Whether you like it or not, it’s become apparent that Americans really need to embrace going green. And while U.S. businesses are starting to embrace eco-friendly methods as a means of appealing to consumers and keeping up with the competition, protecting the planet typically starts at home. In fact, Americans threw out over 258 million tons of municipal solid waste (or discarded trash) in 2014. A separate study estimates that Americans throw out seven pounds of trash per person every day — or 2,555 pounds of materials per person every year.
But unnecessary waste doesn’t merely refer to garbage. We also regularly waste electricity, water, and heating energy without a second thought. Whatever your green goals, there’s no better time to tackle them than the new year. If you want to make good on your environmental resolutions in 2020, here are some simple ways to reduce waste and start living a greener life.
Let There Be (LED) Light
Reducing waste doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Start by switching out your traditional lightbulbs for LED ones. The U.S. Department of Energy maintains that LED lighting has the potential to reduce nationwide energy usage by nearly 50%. By using LED bulbs, you’ll need less energy to light your home, lower your monthly bills, and end up saving money in the long run (as LED bulbs last longer than incandescent bulbs).
Of course, you should still make an effort to turn off lights when you leave a room or go out of the house. If you’re going away, invest in a timer so you don’t waste too much energy while you’re gone. Be sure to unplug electronics and appliances while you’re at it, as these can drain energy sources even when they’re not in use. These steps are simple enough once you make them a habit — and since you’ll be financially benefitting at the same time, they’ll be easy to remember.
Pay Attention to H2O
We tend to take water for granted, but this precious resource needs to be protected. For one thing, you should make an effort to locate and fix any leaks. If an undetected leak continues for a year, you could waste thousands of gallons and approximately $164.50 (or more, in some cases). Even if your home doesn’t have any plumbing leaks, you’ll still want to be more cognizant of your water usage. Be sure to run the washing machine or dishwasher only when full, as this will save water. Keep in mind that washing in hot water will require more energy, so washing your clothing in cold water is a good idea when possible. Of course, you’ll need to use hot water when washing dishes, but make sure to shut off the faucet when washing by hand. You should also consider taking shorter showers and turning down the temperature on your water heater. Data shows that 15% to 25% of all energy consumed within a home is due to a running water heater. You can probably stand to lower the temperature (it should be no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit) to save energy without sacrificing your comfort.
Get Ready For Winter
Winter has only just begun, but you’ve probably started feeling the effects in your home. You might already be cranking up the heat — and if your home has leaks or cracks, your HVAC system is probably working harder than necessary. It’s a good idea to keep your thermostat on the lower end in order to save energy. But if heat is escaping, you’ll have a hard time being comfortable. If you haven’t already, make an effort to seal any vulnerabilities to keep the warm air inside. You might also consider adding extra insulation or upgrading your windows. And while the winter isn’t an ideal time to get a new roof, choosing the right roofing material can help you save as much as 30% on your home’s energy needs. In other words, you might want to get started on the process now and at least schedule an upgrade to prioritize greener living in 2020. You might also want to take this opportunity to have your HVAC system serviced, as you may be able to avoid problems this season if you’re proactive.
Be Smart When Shopping
Water and energy waste are big problems, but food waste should also be a major concern. The USDA estimates that 30% to 40% of the nation’s food supply is wasted. That means most Americans need to be more intentional in how they shop, how they cook, and how they eat. Organic is typically best in most cases; in SEO, it’s over five times better than paid search ads, and it’s usually the higher-quality option in the grocery store, too. But if you’re not using that organic food and end up throwing it away, that’s a huge waste.
It’s a good idea to stick to a list and buy only what you need. If you plan out your meals in advance, this can help you to prevent impulse buys and make sure you use everything possible in the fridge. Try to stick to multi-purpose items that can be used in a variety of ways throughout the week, rather than specialty ones that might be allowed to go bad. Whether you prep your meals each Sunday or cook every night, mapping out how you’ll shop and eat can help your family reduce food waste next year. While you’re at it, bring your own reusable grocery bags to go plastic-free and make sure to invest in reusable food storage containers. In general, cut down on single use plastics at home to reduce the other items you’ll throw away.
Repair or Buy Used
Another good way to reduce waste is to take stock of what you already have. If you have a piece of furniture that’s seen better days but is structurally sound, you might consider having it professionally cleaned or repaired. It’s recommended that you have upholstery cleaned once a year anyway (though you should try to ensure the cleaning methods used are eco-friendly!), but you might even consider having a piece reupholstered with vintage fabric or fixed using reclaimed wood. Appliances and electronics may also be repairable, so don’t be so quick to throw them out and buy new. Shoes and clothing can often be fixed, as well, particularly if the problem is something like a zipper or a heal. By having these items repaired, you’ll be able to keep them out of landfills, save money, and support local businesses.
While it might not be realistic for your family to get your waste production to zero, it’s simpler than you think to reduce it. By keeping these tips in mind, you can go a lot greener in 2020 without much effort.