12 easy things you can do to help the Earth

Thomas Trutschel / ContributorConsider turning off your car instead of leaving it in idle.
  • There are little things you can do that can make a positive impact on the environment.
  • Consider starting a mini compost in your kitchen.
  • Lowering your thermostat just a few degrees can help prevent air leaks and conserve energy.

You don’t have to be a superhero to save the planet. Little things like recycling your coffee cups and turning off the lights can make a difference.

Here are 12 things you can do to help the Earth that don’t require too much time or effort.

Wrap your gifts in fabric instead of paper

According to a report from Sundale Research, people in the US spent a total of $US12.7 billion on gift wrap in 2017. And unfortunately, most gift wrap is used once and thrown away. This is especially detrimental because typical gift wrap doesn’t recycle well. “The ink diminishes the yield, it creates extra sludge when you process it, it requires additional chemicals,” Bill Moore, a paper recycling consultant based in Atlanta, told Marketplace.org.

Instead of using wrapping paper and tape to bundle birthday or holiday presents, try swaddling them in fabric and securing the whole thing with a ribbon or decorative pin. Unlike conventional wrapping paper, fabric is reusable and can stretch over awkwardly shaped items. You can even buy purpose-made wrapping cloth with festive designs.

Start a mini compost heap in your kitchen

CompostUniversalImagesGroup / ContributorA mini compost bin will ensure your biodegradable scraps don’t end up in the trash.

A compost pile is a collection of organic waste that is purposely left to decay and turn into nutrient-rich fertiliser, known as compost. And contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a big backyard to start a compost pile.

You can actually start composting right on your kitchen counter with mini compost containers that keep any odours contained.


Read more: The best compost bins you can buy

Lower your thermostat just a few degrees

Think about lowering your home thermostat slightly to save energy. According to Energy Guide, by turning your thermostat back by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save about 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill, which translates to reduced energy waste. It’s unlikely that you’ll feel significantly colder – especially if you bundle up with a sweater – and you’ll be reducing both your energy bill and environmental impact.

Opting for a programmable thermostat that automatically lowers or raises the temperature depending on the time of day can also help you live greener.

Turn your car off rather than idling

This is a super easy way to reduce your fuel usage and help the planet at the same time.

Rather than putting your car in park and letting it idle while you sit inside, consider simply turning it off until you need to move again. This reduces the amount of exhaust being pumped into the air, stops fuel wastage, and saves your engine from unnecessary wear.

Give worn-out clothes to a clothing recycling program

Donating gently used clothing is a great way to extend the usefulness of your clothes and help those in need. Some garments, however, are just too worn to pass on. Don’t throw away clothes that can’t be donated and instead, give them to a clothing recycling organisation.

Clothing recycling allows old textiles to be remade into new items, giving even torn or stained items a second chance.

RecycleNow even has a tool that lets you find clothing recycling centres near you.

Only run your washing machine and dryer if you have a full load

A man claims he found laundry detergent in his Coke.Saroj Khuendee/ShutterstockDoing less than a full load of laundry wastes water and energy.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average at-home washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load and accounts for around 6% of the typical home’s energy usage.

Because washing less than a full load of laundry wastes water and energy, be sure to only do your laundry when you’re able to fill the machine.

Replace your old showerhead

According to the EPA, for a standard showerhead, every minute wasted equates to 2.5 gallons of water.

Using a low-flow showerhead rather than a regular one reduces both water and energy consumption, as less energy is used heating the shower water. An energy-efficient showerhead can pay for itself in just four months. If you’re renting, try asking your landlord for a credit on your rent in exchange for installing an eco-friendly fixture.

Opt for lighter colours on your walls and windows

Increasing the amount of natural light your home receives doesn’t require installing new windows, which can cause energy-wasting air leaks.

The EPA recommends painting interior and exterior walls in light colours so that more light is reflected inside, reducing the need to have electric lights running during the day. Giving windowsills and edges a new coat of white paint can also add to this effect.

Use up all those random candles

CandlesRob Kim/Getty ImagesConsider turning off the lights and lighting candles instead.

If you’re one of those people who always seem to have a stash of unused candles, lighting a few at night rather than turning on the lights can reduce your energy usage. Reading, dining, or simply relaxing by candlelight is fun and easy way of clearing some clutter and saving electricity, especially if you use the candles you already have rather than going out and buying new ones.

Fix your leaking faucet to save thousands of gallons of water per year

The EPA estimates that a leaky faucet that drips at about one drop per second can waste over 3,000 gallons of water per year. That’s over eight gallons per day or the equivalent of an extra 180 showers per year.

Not only is that water wastage bad for the environment, but it’s also not doing your utility bills any favours. Fix that leaky faucet or, even better, replace it with a low-flow aerator model.

Cut the plastic rings from your beer or soda packs

According to National Geographic, every year, some 18 billion pounds of plastics enter the ocean and potentially wreak havoc on marine wildlife.

Although those flexible plastic rings that keep your six-pack together and straws are only small parts of the problem, they are both easily fixable parts. To avoid fish and sea turtles getting caught in the transparent rings, snip each ring with scissors before disposing of the packaging. When it comes to straws, just say “no” and sip directly from the cup.

Opt for the most sustainable types of meat

Raising livestock on a mass scale is a serious drain on the planet – the meat industry is a big contributor to water pollution and global greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re not ready to give up meat in the name of the environment, however, try choosing to dine on more sustainable varieties.

A 2014 study reported that livestock-based food production causes about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Further, according to the study, beef production is by far the worst culprit of environmental degradation. Its production requires 28, 11, five, and six times more land, irrigation water, GHG, and reactive nitrogen impacts, respectively, than the average of the other livestock categories.

Consider ordering chicken or other more sustainable options over steak.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.