101 Ways to Save Water, Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste, and Preserve Biodiversity
You care about the welfare of other people, and you care deeply about our planet. You love plants and animals, and nature never ceases to amaze you. You feel fortunate to have the blessings you have in your life, and they fuel your desire to personally contribute to our world's greater good.
In spite of all that, you still occasionally forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room. Sometimes, you just want to take an extra long, hot shower to unwind. Maybe you get germaphobic here and there and feel the need to wash your hands more often, run the water longer while you wash your dishes, and toss your clothes in the washing machine after every wear. And perhaps once in a while, you unintentionally leave something at home and just have to drive a dozen extra miles more than usual to make up for your carelessness.
As much as we want to do everything we can to lower each of our own environmental footprints, we are human and imperfect; sometimes, situations outside of our control affect our decision-making; and changing habits is undeniably difficult even if we have the best intentions.
Regardless, as Earth Day approaches, it is on your agenda to practice compassion towards our planet more and to instill new habits that can help you better conserve our natural resources. At least this is what I aim to do for the rest of this year. So, I put together the following 101 tips to lowering each of our personal environmental footprints— many of which you may have already heard of (but perhaps not taken steps towards yet), and others you may not have consciously thought of much before. While most tips revolve around the more immediate steps we can take, others consider the bigger, grander decisions we can make in our lives to be more eco-friendly as a whole.
As you skim through the list, feel free to keep the ones you resonate with most first while leaving the rest for a later time.
But yes, you heard that right: One-hundred and one tips.
I don't expect any of us to be able to incorporate all of these things into our lives right away, because making long-lasting changes takes time and conscious effort. But if we can individually pick up just one new tip from each of the five categories and act upon them over the next few months, I'd say we're off to a great start.
- Shower 30 seconds to a minute less than you do now.
- Shower less frequently and only when you feel the need to.
- Flush the toilet only when you feel the need to.
- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
- Turn off the tap while you soap up your hands and/or body.
- Check that your pipes are intact and fix any leaks you find.
Get a faucet aerator to install on all of your faucets.
- Use the dishwasher to bulk-wash your dishes when possible (and use it only when it’s full).
- Hang your clothes in the sun to air out and sanitize instead of always using the washing machine.
- Wash your clothes less often than you do now.
- Opt for cleaning products made with nontoxic and biodegradable ingredients.
- Opt for clothes made with nontoxic, natural dyes and finishes.
- Buy less virgin cotton shirts and more recycled ones.
- Bulk-soak your fruits and veggies in water to rinse rather than using continuous running water.
- Reduce your meat consumption (especially beef, which has the highest eco footprint of all meats).
- Support research and development for water conservation innovations and technology, such as drip irrigation, vertical farms, grey-water recycling tools, etc.
Opt for native plants over exotic ones.
- Collect natural rain water to water your plants with.
- Water your plants in the early mornings while the ambient temperature is cooler (when the water won’t evaporate as quickly).
- Go to car washes that recycle their water instead of hosing your car down at home.
- Hang your clothes out to dry instead of using the drying machine when possible.
- When using the washing machine, use warm or cold water instead of hot.
- Let your dishes air dry instead of having it use its internal heater.
- Replace old, inefficient electronic appliances for newer ones with the Energy Star Label.
- Shower with warm water rather than hot water.
- Install low-flow shower heads that help save energy when you use less hot water.
- Shop for groceries at your local farmers’ markets to reduce food miles.
- Bulk-cook your food when possible.
- Don’t leave the fridge door open when you’re taking things out or putting groceries in.
Opt for room temperature water.
- Maximize your use of natural daylight and keep your lights off as much as possible.
- Turn on the heater / AC only when you’re overheating or freezing (not just when you feel a little uncomfortable, because your body can adjust to a certain extent).
- Opt for a hybrid, fuel-efficient, electricity-run, or second hand cars when buying or renting cars.
- Opt to walk, bike, or use public transportation whenever it makes sense to.
