Conserve water at home.

It takes a lot of energy to bring water from rivers, groundwater, or whatever your local water source is into your home. Water must be pumped to a treatment plant, filtered and treated with chemicals to clean it, then pumped into your neighbourhood so you can use it home. Saving as much water as possible reduces the stress this whole process puts on natural bodies of water in the environment.[1] Here are a few ways to conserve water:

  • Use the low-water dishwashing method. Instead of having the water running the whole time, fill one sink with hot soapy water, then turn off the water and scrub the dishes. Dip them into a second sink filled with clean water, then dry and store them.
  • Install a low-flow shower head and take short showers. Long showers and baths use a lot more water.
  • Use water-saving appliances, like a dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Fix leaks in your pipes so water isn’t constantly coming out.
  • Don’t leave water running while you brush your teeth.
  • Don’t water your lawn. Let rain do the work instead of pumping clean water into your front lawn. If it’s legal in your area, save grey water or collect water rain barrel to use. If you want a green lawn, plant native plants or low-water plants like moss instead.

Use fewer chemicals.

Chemicals washed down the drain or applied directly to the grass can taint the water supply, causing problems for wildlife and humans alike. Figure out which chemicals you can replace with something else so you can avoid washing toxins down the drain.

  • Use alternative cleaning solutions. Try white vinegar and baking soda to clean your kitchen and bathroom.
  • Reconsider your personal body care items. Replace shampoos, conditioners and soaps with natural versions. Your body will thank you, too.
  • Try natural pesticides and herbicides. Instead of spraying for weeds, try planting native species that naturally take care of the problem.

Never dump hazardous waste materials
down the drain or into the grass.

Paint, motor oil, ammonia, and other strong chemical solutions should not be dumped down the drain or into the yard, because they’ll seep into the groundwater. These items need to be disposed of properly. Check your local sanitation department’s website to find out how to dispose of hazardous waste. You may be instructed to take them to a toxic waste site for proper disposal.

Help fight local water pollution.

Changing your personal habits regarding water and chemical usage is a great first step. By conserving water in an everyday way, you’re doing your part and setting a good example for other people. But to truly make an impact, consider taking your efforts a step further. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Participate in a waterways clean-up day. If there’s a local stream, river or beach that’s littered with trash or polluted, there’s probably a local water conservation group trying to clean it up. Next time there’s a clean up day, join in. And if you can’t find a group, organize one yourself!
  • Speak up against water polluters. Thanks to loose governmental regulations, our waterways are often polluted with industrial waste dumped by corporations. Oil and chemical dumping kills aquatic life and the surrounding environment, and it makes water unsafe for people to drink as well. Investigate to see if there’s a campaign for clean water in your area, and sign up to help however you can.

Conserve electricity at home.

It’s one of the first ways many of us are taught to be environmentally friendly, yet we all need help remembering how important it is to do things like turn off the lights when you leave the room. Everything that’s powered by electricity requires the use of energy generated at power plants. The plants usually burn either coal or fossil fuel, which produces emissions that cloud up the air and make it harder for everyone to breathe. That’s a heavy consequence for forgetting to shut down your computer. Here’s what you can do:

  • Lower the thermostat in the winter. Instead of heating the house so it’s blazing hot and snowing outside, heat it just enough so that you’re comfortable. Insulating your home helps keep the cold out more efficiently, too.[2]
  • See if you can switch to wind or solar-powered electricity, which produces fewer emissions.[3]
  • Use less air conditioning. In the summer, see if you can handle going without air conditioning on days when it’s not that hot. Save it for the sweltering days.
  • Turn off appliances and electronics when not in use. Computers, TVs, coffee pots, and more should be turned off and unplugged when you aren’t using them.
  • Use energy-saving light bulbs. Incandescent bulbs (the old-fashioned kind) require more energy to burn.

Become less reliant on cars.

From the manufacturing of cars, to the extraction and burning of the gas that powers them, to the oil and other materials used to build the roads they drive on, there’s no doubt that cars and all their trappings are a major source of air pollution. Cutting back on your car use is a great way to be more environmentally friendly.

