The headlines about our climate can be overwhelming. But, take heart: there are changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint right now. And those changes add up. Bonus: a lot of Earth-friendly habits are also easy on your wallet. Read on.
#1 - Eat less meat & dairy
Avoiding meat and dairy is the single-biggest impact individuals can have on the environment:
You don't have to quit meat and dairy completely or suddenly; reducing your consumption makes a difference. It also helps to avoid or limit the biggest offenders — beef, dairy, and pork. Start with a meatless Monday routine, made delicious with recipes from one of these vegan cookbooks. Bonus: There are lots of health benefits to eating a plant-based diet.
#2 - Drink tap water
Tap water is far better than bottled water:
Bottled water has created a huge waste problem that didn't exist before beverage manufacturers began marketing and selling water a few decades ago. It requires oil to produce and transport to your home. And even if you toss that empty bottle in a recycling bin, it requires energy to collect it, get it to a facility, and recycle. Learn more about the problems created by bottled water in this 8-minute video from the Story of Stuff.
#3 - Skip single-use disposables
Huge amounts of plastic, including disposable cutlery, are plaguing our oceans and wildlife. Plastics accumulating in our environment isn't problem for tomorrow; it's a problem right now. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that on average we each ingest about five grams of plastic a week — which is like eating a credit card. Based on that research, over the course of a year a person munches more than 260 grams of plastic, or just over 9 ounces (more than a cup). Styrofoam also poses a serious waste problem: It takes a long time to decompose (some estimates say as long as 500 years!), and as it does, it leeches chemicals. Avoid:
#4 - Reduce unwanted mail
Save trees: stop the delivery of unwanted catalogs. Get started at www.catalogchoice.org.
#5 - Recycle
Put these in a recycling bin:
#6 - Get renewable energy, no installation required
If you're an Illinois homeowner, you can power your dwelling with solar or wind energy without panels or turbines anywhere in sight. Here's how:
The supplier does the rest. There's no charge for switching, though your per-kilowatt charge will likely change. It takes one month for the switch to take effect. It's completely seamless: The only difference is that the supplier on your electric bill will be different; ComEd continues to deliver your power and bill you.
Be careful about what you put in your trash: some waste is hazardous to the environment and won't biodegrade. Check these resources to find out how to dispose of common and uncommon household items.
Electronics, light bulbs, art supplies, medications, building materials...lots of things should not go in your curbside trash or recycling bins. Whatever you're getting rid of, find out where to dispose of it or recycle it properly. From the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO).
If you live in a community serviced by Waste Management, you may be able to dispose of CFLs, paint products, batteries, consumer electronics, household and garden chemicals, and other hazardous wastes by contacting the hauler for a pickup. This service applies only to certain ZIP codes (including Buffalo Grove and Long Grove, Illinois).
Input your village, town, or city, or select from the list to view waste disposal and recycling programs in each community. From the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO).
Find out how to keep your home clean using natural ingredients. DIY solutions, made with inexpensive items like vinegar, can help you save money, too.
Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home by Becky Rapinchuk
Green Clean by Jill Potvin Schoff
Natural Home Cleaning by Fern Green
Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuk
cleanmama.com - Author Becky Rapinchuk provides lots of good tips in her blog
ewg.org - The nonprofit Environmental Working Group promotes healthier living in a healthier environment
thespruce.com - Practical tips and inspiration to help you create a healthy home
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills. Instead of putting your gourds in the rubbish, try composting them or leaving them for wildlife to eat (no painted gourds, please; they're toxic to animals).
If replacing fuses or bulbs doesn't relight the string, don't send it to the landfill, where the chemicals leach into the soil and water runoff. Recycle holiday lights instead at these Lake County locations.
December 26 and February 1: Drop off evergreens at selected Lake County Forest Preserve sites for reuse and recycling. Donated trees are chipped and used for trails and landscaping at forest preserves throughout the county.
Afikomen bags for Passover
Make your own bag or let the kids do it with these instructions and other tips from the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Easter baskets & eggs
Instead of lining baskets with artificial grass, run scrap paper from the recycling bin through the shredder.
Skip artificial coloring: Use fruits and vegetables you have around the house to get beautifully colored eggs, naturally.
Switching to a reliable hybrid or electric vehicle is a great way to cut emissions, especially if you drive a lot. There are all sorts of hybrid and electric cars, including SUVs and mid-size sedans. Car-buying always takes research; understand a few key terms, then check out these reliable resources:
greencars.org - Info & ratings from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
car magazines on Flipster - Read current and back issues of Car & Driver, Motor Trend, and Road & Track. Log in with your Vernon Area Library card number, then search by title or select "Automotive" from the categories list.
Consumer Reports - Hybrid and electric car ratings. Log in with your Vernon Area Library card number, then navigate to www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/hybrids-evs.htm
e-books on electric cars - Check them out in the Hoopla app (Vernon Area Library cardholders only).
magazine and trade journal articles - In the search box at VAPLD.info, key in your term ("electric cars" or "hybrid cars"), then click the arrow at left and select "articles" before you search. Your Vernon Area Library card number gives you access to all articles.
Explore the issues - on the Sierra Club website; includes opportunities to take action
15 ways to shrink your plastic footprint - from The Guardian
Green Living - tips from Green America, a national nonprofit
The Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World - actionable 4-level guide published by the UN
The Story of Stuff - blog and other resources from the global project
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals - a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all