While we likely all understand how critical water is to all plant and animal life and many of us have worked to up our H2O intake, not everyone is aware that if we’ve switched to drinking bottled water, it can cost up to 1,000 times as much as tap water. It’s sadly ironic that this switch ended up being bad for our bodies and the environment. Those plastic bottles release harmful phthalates (which act like endocrine disrupters in the body) into your water. And phthalates aren’t shy—they’re busy impacting your health and are linked to lower energy, possible cancers, early-onset puberty, decreased sex drive, and other reproductive impacts. A stunning amount of energy is used transporting those bottles of water—1.5 billion gallons of fuel oil annually—enough to fuel 10,000 cars for an entire year! In-home (and in-office) water filtration is an inexpensive, ideal alternative—and you can quickly fill your own stainless steel or glass bottles.
Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools—and batteries are a leading source of heavy-metal contamination in our landfills. Help protect the environment and your pocketbook by using rechargeable batteries, which are easy and inexpensive to recharge. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries cost a bit more and take a bit longer to charge than nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries, but they last longer. While rechargeable alkaline batteries are available, they are more expensive and have a shorter life span than other alternatives. All batteries will eventually wear out, even rechargeable batteries. Dispose of them properly at a local collection.

Skip the dryer! Air-drying some or all of your wet laundry could save you more than $135 in energy costs every year or approximately 6% on a home electricity bill. And you’ll not only save on energy costs—your clothes will last longer as many fabrics fare better when not exposed to heat. Air-drying can be done indoors or outside, though outdoor clotheslines are subject to weather issues and possible exposure to pollen and other allergens, which can impact sensitive individuals. In a warm, dry climate, outdoor drying can work very well as allergens become less of an issue. You can also minimize heat impact from laundry appliances in your home by running them at night so they don’t create make your air conditioner work overtime to keep the house cool, and you reduce strain on the electrical grid during peak hours.

The numbers are pretty daunting: worldwide, up to a trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year—more than a million per minute. Of the 380 billion disposable plastic bags used each year in the United States, only 1 percent of them are recycled. The rest go to landfills, where they take ages to decompose. Most plastic bags are mainly made from polyethylene, a by-product of the petroleum industry. If buried, plastic bags block the natural flow of oxygen and water through the soil. If burned, they release dangerous toxins and carcinogens into the air. The damage is even more severe when the bags end up in the ocean, where thousands of sea turtles and other marine life die each year after mistaking plastic bags for food. Switching to a reusable shopping bag is getting easier than ever. They’re convenient and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Bringing your own tote will allow you to answer that age-old “Paper or plastic?” question with a resounding and proud “Neither, I brought my own!”

We should all be lit up about switching our incandescent bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which put out more light with less power. They are bright, energy efficient, long lasting, and fit in standard lighting-fixture bases—making it even easier to make the switch! They also do not contain mercury as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) do. LEDs are also ideal for many business and artistic applications (even small ones!) because they create virtually no heat in displays. If every American replaced just one light bulb in with an energy-efficient bulb, we would prevent as much greenhouse gas as if we had pulled 800,000 cars from the roads. The advantages are brilliant!

A perfect case of where a little means a lot! Home heating and cooling is one of the most common activities that contributes to your “carbon footprint,” the sum total of all the greenhouse gases you personally are responsible for putting in the atmosphere. Turning your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer can go a long way toward lowering your power consumption. The Department of Energy recommends keeping your indoor temperatures at 78 degrees in summer and 68 degrees in winter for a savings of up to 20% in heating costs compared to where most Americans set their thermostats. These energy savings can be easily and relatively inexpensively integrated into your life by installing a programmable thermostat to adjust temperatures when you're asleep or not at home. The new ones are intuitively designed and easy to deal with—many have very user-friendly touch screens. This one-time investment, which costs as little as $100, can save you thousands of dollars in energy costs over the years and do much good for the environment.
Your home is likely full of electric appliances, such as televisions, CD players, DVD players, phone chargers, and lots of other things that you plug in and forget about. Most of us leave our computers on all of the time, making them “energy vampires” that are easiest to tackle. You may think they're "off," but they're not. Appliances can draw 2 to 10 watts of power while they are plugged in, even when they're turned off. And, when your computer is on, it consumes electricity equal to three 100-watt light bulbs. Turning off all computers (and lights) when not in use is a simple way to reduce total energy consumption and save on power bills.
Each time you leave your car at home, you commit to reducing air pollution, improving your health, and saving money. Walk or ride your bike for short trips or take public transportation, if possible, for longer ones. Most people can knock out a mile or more walking at a comfortable pace in 30 minutes—and, of course, bicycling or using public transit will get you much farther in the same time while helping to minimize greenhouse gases. And it’s not just the environment that benefits! New full-time bicycle commuters can expect to lose an average of 13 pounds their first year of bicycle commuting if they maintain the same eating habits and considerably more if they modify them. Our towns and cities are healthier and more vibrant when filled with pedestrians, cyclists, transit vehicles, and trees.
As the average car pumps twice its weight in carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, driving alone is a major factor in greenhouse gas buildup—and the numbers are staggering. The EPA estimates that cars emit 19.4 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gasoline burned. Employees who carpool can easily save $1,500 a year in gasoline, insurance, and car maintenance—and carpoolers can choose to read, sleep, or chat when they're not behind the wheel. In some cities, carpool commuters save considerable time by taking advantage of special high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. It doesn’t take much: If each commuter car carried just one more passenger once a week, we could cut America's gasoline consumption by more than 50 million gallons each week. Drive smart. Drive less.
Do-gooders look good, too! Organic cotton is by far the fabric of choice for most hip, green clothing designers—and even some of the previously traditional “big players,” such as Levi Strauss and even Victoria’s Secret, have incorporated it into their lines. So no worries… you can be stylin’, comfortable, and sport a clear conscience, too. All nine of the top pesticides used on cotton crops in the U.S. are classified by the EPA as Category 1, the most dangerous category of chemicals, and these pesticides are right next to the wearer’s skin. Need proof of how vulnerable you to what touches your porous skin? Try rubbing a cut clove of garlic on the sole of your foot… you’ll taste garlic in your mouth within 15 minutes! Clothing made from synthetic fibers, such as acrylic, nylon, and polyester are coated with formaldehyde finishes that can give off minute plastic vapors as they warm against your skin, which can cause allergies and other respiratory troubles.
Try eating within 100-mile radius of where you live. You will get to know local farmers and develop a greater understanding of seasonal foods as well as your agriculture system.