1. Moderate your thermostat
Even a 2-degree switch from your normal temp could save major energy.
2. Change your showerhead
Swapping yours out for a WaterSense model could save 2,700 gallons of water annually.
But make sure what you toss in the bin actually is recyclable. Never toss plastic bags or containers with food residue in them in your bin. “Someone at the recycling center will throw it in the garbage for you, which is a waste of energy and time,” says Neal O’Reilly, director of conservation and environmental science at UW-Milwaukee.
4. Don’t seal garbage that breaks down in a trash bag
Banana peels and junk mail won’t decompose if they’re trapped in an airtight bag. “Rumor has it, a newspaper in the landfill from the 1960s is still readable today if you dig deep enough,” says Marissa Jablonski, executive director of Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.
5. Turn off your lights at night
You won’t just save energy; you’ll protect wildlife. “When birds migrate in spring and fall, city lights distract them, so they may end up in a place where food isn’t available,” says O’Reilly.
6. Let your lawn go
Every year, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water. Relying on the rain is a far greener alternative. Cut back on mowing, too – each year, lawnmowers eat up 200 million gallons of gas.
7. Go digital
Sign up for paperless bills and opt for email receipts at the store to save trees.
8. Buy energy-saving light bulbs
LEDs can use 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
9. Plan out errands and trips
The more you drive, the more CO2 emissions you release.
10. Use a reusable cup for to-go coffee
Even paper cups often contain plastic, which isn’t biodegradable.
11. Don’t do laundry on rainy days
Rains and drains go to the same place in most of Milwaukee’s sewer system, so too much of either can lead to wastewater ending up in Lake Michigan. Downpours add up quickly, so skip the dishes, laundry and long showers on rainy days.
12. Drive smart
Keep your tires full, since your car uses more energy when they’re flat. Second, slow down, as speeding saps fuel efficiency.
13. Compost at home
But make sure your compost doesn’t contain plastic, or it won’t biodegrade.
14. Install a rain barrel
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District sells rain barrels, which collect runoff from roofs so you can feed your garden without wasting water.
Whether you ride to an event with friends or opt for a shared Uber, remind your driver to adhere to the speed limit to boost your impact!
16. Use concentrated cleaning products
Grab a glass spray bottle and add water to cut down on plastic use. You’ll save money, too.
17. Buy in bulk
It reduces packaging waste!
18. Buy high-efficiency appliances
Typical top-loader washers, Jablonski says, use 40 gallons of water per load, while front loaders can use as little as five gallons each time.
19. Go plastic-free
Plastic production uses up valuable energy and natural resources, contributing to CO2 emissions and global warming. Worse, plastic usually ends up in landfills. To get started cutting back on plastic use in your life, Jablonski suggests creating your own to-go kit outfitted with reusable flatware and non-plastic containers, along with a plastic-free shopping kit comprised of reusable deli containers, produce bags and grocery bags.
20. Bike to and from work and errands
According to a 2010 study, more than 57,000 fewer tons of CO2 would be emitted annually if just 20% of people in Milwaukee and Madison used bikes instead of cars for short trips. That’s a major step toward climate resilience.
21. Eat vegetarian or vegan
Raising animals for meat is one of the biggest environmental hazards on earth. According to PETA, the process consumes more than half of all water used in the U.S. Plus, meat consumption increases raw waste, fossil fuel use and soil erosion. Scale back the impact (and lower your cholesterol) by cutting out – or at least cutting back on – animal products.
22. Ditch the lawn
Mowing wastes gas, your sprinkler wastes water, and fertilizer releases CO2. O’Reilly says ditching the lawn in favor of a meadow-style garden saves precious resources and, if you focus on native plants, supports pollinators (which in turn support our food system).
23. Install solar panels
Most energy sources will run out, but it’ll be a few billion years before the sun stops shining. Solar panels aren’t cheap, but you’ll save in the long term – according to Project Sunroof, an average house in Milwaukee can save around $8,000 in energy costs over 20 years.
24. Create a community garden
On top of boosting community in your neighborhood, plants in your community garden absorb carbon dioxide – not to mention the lower carbon footprint of food grown so close to where it’s needed. O’Reilly says gardens with native plants also provide nesting places for birds and insects.
Make a difference for Mother Earth by volunteering, celebrating or even just learning.
Tuesdays-Fridays through October:
Urban Ecology Center’s drop-in Restoring Our Outdoors Together volunteer program includes invasive species removal, trail work, planting and other activities at the Menomonee Valley, Riverside Park and Washington Park centers.
– 9-11 a.m. urbanecologycenter.org
Learn about renewable energy, gardening, composting, sustainable transportation and more at the free Sustainability Fair. Features exhibits, expert presentations and guided activities for children and adults.
– 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Retzer Nature Center, Waukesha, waukeshacountygreenteam.org
Sturgeon Fest/Harbor Fest/Boat Parade: Three major water-centric festivals get together this year for one of the biggest conservation events in the state. It features crafts, games, food trucks and more – including an opportunity to hand-release a baby sturgeon into the wild. The floating floats of the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade pass by the festivities but also can be viewed along most of the lower Milwaukee River during the afternoon.
The official date hadn’t been set by press time, but save a Saturday morning in late April for the Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s big annual spring cleanup of Milwaukee-area rivers. Past years have included dozens of cleanup sites in public parks and greenways across the metro area.