WHAT YOU CAN DO

The biggest step you can take to have a positive impact on climate change is to follow the mantra: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle!

Reduce energy use

  • Replace your conventional light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Unplug “energy bandits” like cell phone chargers when not in use.
  • Turn your water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Adjust your thermostat (lower in winter, higher in summer).
  • Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows to plug air leaks.
  • Wash clothes in cold water, not hot. Dry clothes on a clothesline instead of in a dryer.
  • Landscape using trees to shade south and west facing windows and native plants to limit mowing needs.
  • Install a solar hot water heater or photovoltaic system on your roof.

Reduce water use

  • Each time you turn on a water faucet use the lowest pressure necessary. Keep the water turned on only while it is needed. For drinking water, keep a pitcher in your refrigerator so you don't have to let water run to cool.
  • One of the best ways to avoid wasting water is to switch to low flow or dual flush toilets.
  • Replace existing shower heads with the lowest flow product you can find. Time your showers - try to keep them to 5 minutes.
  • Always run full loads of laundry and dishes. If you buy a new appliance, switch to a water-conserving model (e.g., front loading washer).
  • Leftover Water: If you have house plants, whenever possible water them with leftover or unused water from drinking, cooking, and showering. Keep of water pitcher near your sink or bathtub and collect unused water running from the tap (waiting for cooler or warmer water).

Reduce paper use

  • Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins.
  • Replace paper towels with a special set of cloth towels/napkins - store the used ones in a small container in your kitchen and just wash and reuse.
  • Purchase bleach-free, toilet paper that is made from the highest post-consumer waste content you can find (80% minimum).
  • f you print documents, print on once-used paper and/or bleach-free, recycled paper with the highest post-consumer waste content available (or hemp/ alternative-source paper, if you can afford it).
  • Create and use note pads from once-used paper.
  • Leave messages for family members/roommates on a reusable message board .
  • Make your own cards/letters from once-used products or handmade paper.

Reduce trash

  • Avoid products that are packaged for single use (i.e., drinks, school lunches, candy, cat and dog food, salad mixings, etc.)
  • When ordering food, avoid receiving any unnecessary plastic utensils, straws, etc. (ask in advance), buy ice cream in a cone instead of a cup, don't accept "free" promotional products, buy products with the least amount of packaging.
  • In general, think before you buy any product - do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and what further impacts will there be with the disposal of the product (and associated packaging materials)?
  • Sign up to avoid junk mail.

Reuse items

  • Shop at and hold garage sales - this is a great way to reuse products.
  • Switch from disposable to reusable products: food and beverage containers, cups, plates, writing pens, razors, diapers, towels, shopping bags, etc.
  • Donate your old clothes, furniture, computer equipment, building materials, cell phones, ink cartridges, eyeglasses, art materials, unwanted canned food.
  • Start a compost pile with yard trimmings and food scraps. Learn more at Wikipedia's Compost page.

Recycle more efficiently

  • Try to reduce buying items that cannot be reused or recycled.
  • Reorganize the kitchen so it has an efficient recycling area with good sized bins to help with sorting and holding.
  • Use a smaller kitchen garbage can in the kitchen to remind family members and yourself to recycle or compost more.

There are other simple steps you can take to help, from getting around to getting your food. We've categorized some of these in the following sections.

On the road

  • Whenever possible, walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation.
  • When you buy a car, choose one that gets the best gas mileage possible.
  • Drive smarter— avoid rapid acceleration, idling, and excessive weight in the trunk.
  • Keep your car tuned up with tires properly inflated and air filter changed regularly.

In your diet

  • Whenever possible, buy locally grown and organic foods.
  • Shop at the local farmer’s markets.
  • Eat more meatless meals.
  • Green Calculator: Learn about the effect your diet is having on the environment with the Eating Green Calculator.
  • Unprocessed Food: Eat unprocessed/unpackaged food whenever possible.

In your lifestyle

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  • Buy less, & buy minimally packaged goods with recycled content.
  • Purchase locally produced products.
  • Be an advocate: Talk to your friends and community leaders about climate-friendly choices.

Finally, take this handy ecological footprint quiz to check your progress. Or, try any of the other "footprint" calculators we have listed on our "Your Impact" page.