Updated for 2019
The health of our planet depends on each of us doing our part to keep the environment clean. It is important for individuals and businesses to take steps that will decrease pollution, combat global warming and save energy.
The first step in doing your part to keep the environment clean is to calculate the amount of waste and emissions that you or your company create. This allows you to track your progress and measure the success of your initiatives. It also assists you and your team with creating goals for improving your environmental impact.
An easy way for individuals to measure their carbon footprint is to use a free online calculator. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has a free online calculator for individuals and households.
It is user friendly and calculates your environmental impact based on your energy use, transportation methods and waste generation. The calculator asks for information such as the cost of your average monthly energy bills, the number of cars in your household along with their average mileage and the household products that you recycle. It even suggests ways to reduce your environmental impact and help keep the environment clean based on your results!
Small businesses can also use a free online calculator, such as the one on CarbonFootprint.com, that has specific inputs applicable to them. Small businesses can can create a free account to use the basic calculator or choose a paid account to unlock extra features such as a downloadable PDF report, consulting and the ability to enter more data.
Now that you have measured your environmental impact you can start applying methods to decrease it and ensure that you do your part in keeping the environment clean.
Most people are familiar with recycling, but not everyone fully understands the impact it has on our planet. Recycling takes an old object that has been discarded and makes it into a new object that can be reused again. Making an old object into a new object saves resources and prevents pollution. Placing the appropriate items in the recycling bin is a small action that has a substantial impact. The EPA’s infographic below is a helpful guide on which items are recyclable.
Start by having the appropriate waste collection bins in your home and office.
Fortunately, recycling bins are inexpensive and don’t have to take up a lot of space. For instance, there are recycling bins that are light-weight and collapsible which makes them easy to use. If you already have bins then you can clearly label them using inexpensive stickers. A few sensible options for homes and businesses are below.
Once you have the correct bins available, it is just a matter of getting people to use them. In your household you could encourage your family members or roommates to recycle at meal times. It is important to make this a daily habit so that it becomes muscle memory. For young children it can be helpful to praise the action when you seem them utilizing the recycling bin. For older kids and adults it can help to explain the impacts of recycling and describe how it hurts the planet when we don’t recycle. This short, family friendly, video below could be helpful.
For businesses and offices, it might take a little more coaxing to encourage people to help keep the environment clean through recycling.
According to Stanford University, people are more likely to recycle if there are clear instructions on how to do it along with an urgent message that describes the negative consequences of not recycling. Incorporating these two ingredients in your office is not difficult. An example of helpful instructions and messages that you can print out for your employees or co-workers are below. It might be useful to place these above the trash can and recycling bins to spur people to recycle.
Source: City of Portland, Maine
Source: Panda Environmental Services
Reducing your energy consumption can help keep the environment clean while benefiting you personally as well. For example, using less electricity can decrease your monthly energy bill which saves you money. It also decreases the amount of CO2 that you generate and puts less demand on the energy grid.
Reducing your energy consumption doesn’t have to be hard. A simple way to start is by turning off the lights when you are not in a room. If you have windows in your home or apartment it can be useful to utilize those for natural light during the day rather than relying on electricity.
Another simple way to reduce your energy consumption is to eliminate what is called “vampire energy”. Check out the infographic below from Payless Power.
Vampire energy is the energy that electronic devices use when they are plugged in (even if they are turned off). The same goes for chargers that aren’t currently charging a device, they are still using electricity. Everything that is plugged in is drawing energy from the grid and ultimately costing you money and putting unnecessary stress on the environment. To help keep the environment clean you can start by unplugging electronic devices that aren’t in use. This could mean unplugging your cell phone, laptop or tablet chargers, coffee machine, microwave, television or printer.
If unplugging your devices manually is to difficult, it might be helpful to set up your electronics so that you save energy automatically.
Homes, businesses and offices can automate energy savings by using a simple outlet timer. Outlet timers can be programmed to turn off devices such as lights, fans and appliances automatically in order to save energy and money. An outlet timer can help simplify and automate your energy savings by shutting off the devices in your home or office for you on a schedule that you choose. Some devices can be programmed to turn off through an app on your phone.
Another way to reduce your energy consumption is to use energy efficient products. The light bulbs in your home or office are a great place to start. Energy efficient light bulbs can be purchased for as little as $2 and some light bulbs can be controlled by Alexa or similar devices.
Other energy efficient products that you can explore using include windows, refrigerators, washers & dryers and air conditioning units.
Millions of people commute to and from work each day. This means thousands of cars on the road causing large amounts of pollution.
Commuting is a necessary part of life. However, there are some options that individuals can try that could decrease their environmental impact and help keep the environment clean.
For instance, it might make sense to carpool with family, friends or co-workers. That way, there is only one car on the road instead of three or four. A lot of couples or family members use this method if their jobs are relatively close together. Instead of taking two cars, they opt to take one car and drop the person off on their way to their own job and pick them up at the end of the day. Many ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft have carpool options as well.
Another potential option is to use public transportation. This is an easy option for people that live in large cities with robust train systems. A lot of cities also have bus lines or lightrails that aid in commuting in an environmentally friendly manner.
Some people have found success biking or even skateboarding to work as they combine their commuting time with their exercise time.
The most important thing is figuring out what works best for you, your job and and your family.
Single use plastics such as water bottles, styrofoam, paper and plastic bags hurt the environment because they are not generally biodegradable. This means they do not break down and end up polluting our land and water which can also harm our animal life.
Carrying a reusable water bottle can dramatically reduce the use of single use plastic. Offices might have success by removing all single use cups from the break room or cafeteria areas. Employees will start bringing their own reusable bottles and mugs rather than go thirsty. This automatically reduces the amount of waste that an office produces.
Utilizing reusable bags to carry lunch, groceries and store items can help keep the environment clean as well. Skipping plastic silverware and straws if possible while out to eat can also be beneficial.
The less plastic the better!
Today’s technology can help us use less paper at work and in our daily lives.
For example, many people like using a good old fashioned notebook to journal, take notes and make lists. However, a lot of paper in notebooks ends up unused and discarded. Furthermore, it can be hard to sort through the notes and find exactly what is needed.
A solution could be paperless notebooks that have the look and feel of regular notebooks but are much more environmentally friendly.
Some people have had success with products such as the Rocketbook which is a wired notebook that is erasable and reusable. It can even store notes in Google Drive, One Note and Drop Box making them much easier to search, store and share.
Offices and businesses can also benefit from using recycled paper, printing double sided and electronically sharing presentations and materials whenever possible.
Comment below and let us know what tips you use to keep the environment clean!
Our writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.