13 Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Waste, Pollution and CO2, and Save a Boatload of Dough.
Sept. 17-24, 2023 is Climate Week. Some of us march or protest fossil fuels in some way. How many of us look in the mirror to see what hand we have in it all? The good news is that since so many of our buying choices support the polluters, whether we know it or not, healthier choices can vote for our planet – with the added bonus that planet-healthy choices can also save each of us thousands annually in our budget. That’s a win-win. So, take the 13-question quiz below to see just how green your lifestyle choices really are, and the easy (and money-saving) changes that are waiting for us to embrace.
1. Do you use recycled toilet paper?
Are you wiping your bottom with an ancient tree? The singing bears might be wining advertising awards, but they are failing the grade of sustainability. Many of us are purchasing toilet paper from companies that are denuding our forests. Trees and plants are one of the most important sources of carbon removal from the atmosphere. They also exhale the air we breathe, moderate temperatures, provide shade and keep the soil moist and rich in nutrients. (So, plant more in your local community!)
Check out the NRDC’s toilet paper report card below.
2. Do you take the stairs?
Every button we push is connected to a power source. Imagine how expensive our electric bill would be if we installed an elevator in our home, instead of stairs. If we take the stairs in government buildings, there will be more civic funds for education, planting trees and other endeavors that create a better tomorrow. If we do so at work, money that would make the utility company rich might give us a raise.
In most states and countries, fossil fuels are still the primary power energy for electricity, and natural gas is the primary heating source. (Click to check the grid sources of your state.) Every time we push a button, a coal power plant, or fracking company, or a nuclear power plant is firing up. Using less contributes to a more sustainable world, and it also leaves more money in our budget for things we enjoy more than making oil companies rich. Taking the stairs also promotes physical health.
3. Are you still working from home?
In many cities across the developed world, 2020 offered the bluest skies we’ve seen in our lifetime. There were no planes in the sky, or cars on the road. During the height of the lockdowns, road transportation was down by half. By December of 2020, aviation travel was still reduced by 40%. Carbon emissions were down 7% globally that year.
If everyone returns to their normal commute, CO2 emissions will keep increasing with population growth. If we embrace working from home, videoconference for meetings and shop locally, we can dramatically reduce transportation emissions. Since transportation is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, this can be a massive part of the climate solution.
Just 20 fossil fuel companies are responsible for 30% of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere. However, we are their customer, voting for them with our dollars. Reducing our personal commute and the CO2 footprint of our food and goods, and traveling less is far more important than merely protesting against oil because when we buy something that is a more powerful message – a message that we support the company.
4. Are you purchasing local, organic food?
Many of the pesticides used by conventional farming are harmful to bees and butterflies, which is essential to food production. Organic food is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and is free of residue that can be unhealthful for humans, as well. The added upside is that regenerative agriculture can sequester even more carbon than our rainforests. Learn more at 4p1000.org, KisstheGround.com, RonFinley.com, ComptonCommunityGarden.com, and other organizations that support soil health. Watch and learn more about Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture in the free docuseries at EarthGratitude.org.
5. Have you done an air test on your home, school and office to see just how energy efficient your dwelling is?
When you turn on the cooling in your home are you actually cooling the outside air? Do you have so many leaks that your unit has to stay on constantly in order to keep the inside cool or hot? A well-insulated home, combined with smart choices like curtains in the summer, can save you thousands of dollars every year. Typically, the investment will be minimal, and often it is tax deductible. There are still energy efficiency tax credits available in the United States and many other countries around the world. For most of us, the annual savings could add up to thousands of dollars.
The money saved at school can be used for the arts, updated technology hardware and software, school gardens and teachers. Savings at the office are essential to profitability, which helps us to keep our job and receive raises. Of course, a reduction in fossil fuels and energy usage is also a great way to live in greater harmony with the home planet that nourishes and sustains us. There are episodes on Kids and Everyday Sustainability in the free docuseries at EarthGratitude.org.
