Quick! Did you make your New Year’s resolutions yet? No? You’re in luck, 'cause we rounded up 15 easy (and high-impact) ways to go greener in 2015, just in time for tonight. Feel free to make these your resolutions, too. (Hey, sharing is something we can definitely get behind. Just see #15.)
Shutting down your electronics at night saves you big time in energy.
1) SHUT OFF YOUR COMPUTER AT NIGHT. SAVE SOME EXTRA VOLTS.
Did you ever hear the urban legend that powering down your computer wastes more energy than leaving it on all night? Totally not true. Turns out, shutting down is the best thing you can do for your device — and the environment. Give your PC the night off and help save $2.8 billion and 20 tons of CO2 every year. (That’s what gets wasted when 50% of America’s office workers leave their computers on!) Worried you’ll forget to shut it down? Skip the post-it note reminder and set yourself a phone alert. Easy AND paper free. Power to the people.
2) GIVE YOUR JUICE BOTTLE A SECOND LIFE.
Search “recycled glass crafts” on Pinterest and you’ll find 1,001 ways to turn your empties into art. (Turn your wine bottles into a mosaic kitchen backsplash, for instance.) If you’re not feeling quite that crafty, put your glass bottles in the recycling bin and give yourself a pat on the back, because you just helped the planet. Every recycled bottle saves raw materials like sand, soda ash, and limestone, lessens the demand for energy, cuts CO2 emissions, and more. All this, just by placing a bottle in a bin. For a bigger impact, consider recycling unusual items like window glass, light bulbs, eyeglasses, and drinking glasses. (Check with your public works for local recycling rules.) We’ll raise a glass to that.
3) SHOP AT SECONDHAND STORES. FASHIONISTA, MEET ENVIRONMENTALISTA.
There are so many reasons to love secondhand stores: the delicious thrill of scoring a one-of-a-kind vintage red motorcycle jacket; the buy-a-new-wardrobe, dirt-cheap prices that keep you coming back for more; and best of all, landfills. Wait, landfills? Yup, thrift stores are one of the best antidotes to dumping grounds. Every time you make a purchase at a thrift store, you’ve kept an item out of those giant holes filled with our abundant waste. So go ahead and get shopping. Do it for the environment.
4) GO FOR MEATLESS MONDAY (OR TUESDAY. WE'RE NOT PICKY.)
If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your environmental buck, try going vegetarian once a week. This simple lifestyle change is easy to add into your busy life, and has a lasting impact on the planet. By eliminating meat from your diet just one day a week for a year, you’ll save 84,000 gallons of water (cows and chickens get thirsty), 245 pounds of grain (they get hungry, too!), 7,700 sq feet of rainforest (gotta live somewhere), and so much more. Not to mention the effects on your personal health — even one day a week can reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. So give it a try. You might even say you’ve saved a lot of birds with one stone.
5) INVEST IN A REUSABLE TRAVEL MUG. DITCH THE PAPER CUP. (BUT DON'T LITTER.)
Paper coffee cups might seem recyclable, but think again. They’re actually lined with wax or plastic to keep your drink from turning the paper into pulp. That means recycling is a no-go. (Who knew?) If you’re like the average fanatical coffee drinker, you could be grabbing over 300 cups a year. So why not pick up a stylish reusable travel mug? Use that one you got as a freebie, or custom create a mug with a photo of your cat, Mrs. Bigglesworth. Or, go high tech with a Hot Rod Heated Travel Mug. Plug this baby into your Zipcar when you need to heat up your joe on the go. The best part? Whatever tankard you choose saves hundreds of paper cups. And your sweet new mug is also a great ice breaker when you meet a hottie at the coffee house.
6) PAY YOUR BILLS ONLINE AND ON TIME. YOUR MAMA WILL BE SO PROUD.
If you’re like the rest of us, that TV show Hoarders hits a little too close to home. You watch it and find yourself thinking, "My house is ONE pile of mail away from that." Maybe you’re just sick of scrambling at the last second to find that almost-due gas bill. Or maybe you’re just tired of the endless stream of paper that falls through your mail slot. Any way you look at it, paying your bills online is good for your house (no more paper skyscrapers on the dining table!), great for your debt (pay it off on time every month!), and stellar for the planet (those landfills are thanking you, right about now). So go ahead. Pay it forward (online). And if you want to take it a step further, opt out of all that junk mail with these tips from the Environmental Protection Agency. Maybe those Hoarders producers will stop calling you now.
7) DON'T USE SALT TO MELT SNOW AND ICE THIS WINTER. (NO PEPPER, EITHER.)
Cute, adorable puppies and children. Do we have your attention? Using salt-based ice-melting products during winter can wreak havoc on animals — dogs in particular. We’re talking about severe skin inflammation and serious stomach problems (including burns!). Same goes for little kids, too. Not only that, rock salt kills vegetation and can contaminate drinking water. So, while it might be effective in melting snow, it’s definitely not the best way to make friends with your neighbors — or your environment. Safepaw is an ice-melting agent that is salt-free and environmentally safe. (Cool, right?) So the kids can keep building snowmen in your front yard, and you can maintain a slip-free surface on the iciest days. Definitely an idea that has traction.
