Feature photo by Net_efekt. Above photo by Nick Wheeler.
1. Power Down
While Big Government and Big Energy scramble to find viable sources of alternate energy, you can help the environment by doing away with hidden or needless electricity guzzlers.
– Cut down on central heating. As the largest household use of energy, you can save nearly $1100 per year by investing in space heaters or time-honored sweaters.
– Consider using line drying or a rack over an electric dryer. Not only will you get that fresh air scent from actual air and not the bottle, you’ll cut down $133 a year. Washing with cold water saves another $145.
– Use power strips for every outlet and diligently turn them off when not in use. Electronic devices suck up a lot of energy, even when supposedly in off mode. Do you really need the time displayed on your microwave, DVD player, CD player, and alarm clock?
– Your dad, while hopelessly uncool and out of touch, had a point. Turn off the light when you’re not in the room. Speaking of which, switch to compact florescent light bulbs and save an additional $90.
2. Say No Thanks to Big Business
Cast off the corporate shackles and join the DIY/ sustainability revolution. Big Business only stays that way by hustling products at the highest possible retail value for the lowest manufacturing costs–usually to the detriment to third world laborers, the environment, and the consumer. Luckily for us, we don’t need half of the junk they sell, and what we do need, we can either buy locally or used, or make ourselves.
– When you can, buy indie and local. You won’t be paying for middleman fees or the cost of shipping and the quality tends to be less shoddy.
– Instead of buying, consider making. Crafting not only allows you take some ownership of your life, you’ll regain that sense of community sadly lacking nowadays. Join a knitting/sewing circle, baking group, mandolin making class, or whatever tickles your fancy. A burgeoning industrial and applied arts culture awaits you.
3. First Reduce… Then Reuse, and Recycle
While providing ease and efficiency, disposable products also habituate you to buying more, continuously. Breaking the Baby Boomer bad habit of “use once-throw away” will save money, limited resources, and space at the dump.
– Swiffer mops, plastic water bottles, IKEA furniture, paper towels and such should go the way of the dinosaur. If it doesn’t last you longer than a year (even better would be a lifetime, but that’s a tad optimistic) then don’t consider buying it.
– Try the library over Amazon.com, thrift stores and reuse centers over designer stores, cloth over paper/plastic.
– If you absolutely must buy new, disposable products, try to avoid ones with unnecessary, gimmicky packaging or obvious planned obsolescence. For the ones you do buy, find a new life for them after initial use. Larger yogurt containers make great pots for plants. Old t-shirts can become a rag rug. Be creative.
Click here for an excellent overview of how production and consumption works, or rather doesn’t.
4. Get Moving
One of the downsides to modern urban development is that commercial and financial centers are far removed from residential ones. Most of us have to commute daily and for relatively long distances (unless you’re lucky enough to telecommute to work).
– Even though it may feel like it, exercise typically won’t kill you. If that mile to the bus stop/ train station/ carpool pick up is what’s keeping you from joining the ranks of public commuters, just think about how much time you’ll save at the gym and money on gas–which will only become more expensive as reserves dwindle.
– More and more cities are offering benefits to those who take public transportation, such as tax-free commuter checks or free bus rides for cyclists. Check your city’s website for more info.
– For the times that you’re not at work, choose to explore your local community instead of schlepping across the city. You’ll discover unique facets of your neighborhood, which only stands to benefit from your patronage and participation.
5. Eat Like the French
Despite the French’s dairy rich diets, they don’t experience obesity epidemics because they eat whole, they eat fresh, and they eat smaller portions. Avoiding factory farmed and processed foods will save you money and empty calories, not to mention alleviate strain on ecosystems.
– Make farmer’s markets your best friend. The more local the food, the better it is for ecosystems and economies. Like buying other local goods, not only are you avoiding middleman fees and transportation cost (and pollution), but you’re keeping money in the community instead of flushing it into the corporate toilet.
– Most Americans don’t like hearing this, but not only does industrialized meat production cost more than other factory farm products, it takes a heavy toll on the environment. Discover the joys of fish and other protein sources such as legumes and cheese.
– Eat slower and enjoy your food. The more time you allow for proper digestion, the smaller your portions. Having meals with friends and family (and not in front of idiot box) is a great way to make sure you don’t chow down on autopilot.
6. Water Crisis Is the New Oil Crisis
We may live on the Blue Planet, but thanks to global warming precipitation has been and will continue to become more erratic. While Mad Max extremities may not be a reality in your region or lifetime, conserving water now will make later droughts less dire. Not to mention easier on your monthly bills.
– Don’t be afraid to drink from the tap, no matter what corporate propaganda tells you about the laurels of Fijian imports. If it hasn’t killed your cat, then it probably won’t kill you either.
– Simple actions such as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth to low-flow shower heads can reduce consumption 20-60%.
– Also, water can be reused. If it’s not too contaminated, consider reusing water for your garden or cleaning. Don’t just dump it down the drain.
Have more tips? Comment below.