Damaging floods, historic wild fires in the West and the steady flow of news about global warming might cause some people sleepless nights, many laying awake wondering: What can I do to make a difference? Turns out, there are some pretty painless steps every cook can take to shrink their carbon footprint and keep trash out of the landfill. Here are some simple ways to be more earth friendly:

1. Stop Sucking

That's the mantra of The Lonely Whale Foundation, which is on a mission to raise awareness about the tons of plastic straws that are tossed in the garbage, eventually ending up in the ocean. Obviously, that's not good for sea creatures. A campaign to go Strawless in Seattle has been popular, with restaurateurs and sports stadiums getting on board, so HOORAY! Lonely Whale Foundation co-founder and dynamic spokesperson Adrian Grenier is determined to take this movement nationwide. So, come on, everybody: Stop Sucking.

Pineapple Creamsicle Smoothie
Photo by lutzflcat

Alternatives: Start the day with a Smoothie Bowl

2. Buy Bulk

Not only do you save money when shopping the bulk section -- now available in most supermarkets -- but it's an easy way to skip the packaging. Celebrate this good-for-Mother-Earth gesture by making a big batch of granola. Share some with your family and friends and let them know just how easy it is to go bulk.

Photo by Nicole Spiridakis

3. Eat More Beans

I think we can all agree that there's nothing quite like a steamy bowl of homemade chili. What makes it extra satisfying is knowing that beans and legumes are one of the most sustainable ingredients on the planet. They're protein packed, nutritional powerhouses. They taste amazing. And -- earth-hugging bonus -- growing them actually adds nutrients back into the soil. Bravo, beans!

Casablanca Chili
Photo by lutzflcat

More: Check out more than 2,000 Bean Recipes.

4. Make Ocean Friendly Seafood Choices

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch makes it so easy for cooks to figure out what fish are best to buy, based on what populations are being responsibly harvested and not over-fished, and what's not so hot. Wild Alaskan salmon is on the Best Choices list, while farmed salmon should be avoided.

650 x 465 wild salmon photo by Leslie Kelly
Wild salmon at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Photo by Leslie Kelly

More: Check out more than 500 Salmon Recipes.

5. Try Tea Towels

Instead of reaching for paper towels, consider the cloth alternative. This is another two-fer, saving money and creating less waste. It's a hard habit to break, but keep track of how much less you spend on paper products and reward yourself with a trip to the local farm stand. Because once you go down the tea towel path, you'll realize it's easier than you imagined.

tea towels at sur la table photo by Leslie Kelly
Photo by Leslie Kelly

Looking for more ways to beef up your Earth-Friendly status: