Green living. Going green. Eco-friendly. Environmentally friendly. Conservation. Recycling. Ecology. Organic. Energy efficiency.
While people have actively cared for the environment for millennia, conservation as an idea or concept didn’t achieve true public consciousness until the first Earth Day was held in 1970. Even then, it’s been a struggle to get billions of people around the world to change or even slightly adapt their individual actions for the collective benefit of the whole planet.
We get it. Old habits can be hard to break. But recent climate science tells us that our planet is heating up to levels that are downright hazardous for human, plant, and animal life. If we’re going to stop rising temperatures and sea levels, we must learn better behaviors — ones that really change the direction of our environment.
To help you, your friends and your family learn how to be more attentive global citizens, we’ve gathered 25 essential green living tips that can deliver the greatest impact on the environment. Below, we grouped our recommendations by relative difficulty level — easiest to hardest — to help you make the transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle as seamless as possible.
Additionally, we recommend making only one or two changes at a time. It’s easy to get frustrated with new habits when you attempt too much at once.
Simple Green Living Tips
Think of these green living tips as the table settings on the menu of true green living. You’ll see them on almost every “Here’s How to Go Green” list online since they require little to no effort to achieve them. That said, you should absolutely implement these tips, as it’s still a win for the environment.
1. Use LED Light Bulbs
Energy-efficient light bulbs last longer, give off less wasted energy and don’t contain harmful chemicals. If you can afford to replace all of your old bulbs at once, you should do so, or you can simply replace those old ones each time one goes out.
2. Use ENERGY STAR Appliances
This energy-efficient technology uses less electricity and uses it more effectively. These energy-saving devices can also help you save money — and help the environment! However, don’t replace your current appliances unless you absolutely need to, and look for every possible opportunity to recycle old appliances so they don’t end up in a landfill.
3. Use Canvas Bags
There are enough plastic bags in the world, so you should instead use ones that you can use over and over and over again. This doesn’t apply to just grocery shopping, but to any shopping you do.
4. Turn Off the Lights
It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it’s also one of the most tangible ones that can make a difference. We also encourage you to see how long you can go in a day without using any large overhead lights by simply using a small lamp or sunlight from your windows.
5. Turn Off Electronics
Not only do we mean turning off consumer electronics and appliances when you’re finished using them, but we also mean unplugging everything so they don’t draw vampire power from the wall. And yes, this includes the chargers for your devices.
6. Use Less Water
A wide-ranging tip, this includes the following:
- Installing low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucets
- Taking showers instead of baths
- Taking shorter showers
- Turning off the faucet when washing dishes or brushing teeth
7. Use Appliances Thoughtfully
Another broad tip, you should implement the following techniques:
- Only run your washer, dryer, and dishwasher after the sun goes down
- Run your washer on cold water
- Open the dishwasher door to dry your dishes
- Hang dry clothes when possible
- Skip preheating your oven
- Use the microwave instead of the stove or oven when possible
- Set your water heater to 120 °F
8. Actively Recycle Everything
If your community offers any sort of recycling program, you should be involved and follow the rules. Additionally, check with the stores in your area to see what heavy items can be recycled — including consumer electronics, light bulbs, plastic bags, and more.
9. Use Renewable Electricity
Switching to an electricity plan powered by renewable energy — instead of power generated from burning coal and natural gas — will go a long way to helping the environment.
10. Use More Efficient Thermostat Settings
With this tip, you’re reducing your overall electricity usage, which helps the greater electricity grid by slowing down on our collective consumption. Our suggested settings are as follows:
- Summer: 75 °F if someone is home
- Summer: 80 °F if no one is home
- Winter: 68 °F during the day if someone is home
- Winter: 65 °F at night or during the day if no one is home
Intermediate Green Living Tips
With this list, you’re choosing to make real changes to your lifestyle in terms of how you reduce your overall consumption of goods and services that harm the environment. These tips require you to make real changes to your schedule and lifestyle because you’re becoming more aware of your carbon footprint.
11. Use Public Transportation
Depending upon where you live, this one can be difficult, as not every town has a bus, train, or subway system. But if you do have access to these services, you should use them whenever and however possible. Fewer vehicles we have on the road reduces the amount of exhaust in the form of greenhouse gases emitted into the environment.
12. Drive More Responsibly
If you don’t have reliable public transportation in your town, then you can set up a carpool or rideshare system with friends, family, and coworkers. Such an arrangement is especially effective for people who commute to a downtown center from the suburbs. Three or four people taking one car every day is a vastly better solution than a car for each individual on the road every day.
