The UN definition of sustainability describes living in total harmony with the planet. Total harmony may be a bit of an overstatement: Any progress means impacting the planet. But sustainable living is a concept that covers a wide variety of practices and habits. It means giving back to the planet, reducing your waste, and lowering your carbon footprint. But it also means taking part in your community, and building a better world for future generations to enjoy. These are pretty big goals. And they seem complex and maybe even expensive when you’re first presented with the idea.

How many people can go out right now and purchase solar panels and pay for their installation? But sustainable practices are easy to start. You can start small. Best of all, there are multiple studies that prove that sustainable living saves you money long-term. Even when a one-time purchase (yep, even solar panels) might come with a price tag. Take a look at these five things you can do from home, right now, that’ll help you go green, and save green at the same time!

  1. Eat Locally

It’s not really hard to find local groceries. Check out your local farmers markets and harvest fairs for fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and even baked goods and honey. It’s fresher, healthier and cheaper than anything you’ll find at the chain grocery store. Transporting and shipping food, and driving to chain grocers, all come with an increase to your carbon footprint. And all you need to do is check the price difference between your farmer’s market, and the “organic” section of your supermarket to spot the difference!

As a bonus, you’re helping out local farmers, craftspeople and businesses. That’s a great way to give back to your community, rather than spending money at the big box stores. You can even get in on the fun, by volunteering at your community garden. It’s a great way to grow your own vegetables when you’re short on space. Community gardens are great for feeding the hungry, and building community spirit. Remember to use your organic waste for compost, to offer nutrients to the earth.

  1. Buy Less Stuff

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean living with nothing. But simply choosing to buy less stuff is a great first step. When you do shop, choose products that value sustainability. Take out single-use items from your shopping. Instead of bottled water, get a filtered jug for the fridge, and a reusable water bottle for travel. Instead of takeout coffee, make it at home and carry it in a travel cup.

If you absolutely must shop, try to get rid of things you want to replace. Visit consignment stores to earn some cash and get rid of old clothes without throwing them out. There’s always someone who will appreciate your cast-offs. Keep your electronics, cell phone and computers as long as possible, rather than replacing them with the latest gadget.

  1. Leave The Car At Home

The more cars on the road, the more CO2 in the atmosphere. Driving less may mean cycling to work, walking when you run errands, or taking public transit when you travel long distance. Cycling just 20 miles a week can decrease your chance of heart attack by as much as 50%. Not only is a car bad for the environment, you will spend an estimated $1615 on gas per year, if you drive 12,000 total miles. That’s not even including insurance or repairs. Save yourself the money, and the rest of us the oxygen. There are better ways to get around!

  1. Save Your Energy

Saving energy means saving on your energy bill, right? And it’s not tough. There are many ways to cut down on your energy consumption. Start with light bulbs. Choose CLF or LED, over the incandescent lights. Swap out oil or gas boilers, and be sure to seal windows and doors against the heat or chill. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in summer. Your body will adjust to the temperatures naturally, and a degree or two either way can make a huge difference.

Keep the A.C. to a minimum in summer. If you must use it, opt for central air, or look for portable air conditioner units that are eco-friendly and don’t emit CFC’s

Other great energy-saving tips:

  • Make use of daylight, and keep your lights off whenever possible.
  • Use a cold-water rinse on laundry day, and hang the clothes to dry.
  • Take short showers instead of baths, and you’ll save gallons of water each year.
  • Unplug any electronics that aren’t in use. It’s not only better for the environment, it’s safer for you and your family, too.
  1. Save On Paper

Getting rid of excess paper is easier than ever before in our electronic age. Buy ebooks instead of paperbacks. Save photos to your phone. Set your bills to be delivered paperless. Take the time to opt out when you receive junk in the mail. You can do this for coupons, mailing lists, even phone books. Use email and data cloud services, so you’ll print less and save paper. While you’re at it, plant some trees, to cut down on carbon dioxide, and replace all those trees cut down to make books, flyers, and all that other stuff you don’t want!

Sustainability is a lofty concept that a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their head around. Visions of living off the land, or out of tiny homes covered in solar panels might seem daunting to some of us, but a sustainable future isn’t so difficult. Solar panels and tiny homes are easier to come by now than ever before. And there are plenty of small steps you can take that don’t involve selling your home and possessions. Best of all, they’ll save you money, and help you give back to the environment, and you community.

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