Whether you’re interested in saving the bees, the rainforests, the oceans or even your local park, you should be reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible in the process. Although this is obviously not as influential to the grand scheme of a cause as making a donation, little lifestyle changes can still help you make an important difference in the world. I know how easy it is to fall into thinking that your changes are small and insignificant, but you could be the person that inspires someone else to make a change as well. And then the process continues. That’s how change is made. So here’s a list of a few ways you can start contributing to saving our beautiful planet before it’s too late:
Shorten your showers.
Did anyone else used to see those commercials on the Disney Channel, where Brenda Song explained how much water would be saved if we all just shortened our showers by 2 minutes? Well, she wasn’t wrong. An average shower uses 5 gallons of water per minute, so cutting off 2 minutes would automatically save 10 gallons of water (enough to fill a large home aquarium!) I love a long shower just as much as the next person, but those should be saved as a luxury and not as a part of a daily routine.
Unplug electronics and chargers while you’re not using them.
One of my worst habits is leaving my phone and laptop chargers plugged into the outlet behind my bed at all times. Believe it or not, this actually uses power, even if nothing is plugged into them. The effects of leaving a charger plugged in may be minimal when it comes to your electric bill (maybe 10 to 15 extra cents a month,) but if you think about the amount of people on Earth who use outlets, that number surely adds up. Unplugging a charger may be one of the easiest fixes on this list, so try to be conscious and take a few seconds to form this good habit.
Wash your clothes in cold water.
While most fabrics fare better in cold water anyway, many people ignore these instructions and hit the hot water button anyway (often due to the myth that this somehow gets clothes cleaner). In addition to shrinking clothing, washing laundry in hot water also wastes a lot more energy. Other laundry-related ways to save power and water include only washing full loads (you should be doing at most one load a week) and refraining from drying things that you have time to air-dry.
Turn the water off while you brush your teeth.
While dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two full minutes every morning and night, no one ever said anything about leaving the water on for that whole time period. Most sinks use around 3 gallons of water per minute when left on, so that would about to 12 gallons of water a day wasted. Going back to an earlier point, that’s even more water than those two extra minutes in the shower.
Make the most of the daylight while you can.
Who else instinctively turns the lights on as soon as they enter their room, regardless of what time of day it is? I know I’m definitely guilty of that, and it’s a habit I am definitely trying to curb. I like to sleep with my blinds closed, and I always forget to pull them back up in the morning, meaning my room is usually dark. Instead of doing that and relying on the lights, I know it’s important to make the switch to opening the window during the daylight hours. Besides saving energy, this can also help improve your mood and make you feel way less claustrophobic in your room.
In high school all I did was diet. I restricted myself to a very specific diet until my senior year, despite the fact that I played two varsity sports all four years. I only ate one helping of food per meal. No seconds, no matter how delicious, and by no means whatsoever was I allowed to eat sugar. The fattiest thing that I ever allowed myself to eat was mozzarella sticks at lunch. Anytime that I would slip, I would quickly go to the gym and run for thirty or more minutes on the treadmill and then do twenty minutes of abs. I was obsessed and definitely not healthy. Skinny, yes, but not healthy.
By my senior year, I was pretty much over the whole dieting idea. I wanted to eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and without any reason. For the first time in forever, I was actually confident in myself, in my body, and in what I ate. In this confidence, and a sudden need to be healthy for the first time in my life, I did research. And through the research, I found different ways and methods to be healthy and stay my normal weight without excessive dieting.
Because of my past experience, I am not the biggest fan of strict diets. Maybe small ones that focus on eliminating one thing from your diet, but large strict ones that are being done specifically for weight loss I do not believe in. This is not saying that I do not believe that there are ways to lose weight before the summer. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that. It’s just that there are so many more ways to stay healthy than torturing yourself, and your body through routine diets planned out by a corporate company.
Exercise. As an athlete, the first thing that I did to stay healthy was exercise. In high school, exercising was a normal part of my day every fall and spring season. In college, this changed. Sure, I still played softball, but there was a full two months where I had to account for exercising on a regular basis by myself. In this new routine, I decided that as long as I did something everyday, I could remain healthy and happy. Besides lifting for softball, and playing during the regular season, I made sure to run at least a mile a day or go on the elliptical. Of course, you have to mix up your exercise. Sometimes I would run outside to the Charles, while other times I would be in the gym. Even more frequently, I became completely obsessed with yoga. I had always practiced it, but during college it became a part of my regular routine. I loved the way it made me feel and look. To this day, I regularly go to the gym and practice yoga. Occasionally, I add in something new and fun like bike riding or rock climbing.
