1. Change up your sunscreen.
Sunscreen, it turns out, is killing coral reefs. Who knew? There’s a chemical in most sunscreens called oxybenzone, which is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can alter the way that organisms grow. Even small amounts of oxybenzone in the water can kill nearby coral, which is not only bad for the environment, for for local economies.
So what can you do? Simple: change up your sunscreen. There are plenty of sunscreens that don’t contain oxybenzone (available on this list by the Environmental Working Group here) that you can buy that won’t hurt local reefs.
2. Buy a permanent water bottle.
Bottled water is nonsense. The environmental effects of bottled water are a disaster: The production of most of the bottles requires petroleum, and the production itself actually wastes three times as much water as what’s in the bottle itself.
It’s definitely better to recycle bottled water than to not, but considering how much of our plastic bottles end up in the landfills and the oceans, it’s a way better call to stop buying bottled water altogether. Up to 40% of our oceans are now covered with trash. 90% of that is plastic. Just buy a reusable thermos and fill it up with tap water instead.
3. Drink out of kegs.
Like having a drink every now and then? Want to drink green? Get a kegerator and a keg. Kegs, while typically associated with frat party debauchery, are actually really environmentally friendly. A keg can last for up to 2 decades before needing to be recycled. If you filled it up 22 times a year over 20 years, you’d be saving nearly 58,000 cans or bottles that you would have thrown away or recycled.
Oh and another perk: kegs are cheaper.
4. Get some indoor fruit and herb plants.
While you can do things to reduce your food’s carbon footprint like buying local or organic, one of the simplest (and most rewarding) ways to save is to grow your own plants. For those living in apartments, it’s still possible to get plants that only need partial sunshine like basil and other herbs. For those with yards, growing a vegetable or herb garden is super easy. It’ll save you money, it’ll make your food greener, and, as anyone who has grown their own fresh food knows, it’ll make your food more delicious.
5. Eat a little less red meat.
Cows, it turns out, are really, really bad for the environment. Not only does raising cattle take up a ton of land space that might be otherwise filled with forests that could absorb more of the planet’s excess CO2, but cow farts actually put a ton of methane into the air, which is actually a worse warming chemical than carbon dioxide.
Then the shipment of livestock meat — which is rarely raised particularly close to the places it’s eaten — contributes to carbon emissions. A really good way to help curb global warming is to cut meat out of your diet altogether. But if you pride yourself as a carnivore and can’t do that completely, just cut back: scientist Vaclav Smil suggests that totally cutting meat out of our diets worldwide is impractical, but that we can aim instead to simply cut back our meat consumption as a whole. Americans on average eat 184 pounds of meat a year. Instead, they should try to keep the number between 33 and 66. That goes a long way towards helping.