Sustainable living is getting some much deserved attention and can pay big dividends over time. Not only are green initiatives good for our planet, they can save you time and money during your day-to-day activities.
You don't have to be Captain Planet to live green in 2012. From brewing a cup of joe to cleaning up a mess, there are plenty of ways to integrate sustainability into your life, whether in buying greener products or simply changing a few habits.
Adjust the Thermostat
Everyone has their perfect room temperature, but ideal conditions tax air conditioning and heating systems and drive up energy costs. Adjusting the thermostat just a few degrees in the weather's direction can save you over ten percent on your energy bill, according to treehugger.com.
To compensate for the imperfect climate, use fans to circulate air throughout a warm house and break out your favorite sweater when you're feeling chilly. The average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions than the average car, according to Energy Star, so every little household sacrifice adds to a reduced carbon footprint.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Car emissions play a large role in today's energy and sustainability issues. Highway vehicles release approximately 1.6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere yearly, which contributes to global climate change, according to the U.S. Department of Energy website. Optimal car conditions and sustainable driving habits will increase your gas mileage and reduce carbon dioxide output:
- Keep tires properly inflated: Drivers can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by inflating tires to the proper pressure (usually noted on the tire), according to fueleconomy.gov.
- Avoid aggressive driving: Rapid accelerating and braking wastes gas and is conducive to accidents.
- Change the oil regularly: Clean motor oil promotes engine efficiency and keeps cars running smoothly.
- Limit idling: Keeping the car on while it is in park wastes gas. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to turn a car on, so give the engine a rest next time you're waiting in your car.
Electric or hybrid vehicles offer an energy-saving alternative to conventional gas powered vehicles. Each major American automaker now features a hybrid or fully electric vehicle, and government incentives can reduce the cost of these expensive modes of transportation. If you're considering purchasing a new vehicle, consider a sustainable option.
The emerging sustainability market is taking its place in grocery stores across America. Some products with organic ingredients require limited energy during production, while others utilize recycled materials. Cleaning supplies, coffee, natural supplements and brown rice are just a few examples of environmentally conscious products that could stock your shelves. Choose a few sustainable products to buy regularly. Natural ingredients will promote good health, and your purchases will support green living.
There is no shortage of products that claim to promote sustainability, but some companies green initiatives only go as far as the label. If the company truly employs green techniques during production, it will usually describe the process on the product. Do your research before buying green and beware of superficial, "eco-friendly" products.
It sounds like an outdated initiative, but just half of Americans recycle daily, and 13 percent don't recycle at all, according to Visualnews.com. When recycling becomes a force of habit, you can significantly effect the environment, but it takes discipline to start a recycling cycle. Start by researching your city's waste management options.
Your city may have specific guidelines for what it considers reusable. Many communities offer separate recycling and trash pickups, but sometimes you'll have to commute to find a recycling center. Set up separate receptacles for trash and reusables in your kitchen, and keep a list of recyclables visible. After a couple weeks of persistence, recycling will feel like second nature.
Recycling waste isn't the only way to reuse promote keeping reusable products out of our landfills. You or your kids may outgrow or grow tired of old clothing, but that doesn't mean someone else can't put it to good use. Instead of trashing old clothing, donate it to a local thrift store. Not only will you be helping the environment, you'll also be stocking inexpensive clothing stores that help people in need.
Plant a Tree
Forget the hippie jokes, planting a tree is a fun way to promote environmental health and enhance your yard. Trees provide beauty, shade and value to your property, and they break oxygen into the environment. Cultivating a tree is a healthy, rewarding habit, and you'll appreciate the fruits (actually plants) of your labor. Plant a tree in autumn or early spring so it has a chance to take root before extreme heat or cold.
Opportunities to live green are everywhere in daily life. Small steps can make a big impact as we promote a healthy environment.
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