In 2021, more people than ever are wondering what our surrounding environment will look like as we grow old and our children grow up. Many of our New Year’s Resolutions include commitment to the planet. Many of these changes take time and commitment, however there are many easy ways to be more eco-friendly that you can start right now. We pulled out the things that are easiest to start and have the biggest impact to create this list of the 5 easiest, biggest ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021.
What Does Eco-Friendly Mean?
Being eco-friendly in 2021 can mean many different things. It may mean reducing your personal carbon footprint, reducing plastic use, or reducing deforestation or pollution. Fortunately, the easiest, biggest ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021 make positive impacts on multiple problems at once. Even better, many of these changes can also have positive effects on your health, happiness and budget, making them a perfect place to start in 2021.
Understanding Impact and Responsibility
Making a few easy changes can help us appreciate our planet more and understand the effects of our consumption. However, it’s also important to note the role that larger systems and organizations have in these issues, such as laws, business practices, and wealth distribution. These larger systems cannot change if individuals don’t voice their concern, however individuals are not solely responsible for environmental problems. As you consider easy, impactful ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021, remember that your impact matters, but individuals alone are not responsible for saving the planet.
The 5 Easiest, Biggest Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly in 2021
1. Replace Plastic Bottles
By now, you’ve probably heard about the many problems with plastic; it doesn’t break down, fills up landfills, turns into microplastic, kills sea life, and produces greenhouse gases at every stage. The combination of these problems makes replacing plastic bottles the top easiest, biggest way to be more eco-friendly in 2021. Use a refillable water bottle or refill a glass bottle instead.
This is an easy way to be more eco-friendly that has a lot of positive impacts:
- Helps you save an estimated $1,236 a year
- Keeps approximately 156 plastic bottles a year out of landfills and oceans.
- Reduces plastic production, shipping, and breakdown, which all produce greenhouse gases.
- For soda drinkers, replacing 1 bottle of cola a day with water will save about 87,699 calories a year (that’s about 25 pounds of fat!)
2. Eat More Veggies
Meat production is another activity causing lots of problems; deforestation to create room for farms and feed, greenhouse gas emissions from raising livestock, and pollution from farm waste and runoff are just a few. Overconsumption of red meat also carries negative health impacts; increased risks for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
You don’t have to completely swear off meat to make a positive environmental or health impact. Simply trading one meaty meal a day for a plant-based meal a day for a year can have a huge impact over time. Or even just trading beef, which has the most negative environmental impacts by far, for chicken can cut your carbon footprint in half. Simply trading veggies for meat for a few meals is one of the easiest, biggest ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021.
Trade one meat meal a day for a plant-based one every day for a year and you can:
- Save about 200,000 gallons of water consumption
- Reduce pollution equivalent to 3,000 miles driven in a car
- Cut your risks for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Get more vitamins and minerals to improve mood and energy
3. Go Thrift Shopping
“Fast fashion” produces or contributes to a number of problems for people and the planet; filling up landfills, producing microplastic, hurting workers, and sucking up water, chemicals, and fossil fuels. Even clothing donations are resulting in problems; most donated clothing isn’t reworn, but ends up upsetting emerging economies and filling warehouses. Americans now consume five times more clothing than they did in the 80’s. This presents two easy, big ways to be more eco-friendly; take retail therapy sessions to thrift stores and repair the clothes you really love.
Buying pre-owned clothing instead of new clothing can save:
- About 2,700 liters of water per shirt (that’s over 2 years of drinking water for one person!)
- The equivalent of 80 miles of greenhouses gases from a car, per pair of jeans
- Between 50 and 80% on retail prices, cutting your clothing expenses in half at least
4. Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs
This is an easy way to be more eco-friendly in 2021 and also reduce your energy bills. LED lights use about 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Since about 61% of electricity in America comes from fossil fuels, reducing your electricity use can have a significant impact. You don’t need to buy all new bulbs right away, either. When your incandescent bulbs burn out, simply replace them with LEDs. However, be aware that some enclosed fixtures will heat up LED bulbs too much and cause them to burn out early.
This is an easy way to be more eco-friendly that has other benefits too:
- LED lights can last as much as 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you’re buying fewer bulbs.
- The average home can save about $600 a year in electricity costs alone by switching to LED lights.
- Incandescent lights produce much more heat, while LEDs will keep smaller spaces more comfortable
- LED bulbs give you a wider range of light colors, so you can choose one that feels best
5. Be Informed
While there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, plastic use, and pollution day-to-day, staying informed is one of the easiest, biggest ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021. Supporting or opposing policies and developments on a local, national or global scale can help to keep your nearby and overall environment protected. Understanding the history of environmental law, being aware of local construction, pollution, or deforestation, and voting for leaders who prioritize the planet are all as important as changing daily consumption habits. Spending a few minutes a week with a long-standing, eco-minded publication, like National Geographic, Natural History Magazine, or the Sierra Club, as well as trusted local publications or community meetings is a great habit to start this year.
Staying informed on local, national and global environmental happenings has other benefits as well:
- Knowing about new construction, laws and changes in your community
- Understanding lawmakers’ overall plans and policies
- Being aware of health risks in your water, air, or soil
- Learning about valuable habitats around the world
Any changes you make in 2021 to protect the environment are a step in the right direction. Balancing total environmental impacts with simplicity, these are the 5 easiest, biggest ways to be more eco-friendly in 2021. This is a great place to begin, whether you try one of these changes, all of them, or even a few changes once in a while.