How to Lower Your Environmental Impact: A Guide

By Dina Haveric, Green Iowa AmeriCorps Member

An ecological or environmental footprint can be defined by the impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources. As growing populations drive up emissions and increase the consumption of natural resources, it becomes increasingly important to create more sustainable daily actions. While real environmental solutions will require action on a global scale, there are choices we can make in our day-to-day lives that will lessen our personal environmental impact. This blog post will guide you through some of them.


Drive less! When possible use public transit, walk, bike, or carpool to your destination.

Take care of your car. Ensuring that your car is properly maintained can increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to four percent!

Combine your errands! To reduce excess driving, group your errands by geography to combine multiple trips into one trip.  


Choose local, seasonal, and organic food products. Local foods that are in season do not have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, lowering green house gas emissions associated with transportation. 

Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products, particularly beef. Emissions from livestock account for around 14.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emission globally, with roughly 2/3 of those emission coming from cattle.

Purchase foodstuffs in bulk and buy only what you need. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper per unit, and sticking to your grocery list helps reduce food and packing waste.

Compost your food waste. Composting helps reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills and can provide you with nutrient-rich soil to use in your garden!

Grow your own food. Not only is gardening a natural stress reliever, but growing your own produce can help you become more self-reliant and save you a trip to the grocery store!

Carry reusable dishware. Having a reusable water bottle, straw, and utensils handy can help reduce plastic waste.


Avoid purchasing fast fashion items. Trendy and cheaply made items that go out of style quickly contribute to textile waste, carbon emissions, and water use & pollution. If possible, opt for quality items that will last for years.

Consider buying second-hand, vintage, or recycled clothing. Purchasing used clothing helps reduce the number of natural resources and energy needed to produce new clothing.

Use cold water to wash your clothing. According to the Sierra Club, households that switch to cold water washing can eliminate around 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide per year!

Take care of your clothing. Properly washing, drying, and storing your clothing can extend its lifetime greatly. Consider mending or updating garments to keep your clothing in circulation longer.

Borrow, rent, or swap clothes. Trading clothes with coworkers, friends, and family is a great way to try a variety of different styles, save money, and reduce textile waste.


Try to avoid products with excess packaging. Consider buying loose products, like fruits and vegetables, instead of pre-packaged food or bringing reusable containers to stock up on bulk foods like nuts and beans.

Take a reusable bag with you when you shop! Reusable bags can do everything a plastic bag can do, without the negative environmental impact. 

Support and buy from local businesses and companies that are environmentally responsible. Buying local products not only supports local workforces but reduces emissions associated with transportation. Investing into companies that are environmentally responsible encourages other businesses to take on similar practices.

Buy less! Buy only what you need and try to purchase used or recycled goods when possible. Buying less is one of the best ways to help the environment, it saves resources and prevents waste from ending up in landfills.

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