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How to Help Save the Environment

Seven Methods:Changing Your Daily HabitsChanging Your Eating HabitsChanging Your Transportation HabitsAdapting Your HomeAdapting Your YardReusing ItemsEngaging in Activism

Taking steps to conserve and reuse is easier than you might think. You can do your part just by changing your daily habits. To help save the environment, try decreasing energy and water consumption, changing your eating and transportation habits to conserve natural resources, and adapting your home and yard to be more environmentally friendly. Once you've made your own lifestyle more environmentally conscious, you can also engage in activism to help educate others on doing the same.

Method 1
Changing Your Daily Habits

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    Switch off anything that uses electricity when not in use. If you're not using it, turn it off. This goes for lights, televisions, computers, printers, and so on.
    • Put timers on lamps and use them to turn off lamps at the same time each day. Timers like these can be found in hardware stores and they can be plugged into outlets, then control the power to your lamp.
    • You can also find heaters and fans that have timers on them. So if it's cold or hot during the night it will switch off for you. Most of the timers go for an hour and then automatically switch off.
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    Unplug devices when possible. Leaving devices plugged in, such as laptop chargers or toasters, can use "phantom" energy. Even when an appliance is turned off, it may still use power.[1] It is best to unplug anything that you do not anticipate using in the next 36 hours (or more).
    • Use a power strip to turn lots of things off with the flip of a single switch. You can plug all your devices in one area—say, your computer—into a power strip. When you're done, simply turn the power strip off with the switch.
    • Measure the energy your devices use or look up typical energy use. To measure usage yourself, use a Kill-a-Watt. You plug an appliance in through the Kill-A-Watt, and it measures the power use. This tool can also tell you whether a particular appliance or device draws power when it is turned off.
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    Trade in your dryer for a good old-fashioned clothesline. Air drying leaves your clothes smelling fresh and is environmentally friendly. Tumble dryers are among the biggest energy users in most households, after the refrigerator and air conditioner. If you do use a dryer, make sure to keep the vent clear, for safety as well as efficiency.
    • Also, when using a washing machine, make sure you have a full load of dirty clothes. Do not just put a couple of dirty clothes into the washing machine as that wastes water. Instead make sure you have a full load of dirty clothing to conserve the water and electricity.
    • If you want, you can also hand wash clothes in a sink or buy a energy efficiency washing machine that doesn't use a lot of water.
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    Run your air conditioner sparingly or not at all. Air conditioners use a great deal of electricity. Use natural ventilation or a fan to keep cool, as much as possible.
    • If you do use an air conditioner, set it to a slightly lower temperature than outside. Remember that setting the temperature lower uses more electricity, and it won't cool things off any faster.
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    Close the heating and air conditioning vents in your home. If you are not using certain rooms in your house, close the vents in these rooms, and close the doors. Doing this consistently will reduce the amount of energy squandered by heating or cooling seldom occupied spaces.
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    Don't use electronic exercise machines. Instead of using exercise equipment, use a real bicycle (or a unicycle), or walk to get to nearby destinations or for pleasure. Calisthenics, push-ups, and other bodyweight exercises work, as well.
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    Use a warm blanket or sweater in winter. Bundle yourself up and lower your thermostat by a few degrees. Aim to set your thermostat at 68°F (20 °C) in the winter, perhaps even lower at night. Every degree above this will generate about 6-8% additional energy output.[2]
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    Conserve water. The average family of four in the U.S. uses about 400 gallons (1,514 L) of water every day.[3] Make conscious choices to lower your consumption of water.
    • Take shorter showers or fill the bathtub only one-quarter to one-third full.
    • Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth.
    • Install low flow faucets (taps) or aerators, low-flow shower heads, and low-flush toilets.
    • Run your dishwasher only when it is completely full.
    • Wash full loads of laundry in a washing machine. Choose a front-load machine if possible.
    • If you hand wash your car, park it on your lawn and use buckets and sponges. Use the hose to rinse. Use a hose nozzle to stop the water or turn the hose off between rinses. Keep in mind, however, that the soap and other cleaning products might go down the storm drain (if you have one), leading to pollution.
    • If you have a swimming pool, use pool covers to reduce evaporation and keep leaves out.
    • Plant drought tolerant landscaping, and consider xeriscaping. Maintain your outdoor irrigation and water no more than is necessary.
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    Recycle all you can. If you have curbside recycling, use it. Be sure to separate your recycling into glass, metal, paper and so on.
    • Take special trips to a recycling center if you don’t have curbside recycling, or if you need to recycle certain materials not accepted by your recycling service.
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    Avoid using disposable items. Anything you use only a few times and throw away consumes resources only to spend centuries in a landfill.
    • Carry your own reusable cup or water bottle, eating utensils, and cloth shopping bags with you. Pack a waste-free lunch.
    • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries. Batteries not only take up landfill space, as they can't be incinerated. They also can leak acid into the Earth.
    • Dispose properly of hazardous waste. Many materials, including batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, e-waste (most anything with batteries or a plug), cleaning products, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, automotive fluids, and paint, should never be disposed of in a landfill, sanitary sewer, or storm sewer. Instead, contact your city for proper disposal opportunities.
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    Use only as much toilet paper as you need. Don't unwind a mile of it for one little wipe. Be reasonable. Go easy on the paper towels, too, and use a washable cloth or sponge for most of your kitchen cleanup.
    • For the paper products you do use, look for products made from 80-100% recycled paper, preferably with a high post-consumer content.
    • For most household cleaning, look for reusable terry cleaning cloths. They are inexpensive, especially when bought in bulk, and can be washed and reused hundreds of times.
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    Consider using cloth diapers. Cloth diapers have come a long way from the things with pins and plastic covers. You will save a fortune (especially if you have more than one child), keep potentially dangerous chemicals away from your baby's skin, and do a good thing for the planet while you're at it.
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    Stop your junk mail from coming. If you get several catalogs which you do not need, call and ask them to stop sending them to you.
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    Be a mindful consumer. Ask yourself how your purchases are impacting other people and the natural environment.
    • Do not buy what you do not need. Besides saving money, you'll save resources if you don't purchase a lot of excess stuff.
    • Buy for durability. For items you do buy, look for things which will last a lifetime. Search "buy it for life" to find forums and recommendations for durable products.
    • Buy used. Reuse is a far higher purpose for used goods than the landfill, plus you'll save money.

