We know you're busy balancing demands at home, at work, and in your relationships, but we have good news: You can still live sustainably! Incorporating environmental consciousness into your daily actions is easy, and it can really add up to a lasting positive impact. The more people incorporate sustainability into their lives, the better off our communities and planet will be. Here are seven opportunities to sneak sustainability into your day that you may not have thought of yet:
1. Look for products that minimize packaging or ones that you can reuse.
Of course, no packaging is the ideal option (so keep your eyes peeled for bulk bins!), but sometimes we don't have this choice. When deciding between comparable products, choose the one that uses less packaging, or packaging that you can reuse at home, like glass jars and containers.
2. Don't let your car run idle.
Waiting in the car for a friend to get some cash at the ATM or picking the kids up from school? Turn your engine off. For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you'll prevent 1 pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.
3. Say no to straws.
Plastic straws, like other petroleum-based products, take hundreds of years to break down, often ending up in our waterways and beaches. Straws also rank in the Ocean Conservancy's list of the top 10 most collected items during its international coastal cleanup, and avoiding them is the only way to ensure they won't become litter.
4. Unplug your electronics and power down the power strip.
Certain tech products use electricity when they're plugged in but not turned on. These products, nicknamed "energy vampires," can cost households around $200 each year. To cut down on this unnecessary energy use, unplug microwaves and coffeemakers when they're not in use or use a smart power strip to cut off power from multiple devices at once. Unplug cellphones, laptops, and tablets once they're charged.
5. Wash your clothes in cold water.
Not only does washing your clothes in cold water prevent them from fading as quickly (thus reducing the need to replace them), it also helps reduce energy use. Heating water accounts for 90 percent of the energy used to operate a washing machine and 12 percent of the typical U.S. household's energy bill.
6. Avoid receipts.
Often unnecessary, receipts can add up in an unsustainable way. You know those receipts on shiny paper? They have a chemical coating on them, can't be recycled, and usually end up in the landfill. Consider opting for an emailed copy or just saying no.
7. Be aware of water-intensive foods.
Foods that require a lot of water to produce (think almonds, walnuts, cashews, and lentils) can be problematic for water scarcity, especially in drought-prone areas. The production of beef is also extremely water intensive; around 850 gallons of water goes into an 8-ounce steak, the equivalent of 34 10-minute showers.
This piece was co-written by Laurèn DeMates. For more ways to be sustainable without "going off the grid" or making drastic life changes, check out our recently released book Sustainability Made Simple: Small Changes for Big Impact.