50 Quick, Painless Ways You Can Help the Environment Today

Written by Leo Babauta

In theory, most of us would like to help the environment, preserve the world’s natural beauty, and generally make this planet a better place to live.

In practice, we don’t necessarily have the time or energy to get involved in major projects, join Greenpeace, protest the corporate polluters, or make sweeping lifestyle changes. We want to help, but with all that’s going on in our lives, it gets put on the back burner.

But playing your part to help the environment doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or sweeping. You can help out in little ways, making gradual changes, baby steps.

Starting today.

Yes, you can do some of these tips today. You can probably do a dozen today, if you put an effort into it. But all you have to do is one of these tips. Just one.

You may already do some of these. If so, pat yourself on the back. Now choose another, and get started! You don’t have to tackle the entire list – it’s just a bunch of ideas to get you started. To show you how easy it can be to make small changes and help the environment.

Pick one, and start today.

  1. Take a shorter shower.
    If you take long showers, consider cutting it short by a few minutes. You’ll conserve water, and the electricity needed to heat up the water, lowering your utility bills and reducing your energy consumption at the same time.
  2. Use a rag or hand towel instead of napkins or paper towels.
    Reusing items instead of using disposable items is almost always a better thing for the environment. Reduce the need to cut down trees, the power needed to turn them into napkins, and the space in the landfill once you throw them away.
  3. Don’t print at least once today.
    Instead of automatically hitting the “print” button, think of whether you really need a hardcopy of that document. Can you email it instead? File it on your computer instead of your file cabinet? Read it on the computer instead of on paper? You don’t have to eliminate printing entirely, but holding off on that “print” button once in awhile could greatly reduce your paper consumption.
  4. Carpool once this week.
    Have a friend or family member or co-worker who makes roughly the same commute as you? Try riding together at least once. It save on fuel consumption, cuts your fuel spending, reduces greenhouse emissions, and you can get a good conversation at the same time.
  5. Turn off the TV for an hour.
    Reduce your energy consumption and get outside and play a sport. Or garden. Or just take a walk. You get healthy and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings.
  6. Turn off the lights.
    If you leave a room, even for a little while, turn off the lights. You don’t need it, and it’s wasting energy.
  7. Use a coffee mug instead of disposable.
    If you routinely use disposable cups at work or on the road, use a ceramic coffee cup or a travel mug, reducing the amount of trash you throw away.
  8. Use CFC light bulbs.
    If your light bulb burns out, replace it with a Compact Flourescent bulb (those spiral-looking ones). They’re more expensive, but if you just replace them one at a time, it doesn’t cost much, and the energy savings is great. And as they last longer, over the long run, you’ll save money.
  9. Skip the foil and plastic wrap.
    Use reusable plastic food containers to store leftovers or other food in the fridge and cabinets, instead of disposable material.
  10. Inflate your tires.
    Many people don’t realize that their tires are under-inflated. Check the recommended pressure for your tires, and fill them up to that pressure. It only takes a few minutes, but it will save you on fuel consumption (a little) and more importantly, make your tires last longer and reduce the rubber that’s worn off your tires.
  11. Clean up.
    If you go to the beach or a park, leave it cleaner than when you got there. Pick up some cans and other trash that were there when you arrived. Takes a couple minutes, and makes the world a nicer place to live in.
  12. Talk to your kids about the environment.
    Just a 5-minute conversation every now and then about fuel consumption, greenhouse emissions, wasting food and trash, energy consumption, preserving habitats ? this can help educate your children about the issues that will be affecting them tomorrow. And an educated population will do more to help the environment than anything else.
  13. Reuse printed paper.
    If you have non-sensitive documents that have been printed out, but are no longer needed, try marking the printed side, and using the clean side for non-official printing. In fact, if you can get your office to do this, you’ll save tons of paper a year.
  14. Turn down your water heater.
    Most people have their water heater’s thermostat turned up too high, wasting energy. Turn it down to 130 degrees, saving energy but still hot enough to kill bacteria.
  15. Plant a tree.
    It really doesn’t take much time, and over time more trees in your community can make a difference. Do a few every year, and encourage others to do the same.
  16. Hang out your clothes.
    If it’s a nice sunny day, hanging clothes only takes a few minutes, and you’re using solar power instead of electricity to do the job. It also makes your clothes last longer.
  17. Buy a manual reel mower or electric mower.
    If you’re looking for a new lawn mower, and you have a small yard, consider getting a manual one. They’re much advanced from the reel mowers of our grandparents’ generation, much quieter, cheaper, and they save on fuel and pollution. Electric mowers are also quieter and use much less energy.
  18. Get a low-flow shower head.
    Stop at the hardware store on your way home, and get a low-flow shower head. Takes a few minutes to install, and it’ll save gallons of water a day.
  19. Lower your thermostats.
    If you use heating, get by with less heat and wear warmer clothes. If you use air-conditioning, get by with less cooling and wear cooler clothes.
  20. Participate or organize a clean-up.
