Special Report

30 Easy Ways to Be More Environmentally Friendly

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26. Leave your car home

While great strides have been made to reduce tailpipe emissions — 99% since the 1960s — we are driving more than ever. There are more cars on the road than there are licensed drivers, and each vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Whenever you avoid getting into your car, you are doing the environment a favor. Walk or bike when you can, and use public transportation where you can’t. Find companionable people who make the same routine trips you do and form a carpool. Rather than taking short trips to do your errands, combine your trips, thereby reducing mileage and avoiding a number of cold starts.

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27. Consider alternatives to air travel

Air travel represents a growing percentage of the world’s greenhouse gases. If you take a round-trip flight between New York and San Francisco, or to Europe, your travel represents the environmental release of up to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person, compared to the 19 tons generated by the average American per year. (The average European generates 10.) In business, you can reduce your company’s flights by sending fewer people to events, using video conferencing, and communicating using a variety of online tools.

For pleasure travel, consider alternating “staycations” with travel vacations. Generally speaking, the energy intensity per passenger mile of air travel is comparable to driving an SUV or to taking a train. Driving with passengers (a family road trip) or in a hybrid car will make your travel much more efficient than any other transportation option.

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28. Green your school

Work with your local school administrators and PTAs to shrink the carbon footprint of your child’s school through architectural design, waste management, cafeteria choices, and energy conservation. Involve students in green programs, such as student-maintained gardens, cafeteria composting, and initiatives to reduce energy use and waste. Environmental projects are fun, and will raise awareness in parents, school personnel and children alike.

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29. Involve the workforce

Join or start a workplace environmental committee to work with your company in making environmental impacts a consideration in everyday operations, by, for example, facilitating telecommuting and carpooling, reducing paper use, and providing drinking glasses instead of bottled water at meetings and events. Make sure someone has the responsibility of turning off electronics, lights, and heat in the evening and encourage the proliferation of green plants to improve air quality.

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30. Volunteer

Many environmental groups, land conservancies and other environmental stewardship organizations have volunteer programs. Whether it is picking up litter, fund-raising, clearing trails, stuffing envelopes, or educating others, by volunteering you will meet new people, stay on top of current environmental issues, and make a difference in protecting our one world.