Everyday Sustainability Tips

Everyday, we make choices that affect the environment, our communities, and our State. From what we buy and how we consume those products to how we use water and energy, there is a lot we as Nevadans can do to be more sustainable, reduce our environmental footprint, and improve our communities.

Sustainable Living - Practical Everyday Tips for Living Sustainably

The first step to living more sustainably involves becoming aware of how you use, conserve, and waste products, resources, and energy and how these actions both positively and negatively impact the environment and your community. Then, identify areas where you want to improve and set goals for yourself. Below, you will find a list of goals related to daily sustainability. Start by picking one and identifying which solution(s) or tip(s) you can implement in your life. If you don’t know where to start, start with the “Measuring Your Sustainability” goal or any of the solutions highlighted as “Beginner.”

While everyone has a role to play in promoting sustainability, not everyone has the same role. Do what you can do based on the resources available to you. Every little action matters. If you’re just starting out or have limited time and resources, try focusing on the tips highlighted as “Beginner.”

Click on a goal below to learn more.

Measuring My Sustainability

Conducting audits will help you understand how you use and waste products, resources, and energy. Periodic audits will also help you measure your progress as you implement some of the tips on this page. Below you will find various audits and tools to help you measure your sustainability.

Audit Your Water Usage:

Audit Your Carbon Footprint:

  • Answer some questions about your household’s consumption habits and estimate your household carbon footprint with this calculator. The estimator will compare your carbon emissions with other households of a similar size and provide recommendations on how you can improve.

Audit Your Waste:

  • Conduct a Waste Audit to determine what types of food and materials you are wasting and recycling and how much. Check out KTMB's Waste Audit resource

Audit Your Energy Usage & Efficiency:

  • Customers of NV Energy can get a free PowerShift bundled appointment, which evaluates the home, provides custom tips, an inspection, free light bulbs, and smart thermostat.
  • ENERGY STAR® energy assessments.
    • Home Energy Yardstick is a simple home energy assessment. Input your monthly energy usage (e.g., electricity, natural gas, etc), and it will score your energy usage and provide recommendations. You can even set up an account to save your data and track your usage over time. 
    • Create a comprehensive home energy profile and get recommendations with ENERGY STAR® Home Advisor.

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Shopping for Groceries Sustainably

Did you know that 30-40% of food is wasted in the U.S? Shopping for your groceries with sustainability in mind is extremely important. Below are tips to help you shop for groceries more sustainably.

  • Plan meals for the week and make lists of what you need before shopping. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items or items that will potentially be wasted.
    • Beginner: Meal planning can be time consuming and a challenging habit to start for people with large families and busy lifestyles. To make this habit easier, pick 1-2 days of the week where you make meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pick your favorite meals or meals you know are easy to prepare when getting started. 
  • Consider buying in bulk to limit packaging material. However, when buying in bulk or in large quantities, make sure you will be able to use all the food before it spoils or are able to store/freeze it.
    • Beginner: Buy your top 1-2 favorite or most used items in bulk to reduce the chance of waste or spoiling and to get a feel for bulk purchasing. Also, bring your own reusable containers and bags when buying in bulk.
  • Reduce consumption of foods with high GHG-footprint. Consider eating more plants and plant-based foods, which often have a much smaller GHG-footprint. 
    • Beginner: Pick 1-2 days in the week where you go meatless. Meatless Monday is a great place to start. Consider proteins like tofu, tempeh, peas, mushrooms, beans, nuts, free range eggs and whole grains
    • Beginner: Not ready to give up your steak? Keep your weekend BBQ favorites but consider reducing your red meat/dairy consumption in other ways. Replace your burgers with ground chicken or turkey. Replace your dairy with oat or coconut milk.
  • When shopping for food items, like snacks or other pre-packaged food, be mindful of single-use packaging (e.g., individually wrapped/packaged items).
    • Beginner: Make your own trail mix, snack packs or other ‘go-to’ prepackaged favorites for school/work lunches. Buying these ingredients individually in bulk and then combining them at home in a reusable container reduces single use waste. This also gives you the freedom to make your own varieties and dictate the amount you want in each serving.
  • Consider buying local produce and meat. Buying locally produced food supports the local economy as well lowers the amount of GHG emitted to get food to your table.
    • Beginner: Visit a local farmers’ market and see what locally grown ingredients are available to you.

