The environmental issues we face globally are immense, but the good news is that there are positive, creative solutions to deal with these problems. Through a combination of scientific research and personal action, each of us can change our living and consumer habits to live more sustainable lives. Sometimes it feels like, “Can I really make a difference?” The answer is yes. And when you do, your decision can impact someone else to live a more environmental and sustainable lifestyle. And when millions of like-minded people work together, wonderful things are possible.
Here are my top tips for helping the planet:
1. Make your bike your go-to transportation.
It is no secret that motor vehicles are among the biggest contributors to climate change. Choosing to bike more is one of the most important things we can do to have an immediate, positive impact on the environment. In addition to the environmental benefits, cycling saves money and makes you healthier. Three hours of biking per week can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by 50%. It’s also much more fun than spending time stuck in traffic! Learn more here.
See: 7 Best Bike Cities
2. Support relevant scientific research.
Protecting the planet involves participation. In addition to the hundreds of things that we can do personally, it’s essential that we support critical scientific research. For example, I support the Weizmann Institute because they’re working on projects such as using algae to create environmentally friendly biofuel and developing a sustainable hydrogen fuel technology without any harmful byproducts. Find a group you like and support them.
You can also take action by signing some of these environmental petitions on Care2.
3. If you do have to drive, drive smarter.
If you’re seeking a new car, look for the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible. Turn off your engine if you plan on idling for more than 10 seconds. Plan the best routes before you travel. Choose destinations closer to your home. Make a list of things you need and try to combine trips. Carpool whenever possible.
4. Wash clothes in cold water and line-dry.
According to the Department of Energy, 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is used to heat the water. Line-dry your clothes whenever possible. Consider vacuuming your dryer every six months or so. Lint can build up in your dryer’s hose, which creates a fire hazard and increases your dryer’s energy output by up to 30 percent.
5. Guard your groundwater.
There is absolutely no substitute for clean, drinkable water. There are easy things we can do to ensure that this precious resource is better protected. Limit showers to 5 minutes or less. Try to never use toxic chemicals around your home. Pull weeds! Don’t use chemicals to kill them. Remember, what we do to the earth we also do to ourselves! Properly dispose toxic substances like unused chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and paint. Don’t EVER dump them down the toilet or sink! Support relevant scientific research done by people like scientist Brian Berkowitz of the Weizmann Institute. Berkowitz uses MRI techniques, like those used to study the body, to measure how fluids flow underground and is working on a new technology to stop pesticides and other toxins from entering into groundwater.
6. Know where your trash goes.
Take a tour of your local water treatment plant or public landfill. What you’ll discover is that garbage does not simply disappear once it leaves our homes. All garbage goes somewhere. Human wastes have a tremendous impact on the environment. Visiting these facilities will open your eyes and remain an important reminder to be more conscious of what you throw in the trash and put down the drain. Composting is a terrific way to dramatically reduce the amount of household trash that ends up in a landfill. Properly disposing of batteries and electronics is also critical. Many progressive electronics stores offer receptacles for this toxic/recyclable waste. The best solution for reducing waste is to make less. Buying bulk reduces wasteful packaging (and you save money!). Using a cloth grocery/carrier bag is one less plastic bag in a landfill!
Matthew Modine is an actor, environmental advocate, filmmaker and humanist.