Treading lightly on the earth.
EcoMotion’s 70 Tips to live More Sustainably
Many thanks to EcoMotion for sharing this checklist with us!
Learn more about their fantastic work greening cities, companies & schools: www.ecomotion.us
- Adopt sustainable practices, and incorporate them in your daily routine. Adjust day to day behavior by simply turning off the lights or appliances when they are not needed. There are tools used to track home energy usage. A home energy monitor tracks which appliances use the most electricity on a day-to-day basis, and a programmable or smart thermostat can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during the times when you are asleep or away. When you install a programmable thermostat, you eliminate wasteful energy use from heating and cooling without upgrading your HVAC system.
- Upgrade appliances to be more energy efficient. When purchasing an appliance, pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although energy efficient appliances usually have higher purchase prices, their operating costs are 9-25% lower than conventional models. When purchasing an energy efficient appliance, look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label, which is a federal guarantee that the appliance will consume less energy during use and when on standby than standard non-energy efficient models.
- Switch out outdated energy suckers and upgrade your lighting with energy efficient bulbs. Replace incandescent light bulbs and switch to energy efficient alternatives for environmental and financial benefits. Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) use anywhere from 25-90% less electricity and last three to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.
- Save energy by adjusting your thermostat. Set the thermostat at 68° or lower for heating, and 78° or higher for cooling, as every degree of extra heating or cooling will increase energy usage 6% to 8%.
- Weatherize your home to reduce your heating and cooling expenses by saving energy. The most common sources of air leaks into homes are vents, windows, and doors. To prevent these leaks, ensure that there are no cracks or openings between the wall and vent, window, or doorframe. To seal air leaks between stationary objects, such as the wall and window frame, apply caulk. For cracks between moving objects, such as operable windows and doors, apply weather stripping. Weather stripping and caulking are simple air sealing techniques that typically offer a return on investment in less than a year. To reap the full amount of savings from weatherization, consider fully insulating. Wall, ceiling, floor and attic insulation plays a key role in lowering utility bills through retaining heat during the winter and keeping heat out of your home during the summer.
- Washing with cold water saves energy. Save energy that is used to heat water, as well as run the washer, by washing and rinsing laundry with cold water instead of hot water.
- Avoid using major appliances during peak hours of the day, when less clean energy is available. You can also use energy-intensive appliances less by performing household tasks manually, such as hang-drying your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer.
- Improve energy efficiency by installing ceiling fans. Creating air movement in a room can improve the comfort of the space. Ceiling fans raise the thermostat setting about 4°F, with no reduction in comfort. They also can cut energy use and cost compared to central air conditioning.
- Replace single-pane windows, and install energy efficient windows. Windows are a significant source of energy waste, which can amount to 10-25% of your total heating bill.
- Reduce water heating expenses and cut your energy load. Water heating is a major contributor to total energy consumption. Other than purchasing an energy efficient water heater, there are three methods of reducing water heating expenses: simply use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on the water heater, or insulate the water heater and the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes.
- Adopt sustainable practices, and incorporate them in your daily routine. Adjust day to day behavior by simply turning off the faucet while shaving, or filling the bathtub half full. There are tools used to track home water usage. An in-home display tracks water usage.
- Upgrade appliances to conserve more water. When purchasing an appliance, pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although water saving appliances usually have higher purchase prices, their operating costs are 9-25% lower than conventional models. When purchasing a water saving appliance, look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label, which is a federal guarantee that the appliance will save water during use and when on standby than standard water wasting models.
- Decrease shower water usage with low-flow shower heads. Install low-flow shower head, which uses 2½-3 gallons per minute, cutting the amount of water normally used in half.
- Conserve water by promptly repairing leaks around faucets or taps. A steady dripping leak wastes 15-20 gallons of water per day.
- Turn off faucet while brushing teeth to save water. A bathroom faucet uses 6 gallons per minute. Wet toothbrush, turn off the water, brush, then turn on to rinse. This saves about 80% of water that is normally used.
- Wash only full loads of laundry and reduce by one load of laundry per week to limit water usage. A washing machine uses 30 gallons of water per load. Use the shortest cycle possible for washing clothes, and use the “suds-saver” feature if available.
- Wash on full loads of dishes and reduce by one load per week to limit water usage. A dishwasher uses 15 gallons of water per load. Use the shortest cycle possible for washing dishes, as well as the conserver/water-miser cycle feature if available. When hand-washing dishes, never run water continuously. Wash dishes in a partially filled sink, and then rinse them using the spray attachment on the tap.
- Look for “environmentally friendly” cleaning products that won’t contaminate water. Use only cleaning products that will not harm the environment when they are washed away after use.
- Don’t leave the hose running while washing the car to conserve water. Use a nozzle with an automatic shut off and a sponge and pail of soapy water, saves 10 gallons per minute.
