6 Super-Easy Ways to Start Living A More Eco-Friendly Life–Right Now

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Written By: Brianna Snyder

We hear a lot about the Butterfly Effect–that theory about how if you go back in time and change just one microscopic thing in the past, you’ll alter the entirety of history. But what about the butterflies flapping around right now? Why don’t we think about our daily actions at that same scale, as having that much power in this moment?

One of the scariest things about global warming–or climate change–is that its enormity can make us feel like there’s just nothing we can do about it. It feels kinda...hopeless. But there actually is something you can do to help. Change adds up (butterflies matter!), and the way you live your life can have dramatic effects on the future of our planet. Think about it not just in terms of your own carbon footprint but also about what modeling eco-friendly behavior can do for your community.

It’s easy to start living better for the planet. Here are some changes you can make right now that will have big impacts on the environment.  

1. Cut out the meat.

So it turns out that the meat industry is hugely responsible for what’s happening with our climate right now. In fact, meat production creates more greenhouse gas than the entire transportation industry.

That’s why movements like Meatless Monday, where for just one day of the week you choose to avoid meat, are becoming more popular. You might think skipping just one day of meat-eating isn’t much, but actually you’re giving the planet a nice big break from unimaginable resource depletion. (And who knows, maybe a few Meatless Mondays could become Tofu Tuesdays and next thing you know you’re a full-on vegetarian. Hey, it could happen!)

Plus, less meat usually equals more veggies, which your body will love you for.

2. Wash your clothes in cold water.

You actually don’t really need to wash your clothes in hot water. But 90 percent of your washing machine’s energy goes to heating water.

It used to be that laundry detergents were only activated by hot water. But detergents these days work just as well--sometimes better--in cold water. (By the way, a less-easy but still-great tip for living better for the world? Make your own laundry detergent.)

So be bold! Go cold.   

3. Buy secondhand as much as possible.

This is actually a little dangerous, because with apps like Poshmark, ThredUp, and Tradesy, it’s easy to go overboard buying new-to-you bags, shoes, and even furniture. Manufacturing new things consumes crazy amounts of energy and resources, so buying used (or “pre-loved”) is a wonderful way to pull your support from bad manufacturing practices.

Also, selling your own gently used clothes and accessories is a great way to keep the cycle going--and make a little cash, too.

4. Set the thermostat just one or two degrees lower (or, in the summer, higher).

You’ll be surprised just how much a difference of one or two degrees makes to energy conservation. And one degree usually doesn’t make too much of a difference to your overall comfort.

5. OK—brace yourself—stop drinking bottled water.

So fresh. So pure. So cold. So convenient. Bottled water is amazing...ly screwing up sweet Mother Earth.

You probably know about that big floating plastic trash island in the ocean. That thing’s only getting bigger thanks to plastic bottles. Invest in a nice (BPA-free) Nalgene or reusable water bottle. Install a filter on your tap. Keep reusable containers filled with water in the fridge so you can grab a nice cold drink just like you used to in the bottled-water days.

6. Houseplants, houseplants, houseplants!

We saved this one for last because it’s our absolute favorite. Not only are houseplants gorgeous in the home, they’re also purifying and wonderful for the air in your house and outside of it. Plus, learning to care for plants is important. You learn a lot about the inner lives of green things when tending to your houseplants. (For example, did you know repotting them “shocks” them? You have to be gentle with these babies!) They teach you about the way the natural earth works, which is a great primer for when you take your eco-living game to the next level: gardening.

You’re changing the world! Don’t lose hope.