30 Easy Ways to Be More Environmentally Friendly

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21. Stop throwing out food

According to a 2012 study by The Natural Resource Defense Council, American families throw out approximately 25% of the food and beverages they buy, costing the average family of four between $1,365 and $2,275 every year — even more in today’s dollars. There are also energy, production costs, and resources involved in the production and transport of this thrown food. You can save these by matching your food purchases to your actual consumption through menu planning and grocery lists.

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22. Compost

Nearly 30% of the waste stream consists of food and yard waste, according to the EPA. Over 50 million tons go to a landfill or incinerator. Composting not only saves disposal costs — and reduces the methane emitted from landfills — but it also creates a valuable soil amendment, reducing the need for manufactured fertilizers. You don’t need to have a lot of land or technology to compost your household food and yard waste, so long as you follow a simple formula and keep meat, bones and dairy products out of the mix.

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23. Save water

Using less water saves energy and infrastructure costs. Saving water also means less water is lost to contamination, and it helps assure an adequate supply of clean water for the future. In your own household you can conserve outdoor water use by mulching your gardens, keeping your grass a little longer, and washing your car on the lawn. Indoors, simply keep the water off when you are not actively using it, like when washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or generally cleaning up. Try this in the shower by turning the water on to the lather up, off while scrubbing up, and on again for the rinse. Shorter showers are good too.

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24. Buy a cleaner car

Vehicles produce about one-third of all U.S. air pollution, and the contaminants emitted are more of a health threat than those from smoke stacks because they are at ground level, where we live, work, and play. Cars and trucks also account for 23% of total U.S. GHG emissions, with the average passenger vehicle producing about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the EPA.

Buying a fuel-efficient car reduces air pollution and your carbon footprint, and can also save you money. The difference between a car that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to about $708 in fuel costs per year, or $3,538 over five years. The U.S. Department of Energy has an online calculator that allows you to assess the efficiency of your car and compare it to others, including hybrids and all electric cars.

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25. Drive efficiently

Fast accelerations and high speeds use up fuel, and abrupt stops waste energy. By driving gently you can lower your gas mileage by up to 33% on the highway and 5% in the city, according to the Department of Energy. The optimal highway speed for gas mileage is 50 mph; after that, your gas mileage drops quickly. Don’t idle your car, especially while running the air conditioner. In the winter, give your car only 30 seconds to warm up — it will warm up quickly when you start driving. Regular maintenance will help your car run at top efficiency — fixing serious maintenance problems can improve mileage by up to 40%.