- Conserve and capture tap water. While waiting for the water to get hot, collect the running water and use it to water houseplants. This saves 200-300 gallons of water.
- Dine in to avoid takeout containers and reduce waste. If dining in is not an option, then wash and reuse food containers instead of tossing single-use bags and containers.
- Reduce waste when grocery shopping. Purchase goods that use less packaging or compostable packaging.
- Donating is a great way to extend the life of usable items and reduce the impact on resources. Donate unwanted goods whenever possible–someone will likely have another use in mind, and buy used–it’s amazing what kinds of unique and quality items may be found.
- Avoid contamination by separating recyclables. Remove all food waste and only recycle approved items.
- Reuse and recycle outdated items. Bulky items like old appliances can be arranged for free pick-up for reuse or disposal. Donating is also an option if the appliances or furnishings are no longer in use–there may be others who can make use of them. Outdated electronics (such as televisions, computers, and cell phones) contain metals that pollute the environment and must be recycled properly.
- Dispose of household toxics safely to protect the environment. Reduce household toxics like bleach, glass cleaner, insect repellent, and disinfectants, which are special waste, but the plastic containers that they come in are recyclable when empty; do not dump them into the sink.
- Reducing is even better than reusing or recycling. Use multi-purpose “environmentally friendly” products to reduce waste, simplify routines and save time, money, and resources.
- Compost to keep these organic materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting is Nature’s way of recycling and decomposing organic matter into a dark, rich soil amendment that provides nutrients to plants and reduces their water requirements. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what is thrown away, and should be composted instead.
- Buy recycled so that everything is used and reused in ways that don’t waste or harm the environment. The essence of recycling is the cyclical movement of materials through the system, eliminating waste and the need to extract more virgin materials. Supporting recycling means feeding this loop by not only recycling, but also supporting recycled products.
- Reduce food waste. “Wasted, surplus or excess food” are terms commonly used to describe wholesome, nutritious food that is lost or sent for disposal. It isn’t spoiled food, but rather it may include unsold food from retail stores, untouched prepared food or trimmings from restaurants, grocery stores, cafeterias or industrial processing. The terms “wasted, surplus or excess food” are often used when discussing food recovery for donation to feed people. Find a place to donate: check our list of local food recovery organizations and establish a relationship. Donate weekly or daily depending on their needs and your viable donations.
- Take advantage of alternate means to travel: bus, bike, walk. Consider car-pooling or using public transportation. Car-pooling is a great way to share costs of fuel and parking and to break the monotony of your daily commute. Public transportation typically follows the same model as carpooling. There have also been more recent developments to public transit that qualify as green transportation, such as electric buses.
- Before running errands, think ahead to save time and fuel. Bundle a number of small errands into one trip, rather than multiple trips, which require more time and fuel consumption.
- If driving a car cannot be avoided, reduce impact by employing green driving techniques. Regularly check tire pressure, as low tires drag down the vehicle and use more fuel. Service car regularly, as a well-tuned car uses less fuel. Avoid idling; turn the car off if stopped for more than 10 seconds. Use cruise control on highways as much as possible, maintaining a consistent RPM reduces fuel consumption and increases mileage by up to 7%. Drive the speed limit, as fuel economy decreases above 60 mph. Driving 5mph over 60 mph is like paying an extra 24 cents per gallon.
- Park in the shade to save fuel used to cool down your car. Park in the shade facing away from the sun and leave a window cracked. This will make the car interior less hot and able to be cooled more quickly.
- Make low emission vehicles a priority. From a sustainability perspective, buy a hybrid or all-electric vehicle. Hybrid and all-electric cars can be found in affordable price ranges, starting from approximately $23,000. This makes widespread ownership more practical, overall, and leads to less pollution for better air quality.
- Take the environmentally friendly route when flying. Flying is one of the more carbon-intensive activities in the world. Airplanes emit a lot of greenhouse gases from burning fuel, but because of their altitude those emissions also produce an effect called radiative forcing. Yet, part of the reason that flying emits so much carbon is that it takes an enormous amount of energy to move people such long distances. For instance, flying across the country may be more efficient than driving depending on the circumstances. So the solution is not necessarily to replace all air travel with ground travel. There are a few things you can do to make your flights more environmentally friendly. Perhaps chief among them is to fly nonstop. Takeoff and landing are responsible for much of the fuel used on a flight; cruising is much less energy-intensive. Thus, in addition to being less of a hassle, flying nonstop is cleaner. Checking airline sustainability reports when choosing an airline is another option. Alaska Airlines, for example, have drastically increased their capture of recyclable materials from flights, run a massive composting program, have shifted to sustainable aviation biofuel in select locations, and are consistently ranked number one in fuel efficiency for U.S. airlines.
