15 easy things you can do to help the Earth

Shutterstock/Kelly vanDellenReusable water bottles are good for your wallet and the planet.
  • There are little things you can do that can make a positive impact on the environment.
  • Consider starting a mini compost in your kitchen or lowering your thermostat just a few degrees to prevent air leaks.
  • Even adopting just a few small changes can help the environment and reduce your footprint.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Climate change has become a pressing issue in not only American politics, but around the globe. Climate activist Greta Thunberg, alongside young people around the world, have begun calling out world leaders to make changes. With temperatures rising and sea ice melting, the planet is in dire need of our help.

Climate anxiety, or solastalgia, is a form of distress that is caused by environmental change. In many cases, people feel too overwhelmed by the issues, ultimately feeling helpless. However, you don’t have to be a superhero to do your part for the planet. Small changes to your everyday routine can make a big difference.

Insider has compiled a list of 15 slight changes that do not require too much time or effort, but are guaranteed to help the planet.

With the holidays coming up, try wrapping your gifts in fabric or old newspapers instead of buying wrapping paper

Getty ImagesA present wrapped in newspaper.

According to Hallmark, Americans spend about $US3.2 billion a year on gift wrap, which includes wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons, and tissue paper. And unfortunately, most gift wrap is used once and thrown away since it 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.

Another option would be to use old newspapers or paper grocery bags, which is better for the environment and saves you the time and money of having to run to the store.

Start a mini compost bin in your kitchen

Andia/Getty ImagesThe bin can be small and stashed in any corner of your kitchen.

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 start composting right on your kitchen counter with mini containers that keep any odours contained. Plus, many cities and neighbourhoods have begun incorporating drop-off locations or pick-up services. If you want to go the extra mile, try finding a local community garden or farmer’s market to drop off your food scraps.

Read more: The best compost bins you can buy

Lower your thermostat just a few degrees to save energy

Business InsiderA Nest thermostat.

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

PixabayA parked car.

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.

Donate your worn-out clothes to a clothing recycling program

Yulia Grigoryeva/ShutterstockIt’s best to go through your clothes at the end of every season.

Donating gently used clothing is a great way to extend the usefulness of your clothes and help those in need. You can even sell your gently used clothing, which is a win-win. 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.

Sustainable fashion is a growing movement and consumers are beginning to back away from “fast fashion.” Donating worn out pieces is a great way to support brands that source old textiles and remake them 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

AngryJulieMonday/flickrA little boy does a full load of laundry.

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. Even this small change will go a long way.

Replace your old shower head with a low-flow shower head

ShuttershockAn energy-efficient shower head ends up paying for itself.

According to the EPA, a standard shower head can waste 2.5 gallons of water every minute.

Using a low-flow showerhead instead, reduces both water and energy consumption, as less energy is used to heat 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 to welcome in more natural light

ShutterstockA bedroom full of natural light.

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. Plus, natural light makes any room feel more welcoming.

Switch to LED bulbs or even candles to reduce electricity use

Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/REUTERSA girl does her homework by candlelight.

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. LED bulbs are also a great alternative to conventional incandescent bulbs because they emit less energy and have a shelf life of at least 25,000 hours.

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

REUTERS/Cathal McNaughtonLeaky faucets waste more water than you would think.

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

ShutterstockA turtle is caught in the plastic rings.

According to National Geographic, around 18 billion pounds of plastics end up in the ocean and wreak havoc on marine wildlife annually.

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.

There have been advancments to reduce the plastic impact of beer rings and straws, including bans in more than 32 countries. Lots of six-packs are now made with recyclable holders, and straws are made out of compostable plastic, wood, paper, or even pasta.

Opt for sustainable types of meat

AP Photo/Ben MargotThe Impossible burger is made with plant-based meat that looks and tastes like the real thing.

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.

Companies like Niman Ranch raise meat in the most sustainable and ethical way, supplying the most natural meat in the world. Others like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat make plant-based “fake meat” that will give you the same amount of protein and nutrition as meat, but without the environmental footprint.

Replacing a few of your bathroom products with reusable cotton alternatives

ShutterstockReusable makeup pads.

While single-use cotton pads and q tips are not the first things that come to mind when you think of helping the environment, they still create a large amount of waste. EuroNews reported that cotton not grown organically can gravely pollute the environment.The World Wildlife Fund reported that 20,000 litres of water are used to make just one kilogram of cotton.

An easy solution is to switch to reusable cloth pads and q-tips, both of which can easily be cleaned with soap and water. Plus, they come in cute patterns and colours.

Use a reusable water bottle

Sarah JacobsSwell water bottles come in stylish designs and sleek shapes.

Disposable water bottles require an immense amount of plastic and oil to produce. According to Bio Friendly Planet, bottling water releases 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, and 2 million tons of plastic bottles end up in landfills every year.

A reusable water bottle will save you money, time, and is better for the environment. It’s best to buy a BPA-free bottle that is made with eco-friendly materials and recyclable. Popular ones on the market include Klean Kanteen, Swell, and Hydroflask.

Public transportation is easy to use and great for the environment

Gary Hershorn/Getty ImagesMore people are riding the New York City subway now more than ever.

Public transportation options take up far less space than single-occupancy vehicles. The EPA estimates that a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. While we will continue to see a rise in electric cars in the future, public transportation remains an easy, affordable, and environmentally-friendly alternative to getting around.

Public transportation can also help cities reduce smog, meet air quality standards, and clear up congested streets.

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