Method 2
Changing Your Eating Habits

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    Eat less meat and dairy. Meat and dairy production is highly resource-intensive and inefficient. Attempting vegetarianism or veganism is definitely one of the best things you can do for the environment and also for your health.[4]
    • Meatless Monday is a national non-profit public health campaign that encourages people to give up meat one day a week. Visit the site for some meatless recipes.
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    Don’t drink coffee from K-cups. K-cups, or the mini pods of ground coffee for Keurig coffee makers, are single use and typically thrown out (although they can be recycled if users disassemble them into paper, plastic, and metal). Billions of mini cups of ground coffee were sold in 2014, and the number of cups that ended up in landfills could circle the earth 12 times.[5] Brew coffee in a regular coffee pot or French press instead.
    • Use a mug or other reusable cup for your coffee instead of a disposable cup.
    • If you love the convenience of single-serve coffee and have already invested in a Keurig machine, look for a washable, refillable cup. You'll still save money and resources, compared to purchasing the individual cups.
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    Buy local food. Transporting food from far-off locations takes a toll on the environment, as it must be shipped in trucks, by rail or by ship, all of which produce pollutants. Buying food that is sourced locally will help eliminate or reduce transportation impacts.[6]
    • Visit farmers markets to find local vegetables and fruits or use a CSA (community-supported agriculture) service to get fresh produce on a regular basis.
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    Avoid excess packaging. Oftentimes, food companies expend just as much energy creating the packaging for food products as is expended in producing the actual food. Try not to buy food that is individually wrapped or buy in bulk.[7]
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    Don't waste food. Plan your meals so that you don’t cook more than you will eat. Store your leftovers and use them up at your next meal. If you do have an overrun of food, such as after a party, share it with friends.
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    Use reusable bottles for water. Most tap water in developed countries is safe to drink, which means that buying bottled water is unnecessary. Buy a glass or metal bottle and fill it with water.
    • Request a water quality report from your city if you are concerned about the quality of the water.
    • A water filter is generally unnecessary, but even a simple one can improve the taste. Remember, however, that water softeners and reverse osmosis systems waste a lot more water than they deliver.
    • Fill a pitcher with tap water and chill it in your refrigerator.
    • If your tap water has a whitish, cloudy appearance when first poured, it may just be air bubbles. Try pouring some into a glass or bottle, and look again in a minute or two, to see if they rise out.