- Take advantage of a carbon offset program and invest in offsets that avoid emissions or replace fossil fuel based energy with renewables. These programs give passengers the option to invest in carbon reduction projects to help neutralize or reduce their carbon footprint caused by travel. There are over 30 International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines who have introduced a travel offset program.
- Avoid left-hand turns, if possible, and favor right-hand turns to avoid emissions. Left-hand turns are generally considered unsafe and wasteful on right-hand driving roads, such as those in the US. By favoring right-hand turns at all times — unless a left is unavoidable — you can save hundreds of gallons of fuel each year, and avoid emissions.
- Download a transit app to create more efficient routes. Transportation planning apps like not only offer detailed trip-planning services and real-time arrival information, but also help local transit agencies improve service.
- Say yes to sustainable transportation initiatives. Improving transit costs money, so the next time there is a transit-focused ballot measure in your city, vote yes.
- Optimize sustainable building site potential. Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including consideration of the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings. The location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect local ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use. Whether designing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, site design must integrate with sustainable design to achieve a successful project. The site of a sustainable building should reduce, control, and/or treat storm-water runoff. If possible, strive to support native flora and fauna of the region in the landscape design.
- Optimize building space and sustainable material use. It is critical to achieve an integrated and intelligent use of materials that maximizes their value, prevents ‘upstream’ pollution, and conserves resources. A sustainable building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials in the most productive and sustainable way across its entire life cycle, and is adaptable for reuse during its life cycle. The materials used in a sustainable building minimize life-cycle environmental impacts such as global warming, resource depletion, and toxicity. Environmentally preferable materials reduce impacts on human health and the environment, and contribute to improved worker safety and health, reduced liabilities, and reduced disposal costs.
- Incorporate resilience into building design. Building resiliency is the capacity of a building to continue to function and operate under extreme conditions, such as (but not limited to) extreme temperatures, sea level rise, natural disasters, etc. As the built environment faces the impending effects of global climate change, building owners, designers, and builders can design facilities to optimize building resiliency.
- Incorporate adaptability into building design. Building adaptability is the capacity of a building to be used for multiple uses and in multiple ways over the life of the building. For example, designing a building with a modular and integrated approach to infrastructure delivery and interior systems (furniture, ceiling systems, demountable partitions and access floors) allows the building to support multiple uses and multiple futures. Additionally, using sustainable design allows for a building to adapt to different environments and conditions.
- Use recycled and sustainable building materials, choosing biodegradable resources that are produced with minimal pollution and energy costs. Manufacturing construction materials requires a lot of energy and the best way to bring down the energy expended on manufacturing processes is using low-impact materials that are recycled or repurposed. Replacing conventional construction materials with used or reclaimed materials will greatly minimize the ecological footprint of your project by reducing CO2 emissions and avoiding toxicity.
- Make the most of natural light to reduce the need for artificial lighting. During the design and construction stage of the building process, consider the orientation of the building to best capture maximum sunlight.
- Incorporate native landscaping into sustainable building design. By using trees, plants, and grasses that are native to the area, architects can greatly reduce irrigation needs. Landscaping can also be used as part of a passive energy strategy. By planting trees that shade the roof and windows during the hottest time of the day, solar heat gain inside the building can be reduced.
- Consider stormwater management during the building process. When rain falls on an untouched site, the water that doesn’t evaporate absorbs back into the ground, replenishing the natural water table. However, when a building is placed on the site, along with parking lots, sidewalks, access roads, and other hardscaping, rainfall behaves differently. The water runs off these surfaces and into storm drains. By implementing stormwater management strategies, such as pervious pavement that helps to reduce runoff and retention ponds that capture runoff and slowly release water back into the ground, the negative environmental impact of buildings can be reduced.
- Incorporate renewable energy systems during the building process. Renewable energy systems, including those that harness solar and wind energy, are also great options for some buildings when taking climate and sun orientation into consideration.
- Reduce construction waste disposal. Construction generates a considerable amount of waste which includes cardboard, glass, metal, insulation, roofing, drywall, cladding and flooring. Most of these materials can be repurposed and reused to reduce the amount of construction waste disposal. Contractors who practice sustainability can take the unused materials upon completion of the project and weigh them accurately, using portable truck scales that are specifically designed for construction projects.
- Plant more trees and reap all of the environmental benefits. Trees improve the air quality of the place we live in by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, and give us food and shade. A regular sized tree can clean about 330 pounds of carbon dioxide while producing oxygen for the whole community every year. Trees also combat the greenhouse effects, reduce the pressure on heating and cooling, and therefore save energy. Trees also save us from climatic changes, natural disasters, and catastrophes.