    Sure, this’ll take a little more of your time, but if you don’t have much to do on the weekends, this can be tremendously fun and fulfilling. Clean up a beach, a street, a park, a lake or a river.
  21. Avoid fast food.
    Instead, eat at home or at a sit-down restaurant. Fast food restaurants are one of the worst polluters of the environment, both in the massive amounts of beef they must raise, in the wasted packaging, and in the energy they use in so many ways. And they’re tremendously unhealthy.
  22. Use acryllic paint.
    Oil-based paints are toxic and create a lot of pollution during manufacturing. Instead, if you’re going to buy paint, buy acryllic.
  23. Coat your roof.
    This’ll take up an afternoon, but you only have to do it once every few years. And it’ll save you a lot of money and energy in heating and cooling over the long-term, more than making up for the cost of paint.
  24. Clean your filters.
    Clean the filters of your air-conditioners once a month to improve energy efficiency. While you’re at it, change your car’s filters as recommended in your manual.
  25. Telecommute.
    I know, sounds great, where do I sign up? But if you talk to your employer about even a limited telecommuting schedule, you can save a lot of fuel and time, and be more productive at the same time. Just be sure to get a lot more done at home than you do at work to make your case for an expanded telecommuting schedule down the road.
  26. Wash clothes in cold water.
    Hot water is unnecessary for most clothes. When needed, use warm water.
  27. Fill your toilet tank.
    Put a plastic bottle or two, filled with water and rocks, in your tank to reduce the amount of water used in each flush.
  28. Buy recycled products.
    As much as possible, get the recycled version of products you buy.
  29. Recycle.
    Sure, it’s a regular practice in some places, with curb-side pickup of recycled waste. But in other places, there’s no such thing. Instead, create a few containers for paper, plastic and aluminum waste in your home or office. When it’s full, drop it off at a local recycling center (look in your phone book) on your errands day.
  30. Buy a smaller car.
    You won’t be able to do this today, probably, but the next time you’re in the market for an automobile, get a smaller and energy-efficient car rather than a big, lumbering one. It’s one of the best things you can do to reduce your fuel consumption.
  31. Buy a smaller home.
    The next time you’re home-shopping, instead of buying the McMansion, look for a smaller home that’s big enough to meet your needs comfortably. Reducing the amount of stuff you own is a good way to need less house. It’s cheaper, and requires less energy to heat and cool. And easier to clean at the same time.
  32. Look for energy efficiency.
    When you’re looking to buy appliances, be sure to research the most energy-efficient ones. They may cost a little more, but they’ll more than make up for that in the long run with lower energy bills.
  33. Water grass early in the morning.
    Reduces the amount of water you need to keep your grass looking fabulous.
  34. Plant shade trees near your house.
    It’ll take awhile before they can make a difference, but shade trees greatly reduce the need to cool a home.
  35. Use rechargeable batteries.
    Instead of throwing your batteries away all the time, reuse rechargeable batteries. Costs a little more, but cheaper in the long run.
  36. Buy used.
    Instead of buying new clothing, furniture, cars, whatever, look to buy used instead. You can get them for cheaper, and still get quality – all the while reducing the need to produce more stuff.
  37. Walk instead of drive.
    You don’t have to do this all the time, but walking the short trip to a store, or to lunch from work, or some other short trip like that, can reduce the amount of fuel you use over the long term, and you shed some fat at the same time. Or at least burn off that morning donut.
  38. Unplug appliances.
    If you don’t use an appliance several times a day, it’s better to unplug it, as they often use energy even when turned off
  39. Unload your car.
    Remove excess weight from your car (such as stuff that might be in the trunk) to reduce the amount of fuel you use.
  40. Try cycling.
    Biking to work or around town can be a great way to get in some exercise and save fuel.
  41. Install a water filter.
    If you buy a lot of bottled water, use your tap instead. Some places need a filter to make tap water taste drinkable, but they don’t cost much and they can save money, water, and plastic bottles over time.
  42. Use cloth shopping bags.
    Don’t cost much, and can save a lot of paper or plastic.
  43. Mend your stuff.
    Try not to throw stuff away and buy new stuff if the old stuff can be fixed. Torn clothing? Takes a few minutes to sew up.
  44. Compost.
    It’s not hard to set one up (look it up online), and you can save a lot of waste from the landfill and help your garden at the same time.
  45. Try mass transit.
    Millions of people use it, and it saves tons of fuel. If you don’t already, give it a try.
  46. Buy in bulk.
    Reduces the need for packaging, and costs less.
  47. Buy durable.
    Look for long-lasting, well-made products instead of cheap, disposable ones. Use less disposable plates, cups, utensils. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable.
  48. Use your oven less.
    The oven not only uses a lot of energy, it heats up your kitchen, requiring more cooling. Instead, use toaster ovens, crockpots, microwaves, and electric grills when you can. And when you do use your oven, open it less – you lose 25% of the heat every time you open the oven door.
  49. Join a local organization.
    Just about every community has one or more environmental organizations. It’s not hard to sign up, and when you have the time, you can volunteer for things that will clean up your community and make it a nicer place to live.
  50. Join Blog Action Day.
    By joining the rest of the blogging community in talking about the environment for one day (Oct. 15), you will be helping to raise environmental consciousness, with just one blog post. What can be easier than that?