Method 3
Changing Your Transportation Habits

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    Walk or bike for local trips. Walk or ride a bicycle when your destination is close to home. Short trips are generally the hardest on your car and on the environment, so swap out your car for your feet or bike.
    • Always wear a helmet and safety reflective gear when riding a bicycle. You can also buy pannier racks, a bike trailer, or a sturdy basket to hold items during your ride.
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    Organize a carpool for work or school. Coordinate with another person or two to carpool to work or work with other parents in the neighborhood to carpool kids to school.
    • Carpooling will also enable you to take the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on a highway. This lane will usually save time and money on gasoline.
    • If you live near your children's school, consider organizing a "walking school bus" instead of driving. Children walk to school together in groups, supervised and guided by parents. Neighborhood parents can take turns leading the group.
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    Take mass transit. If you live in an area that has a bus, light rail, or subway system, consider taking this option to get to work, school or other destinations. Reducing car trips in favor of mass transit trips reduces congestion on roads and reduces the amount of gasoline that is used.
    • Many bus systems in major cities operate diesel-electric hybrid buses, which further reduces harmful emissions.[8]
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    Plan out your errands and combine trips. Make errand trips more efficient by planning out where you will go and hitting all your stops in one trip. Group outings into fewer, longer trips, and plan them out so that you’re not driving the same path multiple times.
    • Don't forget to call ahead or check online, to make sure you'll arrive during business hours and that what you want is available. Make appointments and purchases online or by phone, too.
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    Telecommute or work from home, if your job permits you to do so. One day per week reduces your commute transportation by 20%.
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    Drive a hybrid car. If you have been looking for a new vehicle, consider buying a hybrid car. These kinds of cars, which run on both gasoline and electric motors, are rapidly becoming more popular and available in different models.[9] They not only give off less emissions into the air, but they also can save you money with fewer trips to the gas station.
    • You may also be able to get a tax credit on your federal taxes during the tax year that you bought a hybrid car.[10]
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    Maintain your car. If you do have a car, keep it in good repair by changing the oil and air filter on schedule, repairing fluid leaks promptly, keeping the tires properly inflated.
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    Track your fuel economy and do all you can to improve it.
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    Take fewer airplane flights. Whether for work or vacation, lower the number of flights you take. Airplanes emit vast quantities of carbon dioxide and other polluting materials, which increases annually due to increased numbers of flights around the world.[11] Do your part by taking fewer flights.[12]
    • Fly economy class. If there are more people on a plane, the relative environmental impact of one flight will be spread out among more people.
    • Opt to stay longer in a location rather than traveling back and forth.
    • Travel locally by train or bus.
    • Use technology for video conferencing rather than visiting a work location in person.
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    Live near work, school, and other frequent destinations, if possible. Otherwise, try to live near transit or bicycle routes. If you are choosing a residence, consider transportation options as part of the process.

