Climate change has been a newsworthy topic for decades now, for reasons that are hardly surprising. Recent scientific data indicates humans have generated emissions that have sparked an increase in global temperatures in excess of nearly 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. It’s a trend that’s only expected to grow unless we make a number of changes across the planet, and quickly.

It’s an undertaking that many countries have taken seriously. Under the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016, 194 countries, including the United States and China — which together represent almost 40 percent of global emissions — agreed to sweeping pledges in an effort to reduce global temperatures and emissions, in an effort to save the environment.

The United States has since backed out of the Paris Agreement under President Donald Trump. In response, more than 80 mayors of cities across the U.S. have remained steadfast to the terms set forth by the Paris Agreement.

It’s a call-to-action that individuals have taken to heart as well. Today, more than ever, American citizens have an understanding about how their personal choices might have an impact on the environment and have begun to adjust their own habits in an effort to be more conscientious about their carbon footprint.

It’s a change that has come to surprise many, as for years there was a common misconception in American society that being conscientious about your carbon footprint or choosing an eco-friendly lifestyle costs time, effort, and perhaps most importantly, money.

As many have come to find out, however, there are a number of things that individuals can do that not only benefit the environment, but are also cost effective, and more easy to implement than one might think. We highlight some of those simple changes people can make below.

Make Eco-Friendly Updates To Your Home

Routine maintenance is a part of every homeowner’s checklist. Part of that routine maintenance can also be used to make your home more environmentally friendly. Environmentally friendly homes are not only valuable real estate — should you plan on selling at any point — but they can also save you money in the long term if you’re willing to make the investment now.

These changes range in cost, and a little can go a long way. Probably one of the most impactful things you can do to your home is evaluate the ways in which you consume energy, as that has a direct correlation to your individual carbon emissions. By consuming less power, or prioritizing more eco-friendly power usage, you reduce the amount of toxic fumes released into the atmosphere. This can be done in a number of ways.

Switching to solar power is probably one of the most significant and most impactful things you can do for your home in order to reduce your carbon footprint. But there are a number of other benefits to switching to solar as well, including a less expensive electric bill, and increased value on your home.

You might also consider updating any old appliances and lightbulbs you may have to a more energy efficient model. According to the Department of Energy, a series of simple upgrades has the potential to save you thousands of dollars per year.

If you’re not ready to replace any of your major devices, it is important to maintain what you do have to make sure it functions properly and doesn’t add further to your carbon footprint. Try to tighten up any leaky faucets you may have, insulate your windows, and maintain your fireplaces and other heating sources.

Keeping up-to-date with routine maintenance and converting to eco-friendly options will not only save you money in the long run, but will also reduce your environmental impact.

Consider Adopting a More Minimalist Lifestyle

Minimalism has been a growing trend for years now, especially for millennial Americans. Inspired in part by Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, minimalism is now a mainstream movement that has inspired individuals to move into smaller and more affordable spaces, declutter their lives, and cut back on economic consumption and environmental waste.

Degrees of minimalist lifestyles vary. Some choose to go all-in on the endeavor, while others are simply hoping to be more organized.  

One end of the spectrum are those who have taken drastic steps to minimize their possessions. Some of the most easily recognizable are those who have opted to join the tiny house movement. For those who want to live minimally, save money, and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, tiny houses are a great alternative to a more typical living environment. And it’s becoming more and more common every day.

For the past two decades, tiny house communities have sprouted in places like Washington D.C., Austin, Sonoma, Olympia, Portland, San Francisco, and more. It’s a trend that’s not only here to stay, but it’s also good for the environment.

Tiny houses reduce environmental impact by a significant margin. The average tiny house is 400 square feet or less, meaning that it produces very little waste when it comes to construction, and use drastically fewer natural resources than the average home or apartment building.

The size also allows you more financial freedom in choosing your home’s building materials. Many choose to use recycled materials, like aluminum or salvaged wood. Others choose to invest in more quality materials, such as bamboo, cork, palm, and environmentally friendly paints. Solar power also typically becomes much easier, due to the limited dimensions of the home.

But tiny house living isn’t the only way to adopt minimalism into your life. Many simply choose to declutter, donate their unwanted belongings, and avoid overconsumption in favor of products that are of higher quality and last longer.

“We’re all becoming more aware of how our love of disposable fast-fashion, single-use plastics, and the latest devices is contributing to damage and pollution in the environment,” writes Julia Lansdale of the World Wildlife Federation. Minimalism gives people the opportunity to help combat that.

Utilize Public Transportation, Ridesharing, or Alternative Transportation  

Traffic is a nuisance no matter how you look at it, especially if you’re a commuter who lives in a big city. Beyond the annoyance, however, traffic and transportation has become an environmental hazard costing over $160 billion per year. Additionally, Americans lose 7 billion hours of time, and burn 3 billion gallons of fuel each year.

Recent MIT studies suggest, however, that by utilizing carpooling options, the number of vehicles on the road may decrease by a factor of three without affecting commute times.

“Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, resulting in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money,” Daniela Rus, the lead researcher of the study and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory recounts. The study found that 3,000 four-passenger cars had the potential to serve 98 percent of taxi demand in New York City. The average wait time for each commuter would be under three minutes. Rus continued, “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air, and shorter, less stressful commutes.”

In the long term, ridesharing, bussing, and other alternative forms of transportation will not only help Americans save the planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it will also be much cheaper than riding solo.

Climate change is going to be a continuing topic of discussion, and one that will require diligence — especially at the government level —  in order to make a difference. But there are still a number of practices that individuals can adopt in order to do their part. Not only will that help to save the environment, but it’ll also be great for your finances in the long term.

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