7 Easy Ways to Make A Positive Impact on the Environment

Beyond recycling, there are a surprising amount of simple everyday steps you can take to leave a greener footprint. Here are seven easy, impactful ways to do your part. The best part? Each of these tips doesn't just help the environment, it also has the added benefits of saving money or improving your health.

1. Shorten your shower

One-third of the world lives in a water shortage. Closer to home, states like California and Washington are already experiencing a drought, and scientists predict that if we continue at this rate, many more of the United States will experience severe water shortages.

What is one simple thing you can do to save water? Shorten your shower. An average shower uses approximately 18 gallons of water and across the United States we use more than one trillion gallons of water each year just for showering. Just by shortening your shower by three minutes minutes you can save almost 2,500 gallons of water each year. You can also take fewer showers. Scientists have found that daily showers can actually strip your skin of healthy bacteria and increase your risk of infection. They recommend a full shower once every two to three days.

2. Turn down the heat in the winter

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating and cooling your home contributes to nearly half of your monthly energy bill. Turning down the heat not only saves energy, but it also helps you save some green. In 2012, Discovery.com reported about a survey done by EnergyHub: the survey found that every degree you turn down the heat will save 5 percent of energy and about $10. By these metrics if you keep your heat at around 65 degrees (five degrees below the EPA's recommended temperature of 70 degrees if you're home and active in the house) and wear a cozy sweatshirt, you could save up to $50. Also, turn down the heat if you know you’re going to be out of your house for most of the day.

3. Hang out your clothes to dry

Something else that uses up a lot of heat? Your clothes dryer. Your clothes dryer accounts for up to 12 percent of household energy use. Hanging out your clothes to dry on a clothesline saves energy, and leaves your clothes crisp, straight and smelling fresh.

4. Stop using lawn chemicals

Lawn pesticides have been shown to be heavily toxic, and some have been linked to neurological diseases in children. In addition, lawn chemicals can run off into our streams and rivers, and scientists have linked many of the chemicals present in lawn chemicals in deformities in fish and other marine wildlife. Many European countries have already banned certain pesticides, which are harmful to honeybees. If you must use lawn chemicals, consider buying organic options. Consumer Reports has a great guide for getting started.

5. Eat less meat

Livestock is responsible for over half of the carbon emissions from the agricultural sector. A study of British people’s diets conducted by University of Oxford scientists and found that meat-rich diets resulted in twice as many carbon dioxide emissions as both vegetarian and fish-eating diets and over three times as many carbon dioxide emissions as vegan diets. Plus, switching to plant-based diets has been proven to have a myriad of health benefits including a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and certain types of cancers. Even just skipping meat for one meal a day can make a big difference for both the environment and your health. Here are some delicious vegetarian/vegan recipes to get started with.

6. Take public transportation

Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions. About five pounds comes from the extraction, production, and delivery of the fuel, while a great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe. Taking public transportation, biking, walking, or carpooling are all good ways to cut down on your car use. Even saving one gallon of gas a week would reduce your emissions output by nearly 1,000 pounds a year.

7. Stay informed on politics

Policy changes are one of the most effective ways to affect large-scale change for the environment. Staying involved and informed with decisions made at the local, state, and national level gives you the power to influence that policy.