11 Quick Actions (You Can Do Today) To Save The World

By Jane Mountain | November 15, 2011

Reusable Drink Containers

Psst. Whatcha doing right now? Wasting some time surfin’ the net, huh? Wanna spend a few minutes like a superhero, saving the world?

You do? Awesome!

Start by scanning the 11 simple actions below.

Give yourself a pat on the back for all the ones you’ve already done. Now, think about the ones you haven’t done? Why not?

Pick one, throw those excuses out the window, and get going. As a superhero bonus, the actions marked with $$ will save you money, too!

Green Action 1: Invest in a Travel Mug $$
My leak-proof travel mug goes with me everywhere. To work, to the beach, and even on holiday. When I want a coffee, not only do I not have to use a crappy paper cup, but my coffee stays hot for hours, and it doesn’t spill down the front of my shirt (that often).

Make this cup your best friend and stay loyal to it for years.

How it Saves the World

  • More than 200 billion paper cups are thrown away in the US every year, 3 billion of those are from Starbucks.
  • Around 80 million trees and 45 billion gallons of water are used making paper coffee cups per year.

How it Saves You Money
Here’s the trick. Fill your reusable cup at home every morning instead of going to Corporate Coffee Chain X. You’ll pay for the cost of your reusable mug in single week. This will also allow you to monitor the kind of coffee you get, minimizing the environmental damage done by growing the coffee in the first place.

Start here: http://www.consumersearch.com/travel-mugs

Green Action 2: Water Bottle it Up $$
If you’re like most people, you don’t even need to buy one of these. Just grab the one that’s been sitting in the back of your cupboard forever, take it down, wash it off, fill it up, and carry it with you. Everywhere. You can even take an empty bottle when you fly, then fill it up at the water fountain in the departure lounge, saving you $6 for a bottle of crappy tap water from Pepsi-Co.

Look for a plastic, stainless steel, or glass bottle. Stay away from aluminum, since aluminum production has a huge impact on the environment. If the water industry has convinced you that tap water is icky (mostly it’s totally fine), buy a bottle with a built-in filter.

How it Saves the World

  • People in the US throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every HOUR!!
  • Less than 3% of these are recycled.
  • It takes about 23 litres of water to make and transport a one liter plastic water bottle.
  • If you have water to drink, you’re less likely to buy soda. So you’ll be healthier, too.

How it Saves You Money
Fill up your bottle at home or at any public drinking fountain. Hey presto, save the cost of buying drinks all day long.

Start here: http://www.consumersearch.com/water-bottles

Green Action 3: Buy Used $$
Mostly I say: don’t buy stuff. But I get that every once in a while, you actually need something. So then I say: buy used stuff.

Lately I’ve been buying used on Amazon. Here’s how:

  1. Do a search for any item.
  2. Look for the price under “used from” and click the link.
  3. Scan through the list of sellers and choose one. I usually try to choose one that looks like it’s coming from an actual person – not a company.
  4. Click the Add to Cart link and pay for it the same way you’d pay for anything on Amazon.
  5. Sit back and wait for your new used item to come to you.

How it Saves the World
This is a great way to save the ecological costs of manufacturing, marketing, and transporting something new. It also might be helping a real person out there who is just trying to make a couple of bucks clearing out their clutter.

How it Saves You Money
The price difference between buying new and used is sometimes shocking. I recently bought The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is currently selling for $7.70 new, or $3.30 used.

Start here: Amazon.com

Green Action 4: Bring a Towel to Work
In the immortal words of Towelie (South Park’s “worst character ever”) you should always bring a towel. Who are we to question that wisdom?

  1. Grab a hand towel or tea towel from home.
  2. Find somewhere to hang it. I use magnetic clips stuck to my desk. You could also use a hook, hanger, or desk drawer.
  3. Use it to dry hands when they get wet.
  4. When people say “Hey weirdo, whatcha doing with that tea towel?”, tell them you’re saving a forest. You might inspire them to join you.

How it Saves the World

  • Around 3,000 tons of paper towel go into US landfill EVERY DAY
  • You use around 10 paper towels a day at work. Multiply that by 260 working days. That’s 2600 towels in a year.

Start here: You could get one of these cute little People Towels if you feel the need to be trendy while saving trees.

Green Action 5: Use Two Fewer Wheels $$
Did you make any short trips in your car this week? I’m betting yes, since almost 70% of car trips made in a city are less than 2 miles long.

Next time take your bike (or walk).

How it Saves the World (and Saves You Money)

  • Saves gas
  • Reduces CO2 emissions (thanks to Nicole for pointing out that I missed this one!)
  • Reduces wear and tear on your car so you don’t need to replace oil and parts as often
  • Makes you a happier, healthier person (not technically world-saving, but it’s really good, right?)

Even when you have to drive, you can still help by being courteous to cyclists. These people are out there making an effort. Yes, some are total jerks, but most are not. Give them a lot of space and don’t stress if they are in front of you for 30 seconds.