- Avoid driving during rush hour or traffic if you can.
- Route and bulk your errands in advance to reduce emissions from transportation.
- Opt for direct flights over ones with transfers when traveling via plane.
Opt for leisure activities that don’t require the use of electronics.
- Turn off your electronics when they are not in use.
- Switch out old light bulbs with compact, energy-saving fluorescent bulbs.
- Shop in bulk.
- Cut down on buying packaged foods.
- Bring your reusable water bottle and containers with you wherever you go.
- Keep some reusable bags in your car trunk and smaller ones you can roll up inside your purse.
- Take your thermos with you when buying hot beverages.
Swap your single-use paper towels with reusable towels.
- Opt for 100% biodegradable or recyclable products over others.
- Practice nose-to-tail, stem-to-stalk eating.
- Opt for products with the least amount of packaging materials (or cardboard, compostable materials).
- Avoid buying face or body scrubs with non-biodegradable, micro-plastic beads.
- Avoid buying new, non-biodegradable, petro-based clothes (made with virgin polyester, nylon, etc.).
- Say no to plastic straws.
- Avoid impulsive purchases and choose quality over quantity.
Opt for second hand, recycled, or up-cycled goods.
- Opt for menstrual cups or reusable pads if they work for you.
- Donate or resell unwanted products that are still in good condition.
- Buy reusable products over disposable ones.
- Opt in to all paperless billings.
- Report or call the places sending you junk mail and opt out.
- Use both sides of paper for your brainstorming sessions or reminder notes.
Learn about ecological balance and how different species live symbiotically and interdependently with one another.
- Eat lower in the food chain if you eat seafood (e.g., shell fish, shrimp, etc.).
- Opt for fish caught using gentler methods, such as “hook and line” or “pots and traps,” and avoid ones caught using “longlines” or “bottom trawlers,” which are notorious for damaging corals and by-catch.
- Avoid eating plant or animal species at risk of becoming endangered (e.g., Bluefin Tuna, Northsea cod, etc.) and opt for seafood with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labels (learn more from Seafood Watch).
- Dispose of your waste responsibly to not pollute natural environments and threaten the health of wildlife.
- Avoid products made from illegally poached animals.
- Avoid products that contain palm oil, which often come from deforested plantations.
- Incorporate more local, seasonal variety of veggies into your diet (to support the growth of lesser known crop species).
- Buy food produced in environments that support biodiversity (ideally biodynamic or foraged; otherwise, organic, small-scale farmed, gardened, etc.).
Opt for tourism activities that help to preserve rather than extract from local environments.
- Opt for conscious hotels and resorts committed to preserving their local ecosystems and minimizing their environmental impacts.
- Avoid buying souvenirs made from wildlife, especially when their sources are untraceable (e.g., bones, shells, coral, beaks, tusks, etc.).
- Opt for sustainably harvested wood products and paper with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications or similar.
- Opt to stay in high-rise apartment complexes over new, independent mansions that worsen urban sprawl.
- Leave no waste behind (especially plastic and other non-biodegradable trash) when you go hiking, camping, to the beach, etc., which can harm and suffocate wildlife.
- Do not buy exotic pets or plants and then release them into the wild, where they may become problematic invasive species and harm local biodiversity.
Support organizations working to fight climate change (which contributes to ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, mosquito-borne illnesses, etc.) from all angles.
- Support wildlife conservations and reputable captive breeding and reintroduction programs.
- Keep an eye out for and report any poaching, illegal hunting activity, or black markets you suspect of.
- Avoid buying products made with toxic materials that can indirectly harm healthy environments.
- Cultivate more plants within your home.
- Help to plant some trees in deforested areas in your region.
- Opt for carbon-offset shipping when mailing packages.
Pack and travel lightly.
- Opt for experiential purchases over material ones when possible.
- Volunteer at local nonprofit organizations during your spare time.
- Donate to nonprofit organizations (which are often underfunded) that have conservation and environmentalism at heart.
