Read time: 4 minutes
Written by Elizabeth Lugviel
Community Investment Specialist
Elizabeth is part of IGS’s Community Investment team. She coordinates volunteerism and employee engagement, supports philanthropic efforts and grantmaking in the communities where IGS employees work and live, and champions sustainable practices inside and outside the walls of IGS. She can frequently be found reaching in to trash cans to move recyclable items to the correct bins.
In a world with more than 7 billion people, it can be hard to feel like your individual actions can make a difference. But did you know that the average American creates about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year?
By making conscious and informed decisions about what we consume and produce, we all have the power to affect positive change in the world and become stewards of sustainability.
Here are 10 simple ways to incorporate sustainability into your life every day:
- Choose reusable shopping bags – 100,000,000,000 plastic bags are used by Americans ever year, and each bags takes at least 500 years to break down in a landfill. Investing in a set of reusable shopping bags not only decreases plastic waste, but also reduces the energy and resources needed to produce single-use shopping bags. And keeping reusable bags in your car will make it easy to remember to grab them when you go shopping!
- Go paperless – Electing to receive your monthly bills electronically reduces energy and resources used on paper production, postage, and delivery.
- Say no to straws – Americans use 500,000,000 plastic drinking straws each day. Ordering beverages without straws, or replacing single-use straws with a reusable plastic or metal version, will reduce the production of plastic and keep straws out of landfills and the ocean. (This goes for stir sticks too – If you add cream and sugar to your cup first, everything will be mixed together for you when you pour the coffee in, eliminating waste from a straw or having to wash a utensil.)
- Put a brick in your toilet tank – (Or any other item that will displace water.) On average, older toilets use more than 3 gallons of water per flush. By displacing some of the water in the tank, you can reduce the amount of water used per flush by up to a half a gallon. (Because a brick will erode in water, you can place it in a sealed plastic bag or use a glass or plastic container filled with water, sand, or rocks.)
- Set your washing machine to cold – Doing laundry with cold water will not only save on energy, but it can also help retain your clothing’s color and size.
- Stop drinking bottled water – In the United States 60,000,000 plastic bottles are disposed of every day, with 80% ending up in landfills and taking up to 1,000 years to decompose. Having a reusable water bottle and utilizing public water systems (which provide safe drinking water regulated by the EPA) is an easy way to reduce energy usage and waste, and to save money.
- Enroll in renewable energy – Renewable energy comes from natural sources like wind, water, and sunlight. It is much more environmentally friendly than other types of energy and doesn’t contribute to climate change or global warming. Unlike fossil fuels, green energy sources replenish naturally and are in continuous supply.
- Recycle – Many items that you may not have considered recycling are in fact recyclable. Earth911 is a recycling database that connects you to local resources for disposing of almost anything, from metal clothes hangers to washers and dryers. Just enter the item and your zip code in to the search bar to find a local center that will accept your recyclables.
- Reuse cooking water for your plants – Rather than pouring the water used to cook eggs, spinach, pasta, or potatoes down the drain, let it cool and use it to provide a nutrient rich drink to your garden or household plants.
- Just use less – Whether it’s reducing your time in the shower, finding an alternate mode of transportation, or purchasing in bulk to minimize packaging, there are plenty of ways to incorporate sustainability in to your everyday life.
By making small changes to your habits, routines, and lifestyle, you have the tremendous power to reduce the amount of resources you consume, decrease the waste you produce, and ultimately make the world a better place!