13. Plant Trees
Trees are vital to our personal health and that of our environment. Well-placed trees around your home provide essential shade, which lowers the temperature of your house. Planting these new-growth forests replace the trees that have been cut down for paper goods and also serve to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
14. Use Water Bottles
Stop buying bottled water. You don’t need to open up a new bottle every time you want a drink. Reducing our plastic consumption helps clean up our planet by lowering our dependence on single-use plastics that end up in landfills.
15. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
We thought about telling you to buy all-natural cleaning products in the previous section, but that just leads to even more plastic waste for you to recycle or throw away. Instead, you can purchase large quantities of simple ingredients in reusable containers to make small as-needed batches of all-natural cleansers. This way, when you finish cleaning, your home won’t smell like chemicals, and you won’t have sent chemicals down the drain.
16. Eat Less Meat and Dairy
You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but committing to a few plant-based or meat-free meals each week can help reduce your carbon footprint. The cattle raised for human consumption are a substantial driver of climate change because of the amount of methane created in commercial factories. At least start off with a Meatless Monday to see how things go.
17. Buy In-Season Organic Produce
Unless you live in an actual desert or in the middle of the ocean, the produce you consume should come at most from a 100-mile radius. If your food is coming from faraway places, you’re contributing toward climate change because of the carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere by the planes, trains, and automobiles delivering the food.
18. Choose Cloth Over Paper
That’s right — we want you to stop using paper towels. Yes, you can invest in some brand-new and super-durable cloth towels that can last you years, but we have a better idea: old t-shirts. We know you have plenty of them lying around in the back of your closet and boxed up in your garage. So instead of waiting until that mythical day when you can break out that old Lollapalooza 2010 shirt to impress your friends, cut it up to create a washcloth or two for cleaning your home.
19. Reduce Your Consumption of Single-Use Items
We’ve introduced this concept with plastic bags and bottled water earlier, but we wanted to extend it to the rest of your house. This includes items such as:
- Travel toiletries
- Laundry soap
- Coffee pods
- Tea bags
Instead, invest in high-quality, multiple-use household items that help cut down on all the waste sent to landfills or recycling facilities.
Challenging Green Living Tips
Now it’s time for the really big-ticket items. These might seem a bit over-the-top and “eco-warrior” for some, but they do represent activities you can do to take your green living to the next level. And, as you can see, they certainly involve an increased commitment of time, resources, and effort on your part.
20. Plant a Garden
To be clear, we know that not everyone has the means to grow their own fruits and veggies, much less the land or time. Thus, we suggest organizing a community garden so everyone can share the costs, labor, and benefits. Buying produce at a local organic farmers market is great, but starting your own nonprofit community endeavor is better.
21. Start a Compost Pile
This works hand-in-hand with your garden. A compost pile is a fantastic way to develop your own fertilizer created from all the organic matter in your home. This dramatically cuts down on your overall waste because you’re literally reusing your food waste to create more food.
22. Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Do cheeseburgers, steak, and pizza taste good? Absolutely. Is the overconsumption of meat and dairy from commercial farms a cause of climate change? Most definitely. You should take steps to convert more of your diet over to plants in the form of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and more.
23. Reuse Items Before Recycling
These last three are the biggies. They’re the ones that make us think in truly new and fresh ways. We’re used to just tossing out stuff after its initial purpose has been served. We’ve been convinced that newer is better. We’ve told ourselves that mere recycling changes everything when what we really need to do is use an item in as many ways as possible before we get rid of it. Recycling is good, but reusing is much better.
24. Renew Items Before Recycling
If you’re on Pinterest, you know this concept as “upcycling.” This requires you to kick things up a notch and stretch your creativity, and it started earlier with our tip of using old t-shirts as towels. We’re talking about creating skirts from old jeans, desk organizers from old flowerpots, paint cups from old yogurt tins, and more. In short, it’s all about curbing waste.
25. Give Away Before Throwing Away
The flip side to the previous item, we know that everyone isn’t crafty or handy, but we all know people who are. Share your reusable goods, clothes, and assorted products for friends, family, and neighbors. You can even conduct a semi-regular “Swap Meet,” where everyone gets together to trade what they have. Think of all the gently used play clothes you can get for your kid in exchange for an old cabinet you don’t need any longer.
You Can Make a Difference When You Go Green
True green living isn’t a trend or affectation — it’s a lifestyle. You are choosing to live your life in greater harmony with your fellow humans, plants, animals, insects, and the whole environment. This sometimes means sacrificing some of the creature comforts and habits you’ve adopted that aren’t necessarily friendly to the planet.
While we know that wholesale change overnight isn’t realistic or practical, we also know that we need to make positive changes on a consistent basis if we’re going to defeat the march of climate change. Print this guide out and refer to it every time you tackle and initiative. And if you conquer all 25, share this list with your family, friends, and neighbors!