Six practical ways you can help save the planet this New Year.
Stop the Plastic Bag Obsession.
Each year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. Although they carry everything from groceries to gym shoes, plastic bags are made from polyethylene, and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Instead, invest in several canvas bags or bring a backpack for light shopping.
Get a Bright Idea.
Replace traditional incandescent lightbulbs in your home, with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (C.F.Ls). C.F.L.s use about 75 percent less energy than incandescents, and last 10 times as long.
If your boss thinks solar energy has something to do with Woodstock, chances are your office isn’t the most environmentally friendly place. According to the Clean Air Council (cleanair.org), each year Americans throw away enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City, while the average American uses 650 pounds of paper annually. Encourage co-workers to save sheets printed on one side only, and ask the office manager if you can designate a tray in the copy machine for recycled paper. This small act can not only save the company money, but it may inspire it to establish company-wide environmental policies. (And don’t forget to use the “print preview” option; it can eliminate a couple of those unneeded pages.)
Recycle and Buy Recycled.
Before ditching your unwanted items—from glass and aluminum to clothes and surfboards—take a second to think if they can be recycled or used by someone else. When shopping, take this a step further and look for recycled products such as the Seventh Generation line, whose bathroom tissue, paper plates and napkins are made out of 100–percent recycled paper.
Save Your Butts.
An estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year—making the tiny pieces of rubbish the most trashed item. Cigarette filters contain toxic chemicals, which not only leak out into the natural environment, but can also harm turtles, birds and other animals that mistake them for food. If you’re a smoker, look for a trash can, or bring along an old mint tin or an empty film container for your butts.
Join a local environmental chapter such as the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation or The Nature Conservancy. These groups participate in everything from beach cleanups and invasive–species removal to organized group hikes. These will not only get you active and in the great outdoors, but will help you do something about environmental issues beside just thinking about it.