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Making & Using Compost

There are many benefits to making and using compost, including enriching the soil,  maintaining moisture, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, and encouraging the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Also, by diverting your organic waste and creating compost, you help reduce methane emissions from your landfill. Below are tips to help you start composting or using a compost service.

  • Be aware of compost collection facilities and services near you.
    • Beginner: If you don’t have the time, equipment, or space to compost but still want to compost, you may be able to use a local compost service provider.
  • Research and identify the best composting method for your property (e.g., vermicomposting, compost pile, compost bin, etc).
  • Make a list of what materials you can and cannot compost and understand the proper 1:2 ratio of green to brown organic materials.
  • Create a habit to safely and properly collect and store your yard trimmings and food waste as well as remove contaminants. 
  • Living in an apartment or condo? Check with your local health district for compost use in public spaces.

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Reducing My Food Waste

As mentioned, 30-40% of food is wasted in the U.S. That’s a significant amount of wasted food! Additionally, when food waste and other organic matter is landfilled, it decomposes and produces methane - a powerful GHG. Below are tips to help you reduce the amount of food you waste.

  • Don’t just automatically throw out food items if they pass their “best by”, “use by”, or “sell by” date. Except for infant formula, these phrases are not indicating a safety date but rather a best quality date or a date for how long to display the product in store for inventory management. If the date passes during home storage, the food item should still be safe to eat if handled properly and no spoilage is evident. More information can be found on USDA's website.
  • Know how to best store produce in your fridge to make items last longer. For example, sealed crisper drawers can be used to create the optimal storage environment for produce. If you can customize the drawers’ humidity settings, vegetables need higher humidity conditions whereas fruits need lower humidity conditions. Additionally, if you know that you cannot eat your vegetables before they go bad, freeze them.
  • Be aware of the food you waste by performing a food waste audit. For a month, track how much and the type of food you throw away. Before throwing away food waste, weigh your food waste. Keep a log of what you are throwing away and how much.
  • Repurpose leftovers or odds/ends of ingredients in dishes such as soups and casseroles.

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Improving My Home Efficiency & Saving Energy

By reducing the amount of energy you consume at home, you can lower your carbon footprint and save money. You can reduce your energy consumption through energy efficiency or by conserving energy. Energy efficiency involves installing and/or using products that result in less energy used to do the same task, whereas energy conservation involves not using energy. Below are tips regarding how you can conserve energy and upgrade your home to be more energy efficient.

  • Be aware of when you are productively using and unnecessarily wasting energy.
    • Beginner:
      • Turn off the lights, TV, and other appliances when not in use.
      • Keep doors and windows closed when A/C and heater is on.
      • Only use ceiling fans when you’re in the room. Fans cool people, not spaces and can actually create more heat from the fan motor.
      • Line dry clothes instead of using the dryer.
  • Assess the energy efficiency of your home to determine areas where you can improve:
  • Utilize free in home assessments and smart thermostats for NV Energy customers. 
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs when old ones go out (e.g., ENERGY STAR® bulbs use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs - 90% of the energy created from an incandescent bulb is turned to heat. LED bulbs create very little heat, which is why they’re an efficient option. Avoid CFLs, which contain mercury and need to be disposed of properly)
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when shopping for new products and appliances 
  • Seal and insulate your home. This can provide up to 10% savings on your average energy bill and can make your home more comfortable. Sealing and insulating your attic offers the best payback for insulation and is the best place to start.
  • Reduce hot water usage by taking shorter showers and/or using cold water when washing clothes when possible. Water heating is often the second largest energy expense in the home.
  • Reducing the temperature set on your thermostat in the cooler months and raising it in the warmer months can help you save on energy - especially if you are away from your home for work for 8 hours a day. 
  • For Northern Nevada households, consider installing swamp coolers (evaporative coolers) over air conditioning.
  • Learn about the water-energy nexus. Reducing energy usage saves water, and reducing your water usage saves energy. Water is used to produce energy and energy is needed to treat and deliver water to your home.

