Small Changes. Big Impact.

Small Changes. Big Impact.
Listen to the audio of this post here:

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on December 27, 2021.

Hellooo, friend
! I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend and you’re staying warm and safe wherever you’re reading from today.

At the beginning of this year, we introduced a new mini-series of blog posts - Small Change, Big Impact.

The last post of every month, we focused on just one smaaaaaall thing we can do in our everyday lives that actually has a pretty big impact for our planet, especially when we consider the impact we have as a collective.

We covered 11 different ways to reduce our footprint, and to wrap up this little mini-series of ours, I wanted to take a little journey back through each of them and see just how big of an impact we could really have if we made these changes for just one month.

So grab a peppermint mocha, your coziest of blankets, and let’s do this thing.

Unsubscribe from Emails

In January, we covered what was probably my favorite change of all - unsubscribing from unwanted emails.

For the typical email user, one year of email produces about 135kg of carbon dioxide. That’s about the same as driving 200 miles in an average car 😳 Just from our emails!

And interestingly, most of that energy comes from opening, reading, and deleting the emails - not much is from the actual sending of the emails.

Since your inbox probably looks very different from mine, it’s more difficult to determine energy saved per email, so let’s say we can cut back our emails by 10% - by unsubscribing from unwanted promotional emails, avoiding sending emails that just say “thanks”, and not cc’ing our entire department on an email just in case, in one month, we’ll save 13.5kg of carbon dioxide - or the equivalent of not driving 20 miles.

Switch to a Low-Flow Shower Head

In February, we flipped the script on the “5 minute shower” idea, because, really, who can actually take a full shower in five minutes??

Instead, switching to an EPA-approved low-flow shower head can save the average family about 2,700 gallons of water and 330 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity every year.

That’s the same amount of emissions as driving 588 miles!

By making the switch to a low-flow shower head, in one month, we’ll save 225 gallons of water and 27.5 kWh of electricity - the equivalent of not driving 49 miles in an average car.

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Wash Your Laundry on Cold

In March, we dug into three reasons we should wash our laundry on cold, and found that if we wash just one load of laundry each week on the cold setting, we can save as many greenhouse gases as not driving 77 miles - just from one load. 

Over the course of one month, with just one load of laundry a week on cold, we’ll each basically take a car off the road for a full 308 miles. 

Hang Dry Your Laundry

In April, keeping with the laundry theme, we moved over to the dryer, and found that an average clothes dryer uses about 2.79 kilowatts of electricity per hour.

These emissions are about the same as driving five miles in an average car, and if the average family runs their dryer about six hours every week, that means that in one week, each dryer is creating the same emissions as driving about 30 miles.

Over the course of a month, if we instead choose to hang dry our laundry, we’ll save the same emissions as not driving 120 miles.

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Use Your Dishwasher

In May, we moved into the kitchen with three reasons we should use our dishwashers instead of washing by hand.

Personally, I was shocked to discover that washing dishes by hand just every other day uses creates about 1,601 pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of driving 1,826 miles in one year.

But using an Energy Star certified dishwasher cuts those numbers down to just 422 pounds of carbon dioxide, or 481 miles of driving.

That means in just one month, washing dishes every other day in our dishwasher rather than by hand, we’ll cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 98.25 pounds of carbon, or essentially take a car off the road for 112 miles.

Turn off Heated Dry

In June, keeping with the dishwasher theme, we took an even closer look at how we can use our dishwashers most efficiently, and found that turning off heated dry will save a full 11% of emissions associated with washing your dishes.

Over the course of the dishwasher’s ten-year average lifetime, that’s about 800 miles not driven, meaning in just one month, by turning off the heated dry function, we’ll save the same emissions as not driving 6.7 miles!

So let’s pause for a second. Halfway through 2021’s Small Change, Big Impact and by making these changes for just one month, we’ve basically avoided driving 615.7 miles. That’s like not taking a road trip from Denver to Kansas City. And we’re only halfway through the year…

Skip Preheating the Oven

Moving forward… In July, we moved from the dishwasher to the oven, and asked if preheating our oven is really necessary.

Overall, the answer was no, it’s not necessary to preheat the oven.

There were some exceptions, especially with baking, but for the most part, it’s just not a requirement.

One study even showed that not preheating could save up to 10% of the energy used for cooking and baking. In one month, this adds up to about 6.5 miles not driven.

Drive 10 Miles Less

In August, we took a more direct approach with our emissions and asked what driving 10 miles less would mean for the planet.

