Published on 12/29/19

Small changes can make a big difference when working to lessen your environmental footprint

By Merritt Melancon

The new year is a great time to pick up a few habits that will help build a greener future for the planet, but new habits can be hard to maintain.

Whether they pertain to exercise, finances or green living, resolutions are easier to keep when they begin with small changes, said Pamela Turner, an associate professor and Cooperative Extension housing specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“Making a large change — like going completely plastic-free — can be hard to take on because they're such extreme changes,” Turner said. “Like anything else, the best way to build a more sustainable household is to start with small steps that you can maintain.”

There are lots of small changes that a family can make to lessen their footprint on the environment. Here are 10 steps that Turner recommends:

  1. Stop buying bottled water.
  2. Make a habit of keeping your reusable bags in the car so you never end up at the store without them.
  3. Buy your family members reusable straws with cleaning brushes.
  4. Start using cloth napkins and cloth kitchen towels; save the paper towels and paper napkins.
  5. Take your own containers with you to restaurants to carry out leftovers.
  6. Bring cloth produce bags with you to the grocery store.
  7. Become a clean recycler; clean all containers before putting them in the recycling bin.
  8. Eat at home or brown bag whenever you can. Eating out generates more waste from unnecessary packaging.
  9. Borrow or rent large items and tools that you may not use very often.
  10. Swap clothes with friends or buy used clothing when you need to refresh your look.

“The best thing to do is just pick two or three changes and try to stick with them,” Turner said. “The most important thing is that you move forward with what you can do and not compare yourself to others. It isn’t a competition.”

For more tips of living a greener life, visit UGA Extension’s UGA Greenway at Other tips are available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's blog.

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