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Improving My Apartment/Condo Efficiency & Saving Energy

While renters may not be able to make drastic changes to their living spaces to improve their energy efficiency and save on energy bills, many of the simpler ideas listed in the home owners section still apply. These include:

  • Turn off the lights, TV, and other appliances when not in use
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs when old ones go out
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when shopping for new products, such as a TV
  • Reduce hot water usage by taking shorter showers and/or using cold water when washing clothes when possible
  • Reducing the temperature set on your thermostat in the cooler months and raising it in the warmer months can help you save on energy
  • Add weatherstripping to windows and doors
  • Use outlet gasket sealers.
  • Low flow water fixtures (aerators are an option for faucets instead of changing out the fixture) - washing hands with cold water - typically we’re done washing our hands before the hot water reaches the tap, but it causes your water heater to fire.
  • Only use ceiling fans when you’re in the room. Fans cool people, not spaces and can actually create more heat from the fan motor.

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Conserving Water

Widespread drought is currently affecting much of the Western U.S., and in particular, is severe in the Colorado River basin. Below are tips to help conserve our precious water supply.

  • Be water wise. Be aware of when you are productively using and unnecessarily wasting water.
    • Beginner:
    • Water only on assigned watering days and avoid over-watering.
    • Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size.
    • Turn off the faucet when not actively using the water (e.g., don’t let the water run when shaving or brushing your teeth)
  • Be aware of how much water you use on average and your usage trend. Review your water bill. One of the best places to find water usage information is on your water bill.
  • Focus on your water-use habits in the bathroom. Over half of all water use inside a home takes place in the bathroom. Try taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when shaving/brushing your  teeth, and installing low flow fixtures.
  • Consider alternatives to turfgrass/lawns that need more water.  For example, consider xeriscape options, water retentive ground cover, swapping grass for pollinator friendly and drought tolerant ground cover.
  • Locate and fix leaks. According to the EPA, the average household leaks about 10,000 gallons of water every year, and 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.
  • Choose your dishwasher over hand washing your dishes. Hand washing can cost about $1,500 more in energy and water than using a ENERGY STAR® certified dishwasher
  • Verify flow rates for water fixtures. The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992  sets a maximum allowable flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM) for bathroom faucets and 2.5 GPM for showerheads (when tested at a pressure of 60 pounds per square inch)..However, different homes and apartments may have varying water pressures. Therefore, your water fixtures may be below or above the product rating. To measure the flow rate of your faucet or showerhead, open the fixture to full pressure and collect water into a container for 10 seconds. Measure the amount of water in gallons and multiple the amount by six to determine the per-minute rate.

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Reducing My Vehicular Pollution & GHG Emissions

The transportation sector is Nevada’s leading sector of GHG emissions - gasses that are linked to climate change. Additionally, many conventional vehicles emit other pollutants that are harmful to the environment and human health. Below are tips to reduce your vehicular pollution and GHG emissions.

  • Calculate Commute
  • Try not to idle (i.e., run your engine when you’re not driving it). Idling your car unnecessarily pollutes the air and wastes fuel.  
  • Beginner: Avoid long drive-through lines. Park and turn off your car and go inside.
  • Help reduce the amount of vehicles on the road. When possible, carpool, telecommute, use public transit, bike, or walk to your destination.
  • Plan errands to reduce unnecessary trips and driving.
  • When purchasing a vehicle, evaluate for high fuel economy (miles per gallon) or consider a green vehicle - such as a flexible fuel vehicle, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicle. 
  • Maintain your car by getting regular tune-ups and following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.

