10 Easy Ways to Make a Positive Environmental Impact

Find out about 10 easy ways to go green this year, and make a positive change for the planet. Simple, realistic choices to make can lead to big positive differences for the environment, from cold water in the wash to better driving habits. Read up and do your part.

1.) Support Farmer's Markets
Buying local has a dramatic impact on both your health and the environment. While you achieve the goal of supporting local, organic, independent farmers, you also have the opportunity to eat seasonally and raise the bar for yourself in terms of healthy eating habits. By the way - have you ever tasted a plum, or a tomato, or even locally grown, organic salad greens? You'll never shop at the super market again if you have taste buds.
You'll be filling your body with produce that is at its freshest, and increasing your consumption of organic produce is incredibly beneficial. The National Resources Defense Council notes that much of the U.S. produce will travel an average of around 1,500 miles before it makes its way into your super market. The negative impact on the planet is huge - think of the pollution alone that is created in that transport.

2.) Toilet Paper
Seriously. Find it online or at your super market, local Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. If your super market doesn't have it - take a second and speak to customer service about ordering it, and do it every time you shop there. They'll stock it eventually. We're talking about toilet paper made with recycled paper. The impact on the environment in terms of the total number of trees saved each year is huge. Your bumm won't know the difference.

3.) Cold Water Wash
Don't personalize your laundry - sure, you like to take a warm bath, but do your old sweat socks, boxer shorts and yoga pants know the difference? A really simple thing to change in your daily or weekly routine, and the environmental impact is great. Procter & Gamble notes that if we all started to use cold water in the washing machines, we could save enough energy to light two and a half million homes for a year.

4.) Bad Bottled Water Habits
How's this for facts: According to National Geographic magazine, Americans buy approximately 7 billion gallons of bottled water a year. This amounts to roughly 22 billion plastic bottles that eventually get thrown away, and often not in the recycling bin. Consider the (yearly) 1.5 million barrels of oil that it takes to produce those plastic bottles - this amount is enough to fuel nearly 100,000 cars for an entire year. Ways to improve? Buy a water filter and drink tap water that has been properly filtered. Order large bottle service from an organization like Arrowhead or Sparkletts, and drink from a glass at home or at work. At the very least, recycle the plastic bottles that you do use - always.

5.) Re-use Gift Wrapping Paper
Unwrap gifts with a little concern, or teach your little ones a new environmental lesson before they make a mess with the ripping into birthday or holiday packaging. The amount of paper that could be saved is astronomical, if each of us were to recycle wrapping paper from just a few gifts each year.  Get a bag or a box, and start saving bows, ribbons and neatly folded, carefully removed gift wrapping paper. No one will know the difference. Trust me. And if they do, you have the perfect opportunity to bring up a conversation about conservation, without sounding overbearing. They'll feel great to have helped out without having done anything.

6.) Grocery Bags
When they ask you if you want paper or plastic, just say neither. Spend a dollar at the store and buy a re-usable cotton or hemp bag, and keep them in the trunk of your car for shopping. For a look at the environmental impact of both paper bags and plastic bags, read these former Green Eggs blog posts. Get creative with your kids and find blank canvas bags online - this will give your kids a chance to be creative, and paint or decorate the grocery bags to personalize them.

7.) Houseplants Can Be Your Friends
It has been noted that many green house plants can assist in the process of removing indoor air pollutants if you cultivate and care for them indoors. Plants like English ivy and others such as golden pothos practically grow themselves. Don't worry - they're harder to kill than keep alive. And they'll be helping keep you alive as they fight environmental toxins in the home.

8.) Eliminate Junk Mail
Hate the junk mail that comes in your mail box just about every day? For most of us, that pile of materials goes directly into the trash. For others, it goes directly into the recycling bin. Neither party ever reads any of it, and yet it still shows up every day. Take a second and visit the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service to register not to receive junk mail any longer. The process may take a few months, but eventually, you won't get so much trash in the mail.

9.) Buy Bulk
Tea drinker? Couple of trips to the local coffee house every morning? Eat cereal or oatmeal? Next time you buy tea, for instance, think about choosing loose leaf over packaged tea. Reducing the amount of packaging materials that you use can make a big difference to the environment. Think about packaged tea - there's the card stock paper box wrapped in plastic, the paper inside, the plastic that is often wrapped around the tea bag, the tea bag, the string, the tiny staple and the tea tag. All of those materials get disposed of, typically not recycled, and much of it can be eliminated by buying bulk loose leaf tea and using your own tea infuser.

10.) Green Your Driving
No - I'm not going to make a blanket statement that we should all run out and buy a brand new Prius - it's not going to be possible for everyone and it isn't the only way to green up your vehicle. Further, there's no reason to make people feel bad about failing so miserably right out of the gate when it comes to efficient vehicles.

If you can afford it, buy a hybrid. But there are plenty of other ways to do something about fuel consumption and vehicle pollution. Carpool if and when you can - you have to get over identifying with your vehicle and your alone time first, but it's worth the small sacrifice. Bike to work if you can; you'll be getting exercise and helping the planet at the same time.

Or just plain drive smarter when you get behind the wheel - get timely tune-ups and keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure to ensure maximum gas-saving efficiency. If you take long trips on the highway (out of the way of traffic), then switch to cruise control to improve your mileage. Curb your urge to drive like your car is a weapon - take off from stops less aggressively, brake more gently and slow down when you can. The speed limit isn't so bad. And get out of the drive-thru: either quit the fast food or park the car and walk it.

Taking meaningful yet small steps towards going greener this year can lead to real, measurable and positive change for the planet. A few easy questions here and there, changing a habit or two, educating yourself and making smarter choices - a little bit at a time is really all that it takes. Think about the many millions of people living in America, making one collective change all at once - that alone could pay huge dividends for our future.

By Matty Byloos http://www.greeneggsandplanet.com

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