- Support research and development for renewable energy.
- Voluntarily offset your personal carbon emissions at the end of each year through transparent, established organizations.
- Support laws and regulations that tighten environmental policy and help protect our planet more.
- Take care of your own health first so you have the energy and motivation to act on your selfless values.
- Set good examples to people around you through action more so than words.
- Become more aware of the direct and indirect impacts of your daily habits and choices.
- Get to know the histories of the products you buy to better understand their holistic impacts.
- Support eco-oriented businesses using their power and influence for good.
- Dollar-vote for products and services that contribute to sustainability.
Learn as much as you can and share what you learn humbly with others.
- Practice gratitude towards everything that Earth has blessed you with in life.
- Savor and appreciate the simple beauties of nature.
- Contemplate the idea that without a healthy planet, there is no way we can be healthy as humans.
Connect with nature more so you can hold on to and stay true to your purpose-driven desire to help our planet thrive.
Which tips rise to the top as what you want to act on first? Share them with me @kameachayne using #konsciouswhispers and let's hold each other accountable. And remember: Celebrate progress, not perfection!
Whispers from 12 other change makers
"Try a zero waste challenge for a day or week to become conscious about [subconscious] actions and habits." — Holly of Leotie Lovely
"Get active! Call your representatives and tell your friends about legislations to support." — Alden of EcoCult
"I never realized biking everywhere [in the San Francisco Bay Area] was entirely possible until I moved here and didn't have a car to rely on. It just takes a bit more effort, but it ends up much more enjoyable being outside in the sunshine, and I also feel better knowing I'm lowering my personal eco footprint!" — Janice Cantieri, Environmental Journalist & Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow
"Last year, I turned my closet to being 100% vegan, sustainable, and ethically made. Now I am redecorating my place with eco-friendly items." — Agnes, Vegan Ballerina of Artsy Agnes
"When I wash fruits and veggies, I [put] a larger pot or bowl below to collect the water. Then I'll [use that water to feed the plants around my house with]." — Cyndi Ho, Organic Gardener, Biodiversity-Loving Citizen
"I take my kids out of town into nature whenever I can. It helps us balance and focus on what to keep and what to drop." — Abi of My Organic City
"I always carry a portable fork and spoon [so I'm never] forced to use the plastic ones that seem to be the NYC "go-to-cutlery" option. It feels good to have my own back up, like my reusable grocery bag and water bottle have been." — Renee of Model4GreenLiving
"An eco-lifestyle takes more thought, and a good plan can make things easier." — Natalie of Sustainably Chic
"I'm working on reducing plastic use, which is a challenge because so many things in stores are wrapped in plastic these days." — Annie of Terumah
"The two main tips I like to pass on is shopping second-hand more and consuming less meat!"
— Yvonne of Closet Tree
"Since starting this 30 day no plastic challenge, it's been harder than I thought. The best tip I can think of is asking yourself whether or not you need something before purchasing them." — Fatima Islam
Note On The List:
The categories I've listed in terms of environmental care are not absolute (i.e., I could have approached grouping the tips based on land-use efficiency, pollution control, green house gas reduction, etc.), nor are they mutually exclusive. For example, cutting down on meat consumption has multipurpose benefits for the environment, helping us to conserve water and energy while reducing green house gas emissions. Or, choosing native plants over exotic ones can help us to save water, reduce footprints from transportation, and offset carbon emissions.
And although this is a long list, it is by no means exhaustive, and I highly encourage you to find tips beyond the ones mentioned here for yourself. Keep in mind: These tips may not all work for you, so please focus on the ones that are most feasible to you right now and take baby steps forward. As you dive deeper into your conscious lifestyle journey, please also remember to be gentle with yourself, stay openminded to challenging what you already know, maintain a curiosity to learn more, and experiment to find what works best for you.
Conscious Lifestyle Guide by Kaméa Chayne, Creator of Conscious Fashion Collective and an author, speaker, eco creative, and heart and health coach for change makers. @KameaChayne
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