Method 4
Adapting Your Home

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    Install skylights and solar tubes. Skylights and solar tubes are installed in your ceiling and are designed to let in more light. This will reduce the electricity you need to light your house. Some types can even convert sunlight into electricity.
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    Switch to compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. Compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs do cost more, but they also last longer than conventional light bulbs. They also use only one-quarter of the energy.
    • Start with the lights you leave on the most.
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    Seal all air infiltration points and leaks. Locate places where air can seep into or out of your house. These might be around doors and windows, around flues and chimneys, around recessed lights, among other places. Use caulking for thin gaps, and insulation or polyurethane foam for larger gaps.[13]
    • Repair leaks in your basement by first removing the insulation and sealing leaks. Use caulk or sheetrock mud to do so. Take care when you replace the insulation to ensure that it is not compressed and fully covers the space between the joists. Sealing all points of air leakage will also cut down on the number of insects and rodents entering your house.
    • Seal around light switches and power outlets, especially on outer walls. Turn off the power at the breaker box and test to ensure that the circuit is not live, then remove the covers and spray a low expansion polyurethane foam into the spaces on the outside of the junction box.
    • Check exterior door and window gaskets to ensure that they are sealing properly. If you feel a draft on cold, windy days, they need to be adjusted or replaced.
    • A smoke pen or a stick of incense can show you where your home leaks.
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    Install insulation in your attic and exterior walls. A good layer of insulation can be a relatively low-cost way to improve both the comfort and efficiency of your home.
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    Check for leaks. If your faucets drip, get them fixed, or, if you can't fix it right away, at least put a container under the dripping faucet and use the water elsewhere, such as in your garden to water plants.
    • To check your toilets, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank, not the bowl. Wait about ten minutes without flushing. If you see the dye in the toilet bowl, repair your toilet.
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    Install window treatments that maximize energy conservation. Choose curtains or blinds that keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter. For example, heavy curtains in a colder climate will help keep warm air in at night.
    • If you are in a hot climate, such as the southwestern U.S., consider tinting your windows or installing a reflective coating. This will redirect heat away from your house. Talk with local contractors to find out what options make sense for your situation. Tinting the windows which receive direct sun will also protect your fabric colors from fading so quickly.
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    Plant barrier trees to protect your house from wind and sun. Deciduous trees provide shade in the summer, yet allow warming rays to enter your house during the colder months. Evergreens provide a wind break from prevailing winds.
    • Be sure to consider the future growth of any plantings and plant far enough from your house that the root systems will not disrupt your foundation.
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    Maintain your appliances, and choose energy-efficient appliances if you are purchasing new ones.
    • Clean the coils on your refrigerator about once a year.
    • Clean the vent on your clothes dryer about once a year. Clean the lint filter each time you use the dryer.
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    Install low-flow toilets. A low-flow toilet can save many gallons of water per year, both preserving the environment and lowering your water bill.
    • You can also try putting a bottle of water in the tank of your current toilet. The space the bottle takes up will save that much water each flush, yet allow the toilet to keep functioning properly. (Don't use a brick for this purpose, because bricks can disintegrate.)
    • Try lowering the water level in your toilet tank. Many toilets have an adjustment to lower the float controlling the fill valve.
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    Install solar panels on your roof. Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity and are dropping in price (some estimates put solar panel installation at about $10,000). A home utility bill can drop by 20% with the use of converted solar energy.
    • Keep in mind that there is concern, however, about the negative environmental impact of the manufacturing of solar panels. Solar panel manufacturing can result in chemical toxicity and lack of recycling, among other issues.[14]
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    Choose the smallest home which will comfortably house your family and your belongings (and consider cutting down on unneeded belongings). You'll save on the physical and financial resources needed to build and maintain the access area, and you'll cut down on heating and cooling costs.
    • If you do have a larger home than you need, consider housing additional people, whether family members or roomers.

