Over an average lifetime, each American will burn 31,350 gallons of gasoline, throw away 128,000 pounds of garbage, and use almost two million gallons of water.
Using less (energy, plastic, paper) helps to conserve our resources. It reduces green house gases, ground and water pollution, and solid waste. The cleaner our air and fresher our water, the healthier we are.
Here are seven ideas to reduce your impact on the environment:
1. Forgo plastic. Americans throw away millions of plastic bottles every day. There have been many studies that express concerns about the chemicals in the plastic leaching into the water. This is in addition to the questionable quality of the water that is found in these bottles. An estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water. Opt instead for a stainless steel or aluminum water bottle, get a filter at home, and fill up.
2. Carry your own bag. Carry reusable bags when you shop for clothes, groceries, pet food, and office supplies. Keep reusable bags in the trunk of your car so that they are always available. At the very least, opt for paper over plastic for bagging. Many plastic bags end up littering the environment and harming wildlife.
3. Double up the paper. Printing on both sides of paper is an option for most printers, as is using “fast draft” to save on ink when you don’t need best quality. Do this at work, home, and school. We can save on a lot of resources in the manufacturing and recycling of paper if we use less in the first place.
4. Let your fingers do the typing. Now that we have the Internet, phone books have become obsolete in most households. Nonetheless, they still get delivered to us. By calling the number on the inside of the front cover you can request to no longer receive the books. At the very least, these books should be recycled.
5. Don’t flush the meds. Many people throw old medications in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Neither of these are ideal solutions. Medications thrown in the trash find their way into the soil and those flushed down the toilet make their way into our water supply. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 80% of waterways tested in the U.S. show traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, blood pressure medication, codeine, and antibiotics. Studies show these traces of the drugs are impacting aquatic life. Many places like police departments and pharmacies have take-back programs for unwanted medications. Go online to Earth911.com or DisposeMyMeds.org and simply type in your zip code to find a disposal place near you. The same places that take your medications should also accept your unwanted vitamins.
6. Recycle right. Check your recycle bin and see if there is any information on it about what is recyclable. Oftentimes, there is a sticker clearly outlining what items are allowed. If that doesn’t work, contact your waste company or look on their website. Every time you go to throw an item away, be mindful of where it belongs—trash or recycle bin. If everyone in the U.S. separated the paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum products from the trash and instead put them in the recycle bin, the waste in landfills would be significantly reduced.
7. Save water. There are many ways to save water such as watering your lawn deeply (instead of daily) and in the early morning. Watering the lawn early in the day gives the soil and plant roots time to absorb the water without it being evaporated by the sun. Replacing your lawn with draught-tolerant plants will save even more water. Reusing water from cooking spaghetti or boiling potatoes allows you to feed your plants. Washing your car at a carwash rather than in your driveway is beneficial because the water is recycled and the special draining system prevents pollutants from soap and car grease from entering the groundwater supply.
There are so many ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Many of the chemicals released by landfills and incinerators (where our waste goes) are linked to health concerns like asthma and cancer. The less trash we put in our landfills, the better for our health on many levels.
Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness.