As Earth Day approaches, many of us are starting to think more about how we can better take care of our planet. But beyond buying local, sustainably produced food, choosing quality over quantity, and taking public transportation, what else can we do? As much as I would love to go out and help plant more trees in deforested areas, I know that just isn't a practical contribution for most of us.
So what other simple, relatively effortless things can we do to help further reduce our respective environmental footprints? The following tips can help you improve the health of our planet, and some of them even contribute to your own well-being too.
1. Maximize your use of daylight.
Try dimming your lights as the evening progresses, avoiding the use of backlit screens a few hours before sleeping, and going to bed earlier to sync your body's rhythms to natural daylight.
Blue light suppresses your body's natural production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, so dimming your lights and avoiding blue light later in the evenings can improve your sleep quality. Not to mention, it will cut down on your electricity use. In order to take advantage of the giant windows in my tiny studio, I try to turn on my lights for only the few hours after sunset and before my bedtime around 10 p.m. In the mornings, I wake up to natural daylight.
2. Get an aerator for all your faucets.
If you don't already have an aerator attached to your faucets, get one, install it, and get on with your life.
This is probably one of the easiest, most mindless ways you can help save water (and the energy it takes to heat up water). Aerators inject little air bubbles into your faucet stream so you can reduce your water use without even changing your habits. Knowing you help save water every time you turn on the aerated faucet can help boost your sense of life satisfaction and remind you that little actions can add up to go a long way.
3. Adopt and take care of more native plants.
Adopt more native plants to keep in your house, garden, or on your balcony.
One simple way to offset your footprint a bit is to grow and harvest more carbon-sucking plants. These plants can also help boost our moods, increase our immunity, make us more productive, and reduce our overall stress levels. Go for native plants since they're better suited to the surrounding humidity, precipitation levels, and temperature, and they won't contribute to problems of invasive species. One of my goals for 2017 is to turn my apartment into an indoor jungle and start an herb garden on my balcony. I'm still working on it!
4. Use the AC and heater only when absolutely necessary.
Instead of turning on the air conditioner or heater immediately upon entering your car or home, let your body adjust to the ambient temperature for a few minutes first.
Thermoregulation is a natural function of the human body. Unless the ambient temperature is so unbearable that you might get a heatstroke or catch a cold, try giving your body a few minutes to adjust to it before turning on the AC or heater. If you feel a little too cold, try moving your body around, drinking hot beverages, throwing on a blanket, and snuggling with your pets or loved ones first. If you're too warm, drink some water and sit still for a few minutes. By reducing your use of air conditioners and heaters, you can majorly cut down on your carbon footprint and electricity bills.
Here in Southern California, I have yet to turn on the AC or heater in 2017. TBD whether I can survive a whole year without it, though. Will you take on the challenge with me?
5. Schedule your errands in advance.
If you typically commute by car or bus, chunking errands that need to take place in the same area of town can help you to reduce your personal emissions from transportation and help you save time. Try looking ahead at all the errands you have to run over the next few weeks and route them in a way that makes the most sense. By shaving time off your commute, you can dedicate more time to doing what you enjoy and taking better care of yourself.
As Yoko Ono said, "Every drop in the ocean counts."