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Most people want to do their part to help the environment. They are aware that this is the only world that humans have, and they want to take care of this amazing blue planet. That said, going green can be an intimidating prospect. Many common suggestions for how to take care of the earth require an incredible amount of time, energy and money. Installing solar panels, for instance, requires serious renovations on a person’s house and costs as much as the average car. Similarly, most people cannot afford to go out and buy a brand new hybrid car when their 1998 Honda still runs just fine. When such costly recommendations are the only suggestions people receive for how to help the environment, it is no wonder that some people simply give up and assume that they are not cut out for the green life. Being good stewards of the earth, however, does not have to be difficult or involve a serious strain on a person’s time and resources. Here are four easy ways to help the earth.

Recycle

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to help the planet. It is also one of the most effective. What materials a person can recycle depends on where they live. Almost all recycling programs, however, accept paper regardless of whether it is glossy magazines or old cardboard shipping boxes. Food stained cardboard, like pizza boxes, is not recyclable due to the grease and oil left on the box. Metal, such as aluminum and aerosol cans, is usually accepted as are plastic containers such as shampoo bottles. Glass recycling varies heavily by area. 

In addition to keeping down the size of landfills, recycling saves energy and resources. Aluminum cans can be melted down, re-molded into a new form and placed back on a shelf in less than two months. Recycling an old can also uses far less energy than creating a new one. Recycled paper is just as energy efficient. One ton of recycled paper saves 4,000 kilowatts of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, 17 fully grown trees and 380 gallons of oil. Recycling plastic saves even more oil.

Avoid Waste

Recycling helps the environment a great deal, but it is even better to not use more than is necessary in the first place. Try to use nothing more than what is needed for everyday activities. 

Cutting down on waste does not have to mean that a person can only take a shower that lasts for three minutes. Small, painless changes are some of the simplest ways to cut down on waste. Turning off the water when a person is brushing their teeth and turning off the lights when a person leaves the room are two of the easiest ways to cut down on waste. Similarly, a person who wants to help the earth should turn off and unplug electronic devices at night. If a laptop is turned off but still plugged in, it will continue to use up some electricity. The same is true of printers and televisions. For electronics that are plugged into power strips, simply turn off the power strip at night.

Wasting food is terrible for the environment as well. A person who wants to help the earth should thus avoid wasting food. Buy only what will be eaten before it expires, and keep the food that needs to be eaten first toward the front of the fridge. People who want to help the earth can also plan their meals out each week. Then, they know exactly what they need to buy at the grocery store and can buy just those items.

Limit Exhaust

Everyone knows that the exhaust from cars, trucks, planes and trains is bad for the environment. This is driven home every time a person has to smell the thick, black exhaust that pours out of dump truck that has been sitting at a red light for a while. For many people, however, producing exhaust is a necessary evil. Despite commonly espoused green advice, biking or walking to work is not practical for most people. That does not mean, however, that there are not easy ways to cut down on how much exhaust each person produces that do not involve restructuring a person’s entire life.

One of the easiest ways to cut down on exhaust is to stop driving across the parking lot to go to another store. When visiting several stores that are right next to each other, park in one spot and leave the car there. Simply walk from store to store rather than turning on the car to drive 200 feet. Similarly, a person should structure their errands so that they are driving as little as possible. For example, if the grocery store is near the dentist’s office, stop at the store on the way home rather than making a special trip later. 

When possible, carpool. If a large group is going out together, take one or two cars rather than five or six. This will cut back on exhaust and make for a more enjoyable, festive atmosphere during the actual trip.

Keep Up the House

Maintaining the house helps both the homeowner and the environment. Heating and air conditioning are two of the largest users of energy in modern homes. They make up nearly half of all energy consumption alone. The next biggest user of energy accounts for only 13 percent of energy use. As such, avoiding cold drafts in the winter and leaking air conditioning in the summer will go a long way toward making a house greener. Seal up cracks along windows and replace worn out weather proofing around doors. In the winter, open the curtains around windows that face the sun to let in the light, and close the curtains around windows that face away from the sun to trap heat. In the summer, do the reverse. When there are cool evenings in the summer, open the windows to let the house cool naturally. In the winter, leave the oven door open when you are done cooking so the residual heat warms the whole room instead of being trapped in the oven. 

To save water, fix leaky faucets, dripping shower heads and running toilets. That small leak can lead to the waste of dozens of gallons of water if it is left alone for too long. 

Saving the environment does not need to require a person to turn their lifestyle inside out. Some small changes can make helping the earth a painless process. Putting paper in a recycling bin instead of the trash and turning off the computer at night are tiny sacrifices that can make a big difference in the long run. A person may wonder if those little steps really make a difference, but just think of how different the world would look if every person did one small thing to protect the planet we all call home.