Our planet is under tremendous pressure. Most of us use more resources than the earth can naturally replenish. In fact, if everyone in the world lived like the average North American, we would need five planets to sustain ourselves, say experts.
While there is no single, quick-fix solution, each of us can help ease the pressure. With a fresh New Year upon us, there is no better time to add “live greener” to your personal goals.
And what’s even better is that many small steps you can take to live a little greener won’t cost you a dime -- and can even help you save money.
Easy green step #1: Get smart with your energy
The easiest way to live greener — and save — is to use less power, and you can decrease demand for energy while fattening your wallet.
- Turn off the lights! Get into the habit of lighting only the rooms you’re currently using.
- Unplug your electronics. Beware “phantom power” hogs — everything from computer monitors to cell phone chargers that draw energy even when they’re not turned on. Unplug them and save up to 10% on your energy bills, says B.C. Hydro.
- Lower your thermostat. Turn down the heat by 5°C at night and save another 10%.
- Tweak your water heater. The optimal range is between 55°C and 60°C. Shortening those showers and washing your laundry in cold water will also curb your energy bill.
- Take advantage of time-of-use electricity rates. This is another opportunity to conserve energy and your bank account. Make sure you know when the cheapest rates are — usually evenings and weekends — and plan ahead to save.
Check with your local utility provider for more helpful tips.
Easy green step #2: Stop wasting food
We all know the cost of food is rising, so why are we wasting so much of it? Shockingly, we toss out about one in every four produce items — that’s about $600 worth of food per Canadian household per year, says the David Suzuki Foundation.
The environmental cost of all this wasted food is enormous. Just think about all the energy and natural resources required to grow, process, package and transport food, and you can begin to get the picture.
- Think before you buy. The easiest way to stop wasting food is to plan ahead. Plan your week’s meals, shop more mindfully by sticking to your grocery list and take a pass on those unplanned bulk “bargains.”
- Pay attention to packaging; it could save you even more. Case in point: the dreaded shrink-wrapped cucumber. For most, the idea of wrapping a cucumber in plastic seems unnecessary. But surprise, surprise: A wrapped cucumber lasts much longer than an unwrapped one — and that means less food waste, say the authors of Why shrink-wrap a cucumber: The complete guide to environmental packaging .
- Ditch the fossil fuel-derived plastic wrap. Keep your food fresh in reusable glass storage containers instead.
- Freeze your leftovers. Try some of these creative ideas: What to do with leftovers.
Easy green step #3: Scrub up some savings with DIY cleaners
While there are more “green” cleaning products on the market today than there used to be, the cost still adds up. Canadians spent a whopping $275 million on household cleaning products in 2011, according to CBC’s Marketplace. Plus, it’s hard to know what’s in most household cleaners since companies aren’t required to list their “trade-secret” ingredients.
- Make your own cleaners. Do your body and wallet a favour by using everyday ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice, white vinegar and salt — and save hundreds of dollars each year. Try these green cleaning recipes from the Queen of Green at the David Suzuki Foundation.
So that’s it — three easy steps to start saving green by going green. By sticking to smaller, everyday changes in the beginning, you’ll be more likely to succeed in meeting your personal goals.
Caroline Nolan is founder and principal of ThinkSustain® Consulting. She helps organizations design, develop and implement strategies for environmental, social and economic sustainability.