On April 22 the World will celebrate the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. From saying no-thanks to single-use disposable products to learning better recycling hygiene, our list of 51 lifestyle changes compiled in partnership with various environmental groups offers easy and creative ways for your family to live lighter on the planet by celebrating Earth Day every day.
Have an idea we didn’t include? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll add it to the list! You can find more information on the environment and climate change by liking and following Maine Audubon, Maine Conservation Voters, Maine Students for Climate Justice, MOFGA, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Nature Conservancy in Maine, Shaw Institute, Sierra Club Maine, Sunrise Maine and 350Maine.
Reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle
- Reduce packaging waste by buying in bulk. Single-use plastics are at the foundation of an unsustainable consumer culture wreaking havoc on our environment.
- Avoid single use disposable products. There are lists galore of nifty alternatives to single use disposable items including this one from the Chicago Tribune and this one from Stacker. The moral of the story: nearly every disposable item has a more sustainable alternative.
- Provide your own reusable bags and containers. Americans discard 100 BILLION plastic shopping bags annually and 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
*During the coronavirus pandemic, stores request customers suspend reusable bag use.
- Bring your own reusable utensils. Keep a utensil kit in your car or day bag and use them in lieu of disposable cutlery and plastic straws.
- Instead of purchasing new, host a swap party. Clothing, books, housewares and tools—the sky’s the limit! Host a swap party with friends and neighbors before you buy something new. Often, you can avoid spending money unnecessarily for something you’ll only use a handful of times.
- It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. Pledge to avoid consumption shopping for pleasure. Hit up yard sales and consignment shops if resisting the urge to buy is too strong.
- Use what you have. Resist new products designed to reduce your carbon footprint until you’ve used what’s on hand, first. There is no such thing as “away” and tossing perfectly usable items creates more waste.
- Donate unwanted clothing. The fashion industry is the second largest global producer of pollution, emitting 1.7 billion tons of CO2 annually. To remain under 2 degrees C of warming, the industry must cut emissions 80% by 2050. To make matters worse, one-quarter of the 150 billion new clothing items that enter the market each year are never worn. In North America, 10.5 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills. Check HERE for a list of places to donate gently used clothing.
- Avoid fast fashion. Fast fashion – clothing items so cheap, wearers discard them after a single-use, is responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses and environmental degradation of any industry. Rely on second hand and consignment shops and when buying new, look for sustainable fashion.
- Keep microplastics out of the water supply. Synthetic fibers like fleece, release microplastics into the water supply during laundering. The Guppy Friend bag collects these tiny fibers and prevents them from leaching into the environment.
- Opt for clothing made from biodegradable natural fibers which break down once discarded. When purchasing new clothing, invest in items that last for years.
- Repair your footwear. Instead of replacing shoes, have them resoled or repaired.
- Wear clothing items several times before washing. Extending the life of your garments just 9 months can reduce carbon, water, and waste by 20-30%.
Be a good recycler
- Proper cleaning and sorting of materials is crucial. Remove all food particles from recyclables and rinse containers thoroughly before tossing them into the recycling bin. Food waste and non-recyclable products contaminate batches of recycling rendering them unsalable.
- Leave soiled paper products out. Oily pizza boxes and the like should not be added to your recycling bin. If desired, remove the soiled sections and recycle what remains.
- Opt for a reusable coffee cup. Disposable coffee cups are generally multi layer and non-recyclable and should be thrown away.
- If it’s smaller than 2×2”, leave it out of the recycling bin. Small, narrow items like shredded paper, bread bag ties and bottle caps slip through cracks in recycling equipment and can’t be recovered. Secure bottle caps and avoid adding shredded paper to bins, which can be used as packing materials, bedding or an addition to your compost pile.
- Don’t be a “wish-cycler.” From batteries and diapers to lobster shells and sneakers, contaminants in the recycling bin drive up costs for everyone and contaminate batches of recycling rendering them useless. Know what your local recycling facility accepts for collection. Casella Waste Management serves many towns in Maine and offers this helpful list.
- Electronic equipment does not belong in the recycling bin. Check first with the manufacturer regarding current take-back programs.
- Bring plastic bags and packaging to store drop off locations. Find your nearest location HERE.
- Establish a free collection program. Many common household products including disposable razors, Brita and other water filtration items, Gerber products, P&G Soft Packaging, disposable contact lens pouches, Solo cup products, Swiffer brand products, Toms of Maine, Burt’s Bees and more can be recycled through one of Terracycle’s FREE RECYCLING PROGRAMS. When you sign up you earn points redeemable to the nonprofit or school of your choice.
- Introduce good recycling habits and make recycling fun! This Wicked Smaht Recycler game from EcoMaine or this one from National Geographic are great ways to teach kids that recycling can be fun.
- Looking for more educational activities for kids? Ecomaine has a wealth of free downloadable educational resources. Check them out HERE.
