With all the buzz about eco-friendly or green living these days, you may have decided that it’s time to make some changes in your life. Perhaps you or a loved one has recently experienced some health issues that have not been alleviated through modern medicine. Or maybe, after years of living in our consumer-crazy culture, you’ve become more aware of how some careless corporate practices have dominated nearly every aspect of your life—and you seek to liberate yourself from the damage these entities have caused.

Then again, maybe you just truly seek to make this world safer, cleaner, and healthier for your children and grandchildren. Whatever the reason, go for it—the world needs more people like you!

But, where should you begin? There is so much you could do that making the necessary changes can seem overwhelming at first. The important thing to remember is that taking the first step is the beginning of any meaningful journey in life. Start small, and the rest will snowball from there.

Here are five green upgrades you can make right now to help get you started on a path towards a greener lifestyle.

1. Eat Organic

If you’re ready to adopt a green lifestyle, your diet is one of the first places to consider making upgrades. Switching to all, or mostly, organic food not only guarantees that you are eating a cleaner, more nourishing diet, but also shapes the future of the food industry by taking a powerful stand against the GMO ingredients that are ruining our food supply. As food activist Michael Pollan has said, we vote with our forks. In addition to being free of GMO’s, certified organic foods are also free of dangerous pesticides, many of which are known to have carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, and immune suppressing properties.

Fortunately, there are many organic foods available these days at natural food stores, farmer’s markets, and even your local supermarket.

Have a green thumb? Perhaps the best way to ensure your food is truly of the highest quality is to grow your own food in line with established organic growing standards.

2. Plant Trees in Your Garden

If you are looking for a relatively simple way to help improve the beauty and functioning of your yard or garden, planting a few trees serves both of those purposes. Trees are low maintenance plants that offer many benefits in return.

One of the most important benefits of trees comes from their ability to convert carbon dioxide into clean, fresh oxygen. Trees also help to provide shade for those crops that only need partial sunlight throughout the heat of the day. Additionally, trees provide stable root systems to better secure soil against wind and water erosion.

Another overlooked value trees provide arises from the fact that certain trees possess very potent healing properties. Roots, leaves, and even the wood of some species have been used for centuries in a variety of natural healing modalities, like herbalism or aromatherapy. Just be sure to do your research before concocting and/or ingesting anything—some trees and plants are poisonous, or can cause irritation when applied to the skin.

3. Try Herbs Instead of Pharmaceuticals

This is especially true for minor health conditions, where herbs have long been a natural alternative to many common over-the-counter, chemical-based drugs. For example, ginger will soothe an upset stomach, eucalyptus is helpful for colds and respiratory ailments, and white willow bark is a safer option than common aspirin (and easier on your stomach).
Plus, herbs tend to be free of the many unwanted side effects caused by modern medicines.

Here is another perk: herbs are far easier on our water supply than toxic pharmaceuticals, which often have a way making it into community drinking water. Would you like some anti-histamines to go with that tea you’re making? I didn’t think so.

4. Go Solar

Part of understanding the green way of life centers around learning the value of preserving the environment. According to Solar City, solar energy is a much cleaner, environmentally-friendly energy option than the traditional method of producing electricity from the burning of fossil fuels. By adding solar panels to your home, you help to cut back on the toxic greenhouse gas emissions being produced that harm the environment and contribute to climate change. Solar electricity is clean, prevents the depletion of resources such as natural gas and oil, and eliminates the dangers that come from harvesting these resources, like fracking and drilling.

In essence, solar energy is both abundant and free, and can work nearly anywhere, even on cloudy days.

At the rate the sun is burning fuel, it will supply energy for billions of years to come. At the rate humans are depleting fossil fuels, the earth will run out of these resources far, far sooner.

5. Reusing Garbage

A lot of what you might be discarding as trash may actually be worth keeping around. According to this article, many items we discard prove to have other useful properties and functions. An old bottle, for example, might serve as a nice vase, while cleaning windows with old newspapers helps to cut down on other paper product waste. Looking at your garbage in a new light will certainly benefit the environment—and possibly your wallet.

Green living, in many ways, brings us back to a more simple way of life. It’s a lifestyle that allows us to use what is most logically available to us, and to become more in tune with our bodies, our minds, our eco-systems, and our communities. In reducing the unmitigated waste in our current lives, we can truly preserve our surroundings for many, many generations to come.