10 Easy Ways to Lower Your Family’s Environmental Impact

Family in front of their house

We often use Earth Day as an annual check in on our environmental impact. So, how are you doing? What are you doing right, and what would you like to change? Here are a few areas where you can lower from family’s environmental impact.

1. Choose Energy-efficient Transportation
One of the biggest changes we can make is how we move ourselves around. Use public transportation when you can. Buy a car that uses energy efficiently. Travel long distances by plane seldom. With technology available for long-distance meetings, it’s less important to travel as much. This makes a big difference.

2. Use Home Energy Wisely
Start by using energy wisely. These are the common pieces of advice you hear: don’t use lights in the daytime, don’t leave appliances plugged in, etc. Each of these baby steps is a good start. It also makes a bigger difference when you choose energy-efficient appliances when it is time to replace.

3. Buy Renewable Energy
Another step you can take is to buy renewable energy. My family pays for wind energy, which is an option with our power company. Even better, you could install solar panels. Small systems can work really well for a family. Once you start, you might be ready for bigger steps.

4. Choose Cleaning Solutions Carefully
When buying solutions as home cleaners or body cleaners, look at ingredients. Without realizing it, we use a lot of chemicals that have health impacts on us personally and on the wider environment. To start, you have great resources available. In addition to the Skin Deep database for cosmetics that we mention often, EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a database of home cleaning products. Check those you buy regularly. If you don’t like their score, choose another.

5. Save Paper
We don’t always notice our paper use. Tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, stacks of printed paper. So, notice! Replace paper towels with reusable towels. Few people are willing to talk about it, but it’s not so difficult to replace toilet paper with washable family wipes. Use paper wisely in your home office as well. Print only what you need to keep, use both sides of the paper, and recycle when you are done.

6. Eat Real Food
Make your meals from real, whole ingredients rather than from processed food-like substances. Obviously, this is a good choice for your health, but it is also a better choice for the environment.

7. Organic Can Matter
Disappointed as I am with organic mega systems being co-opted by corporations and the real impact of organic being gutted in favor of lesser standards, I still worry more at the non-organic options for some foods and fibers. I worry about what is happening in the fields when more chemicals by weight are poured into cotton production than cotton comes out. I worry that pesticides outlawed decades ago still show up in our foods now. Keeping fields clean matters. Know the Dirty Dozen, and always buy those organic.

8. Choose Clean Water
For environmental impact, don’t buy bottled water, but for health impact, don’t drink unfiltered water unless you know exactly what is in your local water. When you do use water, use it wisely. Start by not wasting water—turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, for example—then move on to looking at ways to save more water through water-wise plumbing.

9. Plant for Your Climate
Plant what grows well in your area. That means no lawn in the desert and no tropical fruits in Ontario. By matching your yard and garden to your climate, you ensure that you need less water and fewer chemical inputs to keep your surroundings flourishing.

10. Low-impact House
If you haven’t bought or built a house yet, you have an opportunity to make choices that will have a big impact on your impact. Don’t buy more space than you need. Don’t buy a house covered in vinyl siding. Look for a house that is specifically designed to be low impact through placement of windows, use of materials, and use of lighting and appliances. If you already live in the house you want to stay in, you can make changes gradually, like adding more insulation to save energy on home heating and cooling.

In all areas of your family’s environmental impact, start where you are. Baby steps make small differences, but they also prepare you for bigger steps. When you see how easy it is to make changes, maybe you’ll be ready for the leaps that make a big difference.

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