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Five Ways to Help Save the Planet in 30 Minutes or Less

Invest half an hour to protect the environment by changing how you live each day

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Woman with shopping bag at Farm Market
Ben Bloom/Digital Vision/Getty Images
You may not be able to reduce global warming, end pollution and save endangered species single-handed, but by choosing to live an earth-friendly lifestyle you can do a lot every day to help achieve those goals.

And by making wise choices about how you live, and the amount of energy and natural resources you consume, you send a clear message to businesses, politicians and government agencies that value you as a customer, constituent and citizen.

Here are five simple things you can do—in 30 minutes or less—to help protect the environment and save Planet Earth.

Drive Less, Drive Smart
Every time you leave your car at home you reduce air pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve your health and save money.

Walk or ride a bicycle for short trips, or take public transportation for longer ones. In 30 minutes, most people can easily walk a mile or more, and you can cover even more ground on a bicycle, bus, subway or commuter train. Research has shown that people who use public transportation are healthier than those who don’t. Families that use public transportation can save enough money annually to cover their food costs for the year.

When you do drive, take the few minutes needed to make sure your engine is well maintained and your tires properly inflated.

Eat Your Vegetables
Eating less meat and more fruits, grains and vegetables can help the environment more than you may realize. Eating meat, eggs and dairy products contributes heavily to global warming, because raising animals for food produces many more greenhouse gas emissions than growing plants. A 2006 report by the University of Chicago found that adopting a vegan diet does more to reduce global warming than switching to a hybrid car.

Raising animals for food also uses enormous amounts of land, water, grain and fuel. Every year in the United States alone, 80 percent of all agricultural land, half of all water resources, 70 percent of all grain, and one-third of all fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food.

Making a salad doesn’t take any more time than cooking a hamburger and it’s better for you—and for the environment.

Switch to Reusable Shopping Bags
Producing plastic bags uses a lot of natural resources, and most end up as litter that fouls landscapes, clogs waterways, and kills thousands of marine mammals that mistake the ubiquitous bags for food. Worldwide, up to a trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year—more than a million per minute. The count for paper bags is lower, but the cost in natural resources is still unacceptably high—especially when there is a better alternative.

Reusable shopping bags, made of materials that don’t harm the environment during production and don’t need to be discarded after each use, reduce pollution and save resources that could be put to better uses than making plastic and paper bags. Reusable bags are convenient and come in a variety of sizes and styles. Some reusable bags can even be rolled or folded small enough to fit into a purse or pocket.

Change Your Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are more energy efficient and less expensive to use than the traditional incandescent bulbs invented by Thomas Edison. For example, compact fluorescent light bulbs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and they last up to 10 times longer. Compact fluorescent light bulbs also generate 70 percent less heat, so they are safer to operate and can reduce energy costs associated with cooling homes and offices.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road. On top of that, for every incandescent bulb you replace with an approved compact fluorescent light bulb, you will save consumers $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

Pay Your Bills Online
Many banks, utilities and other businesses now offer their customers the option of paying bills online, eliminating the need to write and mail paper checks or to keep paper records. By paying your bills online you can save time and money, lower the administrative costs of companies with which you do business, and reduce global warming by helping to prevent deforestation.

Signing up for online bill paying is easy and doesn’t take much time. You can either choose to have certain bills paid automatically each month or elect to review and pay each bill yourself. Either way, you will receive outstanding returns on your small investment of time.

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