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5 Easy Ways YOU Can Help the Environment

Updated: Nov 19, 2023



People like to throw around 3 different words when talking about helping the environment. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

To reduce is to lessen the amount of harmful materials we use. To reuse is to repurpose things you would’ve normally thrown out. To recycle is to put plastic, cardboard, and other recyclable materials into recycling bins.

Even the most environmentally-conscious of us all slip up sometimes. We get home from a long day at work, collapse into bed, and don’t have the energy to trek all the way back downstairs to throw our plastic water bottle in the recycling bin.

We have a particularly stressful day and wind down at night with a 20 minute shower that drains twice the amount of freshwater than a normal shower would have.

We’re running late to a meeting and don’t have time to pick up the trash strewn about on the side of the road.

We all have those moments and regret them when we wake up in the morning. We sit at breakfast thinking about the plastic water bottle on its way to a landfill, the thirsty children we deprived of water, and the trash that is now in a hungry animal’s stomach.

Most people know what it means to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but don’t know how to. This blog will show you HOW to reduce, reuse, and recycle in 5 different ways.


 

Tip #1: Take Shorter Showers


Taking shorter showers is a well-known way to help the environment, but many people don’t realize the extent to which it helps.

According to the USEPA, the average American takes 8 minutes to shower and the average showerhead releases 2.1 gallons of water per minute. Most people drink about half a gallon of water per day.

If you shave one minute off your shower time once a week for one month, you are giving a dehydrated child clean drinking water for 2.5 weeks.

You could do the same for 5 dehydrated children if your mom, dad, sister, and brother also shaved off a minute of their shower time. Imagine how much longer the Earth’s freshwater reserves would last if everyone took 7 minute showers.

Taking shorter showers doesn’t necessary mean rushing to wash yourself and hop out of the shower; that isn’t enjoyable or relaxing for anyone. Water is only needed in the shower to rinse away soap. Next time you take a shower, turn the water on only to rinse yourself off. It will decrease the amount of time the water is on by 2–3 minutes!

Taking shorter showers is a wonderful way to reduce the amount of freshwater we use. It doesn’t have to be every day, or even every week. Start small and take a shorter shower twice a month.


Tip #2: Use Less Paper


Teachers, students, craft-lovers, and writers will shudder at this tip, but it’s easier to do than it sounds.

Personally, I like to decorate with pictures of nature, friends, and family. If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself using a lot of paper to print out your pictures. The best way to avoid this is to fit multiple photos on one page so when you print your photos, there isn’t as much wasted blank space. Most online apps will allow you to resize or crop the image you are working with. If you still can’t fit multiple images on one page, try making the page margins smaller!

Additionally, many students use notebooks to take notes for their classes or do their homework. Most notebooks have hundreds of sheets of paper; more than one student will ever use in one year. Using your notebook for 2 academic years is a great way to both reduce and reuse. You reduce the amount of blank paper wasted and reuse the notebook for another year. If you like the feeling of starting fresh each year you can rip out the used pages and recycle them!

In my experience, most teachers still use paper for assignments, homework, and assessments even in this age of digital technology. We have all had that one teacher who used so much paper that our binders were full to bursting by the end of first semester. Modern technology allows us to do almost everything we can on paper on a laptop or computer. Using technology to administer assignments, homework, and assessments is a more sustainable way for teachers to proceed.

Recycling scraps of paper is another great way to help the environment. Craft-lovers and scrapbookers — I’m talking to you. When you’re cutting patterned paper or trimming the margins of photos, recycle those scraps of paper. If you have a crafting room, it might be worth it to invest in a small bin for recycling that you can throw all of your paper scraps in as you work on projects.

Tip #3: Pick Up Trash

Picking up trash is probably the most commonly known way to help the environment. However, it is also one of the things that no one ever wants to do.

We have all had that moment when we are driving somewhere and all we see is trash littered along the grass on either side of the highway. A good portion of that trash will make its way into the stomachs of animals or bodies of water.

If you pick up one piece of trash per day for a year, you are potentially saving 365 animals from poisoning or death. If every person in Dutchess County, New York does the same, there will be over 108 million fewer pieces of trash drifting along the bottom of the ocean.

Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go and use it after picking up your one piece of trash per day. As disgusting as it is in the moment, you are making our world cleaner with every piece of trash you pick up.

Tip #4: Turning off Lights

The US Department of Energy states that household lighting accounts for 5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon emitted by lightbulbs is contributing to the climate crisis the world is currently experiencing.

If you live in a house with many windows, turn off the lights during the day and use sunlight to carry out your tasks. In the US, the sun is usually up from 7am-8pm in summer and 8am-5pm in winter. Those hours are a great time to turn off your lights in order to conserve electrical energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Flipping the light switch has become routine for most people every time they enter a room. People turn on their lights even if they don’t need to; it is simply a habit — one that is necessary to break in order to help the environment thrive.

In addition, if you are spending your time on any sort of technology such as a computer, laptop, phone, or television, you can turn off your lights. Since these technologies have built-in lighting, there is no need to have your ceiling lights on in order to see what you are doing.

Tip #5: Sign Petitions

There are many people who want to take action to help the environment, but don’t know how. The most impactful action you can take is signing a petition.

There are always new petitions being written and posted online for passionate individuals to sign in order to convince a politician to support a particular stance on a topic. A great place to find petitions to sign is change.org. Also, coming soon are issue-specific petitions on the Environmental Defense Initiative website!

Petitions are a way to make your voice heard on a certain topic. What makes a petition truly impactful is a large number of signatures showing that a large amount of people have the same opinion and viewpoint on a specific topic. YOU have the chance to be one of those people.

Start small by signing a petition. Once you get more comfortable and passionate about a certain topic, you can write your own petition!


 

Recap

This blog has taught you 5 unique ways to help the environment. The trick is to start small and build from there.

Try a different tactic each day. Make Sundays short-shower Sundays. Order a recycling bin on Monday. Pick up a piece of trash each Tuesday. Open your blinds and turn off the lights on Wednesday. Pick a petition to sign on Thursday. Share this blog with your friends and family to encourage them to do the same on Friday!

Stay updated and active by following the Environmental Defense Initiative on Medium and the social media platforms below!




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