This question brought us to one of my favorite findings of the year - if everyone that read that email when it was originally sent intentionally drove 10 miles less that week, it would have been like taking 1.5 cars off the road for an entire year - just from one group of EcoWarriors driving 10 miles less over the course of seven days. 

Individually, each person driving 10 miles less each week for one month would be the same as taking 0.0035 cars off the road for a full year.

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In September, we tackled a pretty big topic - what would the impact of eating one less pound of meat be?

The numbers were striking, and we found that by swapping just one pound of beef for one pound of chicken, we can save 1,329 gallons of water (the same as showering for 12 hours and 20 minutes straight) and 198 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (the same as not driving 226 miles) - just from swapping chicken for beef once.

Then, if we swap that chicken for beans, just once, we’d save another 512 gallons of water (the same as showering for four hours and 45 minutes) and another 47.3 pounds of greenhouse gases (the same as not driving 54 miles).

And if we go all-in and swap one pound of beef for one pound of beans one time, we’d save 1,846 gallons of water (the same as showering for 2 days and 7 hours straight), and 245.3 pounds of greenhouse gases (the same as not driving 280 miles).

Over the course of a month, if we swapped a pound of beef with a pound of chicken each week, we’d essentially avoiding driving 904 miles.

By swapping that chicken for beans, we’d avoid another 216 miles.

And by swapping that pound of beef with a pound of beans, we’d avoid a whopping 1,120 miles 🤯🤯🤯

Unplug Your Electronics When Not in Use

In October, we embraced the spooky season, wondering how much of an impact phantom energy really has - aka the energy consumed by electronics not actually in use.

Shockingly, we discovered that a fully-charged cell phone that’s still plugged into the charger is still drawing about 60% of the power it did while it was actively charging.

A laptop in the same scenario is pulling a full 66% of the energy it did while it was charging.

And even if your phone and your laptop aren’t plugged into their chargers anymore, if those chargers are still plugged into the wall, those chargers are still pulling energy.

By unplugging our phone charger and laptop charger when they’re no longer serving their purpose, over the course of one month, we can save the same amount of emissions as if we didn’t drive 5.59 miles. 

Turn Down Your Thermostat

Wrapping up our Small Change, Big Impact mini-series, in November we took a look at our thermostats and how much we can save by adjusting the temp in our homes.

While we weren’t able to find equivalencies to driving for this change, we did find that by adjusting our thermostats somewhere around 7°-10°F for eight hours a day, we can actually save about 10% on our energy bills.

I don’t know how many miles that is, but I do know that’s not an insignificant amount!

So here we are, at the end of the 2021, and these numbers don’t lie. If we made these changes for one month, we’d each save about 1,591 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to about 1,787 miles not driven.

That’s like not driving from Cleveland to Salt Lake City. In one month.

And if you’re visually-inclined and maybe a bit of a data nerd like I am, here’s a little chart that breaks it all down for ya 😁


Emissions Saved

Miles Avoided

Water Saved

Unsubscribe from unwanted emails

29.8 lbs CO2

20 miles

Switch to a low-flow shower head

43 lbs CO2

49 miles

225 gallons

Wash laundry on cold

282 lbs CO2

308 miles

Hang dry laundry

105 lbs CO2

120 miles

Use a dishwasher

98.25 lbs CO2

112 miles

225 gallons

Turn off heated dry

5.9 lbs CO2

6.7 miles

Don’t preheat the oven

5.6 lbs CO2

6.5 miles

Drive 10 miles less

35.5 lbs CO2

40 miles

Swap one pound of beef with one pound of beans

981.2 lbs CO2

1,120 miles

7,364 gallons

Unplug phone and laptop chargers when not in use

4.9 lbs CO2

5.6 miles

Adjust thermostat ~7°-10°F for eight hours a day



1,591+ lbs CO2

1,787+ miles

7,814 gallons


Have you made some of these changes this year??? I’d love to hear how they’ve gone for you!

And just like that…2021 is coming to a close. I’ll be mostly hibernating this week but we’ve got big things coming in the new year that I’m so excited about and can’t wait to share with you.

I hope you have a wonderful week and get some R&R. Put work on the backburner, turn on that out of office auto-responder, and enjoy the season. I’ll see you in the new year 💙

P.S. I want to hear from YOU. We’re heading into a whole new year. What would YOU like to see us cover in 2022? Comment below and lemme know what you wanna know!


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