50 Ways to Love the Planet

a little girl hugging a tree with a heart-shaped trail marker

How to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

Here are fifty simple ways to help keep the planet healthy.

  • Reduce Plastic Use

    1. Bring your own bags when you shop.
    2. Buy milk and juice in glass bottles.
    3. Buy pantry staples—dried beans and peas, rice, pasta, nuts, oatmeal—in bulk when possible and store them in glass containers.
    4. Use cloth napkins and nappies (as the British call diapers).
    5. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes.
    6. Replace cling wrap with beeswax wrap.
    7. Carry a reusable water bottle and a travel mug for coffee/tea.
    8. Swap out your liquid soap for old-fashioned bar soap.
    9. Ditto for shampoo.
    10. Opt for cosmetics and cosmetic supplies made and packaged without plastic. You can find lotions, creams, sunscreens, deodorants, and more in tins and glass bottles.
    11. Give up toothpaste in plastic tubes in favor of tooth-cleaning tabs or powders and pastes packaged in glass jars. Or make your own using baking soda.
    12. Make your own yogurt in glass jars.
  • Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

    1. When you eat, stick to the bottom of the food chain: Opt for fruit, vegetables, grains, and beans. Skipping just one day of meat and dairy products cuts your annual carbon footprint by eight pounds!
    2. Reduce food waste by planning meals in advance, freezing what you don’t use, and eating leftovers.
    3. Compost.
    4. When you buy clothing, stick with classic styles rather than trendy items that will soon be outdated—and land in landfills. Better yet, buy vintage at consignment shops.
    5. Set your washing machine to cold. It’ll keep 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the environment each year.
    6. Think twice (or thrice) before you buy something. Do you really need it?
    7. When you do really need it, choose the option with the least packaging.
    8. Look for Energy Star certification when buying new appliances.
    9. Need a new computer? Choose a laptop over a desktop. They’re more energy efficient.
    10. Leaving the room (or the house)? Turn off the lights!
    11. Turn your water heater down to 120 and save 550 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
    12. Take short showers under a low-flow showerhead to save another 350 pounds annually.
    13. Whenever possible, add a layer of clothing in the winter and remove one in the summer instead of turning the heat or air-conditioning up. Fans use less energy than air-conditioners too.
    14. Drive less, walk more. Or bicycle, carpool, or take the bus.
    15. Maintain your car for fuel efficiency: Keep the tires at the proper pressure, have regular oil and fluid changes, and remove extra weight for fuel efficiency.
    16. Don’t drive like a maniac! Aggressive drivers can use up to 40 percent more fuel than calm, consistent drivers, according to some studies.
    17. Combine errands to limit driving time.
    18. Avoid flying when possible—airplane travel makes up the bulk of people’s carbon footprint. When you do fly, skip the layovers.
  • Save the Trees

    1. Do buy a subscription to your local paper and other periodicals that you enjoy, but opt for digital delivery.
    2. Sign up for paperless billing.
    3. Use smart phone apps to take notes, scan documents, keep lists, and the like.
    4. Find alternatives to paper plates and cups. Bamboo and tin dishware are fun for picnics!
    5. Recycle your old T-shirts and towels into rags, and use them in place of paper towels.
    6. Feel a sneeze coming on? Reach for a cloth hankie instead of a tissue.
    7. Buy toilet tissue made from recycled paper.
    8. When you have to print something, adjust fonts and margins to use fewer sheets if possible, and print on both sides.
    9. Buy paper made from sources other than trees.
    10. Wrap gifts in cloth.
  • Green Your Garden

    1. Avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides; use natural means to keep bugs away from people and plants.
    2. Fertilize with your own compost.
    3. Collect rainwater from your roof in a rain barrel, and use it to water your plants and crops.
    4. Replace some or all of your lawn with ornamental grasses, wildflowers, or native plants.
    5. Plant a tree, or two or three. Trees purify the air and supply homes for wildlife.
    6. Use a human-powered reel mower to mow your lawn. You’ll get exercise and avoid the toxic gases made by gas-powered mowers.
  • Be an Activist

    1. Contact your representatives. If you want action on climate change and other environmental issues, let your US representatives and senators know.
    2. Lobby mainstream businesses to adopt environmentally friendly practices.
    3. Divest of funds invested in fossil fuels, and encourage any organizations you are part of to do the same.
    4. Vote! Read up on candidates’ positions on climate change, then vote for those that most align with planet-friendly values.
Sources: 

“30+ striking ways to use less paper to save world’s forests” www.conserve-energy-future.com

“The 35 easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint” by Renee Cho, Columbia University Earth Institute, https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu, 12/27/18

“Earth-friendly gardening” by Pamela T. Hubbard, Penn State Extension, https://extension.psu.edu

“Life without plastic is possible. It’s just very hard” by Steven Kurutz, New York Times, 2/16/19

“What is fossil fuel divestment?” htpps://GoFossilFree.org

“Zero waste toothpaste: 9 plastic free products to sink your teeth into,” www.SustainableJungle.com

“Zero waste: Yogurt solution,” https://BabyStepsToZeroWaste.wordpress.com, 5/3/17

Contributor

Jane Eklund

Jane is a long-time resident of New Hampshire, where she holds an editorial position at Keene State College. She has a background in both literary and journalistic writing, including book reviews, poetry, and history.