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Reducing My Plastic & Packaging Waste

As many of us know, plastic waste is an important and hot topic. Plastic never decomposes, it continues to breakdown into smaller pieces and usually ends up displaced in water supplies and soils. These broken-down pieces of plastic are referred to as microplastics. Below are some tips to help you reduce your plastic and packaging waste.

  • Beginner: Pass on straws and plastic silverware at restaurants and takeout (e.g., Skip the Stuff Campaign)
  • Be aware of how much plastic you use, recycle, and throw out. Conduct a waste audit.
  • Consider dining at restaurants that actively reduce their waste and promote sustainable practices, such as the Green Dining District in Carson City.
  • Avoid buying bottled water. Get into the habit of using refillable/reusable water bottles.
  • Remember to bring reusable bags to the store. Keeping a few reusable bags in your car will help you remember to use them.
  • Replace disposable products with reusable products (e.g., replace plastic silverware and paper plates with reusable versions).  
  • Bring your own container for leftovers.
  • Reuse containers when household products are empty. Consider using a refillery service or shopping at a refillery store with your own reusable containers.

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Shopping for Products (Non-Food Items) Sustainability

Like shopping for groceries, there are environmental impacts associated with shopping for other household products. Below are tips to help you reduce your environmental footprint and shop more sustainably for products.

  • Reduce transportation impacts when shopping. Limit the number of trips to the store. Make lists and plan out what you need to avoid unnecessary trips. When shopping online, bundle purchases into fewer packages.
  • Understand what different ecolabels truly mean. Ecolabels help consumers identify products that meet specific environmental performance criteria. Ecolabels may relay information about a single lifecycle phase of a product (e.g., use) or environmental issues (e.g., GHG emissions). They may also relay information about multiple phases or issues. These labels can be managed by governmental agencies, nonprofits, or private sector entities. When you see an unfamiliar ecolabel, look it up.
  • Purchase recycled content products to support recycling markets (e.g., toilet paper, office paper, etc).
  • Consider natural cleaners and Safer Choice-Certified products to find products that contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment
  • Buy bulk to avoid packaging (while also ensuring you can use everything)

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Improving Recycling

Recycling is a key component of extending the useful life of a material and reducing waste sent to landfills. Recycling also helps conserve resources, such as water and energy. It often takes less energy and water to use recycled materials as inputs to new products than it does to extract and use new raw materials for those same products.. However, recycling only works efficiently when individuals properly recycle. Below are tips to help improve recycling efforts in your community.

  • Beginner: Ensure recyclables are empty, clean, and dry.
  • Understand what types of materials should go into your recycling bin and which should not. Check with your local service provider. Typically, items like plastic bags, shredded paper, and food-contaminated materials are not recyclable. Recycling correctly helps  reduce contamination in the recyclable material stream. If contamination rates are too high, the material may have to be disposed of rather than recycled.
  • Don’t “wish-cycle” or overly depend on recycling to be sustainable. Just because something may look recyclable, doesn’t mean it is. Remember, check with your local recycling service provider to see what is and is not allowed in your recycling bin.
  • Reduce, reuse, and rethink before you recycle.
  • Find local retail stores and recycling centers that have a collection program for harder to recycle materials and materials not collected curbside (e.g., batteries, electronics, plastic film and bags, etc.) 

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Wasting Less (Other Household Items)

Our current economy is mainly based on the “take-make-waste” model. In other words, we take raw materials from the earth, process those materials into products, and then throw away those products once finished with them. One way to change this mindset is to minimize the amount of waste you produce by changing your consumption habits. Another way is to change how you manage items when you no longer have use for them (e.g., donating or gifting versus throwing away). Below are tips to help you waste less.  

  • Reduce your paper waste by stopping unwanted mail and going paperless where possible
  • Reduce wasting textiles, appliances, and other similar household items, by donating, selling, sharing, or gifting them when you no longer need them.
  • Share with your friends or borrow items that you do not use regularly. 
  • Utilize fix-it clinics and repair opportunities to increase the lifespan of your electronics, small appliances, clothing, and other similar household items
  • Consider buying secondhand items instead of new items.

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