Patients often ask me, “How can I lose weight so I can be healthier?” If I had the universal answer that worked for everyone, I’d be a very rich man. But there are a number of suggestions that help. Most of these are well-known: increase physical activity, cut out excess calories, eat healthier foods, and the list goes on. But one point I emphasize consistently is that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and weight loss isn’t going to happen overnight. People have to take baby steps in their approach, and make small changes at a time. If enthusiasm leads to a dramatic overhaul of an entire lifestyle, I can pretty much guarantee that the changes won’t stick. But if small adjustments are made one at a time, people have a much better chance at sticking to them long-term.
What does any of this have to do with living green? Well, experience has shown that if people make dramatic changes, even if the zeal and enthusiasm is there to support them, human nature being what it is, these changes typically slip back into the old patterns of behaviour with no success achieved. But if people make small adjustments, a little at a time, each little benefit adds up and the overall result can be substantial, and much easier to stick to permanently.
Here’s a list of eight simple things that you can do around the house – small changes that will lead to a greener lifestyle. No one change is too onerous, and if each one is taken one at a time over the coming months, it will be much easier to stick with them. Since some of them have a little extra cost to them, it also makes it easier on the pocketbook if the changes are made gradually. And you can be proud knowing that what you’re doing is healthy for the environment, because your carbon footprint will be substantially reduced.
- Install low-flow shower heads. These reduce the amount of water you use during a shower, and since that water is heated, you save on how much energy you use to heat that water.
- Replace all light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs when they burn out. The days of incandescent bulbs are over. Every standard light bulb in your house should eventually be a CFB. They cost more up front, but use much less energy and last much longer, so in the long run, they’re a good value. And your electricity bill will drop.
- Use a programmable thermostat. When people are sleeping, and when people are away during the day at school or work, it makes little sense to heat the home to its normally comfortable temperature. But it’s also impractical to be adjusting the thermostat up and down twice a day. It’s much easier to program a thermostat to do all of the adjustments for you. You can save a lot of energy heating your home by keeping the temp lower when no one is around to need it.
- Walk and bike more instead of always driving. Most people who live in urban settings can do a lot more getting around by their own energy rather than starting up the car. And since exercise is so beneficial to heart-health, it has double benefit. Perhaps your regular activity routine can incorporate trips to the grocery store, walks with the dog or visits to a friend’s house. It’s amazing how often we decide to hop in the car because we think our lives are too busy to afford the extra minutes it would take to get their on our own power.
- Eat one less meal of meat a week. Consider having Meatless Mondays become a part of your weekly schedule. Since cattle generate their own emissions of methane, the less beef we eat the less emissions. In North America, we tend to eat more meat than we need to anyway. So this green choice is also another heart-healthy one: less meat, more fruits, vegetables and fiber are the recipe. And of course, make sure you’re buying local, from farmers’ markets and local produce in your grocery store. That way there’s less fuel used to get those goods to you.
- Eliminate bottled water. It’s expensive and creates a lot of waste to recycle or, more typically, simply get thrown out. If you buy a filter for your water at home, you can have all the clean drinking water you want without needing to have all that plastic as part of it. And when you go to work or the gym, simply take your own water in a reusable container rather than buy a bottle.
- Hold onto electronic items longer. Just because the latest smart phone has come out doesn’t mean you need to replace the one you have, frequently less than a year old anyway! Newer may be exciting, but it’s a lot of unnecessary waste if we always want to have the latest gadget available. Wait until a replacement is truly needed and make sure you properly dispose of your e-waste when you finally do replace the old one.
- Have a home energy audit. For a few hundred dollars, you can learn exactly where you’re wasting energy, and such simple measures as caulking windows and sealing doors can more than pay for itself. There are often government rebates available if you make changes based on the audit as well.
Try to make a few of these simple home adjustments in the coming year. Each little step makes a difference, and when added together, you will make a significant impact on your carbon footprint!