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Sometimes, the thought of all the ways ways we need to care for the environment seems like a daunting task to complete. How can we prevent deforestation? How can we reduce our carbon footprint? How can we save the turtles? There are so many things to take into consideration when thinking about ways to be greener. But what one of the most important things to remember is: you don’t need a big service project to save the environment. Changing some of your every day habits can, in effect, help better the environment little by little. Here are some of the simple changes in life to be greener.

                                                                  Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

1. Metal Straws!

This is one of the popular switches. I feel like more and more people have been converting from plastic straws to metal/paper ones. This shift may have started when Starbucks announced their plastic straw ban, and since then more restaurants have implemented the same idea. Celebrities who also sport metal straws, such as Bretman Rock, had an influence on the influx of people making this change to their lives. Whether we realize it or not, we use a lot of plastic straws. Between dining out, getting our weekly Starbucks fix, and homemade smoothies, this is a piece of plastic often used in our lives that we can easily cut out.

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2. Reusable Grocery Bags

So many plastic bags are wasted just by bagging your groceries. If you think of it, that plastic is only used to help transport your items once. That’s a lot of one-use plastic. To help combat this problem, invest in reusable grocery bags! You can find these at any store near the cashier, plus some of them have really cute designs! Reusable grocery bags are also more durable, so you won’t have to double bag heavy duty items. States such as Hawaii have taken the initiative of reducing the amount of plastic usage by placing a fee on plastic bags at grocery stores. If you forgot to bring your own bag, stores will charge you for an eco-friendly reusable bag. This encourages customers to bring their own bag next time they shop. I personally find reusable bags more convenient too because they’re usually bigger than plastic bags, which means fewer things to carry.  

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3. Rethink Your Water Usage

Let’s be honest, as comforting as a 20-minute hot shower after a long day sounds, it’s not necessary. On average, the American person uses 17. 2 gallons of water for a shower that lasts an average of 8.2 minutes. The Earth only contains 1% of accessible fresh water. Even then, some parts of the world don’t even have access to fresh clean water. Whether you realize it or not, we have a shortage of fresh water available. Showering is an area of our lives where we can easily conserve the amount of water we use. When showering, be more conscious of when the water is on. If you’re lathering your hair with shampoo or scrubbing your body, does the water really need to be on? It probably doesn’t. Switch your showerhead to a more eco-friendly one that stifles the flow of water. Eco-friendly shower heads are labeled with a WaterSense label. The same goes for brushing your teeth. When you’re actually brushing your teeth, turn the water off, because you’re not using it. If you’re into gardening, avoid times where the sun is high in the sky. This prevents water from being evaporated quickly and allows your plants to be more hydrated. These are just some easy ways to conserve water in your everyday life.

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4. Buy Local

Another grocery store environment hack is checking where your food came from. Is it locally grown or did it have to be shipped from out-of-state? If it is the latter, try considering buying from a local brand. The less traveling your food has to do, the better. It’s the same logic behind carpooling together; the fewer cars on the road, the fewer fuel emissions, and the smaller your carbon footprint. Importing things from elsewhere takes a lot of manpower. From trucks hauling items overnight, to ships crossing the sea from continent to continent, these travel times have a negative effect on the environment from all the carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals being released into the air and the ocean. By buying local it supports sustainability within your community as well. Especially in communities where they are isolated from major agriculture sources, if there is an event where they can’t import food, they would have the resources it takes to sustain themselves. Through buying local, this also increases the quality of food you are getting. The less the travel time, the fewer preservatives needed to keep the items fresh. Not only that, but with raising cattle in the area, and housing more robust animals in general, your land’s soil gets richer, creating an even better place to grow more crops. Buying local is really a whole cycle of making your environment richer while also helping people get more access to food.

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5. Recycling and Composting Our Waste

In general, we produce a lot of waste. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, the amount of things we throw away each day turns into a mountain of items. The thing is: the majority of items that we throw away probably don't need to go into the landfill. Paper, for example, is often an overlooked recyclable item. Your receipts, flyers, posters, books, and other papers can be recycled. What can’t be recycled are those papers that are used in the food and hygiene areas, such as napkins, tissues, etc. Other than that, if it’s paper, it can probably be recycled. Plastic bottles, cans, and glass, all of these can be recycled. Food containers, such as yogurt cups and plastic clamshell containers can be recycled, as long as they don’t have a lot of food residue. Cardboard can be recycled, even pizza boxes. More unknown recyclable items are batteries (there’s a bin at Pearson Library for this), electronics (research the area around you for electronic donation drives), metals, lightbulbs, tires, grocery store bags, bubble wrap, etc. With your clothes, donate them! Shelters and outreach programs are always looking for donations. Shoes with rubber soles can be donated to certain stores like Converse who have a designated bin for you to put unwanted shoes and then they turn the soles into the foundation of playgrounds for kids. Old rags, towels, bed sheets, carpets can be collected and, again, be donated. Animal shelters are always on the lookout for towels and rags too. Rethink the things you throw away and really ask yourself if it really needs to go into the landfill because often times it doesn’t and can be used for better things. For more on what to recycle, take a look at this guide.

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Saving the environment is more simple than we think. Being conscious of our actions and how they might affect the environment is the first step we need to take in this endeavor. When it comes down to it, Earth is our only home. It’s the home to the past, present, and more importantly the future. We need to preserve it so that others too will have the resources it takes to sustain life. Yes, it is a big task to fulfill, but the fact that we strive to take steps to help is what really makes a difference.

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