Today is World Environmental Health Day — here are 15 easy things you can do to help the Earth

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Sophia Mitrokostas,Caroline FoxSep 26, 2020, 19:24 IST

Today is World Environmental Health Day — here are 15 easy things you can do to help the Earth

  • September 26 marks World Environmental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of our environment’s biggest threats.
  • As an individual, there are small actions you can take that could ultimately have a large impact on the environment.
  • Starting a personal compost bin in your kitchen or lowering your thermostat just a few degrees to prevent air leaks can benefit the environment and help reduce your footprint.

Climate change has become a pressing issue. On Monday, artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd unveiled a Climate Clock in New York City — it effectively counts down how long it will take our planet to “burn through its carbon budget if swift action isn’t taken to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.”

The clock serves as a constant reminder that time is running out.

If this thought triggers discomfort, you’re not alone. Climate anxiety, or solastalgia, is a term used to describe an overwhelming feeling of stress and helplessness caused by environmental change.

But you don’t need to be a superhero to do your part for the planet. Insider has compiled an inspiring list of 15 small changes that do not require much time or effort, yet are guaranteed to reduce your footprint and benefit the environment.

Starting a mini compost bin in your kitchen is free, easy to do, and great for the environment.

Starting a mini compost bin in your kitchen is free, easy to do, and great for the environment.
The bin can be small and stashed in any corner of your kitchen.

Andia/Getty Images

A compost pile is a collection of organic waste that is purposely left to decay and turn into nutrient-rich fertilizer, known as compost. And contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a big backyard to start a compost pile.

You can start composting right on your kitchen counter with mini containers that keep any odors contained. Plus, many cities and neighborhoods have begun incorporating drop-off locations or pick-up services. If you want to go the extra mile, try finding a local community garden or farmer’s market to drop off your food scraps.

Lower your thermostat just a few degrees to save energy.

Lower your thermostat just a few degrees to save energy.
A Nest thermostat.

Business Insider

Think about lowering your home thermostat slightly to save energy. According to Energy Guide, by turning your thermostat back by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save about 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill, which translates to reduced energy waste.

It’s unlikely that you’ll feel significantly colder — especially if you just toss on a sweater — and you’ll be reducing both your energy bill and environmental impact.

If you want to make a difference but be completely hands-off, you can opt for a programmable thermostat that automatically lowers or raises the temperature depending on the time of day.

Instead of letting your car idle for long periods of time, try turning it off.

Instead of letting your car idle for long periods of time, try turning it off.
Turning your car off will reduce the amount of exhaust fumes entering the air.

Tom Werner/Getty Images

This is a super easy way to reduce your fuel usage and help the planet at the same time.

Rather than putting your car in park and letting it idle while you sit inside, consider simply turning it off until you need to move again. This reduces the amount of exhaust fumes being pumped into the air, stops fuel wastage, and saves your engine from unnecessary wear.

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Giving your old outfits to a clothing recycling organization helps support sustainable brands that transform old textiles into new items.

Giving your old outfits to a clothing recycling organization helps support sustainable brands that transform old textiles into new items.
It’s best to go through your clothes at the end of every season.

Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock

If you have gently used clothing, you can sell it to vintage or thrift stores in your area, giving your garments a second chance and earning a bit of extra cash.

The next step would be to donate any worn-in clothing after cleaning out your closet.

However, some garments are just too worn to pass on or sell. Instead of throwing them out, give them to a clothing recycling organization. Sustainable fashion is a growing movement and consumers are beginning to back away from “fast fashion.” Donating worn-out pieces is a great way to support brands that source old textiles and remake them into new items, giving even torn or stained items a second chance.

RecycleNow even has a tool that lets you find clothing recycling centers near you.

Try to cut back on your individual energy and water consumption by only running your washing machine and dryer if you have a full load.

Try to cut back on your individual energy and water consumption by only running your washing machine and dryer if you have a full load.
Running your washing machine less will reduce your energy and water consumption.

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average at-home washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load and accounts for around 6% of the typical home’s energy usage.

Because washing less than a full load of laundry wastes water and energy, be sure to only do your laundry when you’re able to fill the machine. Even this small change will go a long way.

Another way to reduce your water and energy consumption is to replace your old showerhead with a low-flow showerhead.

Another way to reduce your water and energy consumption is to replace your old showerhead with a low-flow showerhead.
An energy-efficient shower head ends up paying for itself.

Shuttershock

According to the EPA, a standard showerhead can waste 2.5 gallons of water every minute.

Using a low-flow showerhead instead, reduces both water and energy consumption, as less energy is used to heat the shower water. An energy-efficient showerhead can pay for itself in just four months. If you’re renting, try asking your landlord for a credit on your rent in exchange for installing an eco-friendly fixture.

Opt for lighter colors on your walls to welcome in more natural light.

Opt for lighter colors on your walls to welcome in more natural light.
A bedroom full of natural light is also great for mental health.

Shutterstock

Increasing the amount of natural light your home receives doesn’t require installing new windows, which can cause energy-wasting air leaks.

The EPA recommends painting interior and exterior walls in light colors so that more light is reflected inside, reducing the need to have electric lights running during the day.

On your exterior, giving windowsills and edges a new coat of white paint can also add to this effect.

