10 simple things to do now to help save the planet

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Extreme weather leading to floods and forest fires, melting polar ice caps, pollution of the air, water and land … Sometimes it feels like our environmental problems are so big that we can’t do anything about them.

But we have no choice. Remember that there is no planet B. If we want future generations to have a place to live in, we should start doing something now. This requires making good lifestyle choices, being mindful of the impact of our carbon footprint, and advocating for movements that help save the earth.

It’s not easy, but we can start by making small changes that in time will produce big results. Remember, every bit of effort counts!

Here are 10 simple things you can do today.

  1. Save water

    Turning off the tap while brushing teeth is a great example of a little thing that makes a big difference. This saves gallons of water per day. Imagine how much you’ll save when multiplied by the number of people in your household!

    Cutting down your shower time is another example. Shortening it by two minutes can save more than 10 gallons of water. You can also inspect and fix leaky faucets immediately, and use a professional car wash (since they use less water) instead of doing it yourself. If you’re starting a garden this spring, learn more about the plants you wish to cultivate to avoid overwatering.

    Interested in other simple ways to save water? Get more tips here: 100 ways to conserve water by Ground Water Canada.

  2. Conserve energy

    Here are a few simple ways to save energy:

    • Use energy-efficient light bulbs. Choose LEDs (light emitting diode). An eight or nine watt bulb emits as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. This saves energy and money too.
    • Turn off lights when not in the room.
    • Turn off your computer at night or when it’s not in use. You will use up less energy to recharge.
    • Use rechargeable batteries when possible.
    • Use an energy-efficient setting for the temperature in your home and office.

    Read Manitoba Hydro’s Energy Saving Tips for more great ideas to use at home and work.

  3. Eat sustainably

    Did you know that your food and drinks have an impact on the environment? Producing food needs resources like water and soil, energy for processing and packaging, as well as fuel to transport them. Studies have shown that animal-based foods use up more of these resources than plant-based foods. Therefore, eating fruits, whole grains, nuts and vegetables, especially those grown locally, is more sustainable for the environment in the long run. But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat for life (but you could if you wanted to). Even having one meatless day a week counts!

    Food waste also contributes to pollution. It is estimated that half of all food waste happens at home. Wasted food ends up on landfills and produces methane, a greenhouse gas. As the volume of these gases increase, more warming occurs (Prairie Climate Centre). This can affect our climate drastically, causing floods or forest fires. This is why proper food storage, meal planning, and smart shopping are important for every household. Read Canada’s Food Guide. It has great tips on healthy eating and conserving the environment.


    Reduce food waste, Home & Family, Manitoba Association of Food Economists

  5. Plant trees

    Plant trees in your backyard or join planting drives. It is estimated that a young tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds (5 kilograms) per tree every single year. And when it matures in about 10 years, it can absorb 48 pounds (21 kilograms) per year. Trees are also capable of removing sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and small particles. This makes the air we breathe fresh and healthy for us. You can also help save trees by reducing paper use. Use online versions instead of print. Has your office gone paperless yet? You can start a program to reduce paper use around the office.

  6. Recycle

    “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Reduce waste by not buying disposable items. Reuse items like paper, cloth or plastic so they don’t end up in landfills. Fill your recycling bin responsibly. Read Recycle like you mean it: More recycling do’s and don’t’s to know how to segregate waste properly. If you want to take it to the next level, try composting. This reduces solid waste that goes to landfills. It also provides rich, natural fertilizer for your garden.

  7. Carpool/Use public transit/Bike or Walk

    Using less fuel or not using it at all should be our goal. Even one car off the road makes a big difference. Consider biking and walking. When traveling to longer distances, arrange ride-sharing schemes with your officemates or friends. You can also use public transit. But if you must drive, make sure to maintain your vehicle regularly. This means keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure and your car engine in tip-top shape. This not only lessens emissions, but improves your gas mileage by 0.6 to 3 percent.

  8. Give up plastics

    It is estimated that eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. This accumulates because it is non-biodegradable, meaning it does not break down. Instead, it is eaten by sea life, making them sick or killing them. This also means that plastic has become part of our food chain – we will inevitably eat contaminated seafood. Avoiding plastic will not only divert a ton of waste from the oceans but from landfills as well.

    Start by using reusable/recycled bags, not only for your groceries but when shopping for clothes and other items. Do your best not to buy items that are packaged with a lot of plastic materials, and don’t use disposable plates, spoons, stirrers, cups, straws and napkins. Stop buying bottled water! Having a reusable tumbler (preferably glass) on hand and refilling it with filtered tap water will be good for the environment. It will also be healthier and more economical for you.

  9. Volunteer

    Join cleanups and conservation efforts in your community. Support causes that promote environmentalism. Conduct recycling drives and help educate people about environmentalism. The more people get on the bandwagon, the better it will be for the environment.

  10. Buy second hand/buy local

    Buy second-hand equipment, clothing, furniture or appliances whenever you can. Items that have a short usage period (for example your little one’s bike) are better bought second hand. It will save you money and help reduce waste from packaging materials. Buying local products reduces pollution and supports community businesses and the economic growth of your area.

  11. Educate yourself and others

    Learn more about climate change, conservation, recycling and the environment. Be involved and join discussions about environmental efforts and help others understand the value of our natural resources. Be a good role model to the youth, especially your kids, by walking the talk in your everyday life. You can also share this list with others and help make the world a better place!

An additional note:

Many people wonder how the state of the environment is related to COVID-19. It turns out that they are connected in many ways! Experts say that things like climate change, globalization, and changes to land use (like building cities and cutting down forests) can make diseases spread more easily. This is especially true for diseases that come from animals (called “zoonotic” diseases). There is a lot of evidence that shows that climate change and deforestation are making it easier for these diseases to spread in our growing population. A new study also found that places with more pollution have more deaths from COVID-19.

Our environment is in trouble and it’s causing problems for us now. We need to change our habits to help fix it. The UN Environment Programme made a video to show how important it is to act now. Watch it to see why we need to take action.

Article updated February 20, 2024.

Sources: 10 things you can do to help save the earth, Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim, How stuff Works; Protecting our planet starts with you, US National Ocean Service; 50 ways to help the planet, 50 ways to help; and Composting, Eartheasy. Accessed February 21, 2020. Coronavirus: How environmental destruction influences the emergence of pandemics, Daina Goldfinger, Global News; and A message from nature: Coronavirus, UN environment programme. Accessed April 6, 2020.

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