There has been great talk in recent years about the ecological footprint and how to reduce it. But, what exactly is this concept, and how does it affect us? Basically, the ecological footprint measures the extent to which human beings are using nature's resources faster than the planet can regenerate them. When we consume these resources at a faster rate than they can be reproduced, we are depleting our natural wealth and negatively affecting the environment in the process. It’s obvious, then, that we need to find ways to reduce our impact on the environment to achieve sustainability. One way to do this is by looking into ecotourism, opting for ecotravel and green hotels when planning our vacation. But what can we do before we travel, and after our trip is over? Here are just some tips to maintain a green lifestyle.
- Reduce waste. Buy products that have less packaging and use rechargeable batteries. Try not to use plastic cups, or paper napkins and plates when hosting get-togethers or going out on picnics. When shopping, take your own bags to the shops to carry home what you’ve bought. When traveling, use refillable bottles. Use your own toiletries instead of the hotel’s mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner and take your own toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Save electricity. Turn off equipment like TVs and stereos when you’re not using them and unplug all appliances. Even when they're not turned on, appliances continue to drain energy from your electrical outlets. Also try to buy energy-efficient household appliances. In terms of lighting, take advantage of natural lighting during the day, and replace your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs). They may seem more expensive, but they actually last longer and use far less energy than ordinary bulbs.
- Save water. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Take showers instead of baths. Collect the water used to wash vegetables and fruit and use it to water your houseplants. Try washing dishes by hand. This not only saves water, but energy as well.
- Recycle. Call your local government to find out about your collection service. Also, try using recycled paper.
- Go biodegradable. When buying cleaning products, choose those that contain the fewest amount of chemicals possible, thus reducing the negative impact on the soil and water system.
- Eat organic. Organic foods are not only fresher, they are also environmentally friendlier, implementing practices that entail water and soil conservation. Most farmers’ markets actually sell produce grown using organic methods, although they may not have an organic label.
- Get creative. Try to incorporate leftovers into your next meal, rather than throwing away food. Go to flea markets and estate or garage sales to buy anything from small crafts to furniture. Chances are the quality of the items sold is much higher than what you’ll find in most chain stores, and you’ll be reducing waste by reusing items that would otherwise be thrown away.
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