Small ways to make a positive impact on the environment

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Living an eco-friendly lifestyle is a choice that can pay dividends for years to come. Future generations and the planet those generations inhabit can benefit significantly from the efforts of their eco-conscious ancestors. But while the benefits of living eco-friendly lifestyles are substantial and long-lasting, the effort to initiate such lifestyles need not be so significant.

Men and women who want to leave a healthy planet for future generations can do so by making a host of relatively minor adjustments to their daily lives.

• Embrace cloth bags. Plastic grocery bags are very convenient, but they are not very eco-friendly. Such bags are often discarded after use, leading to unnecessary waste, and the effort and energy it takes to manufacture and ship such bags is wasteful. Reusable cloth bags are a much more eco-friendly alternative to traditional paper or plastic grocery bags, and these bags can be taken along on trips to the grocery store and on shopping trips to the mall or other retailers. Designate certain bags for the grocery store and others for shopping trips to the mall. This can drastically reduce the energy it takes to produce and ship plastic bags, especially when shoppers consider just how many plastic bags they discard over the course of a typical year.

• Use reusable items. Cloth bags are not the only items that can be reused. Items such as paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cups are often taken for granted, but these items can only be used once. Over time, heavy usage of these items can add up to a significant amount of waste for landfills, and the production and transportation of such items is significant and wasteful. Men and women can reduce this impact by only relying on reusable items, such as washable plates, cloth napkins and glass or plastic drinking glasses. It might mean a few extra dishes in the sink each night, but the benefit of these products is well worth the effort.

• Stop wasting water. Many people, knowingly or unknowingly, are guilty of wasting water. Homeowners may forget to turn off their automatic sprinklers on rainy days, while many people may keep the faucet running while brushing their teeth. Make an effort to reduce your water usage. Even something as simple as taking shorter showers in the morning can reduce your individual water consumption by thousands of gallons over the course of a typical year.

• Pay it forward. Perhaps the best way to make a positive impact on the environment for years to come is to instill a sense of environmental responsibility in your children. Explain to youngsters why you’re bringing cloth bags to the grocery store and why you turn the faucet off when brushing your teeth. Kids who learn to live an eco-friendly lifestyle at a young age will carry that way of life with them as they grow older, benefitting the planet for generations to come.

— Metro Creative