5 Ways You May Be Inadvertently Hurting the Earth

Find out if your everyday actions may be hurting the earth.

While none of us want our actions to hurt the Earth, sometimes what we do on a daily basis waste energy, fill landfills or release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Here are some things that you may do without giving a second thought on the impact to the Earth, and potential solutions.

1) Paying bills via snail mail: It seems innocent enough. You stick the check in the envelope, apply your stamp and then drop it in the mailbox. But that simple transaction — multiplied hundreds of time each year – actually hurts the Earth. Think about all of the paper, print ink, envelopes and even stamps that have to be produced to mail the bill and then mail your payment back. Don’t forget the gas the mail carrier has to use both ways.

Solution: Pay Online. By one estimate, if every household in the U.S. viewed and paid its bills online, we could reduce 1.7 billion pounds of waste a year. And, you may just save yourself some hassle.

2) Taking a bath: After a hard day at work, it seems like a great idea to relax in the tub. But there’s a downside to the Earth: you use a lot more water than if you submerged yourself in a shower.

Solution: Take a shower, a short one preferably. Some estimates suggest that you can save 1000 lbs of CO2 a year if you rinsed off in the shower, instead of the bath. And, if you reduce your shower time by one minute, you can save more than 500 gallons of water each year, according to the Global Warming Survival Handbook.

3) Buying take-out: Sometimes, you crave a burger. Other times, you just want the convenience of a drive-through. But wait. Those pit stops can actually harm the Earth by producing more C02 than if you cooked at home, not to mention the gas it takes to get to and from the restaurant, and idling the car as you wait for your food. Moreover, the restaurant grills run all day long, whether food is on them or not, so that also wastes electricity and CO2.

Solution: Make your own food. In fact, it’s ideal if you consume locally produced food, to save on the so-called food miles, or the amount of distance that your food has to travel before it’s consumed. But if you can’t eat locally produced food; try eating meals at least produced in your own kitchen. Your stomach may even thank you. And if you really need a break and want to eat out — go for dining in! You’ll save wrappers, papers, and all of those containers that are used to make your food order mobile.

4) Not pulling the plug: While you may be careful to turn off all the lights in your house, or remove your cell phone from its charger, you may still be wasting energy. That’s because of so-called “phantom electricity” when electrical appliances/devices are still plugged in, although they are not on.

Solution: Rely on power strips. By plugging your appliances into power strips, you cannot only turn the appliances off, but you can also stop the flow of electrical power, when the appliances are not in use. This one action could help the Earth a lot. According to some sources, if one million households halved their phantom power load, we’d eliminate 150,000 tons of CO2 per year.

5) Washing clothes in warm or hot water: Washing machines and detergents these days work fine with cold water. Why waste gallons and gallons of hot water when you don’t need to?

Solution:
Try using cold water for every load, or nearly ever load. And if you’re really ambitious, switch to a front-loading Energy Star washing machine, which saves electricity and water, especially with the short cycle.

For drying your clothes? Try a solar power clothes dryer (also called a clothes line!).

Tommy Linstroth head of sustainable initiatives for Melaver Inc., contributed to this report.

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!

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