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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Seven Simple Ways to Help the Environment

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Concern has been growing for some time about our need to pitch in consistently to help the environment. Climate change is being fed by large carbon footprints that contribute to greenhouse gases. Chemicals are harmful to sustainability. Droughts are happening in many areas of the world.

If helping the environment seems like a lot of work, rest assured it isn’t. There are many simple ways to be ecologically conscious. Here are seven:

1. Use Gas-Powered Vehicles Less

Gasoline-fueled cars are major contributors to greenhouse gases and climate change. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut down on vehicle use. If you can bike to work rather than drive, you will save 90 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you were previously using. Ditto with walking. Even if you can carpool several days per week, it helps. And telecommuting five days a week? You’re a green star!

You use a vehicle for other reasons than working, of course. You can help the environment by looking at those. Jot down how much mileage you cover every day running errands or other tasks. After a month or so, look to see what you can reduce. Could you shop virtually rather than going to the mall? Talk on the phone/Skype rather than visit friends? Put errands together all on one day?

2. Reduce Food Waste

The U.S. uses up a lot of energy and chemicals growing foodstuffs. It takes oil and gas to run tractors and combines. Fertilizer and pesticides are often made from chemicals, including oil. Because of this varied usage, any reduction of food waste will also help the environment. Americans throw out 40 percent of the food they buy.

So, vow to not throw out as much. Buy smaller plates so you can fill up a plate with less food. Buy in bulk. Rice, potatoes, pastas, onions and other root vegetables can be bought in quantity and used as needed with proper storage. If you have more than you need, donate to the local food bank.

3. Cut Down on Packaging

Packaging — in grocery stores, restaurants and other retail places — is a huge source of waste. Plastic and paper bags, Styrofoam and other packaging all uses natural resources, and it’s unnecessary in many cases.

Buy some sturdy cloth bags for your groceries and other needs. Wash and reuse them. Use a coffee mug at work rather than bringing in coffee in a paper or plastic cup. Get a water bottle and fill in frequently rather than purchasing individual one-time bottles. Join a food co-op that encourages recycling smaller bags from the individual ingredient bins. Be sure to recycle any cardboard boxes rather than throwing them in the garbage.

4. Use Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Supplies

Many household cleaning supplies and ingredients are not green — in the sense of being environmentally friendly at least. Harsh chemicals are frequently part of them. Read labels carefully. Throw out anything harsh or unsafe.

In their place, use natural cleaners. For example, a good way to clean microwaves it to cut several lemons and put them in a bowl. Microwave for two minutes on high. When done, food in the microwave will be softened and ready for scrubbing — and it will smell wonderfully of lemons. Need to remove mold? Spray vinegar on the affected area and leave to dry. Then scrub with a brush.

5. Control Household Energy Use

Heating and cooling the average U.S. home is a major source of energy use. It is estimated that leaving thermostats two degrees warmer in the summer and two degrees cooler in the winter alone would save 880 pounds of carbon dioxide.

So, set your thermostats to those temperatures! Don’t just leave it there, of course. If you’re not home, leave your thermostats to the coolest temperature. We know many thermostats are programmable so your house is warm/air conditioned by the time you get home — but if you can wait until you get home to adjust your thermostat instead, it saves energy.

6. Clean Less

This is one many people don’t think about, but it’s certainly easy! If you’re in the habit of doing laundry once a week, see if you really need to. If your clothes aren’t really dirty, they may not need to be washed. If they’re not, you save water and laundry soap.

Similarly, only run your dishwasher when it’s really full. Wiping down showers and bathrooms maybe could be done less frequently as well with no real loss of cleanliness.

7. Place Selected Plants Indoors

Plants, whether ferns or cacti, have a beneficial effect on the environment. Basically, they breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide. So a few selected plants in each room contributes nicely to air quality inside the house.

Consider water usage. If you live in a dry climate, cacti or other succulents are best. If the natural environment is naturally humid, ferns or philodendrons can be good choices.

See how easy it is to be green? These seven tips will help you help the environment.