6. Do you bike or walk for local errands?
A lot of people do large shopping trips by car. However, a backpack and a walk to the store can mean that you don’t have to get into a car at all (particularly if you’re working from home). For most people giving up their car adds up to thousands saved annually, when you factor in the car payment, the insurance, vehicle maintenance and gasoline. Foot and pedal power are clean energy that promote heart health. With adult obesity rates at 42% in the U.S., the value of walking and biking cannot be overstated (source: CDC).
If your city has not yet put in bike lanes, then becoming more active in your community plans will contribute to making your streets friendly to pedestrians and micro mobility. Pilot programs are often the best first step.
7. Are you conserving water?
Do you live in a desert or arid climate with green grass growing in everyone’s lawn? Does your yard reflect the natural habitat? Fresh water is something we all have an interest in preserving, and it is another budget saver. Xeriscaping is the best way to achieve this.
Grey water systems can divert water runoff from our showers and laundry for plant watering. This can be achieved with a simple hose from our washing machine (and using clean detergent). Smart landscaping techniques will keep the soil moist and the water from evaporating. In rural areas, you might even consider reed beds and other vegetation that offer natural filtration for black water. Mark Nelson, one of the original Biospherians, has a book called The Wastewater Gardener. He is featured in our Earth Gratitude Earth 2.0 panel. (Click to access.)
In addition to conserving water, native plants attract pollinators. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are essential to plant health and food production.
8. Are you composting food waste?
Up to 40% of food that is produced in the U.S. is never eaten. Food waste accounts for most of the waste in municipal garbage dumps. In a landfill, it produces methane, which is more harmful to the atmosphere than even CO2. The USDA estimates that a family of 4 could save $1500/annually with smarter shopping and less wasted food.
Even if you are pretty efficient about buying only what you eat, there are still avocado pits, orange peels, egg shells and coffee grounds. Composting saves energy, protects the climate and returns valuable nutrients to the soil. Many cities already mandate composting in the green yard bin. If yours doesn’t, it might be easier to lobby for a citywide solution than to set up your own compost bin. However, composting can be a source of income. Some schools, like Damers First School in England and The Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, California, sell their compost to provide extra funding for their outdoor learning projects. (Both are featured in the Kids episode of the free docuseries at EarthGratitude.org.
9. Did you know that the 3 Rs are now the 7 Rs?
Since less than 9% of plastic gets recycled, it’s important not to rely upon proper sorting to get the job done. With regard to plastic and single use anything, it’s more important to Refuse.
10. Is your community powering with clean energy, or are you being deceived by marketing ads?
Know the source of your power! Santa Monica, California, powers 100% with clean energy. Poundbury, England, installed their own anaerobic digester, which provides heating for their township and the surrounding community. Meanwhile, 60% of the U.S. power grid is powered by fossil fuels.
Some states are greener than others, with Washington, Oregon and California taking the lead at 75%, 67% and 42% renewable energy, respectively. West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii have some of the dirtiest grids, with 95%, 82% (74% natural gas and 7.5% coal) and 77% fossil fuels, respectively. Sometimes the utilities will brag that they’ve doubled their solar. In the case of Florida, which is a state that gets 230 days of sunshine on average, that would be going from 1.85% to 3.7% solar. The sun has been providing free energy for millions of years.
Remember that the cleanest energy source is the energy you don’t use, by taking the stairs, riding a bike, insulating your home and working from home.
11. Do your local schools and community have gardens?
You can lower the temperature and increase the humidity in a neighborhood that is blighted by concrete by planting trees and gardens. Ron Finley transformed his home in a food desert into his own private Eden. School gardens offer fun ways for kids to learn about science and math, and to experience where their food comes from. It also promotes healthy eating. At The Edible Schoolyard, a garden project begun in 1995 by Alice Waters in Berkeley, California, one of the students told me her favorite snack was kale pesto! Students love eating food that they grow.
