7 simple, eco-friendly habits to cultivate this ‘Clean Up The World Weekend’: Make your life better, make the planet greener

This weekend (Sept. 18-20) is “Clean Up the World Weekend,” an event on our calendar that we haven’t seen many people talking about in the media right now. I suppose as autumn holidays go, it’s not exactly on par with Halloween. Besides, we’re back to our busy schedules now that summer is over, making it difficult for some to go out and perform acts like a local river cleanup (kudos to you, if you are making the time to do that!). Earth Day, the more popular environmental holiday, is a long way away, but the effects of climate change aren’t really diminishing in the meantime.

Not-so-fun fact: Americans consume 26 percent of the world’s energy, despite comprising only 5 percent of the world’s population. Bonus distressing fact: Ohio has the 6th largest carbon footprint in the U.S.! So, although we can’t clean up the world in one weekend, we CAN exercise some habits that will help us be more green in the long-run. As always, stick to the 3 Rs as much as possible (reduce, reuse, recycle…); but, for major earthly bonus points, here is an additional list of easy autumn (and year-round) tips to keep you eco-friendly both at home and at work. Do them!

1. Be a localvore

Autumn is a time for fresh starts and fresh FOOD. So click here to find an Ohio farmers market in your community. Buying and eating local produce is great for the environment, for the local economy, and for you! Not only is the food fresher and tastier than what the grocery store carries, but it requires no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, and is more often than not sustainably grown.

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2. Plants are friends

Help out the ecology of the space you live and breath in by getting some house plants. They help to reduce pollution by naturally purifying the air of rust, bacteria, and mold. Plus, indoor plants can boost your creativity and productivity in the workplace. In an eight-month study from Texas A&M University, workers exhibited more innovative thinking when plants and flowers were present than when in a barren work environment.

3. Be environMUGtally friendly

Bad puns aside, the repercussion of Americans’ collective caffeine addiction is that we throw away about 25 billion disposable coffee cups every year. However, you can make a substantial difference simply by bringing your own reusable travel mug when scoring that much-needed pumpkin spice latte. Many places, including Starbucks, offer a discount when you tote your own mug. Click here for a bunch of cool Ohio-themed ones!

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4. Observe #MeatlessMonday

Being a vegetarian is one of the best things you can do for the environment. But, if that route doesn’t work for your lifestyle, try skipping meat just for one day a week, or just deliberately cut down on your red meat consumption. The manufacturing of meat products in the U.S., the industrial harvesting of cattle in particular, causes a massive strain on our resources, including land, water, grain and waste disposal capacity. A quarter pounder alone is valued at more than 30 average-length American showers! Don’t know what to eat if not for meat? Pinterest has got you covered.

5.  Clean up your mailbox

You hate junk mail, right? Then get rid of it before it even makes it to your mailbox! This, in turn, will help to clean up the earth and save trees. Every year, it takes more than 100 million trees to create the nuisance that is junk mail, which is the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. Yikes. However, various online services provide a free solution, such as Catalog Choice, where you can report each piece of junk mail you receive and they’ll help you opt out of it the next time it circulates.

6. Beware of vampires

Vampire cords, that is. Your plugged-in electronics, even when they’re turned off and not being used, will continue to suck unnecessary energy out of your outlets.  In fact, it costs the average family $120 per year to keep their energy-draining appliances plugged in, such as phone chargers, microwave ovens, and DVR boxes. Routinely pulling the plug is a small act that will help conserve energy (and reduce your electric bill) over time. Keep this in mind next time you’re getting ready to leave for vacation!

7. Clean the green way

The EPA estimates that the air indoors is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air, which is partially due to the toxic chemicals commonly found in your household air fresheners and cleaners. Seriously, just Google “DIY cleaning supplies,” and you will find an overwhelming amount of eco-friendly concoctions. Try adding some essential oils to the recipe, like cinnamon essential oil, which is naturally antibacterial and will give it a warm and spicy autumn scent.