Method 5
Adapting Your Yard

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    Plant a garden. Create a garden plot with vegetables, fruits, and/or herbs.
    • Try to implement techniques so that your garden does not require fertilizers or excessive watering. For example, adding mulch to your garden will seal in water and make the soil moister.[15]
    • Include plants that produce your favorite fruits and vegetables so you won’t need to buy these at the store.
    • Use rain barrels or other containers to gather rainwater. Use this water on plants in your garden.
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    Make your yard-friendly to wildlife. Modern developments encroach upon natural habitats and pose risks to wildlife. Take some steps to make your yard friendlier to wildlife.[16]
    • Plant many different types of vegetation. Various creatures will visit your yard if you provide them with reason to be there. When you have many different types of vegetation, you’ll attract different types of animals.
    • Create a frog pond in your back yard. Frog populations are dwindling because their breeding areas are disappearing. If you create a habitat for them in your back yard, they may breed there.[17]
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    Reduce the area of lawn. Grass areas usually require more frequent maintenance with lawn mowers, weed eaters, and other gas- or electric-powered tools. Convert some of your lawn to garden or native plants, which will also attract wildlife.[18]
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    Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and man-made chemical fertilizers. Pesticides kill hundreds of birds and other animals per year. If you have unwanted weeds, pull or hoe them out yourself, clip them down, or plant a ground cover in their place.
    • Check out permaculture, integrative pest management, poly-cropping, and other techniques to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizer.
    • If you do apply chemical fertilizer, apply no more than is really necessary. Ensure that excess fertilizer is not washed into storm drains or waterways.
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    Plant a tree. Add a tree to your yard. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, and they also improve area water quality and help make the ground more fertile for other plants.[19]
    • Deciduous trees carefully located near your home can also help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
    • If you plant a fruit tree, you will have the added benefit of being able to harvest your own fruit instead of needing to buy it at a store.
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    Make a compost area. Designate an area in your yard to put your yard waste, fruit peels, and uneaten food. Find some worms who can break the waste down and produce a very rich soil that works great with your landscaping. Keep your compost heap as far from all water sources as possible.
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    Use a rake instead of a leaf blower. Ditch your noisy electric- or gas-powered leaf blower and use a rake to gather up leaves or other debris in your yard.
    • Similarly, use a broom instead of a hose to clean dirt from a paved area.[20]

Method 6
Reusing Items

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    Buy secondhand clothes and other items. Visit thrift stores and consignment shops to find secondhand clothes and other items.
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    Donate or share usable household items. Instead of throwing away items, consider giving them away. Donate usable clothes and household items to charity. Many organizations will send a truck for pickup.
    • is another useful resource for buying, selling, and giving away used items locally.
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    Upcycle. Turn useless junk into something fun and cute, or fresh and funky. Make jewelry, household accessories, and restyled clothing from things you already own. Look around wikiHow to find tons of articles about how to make different things.
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    Buy or make a few reusable fabric bags. Bring them with you whenever you go shopping. Many communities have banned stores from giving out plastic bags, but even if your community still allows them, move to using reusable bags instead.

Method 7
Engaging in Activism

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    Contact your government officials. Call or email your congressional representatives and local officials. Ask them to support environmental conservation and renewable energy.
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    Participate in rallies. Most cities hold rallies to raise awareness of environmental issues. To be effective, these demonstrations need lots of people. Attend a rally in your community. Make signs to carry during the demonstration to convey your message.
    • Recruit family members and friends to join you.
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    Join an environmental organization. Choose an organization that focuses on an aspect of the environment, such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club or the Environmental Defense Fund, and become a member.[21]
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    Write a letter to the editor. Use the news media to highlight environmental issues. Write a letter to the editor about fossil fuels or endangered animals. This can help start a dialogue in your community about a particular environmental issue.
    • Alternately, propose writing an opinion editorial for your local newspaper.
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    Donate to an environmental cause. Choose an organization working on an environmental issue. Donate money to this organization. Many organizations have different giving levels, from very small amounts to large amounts. Choose to give monthly or annually.
    • Donations to nonprofit organizations are tax-deductible. Ask for a receipt so that you can deduct this donation on your taxes.
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    Volunteer your time. Pick up litter, educate others, fix bikes, start a repair cafe, plant trees, observe birds and animal populations. There are many ways you can create and promote a better environment by volunteering.


  • Don’t buy items if you don’t need it. Besides saving money and not cluttering up your house, avoiding buying things in the first place means never using the resources (materials, energy, labor) necessary to create it. Could you borrow something, get it used, or simply do without it?
  • Don't use polybags. Even though they can be found easily, they are not eco-friendly.
  • Avoid palm oil! Palm oil is collected from oil palms in parts of Indonesia and Africa and is the number one cause of rainforest deforestation. Check the ingredients of your food and cosmetics; avoid companies that export large amounts of palm oil such as PepsiCo and Nestle. However, support companies like the Gap and Coca Cola who have avoided palm oil.
  • You can help save the environment by helping to save honey bees and other insects which make a huge contribution to our world.
  • Consider a vegan lifestyle. Eating vegan is the least harmful good diet to animals and the environment.
  • Collect rain water and use it for a variety of purposes (such as gardening, cleaning outside, or a bird bath).

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