10 Ways to Reduce Your Eco-Footprint

by Amber Carbo on February 27, 2018

From paper to plastic, gas to electricity, there are so many ways we consume.

While some Earth-lovers opt to live out of their vans, or start living a life a “zero-waste,” many of us struggle with how to reduce our impact gradually.

Here are a few tricks of the trade, some are everyday practices, and others are ideas you may not have adopted yet.

Let’s start with a few quick, easy, & inexpensive ways to save the planet:

1. Reusable Bags (Preferably canvas/cotton)

In many places, including my home town, plastic ordinances have begun taking effect and consumers have to learn to adapt. Easiest thing for me to do it to simply leave the reusable bags in the car. After you use ’em, return ’em and they will always be there when you go out shopping.

  • Fun fact: Each high quality re-usable bag has the ability to save over 1,000 plastic bags over the course of it’s lifetime (Plastic Bag Facts).
  • Where to buy? Check your local farmers market for fun canvas bags or recycled cotton totes. Let’s stay away from the plastic ones as they tend to not last as long and eventually become trash again.

2. Water Bottle (sans plastic)

Photo by Mikey Sandifer

Just say no to plastic water bottles! I personally love my Hydroflask, which I purchased at a local outdoor shop called The Mountain Air in San Luis Obispo, and they have a huge selection to choose from! #shoplocal

3. Ditch Paper Towels

Washing several extra kitchen towels is much more environmentally friendly than going through rolls upon rolls of paper towels. Save yourself the money and waste by cleaning spills and drying your hands with a regular towel.

  • Fun Fact: If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year (The Paperless Project)
  • If you must…look for recycled paper towels on your next grocery trip.

4. Compost!

This may seem like a daunting task, but can be done in an afternoon. I referenced this article on Forbes to get an easy step by step guide to creating an apartment-friendly compost bin. In a nutshell:

  • Find a sturdy container (search Goodwill for a plastic bin)
  • Prep scraps of newspaper, soak in water, cover with soil, and add in worms
  • Throw in your scraps!

Pro tip: Poke holes in the lid and place outside on a patio or balcony to prevent any smell from bothering your housemates (they’ll thank you!).

5. Turn Off Appliances

Even when off, the current running through your appliances are consuming electricity, contributing to 10% of your total energy bill according to the article “Stop Wasting Money on Electricity”. As it is somewhat cumbersome to unplug and replug, especially if the outlet is hard to reach, buy a power cord so you can easily switch it on & off.

  • Bonus: Get one that also protects again power surges that can burn out your outlets!

6. No More Napkins

“But I’m a messy eater!” Don’t worry, instead of using paper napkins for your meals, try linen napkins! They are easy, green, and hold up great through repeated washes.

  • Where to buy? These ones from Sur La Table, are decently sized & add an air of elegance to any meal! (Yes, even noodles that came out of a box.)

7. Use Both Sides of Paper

Set your printer to print on both sides of each sheet! This is adjusted in the settings and can be turned off easily as well.

  • Even better… Don’t print at all! Many professors accept documents via email, and most tickets/ passes can now be shown on your mobile device. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and show up to a particular airline with a mobile pass when they only accept printed….#travelfail.

8. Take a Hike/Bike

Photo by Gemma Evans

Try walking to nearby places if you don’t need to drive. Plan for the extra time and give yourself some time in the great outdoors (even if you’re just walking to the dentist!).

If you must drive… find friends to carpool with or use a ride-sharing app to carpool with strangers! I do this everyday so it’s not a weird as it sounds.

9. Save Water

Grab yourself an inexpensive shower head that has a low-flow setting to help conserve on your water consumption. Of course, always turn water off to brush your teeth as well.

Fun Fact: “If every household in the U.S. installed WaterSense® labeled low flow shower heads, we could save more than 250 billion gallons of water annually, which could supply more than 2.5 million U.S. homes with water for a year, according to the EPA” (Waterpik).

10. Collect Water

Leave out a barrel to collect rainwater (during the rainy season) to collect water you can use for your garden or indoor plants!

Have any more ideas that are fast & easy? Feel free to share your best eco-practices!

Most of these are just quick tips to get you started, but for those of you interested in conserving more, think of ways you can incorporate more eco-friendly ideas into your home! If you live with others, ask them how they would like to try to reduce the amount of waste your household generates.

Get creative and have fun! Conserving the planet may start out feeling like a chore but choosing to live with less and consume less leads to a happier, healthier life.

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