10 Simple Things You Can Do to Reduce Environmental Impact and Save Money

I’ve been back in the US for six months now, and here, as everywhere I go, I’ve been observing the local lifestyle.

Americans are increasingly concerned about their impact on the global environment, which is great, but many focus on expensive, grandiose solutions like “trade in your gas-guzzler for an expensive hybrid car”. In these cash-strapped times, there are far simpler things you can do. Yes, these are small steps, but if we all did them…

1. Reduce the number of beverage cans/bottles you buy

I see people buying boxes and flats of cans of soda, shrink-wrapped 24-packs of beverages in plastic bottles, etc. That’s an awful lot of packaging – which must be produced and then discarded or recycled – for you to drink a single serving of a beverage.

If you must buy packaged drinks, buy them in gallon jugs. If you must take such a drink with you, pour a portion into a reusable bottle.

“But that won’t preserve the fizz in my soft drinks,” you say. Myself, I rarely drink fizzy drinks except carbonated mineral water in Italy (and I’m doing perfectly well without that in the US). I don’t need the calories in “regular” soft drinks, and can’t stand the taste of artificial sweeteners (which, according to some reports, may be bad for you anyhow).

I mostly drink water, coffee, juice, and tea. I like plain iced tea in summer, but that can be hard to find; the bottled stuff you commonly see at convenience stores etc. is sweetened to an extent that curls my teeth. I make iced tea at home myself, boiling it on the stove and funneling it into an empty gallon orange-juice jug.

The only single-serving drink I can really see a use for is beer, and that comes in recyclable glass bottles.

A few months ago, some friends and I went for a hike in a California park. It was a warm day, and after a long, dusty walk I slurped eagerly at cold, fresh water from a park fountain. A child in a stroller gestured urgently at it, alerting his mother that he, too, was thirsty.

“Oh, no, honey,” she said. “Here, I’ve got water in a bottle.”

Yet another single-use plastic bottle filled by a bottler with filtered tap water that was probably less healthy and tasty than the tap water I was drinking.

…This is getting long. I’ll have to spread these tips over several posts. More soon!


  1. A child in a stroller has a good chance to be grotty, and there have been times where I’ve done something similar to keep my child from making a mess of things. And at 6 he can finally, mostly, drink from a fountain without soaking himself. Before then, well, not so good.

    Also, small children usually have to be lifted up to reach a fountain. They are heavier than they look 🙂

  2. Seriously, do you think this “tip” is going to be new or surprising to anyone who follows your blog? It seems a little didactic to list how you abstain from fizzy drinks and only drink tea brewed and stored by the gallon. But in case you didn’t notice the “stop using plastic bottles” campaign has been around for a long time. I’d love to hear some new and useful tips. Please don’t let your next tip be “change to fluorescent light bulbs.”

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