30 Little Changes that Go a Long Way

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Every year on April 22, people around the world take action to amplify environmental solutions. Making small changes to your daily life can have a compounding effect over time. A little change goes a long way!

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1. Listen to Sustainable in the City

Hosted in partnership with Zero Waste Nashville, Sustainable in the City features interviews, webinars, and panel discussions with Nashville’s top experts in all areas of waste and sustainability. Don’t miss the next episode, Wednesday, April 13, at noon. Register to join us live here.

2. Walk through your house and unplug items not in use.

Some electronics in your home consume power even when they are “off”. These are called “vampire loads” can be avoided by unplugging devices, using power strips, and curbing idle.

3. Build or volunteer at a community garden.

Community gardens give our food insecure neighbors access to healthy options, and have a range of social benefits, like increased community connection and improved mental health. The Nashville Food Project can help you get started in your neighborhood, or you can learn all about the fundamentals of edible education at an Edible Schoolyard Project training. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities at Brooklyn Height Community Garden, Farm in the City and other local gardens.

4. Lower the temperature on your water heater.

If the temperature on your water heater is too high you could be losing heat from water heater into surrounding area. Reducing the temperature can save anywhere from $36 to $61 annually.

5. Use your food scraps in broths, soups, and other new dishes.

Your food scraps can often be used to make beautiful new meals. Check out recipes from last fall’s “Waste Not” Cooking Demonstration, and these “scrappy” recipes for ideas.

6. Switch to energy-saving lightbulbs.

LED light bulbs use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

7. Eat food from local sources.

Buy locally, ethically produced goods from independent businesses to support your local food system.

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8. Refuse disposable cutlery with your takeout.

When possible, say “no” to plastic cutlery and straws. If you still end up with a substantial collection of plastic utensils. Here in Nashville, the YWCA will accept donated paper plates and plastic cutlery.

9. Spend time outdoors.

Learning about and experiencing nature is one of the best ways to promote overall wellness and grow your appreciation for Earth’s natural resources. Get involved with groups like Tennessee Women in Green and Abundant Life Adventure Club to find opportunities to connect with others outdoors.

10. Transform your old items into new, reusable accessories.

Instead of throwing old items away, look for ways to repurpose or transform old objects or materials. Turnip Green Creative Reuse diverts waste from landfills by connecting materials with students, teachers, and artists who need them.

11. Look for opportunities to recycle and compost at work.

Composting food scraps supports healthy soil and keeps organic materials from landfills. Next time you clean out the office refrigerator or have a catered event, compost leftovers that you may otherwise throw in the trash. You can take compostables to Metro Convenience Centers or consider Compost Nashville for regular pickup.

12. Plant a tree.

Trees clean the air, cool urban areas, prevent soil erosion, and more. Locally, you can get involved with Root Nashville to help the city reach its goal to plant 500,000 trees across Davidson County by 2050.

Earth Month is a great time to teach young people about sustainable living.

13. Take kids your kids to a recycling center to foster a sense of shared responsibility.
14. Create a recycling center in your classroom to model sustainable behavior at school.
15. Help students create environmental lessons for their peers.

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16. Host a neighborhood clothing or toy swap.

Gather with friends and neighbors to children's clothes, toys, plants, garden equipment, or even unused cosmetics. It keeps these items out of the landfill and in the long run reduces emissions from the production of new items.

17. Collect rain water to water your plants.

Collecting rainwater for your plants saves water and money. Although it isn’t drinkable, it’s great for your garden.

18. Take public transit.

Consider taking WeGo for travel around town to reduce citywide personal vehicle emissions.

19. Try a meatless day of meal planning.

Land-use changes and farming practices account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods. Eating animal products less often can reduce these emissions associated with food production.

20. Join or start a green team.

A “green team” is a group committed to making your school, office, or neighborhood more sustainable. We can help you get started through Urban Green Lab Certification.

21. Arrange an office-wide carpool day.

If your coworkers are also your neighbors, consider riding to work together. Carpooling is another great way reduce personal vehicle emissions.

22. Schedule or attend one of our workshops to learn about turning your space into a lab of learning.

Our educational workshops are available to nonprofit and for profit organizations on a sliding fee scale based on the size of your group. You can also register for Sustainable Classrooms, which gives educators the confidence, tools, and community to bring sustainability education into any classroom, or join Nashville Sustainability Roundtable as an organization to shared best practices for workplaces.

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23. Join us at Centennial Park's Earth Day celebration.

Come see us Saturday, April 23, from 11 AM to 6 PM at Centennial Park for Nashville’s Earth Day celebration. This free family event will feature engaging & educational activities from a variety of exhibitors and vendors.

24. Use reusable replacements for everyday items.

Choosing reusable items cuts down on waste, and these days there is a reusable version of most household items. You can take your own container for restaurant leftover or take your own reusable bags to the grocery store. Most coffee shops will serve your favorite brew in your favorite reusable coffee cup, and reusable water bottle come in a wide variety of options.

25. Support brands that are certified Benefit Corporations.

Voting with our dollar is a wonderful way to show our values and support businesses that give back to our planet. Benefit Corporations, B Corps, are held to the highest standards in social and environmental sustainability, meaning that for each dollar spent at a B Corp, you’re investing in a better future for all. Check out this list of B Corporation Vendors and Suppliers to help your workplace develop a more eco-friendly purchasing policy.

26. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies for spring cleaning.

An eco-friendly online marketplace, EarthHero has done the work so you don't have to. Pick from products that are sourced, manufactured and shipped in a way that protects our planet's future. Shopping through our link supports Urban Green Lab, and you can use code UrbanGreenLab at checkout for 10% off your order.

27. Organize a neighborhood clean up.

Whenever possible, pick up litter and debris, or choose a day to get your neighbors involved. Locally, you can volunteer with an organization like Recycle & Reinvest, who facilitates beautification workshops and educates others on how to have a zero waste lifestyle.

28. Contact your legislative representatives to ask for effective climate action.

In addition to registering to vote and participating in local elections, you can contact your representatives to promote initiatives you support. Contact your councilperson to demand safe, equitable, and quality public transport. Advocate for a cleaner energy grid by contacting your representatives and senators.

29. Unsubscribe from junk mail.

Junk mail is wasteful by definition. Luckily there are ways to unsubscribe from mail you never asked for.

30. Donate to an environmental cause you care about.

It’s imperative that we protect local trees, wildlife, and natural areas. Urban Green Lab and other local nonprofits mentioned on our list function as a direct result of your passion and action.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to let us know what you are doing to #livesustainably. Download the full list of 30 actions here.

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