- Stay informed. Has recycling changed in your local municipality? Learn about changes HERE. If recycling in your community has changed for the worse, reach out to local leadership.
Dietary changes matter
- Support local food production. On average, every plate of food you consume travels 1,200 miles. Visit farmer’s markets and support the nearest Community Supported Agriculture programs. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers this interactive map to help you find the farms closest to you.
- Maine’s Harvest Bucks. The Harvest Bucks program offers shoppers using SNAP via EBT access to healthy, local food providing bonuses of fresh fruits and veggies helping to stretch limited food budgets. Find a participating farmer’s market near you.
- One meal a week makes a big difference. Food production accounts for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to vegetarian just one meal per week for a year prevents the equivalent in GHG emissions of driving 1,160 miles.
- Eat lower on the food chain. Shifting from red meat and dairy to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet less than one day per week’s worth of calories achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.
- How much carbon is on your plate? Check out how foods you commonly eat contribute to your carbon footprint and see which of the most carbon intensive foods you can swap for less polluting options.
Household electricity use
- Don’t linger at the fridge. Refrigerators are one of the largest users of household energy in the home. Decide what you want BEFORE opening the door and don’t linger. Find more fridge efficiency practices HERE.
- Hang your laundry. In the winter, laundry doubles as a natural humidifier reducing your carbon footprint further. Air-drying clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year. Hang clothes indoors on a wooden drying rack.
- Avoid “Phantom Load.” Energy consumed by appliances as they sit unused accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Plug devices like routers, modems, tvs, dvd players, video game consoles and cell phone chargers into a power strip and hit the off button when you leave home.
- Switch to LEDs. If every household changed bulbs in the 5 most used lights in their home, it would prevent the equivalent GHG emissions from nearly 6 million cars, save enough energy to light 33 million homes for a year and save $5 billion in energy costs!
Heating and cooling
- How Much is 1° Worth? For every degree you lower your thermostat in winter or raise (AC) in summer, you save more than 3% on your energy use. This can really add up over time and not only reduce your carbon footprint significantly it also saves you money!
- Turn your thermostat down. Put on a sweater or curl up with a warm blanket instead. In summer, close shades and curtains to keep your home cooler.
- Use a space heater instead. The median home size in the U.S. is approximately 2,400 square feet. Homes have continued to grow in size despite the average household size shrinking considerably since 1960. Instead of heating the entire house, consider using a space heater to heat the space you are using.
- Improve your home’s energy efficiency. Household energy use is one of the greatest household contributors to carbon emissions and New England has some of the oldest homes in the nation. Efficiency Maine offers low interest loans, incentives and help with energy and weatherization of your home.
- Upgrade your heating and cooling systems. In the market to replace a heating or cooling system in your home? Consider ductless heat pumps. In June of 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed a bill increasing the state rebate making installation even more attainable for Maine families.
Household food waste
- Know before you throw. In the U.S., up to 40% of food ends up in landfills, releasing methane into the atmosphere which is up to 86 times more potent than CO2. Reducing food waste could have nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines. Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates to avoid unnecessary food and money waste.
- Preplan your meals. Use Natural Resources Defense Council’s nifty tool Meal Prep Mate to help ensure that you only buy what you plan to eat.
- Compost! Want to make a difference? Compost! In the US we compost only 6.3% of our food waste vs 15% in the European Union – we can do better.
- Eat local. Transportation of food accounts for 11% of the energy use in the food production cycle. Eat local and support your local economy while enjoying the freshest local foodstuffs available.
- Take it easy on the gas and brake pedal. Unnecessary acceleration and braking reduce fuel efficiency as much as 40%.
- Don’t idle. Running quickly into a store? Turn the car off when you’ll be parked safely for more than 10 seconds.
- Dump extra cargo. Carrying 100 lbs of unnecessary weight in your vehicle reduces fuel efficiency by 1%. This impacts smaller vehicles more than large ones.
- Keep tires properly inflated improving fuel efficiency by up to 3%.
- Nix excessive speed. Driving faster than 50mph decreases fuel efficiency.
- Maintenance matters. Regular oil changes increase fuel efficiency up to 4%. Regular maintenance of your vehicle can make a big difference: Keeping air and fuel filters clean saves as much as 10%. Using manufacturer recommended oil increases efficiency by 2% and extends the life of your vehicle.
- Park in the shade. Reduce the need for air conditioning in summer by parking in the shade and opting for open windows when driving in town.
- Try a rideshare. Through gomaine.org, a collaboration between the Maine Turnpike Authority and MaineDOT, members can sign up for free to arrange carpooling opportunities throughout the state.
- Consider walking. Opting to walk just half of commutes less than 1 mile, we could save 2 million metric tons of carbon/yr, the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road! In addition, walking and biking are great exercise. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine offers educational programs and safety tips at bikemaine.org
Want more ideas? Check out NRDC’s list from April 2020 marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with 50 ideas to celebrate Earth Day.
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