  • Take public transportation. Get familiar with the bus, subway or train schedule in your city, and start using public transportation more often.
  • Find the bike lanes in your town. More and more cities and towns are putting in new bike lanes connecting all the major neighborhoods. Saving money on not getting a gym memberships and getting free exercise is an added bonus of using bike lanes.
  • Make time for walking. If you have time for a stroll, why not walk instead of driving? Any place that’s five or ten minutes away by car should be within suitable walking distance, too.
  • Carpool to work or school with other people instead of driving by yourself.

Shop locally.

Your shopping habits might not be the first thing you question when you’re coming up with ways to reduce air pollution, but what people buy has a big effect on the environment. How a product was made, where it was made and how it was packaged all play a role.

  • Look into manufacturing processes. Was it made with sustainable materials, or did its production involve the use of plastics or other chemicals? Product manufacture is also responsible for using (and wasting) a lot of water, so this is an important question to ask for more than one reason.
  • Check labels to see how far items traveled. If it had to travel by boat, plane, and truck to get to your store or door, a lot of gas was burned to allow you to purchase the product. See if you can find a good replacement that is created closer to your home,

Eat more vegetables and other foods that were locally grown.

You can really show that you support the environment by changing some of your food buying habits. Shopping local instead of buying food that was shipped in from far away from both supports local farms and cuts down on your carbon footprint.

  • Shop at farmer’s markets. During the spring, summer and fall, most towns have farmer’s markets with selections of local food.
  • Try growing your own food. Join a community garden or make a plot in your backyard or on the patio.
  • Practice “Meatless Mondays.”[4] Meatless Mondays is a worldwide movement. Followers do not eat animal-based protein on Mondays. This movement helps to minimize water usage as well as reduce greenhouse gases and fuel dependence

Join a group working to combat air pollution.

Once you start being more aware of how everyday habits affect the quality of our air, you might want to take action to do something about air pollution. Look for local and national groups working on ways to reduce carbon output and combat global warming. See what problems are being addressed in your area, and encourage others to join in.

Create less waste.

Some communities produce so much trash that they’re running out of places to put it. If you want to take good care of the land that you, your friends and your family call home, reducing the amount of garbage you throw away is a good place to start.

  • Buy minimally packaged goods. Avoid getting products that come wrapped in layers of plastic, since it’s not usually biodegradable.
  • Recycle and reuse. When you do buy containers made of plastic, as well as containers made of glass or other reusable materials, try to find other uses for them instead of just tossing them out.
  • Start a compost pile instead of throwing out your food scraps.
  • Make things instead of buying them so you don’t have to keep buying new bottles.
  • Cook at home instead of getting takeout, which often comes in plastic or styrofoam containers.

Plant trees.

Trees are essential for the health of the environment. They keep the land from eroding, they clean the air, they provide shelter for animals. Trees are so powerful they even bring our stress levels down when we live among them.[6] Do your part to help trees in these ways:

  • Plant native trees that will help the soil and provide shade.
  • Don’t cut down trees unless it’s completely necessary. Save as many as you can.
  • See if there’s a local group you can work with to save patches of forest from development.

Respect animals’ lives.

With so many animal species going extinct every day, it’s time to rethink the way we see animals. Realizing that every creature is valuable and deserves a spot on Earth might change the way you interact with and talk about animals, and the choices you make in your everyday life. If you hunt for meat, respect and use every part of the animal whose life you have ended for your nutritional sustenance. If you care about animals, try doing the following:

  • Make sustainable eating choices. Eat fish that were caught in a sustainable way, and pay attention to where your fish comes from by checking a source like Seafood Watch. Try to buy all animal products from sources you know and trust.
  • Take care of wild places, like beaches and forests, which are habitats for animals. If you’re out for a hike and you see a sign instructing you to stay on the trail, do it.
  • See if your local state forest or park needs volunteers to help protect animal habitat.
  • Help spread awareness about endangered species. Let others know that you care about animals, and educate them on how important it is to keep them safe.

Join a group working to protect your land.

Join up with an environmental group working to save the land where you live from destructive practices like clear cutting, strip mining, mountaintop removal and fracking. These practices affect not just the land, but the trees, wildlife, air, water, and human life that depends on it.