To cut back on your electricity use, try switching to LED bulbs or even candles.

To cut back on your electricity use, try switching to LED bulbs or even candles.
An LED light bulb.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The simplest way to reduce your daily energy use it to light a couple of candles rather than turning on the lights.

If you find yourself needing more light, try switching out your conventional incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs. LED bulbs emit less energy and have a shelf life of at least 25,000 hours.

Once the holiday season begins, try wrapping your gifts in fabric or old newspapers instead of buying wrapping paper.

Once the holiday season begins, try wrapping your gifts in fabric or old newspapers instead of buying wrapping paper.
A present wrapped in newspaper.

Getty Images

Unfortunately, most gift wrap is used once and thrown away since it doesn’t recycle well. “The ink diminishes the yield, it creates extra sludge when you process it, it requires additional chemicals,” Bill Moore, a paper recycling consultant based in Atlanta, told Marketplace.org.

Instead of wrapping paper, try swaddling your gift in fabric and securing it with a ribbon or decorative pin. Unlike conventional wrapping paper, fabric is reusable and can stretch over awkwardly shaped items. You can even buy purpose-made wrapping cloth with festive designs.

Another option would be to use old newspapers or paper grocery bags, which is better for the environment and saves you the time and money of having to run to the store.

Fix your leaking faucet to save on your utility bill and the thousands of gallons of water per year that are going to waste.

Fix your leaking faucet to save on your utility bill and the thousands of gallons of water per year that are going to waste.
Leaky faucets waste more water than you would think.

REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The EPA estimates that a leaky faucet that drips at about one drop per second can waste over 3,000 gallons of water per year. That’s over eight gallons per day or the equivalent of an extra 180 showers per year.

Not only is that water wastage bad for the environment, but it’s also not doing your utility bills any favors.

Fix that leaky faucet or, even better, replace it with a low-flow aerator model.

Before you toss out your beer or sofa packs, be sure to cut the plastic rings up.

Before you toss out your beer or sofa packs, be sure to cut the plastic rings up.
A turtle can easily get caught in the plastic rings.

Shutterstock

According to National Geographic, around 18 billion pounds of plastics end up in the ocean annually. Plus, over 90% of seabirds have been found to have pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

Although those flexible plastic rings that keep your six-pack together and straws are only small parts of the problem, they are both easily fixable.

To avoid fish and sea turtles getting caught in the transparent rings, snip each plastic ring with scissors before disposing of the packaging.

Then, use your purchasing power next time you go to the store. When it comes to straws, just say “no” and sip directly from the cup, or bring a reusable straw with you. When buying a six-pack, try to use recyclable holders.

You can also use your purchasing power to opt for sustainable types of meat or plant-based foods.

You can also use your purchasing power to opt for sustainable types of meat or plant-based foods.
The Impossible burger is made with plant-based meat that looks and tastes like the real thing.

AP Photo/Ben Margot

Raising livestock on a mass scale is a serious drain on the planet – the meat industry is a big contributor to water pollution and global greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re not ready to give up meat in the name of the environment, however, try choosing to dine on more sustainable varieties.

A 2014 study reported that livestock-based food production causes about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Further, according to the study, beef production is by far the worst culprit of environmental degradation. Its production requires 28, 11, five, and six times more land, irrigation water, GHG, and reactive nitrogen impacts, respectively, than the average of the other livestock categories.

Some companies like Niman Ranch raise meat in a more sustainable way. Others like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat make plant-based “fake meat” that’ll give you your protein fix without the environmental footprint.

Replace a few of your bathroom products with reusable cotton alternatives.

Replace a few of your bathroom products with reusable cotton alternatives.
Reusable makeup pads.

Shutterstock

While single-use cotton pads and Q-Tips are not the first things that come to mind when you think of helping the environment, they still create a large amount of waste. EuroNews reported that cotton not grown organically can gravely pollute the environment. The World Wildlife Fund reported that 20,000 liters of water are used to make just one kilogram of cotton.

An easy solution is to switch to reusable cloth pads and Q-Tips, both of which can easily be cleaned with soap and water. Plus, they come in cute patterns and colors.

Use a reusable water bottle to cut back on your plastic footprint.

Use a reusable water bottle to cut back on your plastic footprint.
Swell water bottles.

Sarah Jacobs

Disposable water bottles require an immense amount of plastic and oil to produce. According to Bio Friendly Planet, bottling water releases 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, and 2 million tons of plastic bottles end up in landfills every year.

A reusable water bottle will save you money, time, and is better for the environment. It’s best to buy a BPA-free bottle that is made with eco-friendly materials and recyclable. Popular ones on the market include Klean Kanteen, Swell, and Hydroflask.

Public transportation is easy to use and great for the environment.

Public transportation is easy to use and great for the environment.
If public transportation is available in your city, take advantage of it.

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Public transportation options take up far less space than single-occupancy vehicles. The EPA estimates that a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

While we will continue to see a rise in electric cars in the future, public transportation remains an easy, affordable, and environmentally friendly alternative to getting around.

Public transportation can also help cities reduce smog, meet air quality standards, and clear up congested streets.

According to the CDC, following social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask, and traveling during non-peak hours are great ways to protect yourself on public transportation right now. At the same time, cities are ramping up their cleaning procedures to ensure public transportation remains safe.



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