19 thoughts on “50 Quick, Painless Ways You Can Help the Environment Today

  1. Chris Abraham

    51 – Fill out the petition that supports a super-aggressive policy that would make the average MPG might higher, to 35mpg by 2020, and then a larger proportion of the US electricity would be supported by renewable energy!

    Congress finally has a chance to pass meaningful energy legislation. The bill they are about to pass includes the best fuel economy standards ever (35 mpg by 2020) and a renewable electricity standard (15% by 2020) that guarantees the growth of renewable, clean energy. But there is a chance these two key advances won?t make it through to the final bill.

    I am working with a coalition to make sure Congress sends the president a strong energy bill with meaningful changes for our environment and planet. This legislation would be a monumental step toward stopping global warming. Go to http://www.energybill2007.org and sign the petition. This is our chance for real progress, don?t let Congress back down!

  2. lamazone


    I really like your article: there are really useful ideas on how to be involved in making this a cleaner, better place to live in. For Blog Action Day I translated the 50 ideas in this article and added some comments or helpful hints. You can find it here.

  3. Christal

    yes your absolutley correct i think its wonderful to save the enviroment. But who has time…thats why I love your website. It has short easy things to do but all the while making a difference. the enviroment is important if we dont help save it it could be gone within a few years

  4. Lea

    I am proud and happy knowing that there are still some who cares a lot bout our “environment” keep up the good work! This is an inspiring and interesting website. More power.

  5. charlene

    i read these suggestions of how to
    we can help the enviorment, and think
    though some of these ideas, were a little to
    demanding of people who the enviorment
    isnt there top priorety, like buying a smaller house
    (though i think this idea is perfectly reasonable, some
    might find that they are from now and on, very limited)
    but other then that, i think all this ideas were great.
    thank you so much for posting

  6. morgan

    i read these and i have written them down. im summer i am going to the beach once a week and picking up litter..starting when summer comes back around! i am starting to time my shower so i dont go over 10 minutes! when i do my laundry i use only cold water…i unplug everything in my room that is easily repluggable everyday before i go to school. i am recycling everything i use that is reusable…remeber reduce reuse and recycle!!!!

  7. morgan

    continued from top!! i have recently seen the movie 2012…and i hope that anyone else saw that movie they are takinga step foward to prevent any thing that tragic… i think we all nedd to work together to help save our earth before it is just a sweaty dump!!!!1

  8. Avinash

    Thanks for info. ๐Ÿ™‚ To help environment one can also go for Carpooling

    Carpooling saves environment because in shared mode of transportation there will be less vehicles on the road and hence vehicular pollution can be minimized.

  9. Electric Grills

    Do you really want to save energy? turn off completely all the appliances.
    Not just letting them on standby…

    Doing that you reduce the energey consumption and you can get healthy as well maybe having a walk! ๐Ÿ™‚

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