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5 Green Habits That Matter More Than Recycling

So, like every person trying to do their part to reduce their personal carbon emissions and make the most of the natural resources we all consume you recycle right? If you’re an average Planet Green reader you probably do a bit more than the average US citizen who recycles about one third of the waste they produce, preventing about 1600 pounds of carbon being released into the atmosphere. That’s a good thing, but do you want to do even more? Here are five things you can do which reduce your emissions as much or more than recycling:

Drink Less Bottled Water = 2.6 Tons CO2

You’ve probably heard it dozens of times, you really should be avoiding bottled water. It uses figurative tons of resources to bottle and ship to you, and much of the time (at least in the developed world) is no more pure than the water coming out of your tap. Even if you regularly drink tap water there’s probably some time when you’ve forgotten your water bottle, or the tap water isn’t exactly palatable, whatever. So you reluctantly buy a bottle of water. But oh how fast those emissions add up! Even if you only do this once per month, over the year you’ve just emitted 2.6 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Twice as much as you’ve saved by recycling. So, really make the effort and reduce your bottled water consumption.

Related: The Story of Bottled Water

Skip One Mid-Range Flight = 1 Ton CO2

I know that if you live in the United States your long range public transportation options aren’t as diverse or convenient as some other places in the world, but in terms of reducing your personal carbon emissions reducing the amount you fly adds up quickly. Simply skipping one mid-range flight (say from New York City to St. Louis, Missouri) reduces your emissions as much as one full year of recycling, by about 1970 pounds per flight on that route. If you travel frequently for work, investigate other options such as video conferencing, and if you have family that live halfway across the country try to combine smaller trips into one longer one or simply go less frequently. You’re serious about reducing your emissions, right?

Related: How to Travel Green — Across the Neighborhood or Across the World

Go Vegetarian (or Vegan) = 1 to 2 Tons CO2

I know I say it all the time, but cutting meat out of your diet has a large impact on your lifestyle carbon emissions. And can lower your food bill by 20 percent to boot! The emissions and resources needed to raise animals for food are so much higher than for raising vegetables that by eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet you can save about one ton of carbon emissions each year compared to your carnivorous friends. Cut out eggs and cheese and save two tons per year.

Related: 8 Reasons to Rock On with Meat-Free Monday

Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water & Air Dry Them = 1 Ton CO2

Another perennial favorite suggestion on Planet Green that really works: Wash in cold water and air dry. There are plenty of detergents now that work as well in cold water as they do in hot, and even in the middle of winter shirts dry in a couple of hours on an indoor drying rack (or in the case of my shirts, as I write this, on my shower curtain rod). How much will you save by a very slight tweak in your laundering routine? You guessed it: As much as recycling your paper, plastic and metal for an entire year.

Related: Clean Clothes, Happier Planet

Sign Up For Green Power = 7 Tons CO2

Again, I’ve said this before but here’s the one thing that is probably the quickest and most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon emissions: Enroll in a green power program with your utility. While the exact electricity mix varies from state to state, based on the average mix in the United States, by choosing green power from your utility you can reduce you carbon emission by some 7 tons per year. And at the same time send a message to your utility that they better start investing in some more wind farms, because more and more people are committed to greening the national power supply. Yes, a few minutes and one phone call can reduce your personal carbon emissions seven times as much as recycling.

More Related:
6 Ways to Make Reusable Bags Even Greener
5 Mental Habits for Cutting Consumption
25 Things You Might Not Know About Water

Read more: Conscious Consumer, Conservation, Do Good, Green, Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, ,

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Samantha, selected from Planet Green

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.


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2:13PM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

Thank you

3:53PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

I get sick and tired of saying it, but!!!! A VEGETARIAN DIET IS NOT HEALTHY FOR ALL HUMANS. A VEGAN DIET IS HIGHLY RESTRICTIVE AND NOT, NOT ,NOT WHAT WE ARE DESIGNED FOR. We are omnivores and evolved from scavengers. It is ridiculous and dangerous to pretend that there is one and only one diet that is "proper".

Yes, we can do better. Much better. There is more out there than beef. Most of us just plain eat too much of everything. There are better ways to raise and slaughter our meat animals. We can eat less of it. Much, much less of it. We can allow our animals quality of life. We do not need to raise as many. We do not need to feed them toxins. antibiotics, corn, or other animals (criminal to me ). But sanctimoniously prosthelytizing total vegetarianism or veganism is wrong and just plain unhealthy. Bite me if you want to argue. I've done my homework for more than 30 yrs. now. Have you?

5:01AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

I believe EVERYTHING matters. And EVERYTHING adds up! It's true we have habits we may not even consider to be harmful to the environment, therefore we need to be made aware of these and do the best we can to 'kick' the habits. It all helps, do what YOU can!

9:52AM PST on Nov 20, 2011

I feel a bit smug as I already do quite a lot of this - but I've still got a very long way to go!

8:32AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Great article. Thank you so much for posting. I am definitely guilty of using bottled water, nut I am and will definitely continue to eliminate that habit as soon as possible.

1:33PM PDT on Apr 27, 2011

Thanks for trying. What this argument ignores is that organic farming is essentially a closed-loop system, relying heavily on animal manure as a source of nitrogen. Livestock numbers would have to increase significantly, and the corollary of this is that meat and dairy produce would be an integral part of a global organic diet unless farm animals were to be simply a source of fixed nitrogen.

9:54AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

To help the environment the most is having your utility co get thier energy from a greener source. If you live in CT,MD,PA,NJ or NYC you can do just that. Nothing changes on your bill and they still service you incase of power outages. The best part is it costs less then what you are paying now. So your helping the environment by going greener and putting some "green" back into your wallet. The company name is Viridian and hears my website for info and if you like you can become a customer as well. This company has stopped over 85 million lbs of carbon emissions from all their customers going greener!

3:46PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

Ta for the tips!

10:18AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

Interesting article*

3:06PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

thanks :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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