3 New Year's Resolutions for the Lazy Environmentalist
By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the NatuREport Blog Series
Going green is kind of a weird thing. On one hand, with its buzzwords and celebrity endorsers, it’s very much in vogue. (Lest we forget, littering is officially a bigger faux pas than cheating on your taxes.) And yet, it also carries with it a kind of stigma. Go too green, and you’re labeled – if I may borrow a delightful phrase from a recent Marketplace report – a “crunchy granola hippie or a rich elitist snob.”
I hope (and believe) that we’ll eventually get to a cultural tipping point when eco-friendly products don’t even need to be labeled as such – when they become the new normal and effectively wipe out their unfair stigma. With the environment in its current state, we kind of have to get to that point sooner rather than later. But until then, many people feel the need to go green undercover. Ultimately, who actually wants the weirdo hippie label?
Luckily for would-be environmentalists everywhere, there are plenty of ways you can be eco friendly without drawing attention to yourself – and while barely lifting a finger. Here are some super-easy green tips that have found their way onto my list of resolutions:
#1. Cut down on paper towels.
Paper towels are one modern amenity that just isn’t worth it. All in the name of convenience, Americans dump 3,000 tons of them to landfills – not in a year or even a month, but rather each and every day. Considering how light each individual towel is, that’s quite impressive (in a sad sort of way).
I don’t know about you, but I frequently feel guilty for all of the paper towels I use. After all, people somehow managed to clean their kitchens for centuries without Bounty around. Luckily, making the switch from paper is easy, and it’ll save you money to boot. Sponges, kitchen towels, and microfiber cloths can handle most of your cleaning needs. If you’re feeling especially green, you can easily upcycle old T-shirts into rags. Just toss them in the laundry when you wash your other towels, and voila – you’ve just saved your family $200 per year!
If you’re out and about and the restroom has paper towels instead of an air dryer, here’s a tip: you probably don’t need more than one sheet to dry your hands. Shake off as much water as you can, and if your hands are still wet, one paper towel should do the trick.
For more ideas, check out these tips from TLC!
#2. Stop buying bottled water.
Ahh, plastic. As I’ve written before, it’s bad. Like, really bad. And in the world of plastic, one of the worst offenders is also one of the most ubiquitous – and the most pointless. I’m talking, of course, about bottled water.
Despite the fact that it costs up to 10,000 times as much as tap water, Americans continue to buy 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water every year, usually because they think it’s safer than tap water. (Ironically, 40% of all bottled water comes from the tap anyway.) It’s also wildly inefficient – it takes three times the amount of water to make the bottle as it does to fill it. And as long as we’re talking about the bottle, consider this: 17 million barrels of oil are used in water bottle production yearly. Not exactly sustainable…and the bottles never, ever go away. It’s kind of freaky to think about, but as pointed out by documentary filmmaker Craig Leeson, "Every piece of plastic ever made since the fifties exists in some shape or form on the planet. We throw plastic into a bin, it's taken away from us and we never see it again — but it still comes back at us."
If that’s not enough to convince you to cut down on plastic, consider this: plastic is capable of creating never-dissolving invisible plastic continents and turning milk rings into turtle corsets.
So buy yourself a nice reusable water bottle – they’re cheap and will last you a long, long time. If for no other reason, at least do it for the turtles.
#3. Keep a cache of reusable bags in your car.
Let’s have a show of hands: who actually uses their glove compartment for gloves?
…that’s what I thought. So why not put it to use?
I always have the best of intentions when I buy reusable shopping bags, but my problem is, I bring them into the house and then leave them there. So when I’m actually out and about, they don’t do me any good. The simple solution and my plan for the New Year: buy a lot of reusable bags, and keep them where they’re easily accessible!
Making this switch is one of the easiest ways you can “green” your life. Like aluminum water bottles, reusable shopping bags can last you a long time – much longer than the standard flimsy plastic bags you tend to get in grocery stores. An estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean each year (that’s one bag for every single person in the United States), contributing to countless animal deaths and disfigurements. Recycling them is a noble idea, but unfortunately, plastic bag recycling isn’t all that efficient. Hardly any recycling plants even bother to do it at all. Buying sturdy reusable bags is a cheap, easy way to cut down on your carbon footprint.
These days, many stores offer their own branded reusable bags, but if you’d rather have something a little more chic, there are plenty of options. For those handy with a sewing machine, you can even make your own wallet-sized fold-up shopping bag from a pattern. For the needle-and-thread-challenged (like myself), Baggu offers a whole range of really stylish bags that you can fold up to easily slip inside even a small purse.