- Plant native plants, which are the most environmentally-friendly choice. When planted in the proper place to match their growing requirements, native plants thrive in the soils, moisture, and weather of your region. That means less wasteful supplemental watering and pest problems that require toxic chemicals.
- Cultivate healthy soil, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers, to have a thriving garden. Creating garden beds and landscapes that have an active underground ecosystem of earthworms and microorganisms that keep plants healthy can be achieved using composted soil with organic materials that include micronutrients and minerals. Applying compost also provides an aerated, non-compacted base for plant roots to thrive and to absorb water and nutrients, which is key in ensuring plant health. Healthy plants mean better wildlife habitat.
- Eliminate use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and other pesticides to ensure that your garden is a healthy, safe place for wildlife. There are many tried and true organic gardening methods, from fertilizing with compost to hand-picking pests.
- Boycott products that endanger wildlife. Products made from animals on the endangered species list are illegal to buy, sell, import or trade in the United States, but if a plant or animal hasn’t been listed yet, they can still be harmed for someone’s profit. Also, some products harm endangered species by threatening their habitat, from cutting down old-growth forests to using up the water that riparian species need to survive. To avoid contributing to the endangerment of wildlife, shop conscientiously and look for products made from sustainable materials like bamboo and dine at restaurants that refuse to serve imperiled species.
- Support local park and recreation agencies, as they implement a wide variety of sustainability practices with communities. Widely cited sustainability activities implemented by park and recreation agencies include providing opportunities for healthy activity in nature, protecting and managing wildlife and wildlife habitats, natural land management, reducing landfill waste, following environmentally friendly building practices, fostering public engagement and education, and implementing green infrastructure practices.
- Limit use of turf. Grassy areas do not provide much benefit for erosion control for wildlife habitats, so they should be restricted to recreational use, such as athletic fields, and made with sustainable materials.
- Keep construction away from wetlands. Avoid building or paving near wetland areas, as this can cause irreparable damage to them.
- Keep as much existing landscaping as possible. By limiting the amount of disturbance to the natural environment, biodiversity will remain healthier and more sustainable.
- Reduce paved surfaces. Roads, parking lots, and other non porous surfaces prevent rainwater from reaching the ground and disrupt habitat areas.
Health & Wellness
- Become a member of a community garden to promote sustainable living in your area. Gardens create green spaces and the garden waste can be mulched and returned to support healthy soil. Green spaces aren’t just important for your state of mind; in urban areas they can play an important role in offsetting carbon emissions.
- Buy local and avoid creating more carbon emissions. From clothes to food, the closer to home these products are made and bought, the less carbon is created with their transportation. Not only that, but supporting the local economy means that in time they will likely have even more local items to choose from.
- Buy produce in season. Most produce is in peak season from the end of Spring, to early Fall. Find out what foods are in season and buy those, rather than buying out of season produce. In season produce is cheaper and lasts way longer. Buy things in bulk and freeze for later and save money and improve sustainability.
- Eat less meat by participating in Meatless Mondays. Cutting down on the amount of meat consumption can have a huge impact. Not having red meat, even if it’s just one day a week, can have quite a significant impact on reducing your carbon footprint.
- Choose self care products wisely for a truly eco-friendly lifestyle. When it comes to personal hygiene there are several things to avoid, such as damaging microbeads, which are small bits of solid plastic which aren’t biodegradable and make their way into watercourses and ultimately end up damaging the environment by entering the food chain. Make sure that body wash, toothpaste, face scrub and other products do not contain these beads. In addition to this, avoiding chemicals and opting for natural cleaning products.
- Buy organic whenever possible. Organic products are grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, which reduces the amount of chemical pollution ending up in our soils and water.
- Introduce Micro farming within your community. Micro farming, also known as urban farming, which is farming on residential or commercial property that is around less than five acres. Micro farming is being encouraged by sustainability groups in order to reduce carbon emissions, increase local economic growth, increase public health, and improve food security. It can be implemented in many kinds of environments from metro city lots to suburban backyards, and they can produce a variety of crops from nuts to vegetables or fruits.
- Run sustainable businesses and become a leader within the community. Create initiatives that will build awareness as well as potential solutions. Donate time and support your employees in doing the same. Share profits with environmentally-related causes. Actively lead by example.
- Regulate “Green Washing.” Due to very limited and poor regulations surrounding environmentally focused companies, many organizations have jumped on the bandwagon while having no true sustainability efforts as part of their businesses. There are, however, very legitimate private organizations that have formed to eliminate “Green Washing.” Seek out these entities that will accredit, regulate and provide seals of approval for truly sustainable companies.
- Support and collaborate with other sustainable businesses. There are plenty of like-minded sustainable businesses, individuals and organizations that will share the same motivations. Seek them out, partner with them, ask their advice and support their endeavors. A lot more will be accomplished by working in unison.