the cause?
Going green is not the colossal endeavor that some might think it is. Obvious moves such as separating your recycling or being aware of how much water you use take little effort. Lest you scoff at the insignificance of your actions, know that every little thing you do has an impact. Whether it's to Mother Nature's benefit or your health, there really isn't any harm in being friendly to the environment.
1. Recycle beer bottles (and cans).
Glass can take up to a million years to decompose. Recycling your beer bottles is a much better way to get rid of them — plus, if your state has a bottle deposit-refund system, that change could come in handy.
2. Use one less paper napkin.
Each year, an American uses about 2,200 paper napkins — that's around six every day. If everyone used one less each day, we'd save more than a billion pounds of napkins from ending up in landfills.
3. Avoid driving at least once a week.
Motor vehicles account for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions in the U.S.
If driving to work or school is the most sensible thing to do, take other modes of transportations during the weekend. Bike, walk or take the train for a scenic, leisurely trip.
4. Shower with your partner.
Showering with your significant other is a triple threat: get clean, save water and ... other perks.
5. Go vegetarian/vegan once a week.
Livestock production uses an enormous amount of resources. For that piece of steak to land on your dinner plate, it caused a carbon footprint more than twice the size of a plant-based product. Did we mention that cutting meat and/or animal products from your diet once a week is also good for your health?
Start with these delectable dishes.
6. Carry a reusable bag with you.
Pesky plastic bags, begone! Reusable bags are much sturdier and better for the environment.
7. Change your light bulbs.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every household in America replaced one incandescent light bulb with a qualified Energy Star (an EPA program) compact fluorescent light bulb, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes — and reduce the pollution made by an equivalent of one million cars on the road.
8. Snub bottled water.
Only 1 in 5 plastic bottles are recycled. These bottles take more than 1,000 years to biodegrade and produce toxic fumes when burned. Talk about bad for the environment.
9. Buy local.
It takes a huge amount of resources to get something from the farm to your table. Consider shopping at your local farmer's market — it has less of an environmental impact and you get to contribute to your community.
10. Buy second hand.
Second hand doesn't mean second best — just ask thrift-crazy hipsters. Toys, clothes, furniture and electronic equipment can be purchased at your local thrift store and are often wholly unique. You're less likely to get caught wearing the same mass-produced dress as your co-worker.
11. Cut out paper mail.
Paper bills, paper bank statements, paper flight tickets — all these can be handled online, saving millions of trees and other greenhouse gases.
Cover image via iStock/DJC_Cliff