8) USE RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES. AMP THINGS UP A BIT.
Does the thought of helping the environment give you a little jolt of do-gooder electricity? If so, then rechargeable batteries are for you. You can use a rechargeable battery hundreds of times, making it much more convenient than, say, running to the store every time your remote control loses juice. With a recharger and a few extra batteries, you’ll never be more than a few steps from freshly charged batteries. But you’re not the selfish type, and there’s more to this than just convenience (though that is awfully nice). Using rechargeable batteries is more energy efficient than making brand new disposable batteries. And it’s cheaper, too. That’s what’s nice about these planet-friendly solutions. Everybody wins.
Shortening your shower time saves both money and energy.
9) TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS. (CONTINUE USING SOAP.)
Making some minor adjustments in your shower ritual can go a long way toward conserving water. You smell nice and that doesn’t have to change. But setting a 5-minute timer during your morning scrub-a-dub won’t just save you money on your water bill. It’ll save the energy needed to transport and then heat the water, and that means there’s more H2O to go around. (Wow, that’s a lot of do-gooding, just by setting a timer!) So lather up nice and quick. And save those rubber duckie snuggles for after your shower.
10) PAPER OR PLASTIC? THE ANXIETY-PROVOKING CHECKOUT QUESTION ANSWERED.
Did you ever have a dream that turned out to be kinda real? Well, that’s what’s happening with our big dreams of a compostable future. The future is within reach, and boy, is it beautiful. Paper bags are a key part of the plan, because they’re made from trees (a sustainable resource), they’re recyclable (you knew that, right?), they’re reusable (great storage for your other recyclables), and the best part is, they’re compostable. That means even if they end up as litter (not that you’d ever do that) they decompose and are no threat to the environment (Whoa. Paper bags are magical.). So take a deep breath, ask for paper — not plastic — and enjoy the sweet, earthy scent of a bright green future.
11) REPLACE LIGHTERS WITH MATCHES AND SET THE MOOD RIGHT.
If all this talk of environmentalism has you fired up to get out there and DO something, here’s a tip: Get your fire the old-fashioned way and strike a match, not a lighter. It may seem like a small thing, but disposable plastic lighters are hanging out in landfills and — you guessed it — they’re not going anywhere. They’re not sustainable, biodegradable, or compostable (bummer, right?), so they’ll be partying in the town dump long after we’re gone. Matches, on the other hand, are an eco-friendly choice. And let’s be honest. There’s just something sexy about that sulfur dioxide smell.
12) WASH YOUR LAUNDRY IN COLD WATER. (OTHERWISE, WE'RE IN HOT WATER.)
Did you ever wonder why you wash your laundry in warm water? Us too. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise to find out that you can and should wash many of your duds in cold suds — it prevents the color from leeching, it’s better for delicates, it’s more effective for stain removal, and it saves you loads on energy bills (90% of your washing machine’s energy goes to heating the water.) Not all detergents clean effectively in cold water, so stick with a soap that’s formulated for a cold water wash. And for deep sanitizing, you might still need to go hot. But don’t get cold feet on this one. And don’t give it the cold shoulder. After all, cold hands, warm heart. Cool beans?
13) CHANGE YOUR SCREENSAVER. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GO IDLE.
Back in the day, if you left a static image on a computer screen for too long it could create a permanent “ghost” image on your display. Yikes. So screensavers were invented to protect your screen’s integrity. But newer monitors don’t have that problem, and screensavers have become a kitschy reminder of ghosts of technology past (I know, you totally thought they still did something, right?). There’s just no good reason to use those bouncy colorful, mind-bending optics. In fact, screensavers waste energy, and cost you $25-$75 a year. So turn off your screensaver and spend that extra cashola at your favorite thrift store. Environmentally friendly AND another excuse to go shopping? You get a gold star for going green.
14) DITCH THE PLASTIC STRAWS. WE'LL DRINK TO THAT!
All right folks, this is the last straw! And we mean that both figuratively and literally. These days, there’s no excuse for using plastic, non-recyclable straws. They’re not reuseable (heating them up in the dishwasher releases toxins), full of BPA (ugh, more toxins), and they’re pretty much partying at the landfill till the end of time (probably BFFs with disposable lighters). But you’ve got options! You can get straws made from glass, bamboo, metal, and paper, and even compostable straws made from plants … So BYOS (bring your own straw) and make a statement while saving the planet. Trust us. It doesn’t suck.
15) JOIN THE SHARING MOVEMENT!
Not to sound too self-interested here, but we believe car sharing is a big idea. And if everybody does it, everybody wins. The one car/one driver model is slowly (but surely) becoming an antiquated notion, especially in cities, where owning a car can be more of a burden than a benefit. Each and every Zipcar takes 15 personally owned vehicles off the road. What does that mean? Less congestion, less pollution, less dependence on oil. And more green space, more clean air, and more crude oil left in the ground. You’re probably not surprised to learn we firmly believe less is more.