- Look for goods carrying the flower logo of the European eco-label. Signifying superior environmental performance, the Eco-label has been awarded to several hundred environmentally sound products and services from 25 product groups such as light bulbs, detergents, computers and a range of household appliances. For more information about where to find the "Eco-flower" go to http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/index_en.htm.
- Consume locally produced, seasonal food - it's better for the environment because produce grown in artificial ecosystems or greenhouses requires a tremendous amount of energy for temperatures to be maintained. And transporting goods by plane from one side of the world to the other generates about 1,700 times more CO2 emissions than transporting them by truck over 50km.
- Eat your veg! Producing meat is both CO2 and methane-intensive and requires large amounts of water. In fact, ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep and goats are large producers of methane due to the way that their digestive systems process food.
Unsustainable forest practices contribute to deforestation, which is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 emissions.
- When buying garden furniture or other wooden products, try to make sure the wood comes from a sustainable forest management source and operation. Products carrying the FSC or PEFC labels (www.fsc.org and www.pefc.org) meet these requirements. Unsustainable forest practices contribute to deforestation, which is responsible for around 20% of global CO2 emissions. It usually involves burning down the forests, which causes CO2 emissions, and eliminates their capacity to absorb CO2.
- Plant a tree. One tree of average size absorbs about 6kg of CO2 per year, so over 40 years it soaks up about 250kg of CO2.
- If you need to buy a new copier or copy machine, buy a duplex-capable one, i.e. one that can print both sides of paper. If you make your copies in copy shops, ask them to set the machine to double-sided. You'll save energy on the production of paper.
- Before you print a document or an e-mail, consider whether you really need to print it. A European citizen uses around 20kg of paper per month!
- Wash your fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water rather than under a running tap. You will save water and will do so further by watering your houseplants with the remaining water.
- Fresh water is scarce!
Some 97.5% of water on the Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water. Of this over two thirds is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining unfrozen fresh water is found mainly as groundwater, with only a small fraction present in rivers, lakes or in the air. Water is a precious resource, use it responsibly and don’t waste it!
- A dripping tap can waste as much as one litre of water per hour.
In one week, that is enough to fill a bathtub. Drinking water is precious. Save it!
- A leaking toilet could waste as much as 200 litres of water per day.
This is equivalent to flushing your toilet 50 times. Check your toilet for a possible leak.
- Sounds like common sense, but a sure way to save water when doing the laundry is to do less of it! Before starting your washing machine, wait for a full load and check your clothes if they really are dirty; one wear does not always qualify them for a wash.
- Water your garden in the late evening or early morning.
During those cooler hours, less water is lost through evaporation and as a result plants will absorb more of it.
- If you let your lawn grow longer, it will require less water.
Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.
Start a composting scheme by inviting your neighbours and even your local school to compost organic waste. It is a natural fertiliser and it can increase the soil's ability to retain water and air.
- Enjoy beef but eat in moderation.
Beef production accounts for around three times more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of poultry or pork.
- Don't waste food.
Buy only the amounts you really need, and make use of leftovers. This way you can reduce waste and also prevent emissions from additional production of food.
- How often do you go through your family albums?
Instead of printing all your digital photographs, archive them on your computer and share them with your loved ones via email.
- Is junk and marketing mail being delivered to your home?
Removing your name from the mailing list can be as easy as sending a letter, postcard, email or ticking a box on a form. This can save many trees and a lot of water each year. You can also add a sign on your mailbox: ‘No advertisements please’.
- Pay your bills online!
Eliminate your paper trail as well as the energy used to transport paper bills.
- Favour toxic-free electronics!
Many electronic goods contain hazardous toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment once discarded. Before buying a new electronic device, find out what companies offer toxic-free products by visiting the following EU website: http://www.eco-label.com
- Sign your emails with style.
Adding a short sentence ‘Be kind to our planet and print this email only when necessary.’ will spread the word and help save our trees!
- Buy in bulk!
At your workplace, suggest that individual packets of coffee, sugar, cream and tea be replaced by large containers for everyone's use. It will be cheaper and it will reduce waste.
- Use a toy library and if there isn't one in your neighbourhood, start one!
Instead of buying new toys, set up a toy library with your friends and exchange them. The variety of toys will entertain the kids and they will be used by more than one child thus reducing your impact on the environment.
- Use a thermos flask to save energy.
When you boil water for a hot drink, try to boil only what you need, or pour the surplus into a thermos flask to keep the water hot for your next cup!
- Have your water boiler inspected once a year
– to verify whether it isn't poisoning the air in your home or consuming too much energy. Have it replaced once every 15 years – to benefit from the technological advances that render new boilers more energy-efficient.