Hydration. Drinking water does a lot more than just hydrate. According to Top 10 Home Remedies, drinking water can relieve fatigue, treat headaches, help with digestion, aid weight loss and flush out toxins. In other words, staying hydrated can make your day a lot better than it might be now. On average, a person is supposed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. Of course, life gets busy, so 8-10 can sometimes seem like a lot. On days that I am busy at work, I make sure to drink water every chance I get, but by no means do I get to 8-10 glasses. Because of this, on days that I have off, I make sure to carry a water bottle with me everywhere so that I can drink the average recommendation, and make up for the days that I do not meet the expectation. When I played field hockey, coaches used to warn us that “the first sign of dehydration is thirst.” Therefore, you should not wait until you are thirsty to drink water. You should just drink it. At first, it is hard to get used to, but after awhile it just becomes a regular part of your day.
Drinking water throughout your day can help get rid of cravings. If you really want a piece of chocolate, taking a bite and then chugging water actually helps to satisfy the craving. This way, you do not eat the whole chocolate bar and also become happier. I like to think of this as tricking my brain. By drinking the water, I am tricking my brain into thinking that I ate so much more than just a couple of bites. In the long run, more water can equal less candy and less candy equals less fat. Drinking water also helps suppress hunger, which helps you to eat smaller meals. So rather than eating two large helpings at dinner, it might make you only hungry enough to eat one helping. This does not mean that you can’t snack later, but it can help you to stay in your average daily intake for calories and food categories.
Eating what I want, but being aware of it. This leads me to one of my larger points. Making a commitment to stay healthy means that you are also committing to food awareness. You don’t need to keep a food journal unless you feel inclined to, but I usually don’t recommend it because it gets a bit obsessive. Just be conscious of what you are eating. For instance, if I eat a cinnamon roll for breakfast, then I make the conscious note to try and eat healthier throughout the day. I am aware that I need to eat more vegetables, protein, and fruit during the rest of the day rather than stuffing up on carbs and sugars. In other words, I am being conscious and knowledgeable about all food groups and what they do to help my body stay happy and healthy. If you are unaware of the food groups and their responsibilities, sign up for Choose My Plate. There are different tabs and categories that help you to see what and why these certain foods need to go into your body. There is even a page on your profile that allows you to keep track of what you eat for three days. It is very specific, but is nice for people who are beginning to eat healthier as it measures how much of what food category you eat over the three days. This way you can see what your lacking and what you are over consuming. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of food journaling, but if you feel off track, this is a good way to see where you are missing nutrients.
Juicing. In my opinion, juicing is a pretty controversial topic. It can be expensive if bought through a company and also may be prolonged for too much time. Personally, I only do juice cleanses for up to five days. Even then, I do not solely drink the juice, but also consume healthy solids. A lot of companies enforce this idea of only drinking a juice filled with fruits and vegetables, and sometimes protein, for five days and up. This may work for some people, but for me, I prefer to juice cleanse with solid foods. It makes me feel safer, as I am very active and would never be able to just survive on juice while at the gym. For me, it’s unrealistic. For others, it may work. It really depends on what you are the most comfortable with.
I pretty much do juice cleanses everyday since I eat solid foods along with it. I enjoy a fresh, homemade, fruit smoothie in the morning with or for my breakfast, and then sometimes make one at night. I have never bought a juice cleanse from a company. I always make my own. Honestly, you can use a blender, but the NutriBullet and NutriNinja were the best products I ever invested in. Ever. They are super easy to use, and make great, fast smoothies. All you have to do is put the desired fruit and vegetables in the cup and put it on the blade and then blend it. Done. The company home websites even have recipes to try, which are actually pretty good. Juicing will, overall, help you to get more nutrients by providing another way to get in an extra serving of fruits and veggies during your day. As I’ve found through my experience, eating more fruits and vegetables also help to get rid of sugar cravings because of the natural sugars found in the fruits that make your smoothies sweet. In all, a great and easy way to stay healthy during the summer.