12. Has your community dispensed with plastic bags and straws?
In Poundbury, England, the children at Damers First School wrote to the food distributors asking them to deliver their food without plastic coverings. They then went on to encourage a local shop to offer plastic-free produce. You can dispense your own milk at the Naked Brace shop, in addition to the fresh produce and bulk goods that are available. Individuals took it upon themselves to create Boomerang Bags – reusable cloth bags that anyone can use free of charge. (Many grocers sell canvas bags for a nominal fee.)
Again, you’ll be inspired to learn about the great projects in the free docuseries at EarthGratitude.org.
13. Are you still using single-use products and containers?
Cloth diapers can be swapped out for disposable plastic ones. (They feel better on the baby’s bottom, too.) Diaper services make this easy and mess-free, taking your soiled nappies from you and delivering a clean, sanitized bundle that costs less than the single-use plastic cersion. Opt for drinking your coffee at home, or at cafes that serve in ceramic mugs rather than disposable paper and plastic. Purchase stackable glass food storage containers which create more space in your refrigerator (particularly useful now that so many of us are eating at home more).
EARTHDAY.ORG has a plastic calculator so that you can add up just how wasteful your habits truly are (or are not). Help spread the message of the importance of ditching the drink-and-toss culture with your own Drink Sustainably t-shirt, offered by EarthGratitude.org.
What would happen if we put nature at the heart of every choice we make? Is it possible that we can restore our home planet if we live in greater harmony with the planets, animals, land, soil and oceans? We all have a hand in the problem, and, therefore, we can all lend a hand for the solutions.
Can you think of things to add to the list? Do you wish to share something you’ve shifted in your own life? Please tag us on social media (links below) using the hashtag #EarthGratitude, so that we can like and reshare, and follow @EarthGratitude and @NatalieWynnePace on Instagram.
Please share this quiz with your community. If you’re interested in hosting a free interactive podcast or videoconference with me, just email our team at info@NataliePace.com. Together, we can be the change we wish to see.
Final Thoughts on: Financial Independence & Sustainability Independence.
What is the true value of money, if not to offer us greater freedom to live the life of our dreams? What is the true value of life? Plants, animals, trees, rivers, oceans and mountains offer us our sustenance, but also joy and adventure. Everything is intertwined in a divine and sacred braid. There is not wealth without freedom. There is no life without biodiversity. They haven’t done a great job of preserving wealth and life for us. We must believe, achieve and create for ourselves. If we do this on a planetary scale, our climate anxiety can be exchanged for the hope of restoring our home planet for our children and grandchildren. It is worth it to take a look at our habits and place our love for our planetary home (which is the foundation of both sustainability and financial freedom) at the top of the list of everything we do. The blessings will be many and unexpected, and will include more money in our budget for the things you truly cherish and love doing, rather than the multitude of quite unsustainable money and pollution traps that we’ve collectively fallen into.
When we learn a new truth, it shifts the way that we act forever. I encourage you to read, share and review The Power of 8 Billion: It’s Up to Us to learn the facts about how easy it is to adopt these green hacks that fuel our richer lives with thousands of dollars in annual savings.
Did you know that ESG Investing is missing the E: Environment? If you really want to Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is and prosper, supporting the planet and not polluters, it's time to learn the life math that we all should have received in high school. Join us at our Oct. 7-9, 2023 Financial Freedom Retreat.
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Natalie Wynne Pace is an Advocate for Sustainability Financial Literacy & Women's Empowerment. Natalie is the bestselling author of The Power of 8 Billion: It's Up to Us and is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project. She has been ranked as a No. 1 stock picker, above over 835 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency (TipsTraders). Her book The ABCs of Money remained at or near the #1 Investing Basics e-book on Amazon for over 3 years (in its vertical), with over 120,000 downloads and a mean 5-star ranking. The 5th edition of The ABCs of Money and the 2nd edition of Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is were released in 2021. Follow her on Instagram.
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Natalie Pace is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project and the author of The Power of 8 Billion: It's Up to Us, The ABCs of Money, The ABCs of Money for College, The Gratitude Game and Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. She is a repeat guest & speaker on national news shows and stages. She has been ranked the No. 1 stock picker, above over 830 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency, and has been saving homes and nest eggs since 1999.