The more drivers are nice to cyclists, the more people will get out of their cars and onto two wheels.

Green Action 6: Cut Out Fast Food $$
As someone who kind of wants to keep what we have left of the planet, how often should you eat fast food?

Never ever ever. Never. Not at all. Seriously, just don’t.

How it Saves the World

  • Meat production replaces forests with industrial farms.
  • Industrial farming of livestock emits 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
  • Fast food “restaurants” create an astonishing amount of landfill from their disposable (but not recyclable!) containers. They’re also responsible for much of the litter in your neighborhood.
  • The fast food industry does not give a shit about anything but profits. Not your health. Not your community. Not making your meal happy. Nothing.

How it Saves You Money

  • Fast food is way cheaper than other food, right? No, not right. It actually costs less to cook at home.
  • Guess what else is expensive? Doctor’s bills, prescription medication, sick leave… eating fast food on a regular basis costs you a lot more in the long run.

Green Action 7: Stick It
What’s more sickening than seeing someone wash their hands and then take three or four paper towels to dry them? Ok, there are lots of things more sickening than that, but this one really bugs me.

And yet, it’s hard to say anything to them. I don’t like getting preachy. That’s why I love these stickers. They say These Come From Trees, and they provide the same reminder as I would, without allowing the paper wasters to focus their hatred on me.

How it Saves the World

  • A typical fast food “restaurant” uses 2,000 pounds of paper towels per year
  • This sticker has been shown to reduce paper towel use by 15%-30%.

Now, if you’re hardcore, you could stick these stickers everywhere you see paper towel dispensers. For the more timid among us, I suggest you politely ask your place of work if you could post them, emphasizing the amount of money they can save on paper towels each year.

Start here: These Come From Trees

Green Action 8: Give A Little Green
There are lots of organizations out there doing amazing work for nature and the environment. Now that you’ve saved a bunch of money with the above actions, you have a little extra cash to spend.

How it Saves the World
Sometimes it takes the big guns to get things done. Your donation could be used to save an endangered species in Botswana, research alternative energy solutions, or rescue animals in your neighborhood.

Start here:
Environmental Working Group
World Wildlife Fund
Ian Somerhalder Foundation (and you thought he was just a sexy vampire)

For no money at all you can get corporations to donate on your behalf at Care2.com

Green Action 9: Tell the Big Boys What You Think
Your government (not just in the US!) is overwhelmingly controlled by big business. You know what big business doesn’t give a crap about? The environment. So, if big business is controlling the government and big business doesn’t give a crap about the environment, why would the government?

It’s easy to feel helpless, but if enough of us remind our leaders that we care about our natural resources, then maybe they’ll wake up and start acting in the best interests of all of us (instead of just for people who are getting rich by killing the planet).

Start here:
Contact the White House
Contact your local reps
Take an action suggested by The Environmental Defense Fund or the World Wildlife Fund

Green Action 10: Take a Hike
It’s easy to forget (especially for us city dwellers and office workers) that we live in a big, beautiful world. That’s why most people think nothing of throwing away a paper cup or cranking their AC. They forget that there’s a connection between their actions and things like trees, animals, and clean water.

Getting out of the city and going for a hike is a great way to remind yourself that everything we buy and use and throw away is connected to something much more beautiful. If a true wilderness hike is not do-able, just take a walk through any city park. Notice the trees, the squirrels, the birds… think about what life would be like without them.

How it Saves the World
A little walk on the wild side will refresh you and give you enough energy to ignore the status quo, fight for your planet, and live a little greener.

Green Action 11: Share This Post
I’m just one person. I understand that when I save few paper towels or a couple of gallons of water it doesn’t make much difference. But if I can encourage one more person to do the same, then that’s twice as much impact. Yay! Win!

It couldn’t be easier to double your impact too. Just share this post using the handy Facebook and Twitter buttons at the bottom of this page. That’s how we make a difference.

This post was inspired by these great posts:

Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.


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  6. Comment by Nicole

    Nicole Reply November 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    This is a fantastic post! Thank you for all the info and for making it so easy to take action with all your links.

    Fortunately, I do most of these things already…accept drive less, which I need desperately to work on–I have a long work commute a couple days/week and I live in NJ, hah–but I love biking in the spring/summer/early fall!!

    So…how did you forget to mention CO2 emissions with “Use Two Fewer Wheels”????? Pretty vital in saving the world! Plus we neeeed forests to fight those emissions!

    First site I got when googling “car emissions and global warming”…a .gov site, go figure!

    Thanks again! Good luck!

    • Comment by JaneM

      JaneM November 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Oops, can’t believe I missed the most obvious one! Thanks. And thanks so much for sharing this as well!

      With the way our cities are set up, living close to work is a luxury that most of us don’t get to experience. So, for now, happy commuting.


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