How to Help the Earth if You’re in Your 50s
Reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat.
While “reduce, reuse, recycle” is repeated in today’s classrooms right along with the ABCs, it wasn’t until relatively recently that eco-consciousness moved out of the fringe and into the mainstream. As a result, for some people over 50—especially those who didn’t grow up separating their recyclables or composting—going green can feel like a bit of a mystery. But there’s hope! Herein, we’ve compiled simple eco-friendly habits from some of the world’s top sustainability experts that will make it easier than ever to save the planet.
Work from home whenever possible.
With approximately 43 percent of employees allowed to work from home at least part of the time these days, it’s never been easier to go green. Ditching that commute means fewer cars on the road and smaller individual carbon footprints.
In 2014, for example, the telecommuting policies of Dell, Aetna, and Xerox collectively saved more than 95,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road, according to FlexJobs.
“Buy local or fair-trade products,” says Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst at EnergyRates.ca. “Once you start purchasing eco-friendly products, you will be incentivizing a whole chain that is environmentally conscious, and that can conserve natural resources and cause a positive impact on the environment beyond your household.”
Check for leaks and drafts.
You don’t have to venture out into the world to help the Earth. In fact, you can make your life greener with just a few simple changes at home. Start by checking your house for drafts and leaks. If you find any, get rid of them by caulking around windows and fixtures, using draft protectors under your doors, or insulating around pipes.
In doing so, “you are working toward energy efficiency,” says Alleckna. “An energy-efficient home will reduce your carbon footprint considerably.”
Eat a more plant-based diet.
Want to make both your body and the world at large healthier? Ditch some of those meat-based meals for ones packed with plants. Meat consumption is linked to everything from heart disease to colon cancer, and producing meat costs us a huge amount of valuable resources.
“Food is one of the single-largest ways we can reduce the land, water, and resources required for supporting our lifestyles on Earth,” says sustainability professional Leslie Ng, MBA, a business coach for eco-conscious entrepreneurs. “Food represents nearly 50 percent of the consumption-based emissions we generate.”
Ng also cites a recent report from Eat-Lancet that says that a plant-based diet “not only supports human health but health of the environment,” she says.
Don’t ditch produce just because it isn’t pretty.
A browning banana or strangely-shaped squash won’t actually harm you—but getting in the habit of ditching food just because it’s not picture perfect can do serious damage to the environment.
“A lot of water, land, and resources went to growing and raising your food. Don’t throw it out just because it looks ugly—try to use it in soups, sauces, or baking,” suggests Ng. Companies like Misfits Market will even sell you less-than-beautiful (but no less nutritious) organic produce at a discount.
Use induction cooking.
While gas ovens have a reputation for cooking things more evenly than their electric counterparts, induction stoves can save you time and energy in the kitchen—and can help save the planet, too. “Choosing electric induction cooking over gas can not only be more energy efficient, but it can actually lead to better air quality and is generally safer,” says Ng.
She notes that a typical induction cooktop is 84 percent efficient, while a gas range is only about 40 percent efficient, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Turn off the tap between shampooing and conditioning.
If you’re used to taking long, hot showers, you’re not doing Mother Earth any favors. To really benefit the planet, you should turn off the water between steps one (lather) and two (rinse) of your hair washing routine.
“There’s a lot of energy that went into treating your water, then getting it to you, and heating it up for your shower, only to spend nanoseconds on your body before going down the drain again,” says Ng. “It’s not only about water conservation, but all the energy that went into you getting a hot shower.”
Bring a mesh bag to the grocery store.
It’s not just the plastic grocery bags you carry your food home in that are having a negative impact on the health of our planet—those produce bags are no peach, either. “Every week you’re probably using a dozen little produce bags to take your veggies home. It’s a lot of plastic that can easily be reduced by bringing your own mesh bags,” says Ng.
She adds that Amazon sells lots of sets of little mesh bags in assorted sizes. She says they’re “not only for your produce, but carrying anything else you may otherwise want a plastic bag for.”
Install a water filter.
Skipping the bottled water and installing a water filter can help you make Earth a whole lot healthier in no time.
“Peter Gleick, director of the Pacific Institute, says the true cost of bottled water is ‘like filling up a quarter of every bottle with oil,’” says green architect Eric Corey Freed, author of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies.
Replace your windows with energy-efficient ones.
If you’re looking to remodel your home, make sure new energy-efficient windows top your list of must-haves. “If every home in the United States replaced their old, leaky windows, it would conserve enough energy to heat and cool 26.7 million homes a year,” Freed says. “That’s the equivalent of taking more than 323,000 cars off the road.”
Install a clothesline.
Want to save the planet (and save yourself some serious money, too)? Ditch that tumble dryer in favor of a clothesline.
“Electric dryers eat up 10 percent of your home electricity,” says Freed. “Skip it and save yourself the money, while saving 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere.”
Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances.
When your old appliances are shot, it’s the perfect time to upgrade to energy-efficient models. “On average, any standard appliance you upgrade to an Energy Star model will reduce its energy use by 30 percent,” says Freed. “For example, the refrigerator is the largest single energy user in your home. By replacing a 1990 or older model with a new Energy Star model, you’ll save enough electricity to light your home for four months.”
However, that doesn’t mean you should get rid of your existing appliances if they’re still functional. Getting that bulky new fridge or washing machine to your house will only contribute to our ever-growing landfills, waste fuel, and contribute to pollution.
Don’t trade in your car for a hybrid.
While ditching your car for a Prius may seem like an eco-friendly choice, when it comes to sustainability, it may actually be better to keep driving your old clunker until it’s on its last legs.
“Don’t trade in your perfectly good, working car for a hybrid,” says Freed. “Instead, keep the tires inflated, filters clean and drive more conservatively. Hyper-miling—the practice of driving to save fuel—works with any car.” And for more quick tips on living a greener lifestyle, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly.
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