The current state of our planet and its environment is growing worse every day. The unfortunate truth is that us humans are to blame. There’s still time to change, though. We can each do our part by being more aware of our habits and consumption. Finding ways to be more sustainable in our every day life is a great place to start.
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What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability has two definitions:
1) the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
2) Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
These go hand in hand. Basically the entire premise of sustainability is to act Earth-consciously in ways that can be upheld throughout time without ruining the planet. Learn more about what sustainability is right here.
I researched simple ways to be more sustainable, and wanted to share them with you. These are easy changes that everyone can make with a little self-awareness and will power.
If you want more drastic lifestyle change suggestion, I applaud you! And you’ll also need to find a more in-depth resource than this one. Anyway, here are 61 ways to be more sustainable!
61 Ways To Be More Sustainable
In the Kitchen
1. Compost perishable food scraps
If you don’t have room or a need for compost, find a wooded area to scatter your fruit and veggie scraps – the local critters will love you. This also cuts back on putting perishable scraps in landfills.
2. Learn how to properly store groceries
3. Store onions in pantyhose to make them last longer
Intrigued? Check out why and how in this article.
4. Save your egg shells for birds
Many different bird species eat crushed eggshells. They provide calcium to nesting females and are used as grit in the food-digesting process in the gizzards of seed- and insect-eating birds. Follow these instructions to make them safe before placing them outside in your yard.
5. Leave oven open after using to warm air temperature
6. Get a reusable coffee filter
If you’re a coffee drinker, make your morning cup of joe more green by purchasing a reusable coffee filter instead of throwing one out every morning. The CoffeeSock is made out of certified organic cotton, can last for over a year, and is compostable.
7. Get reusable Keurig pods
I used to be a Keurig die-hard. Then I realized: 1. how wasteful they are and 2. how bad they taste compared to fresh grounds. To solve both of those problems, I got some reusable coffee pods that I could use my own ground coffee in. Here are some to try – make sure whatever kind you buy is compatible with the Keurig model brewer you have.
8. Keep a clean to-go coffee cup in your car for when you can’t make coffee at home
9. Re-purpose empty glass jars
While a handy-man family friend was giving me the tour of his house, I realized he was a genius. He stores all of his nuts, bolts, screws, nails, and other small parts in old glass jars hanging from the ceiling. He screwed in the jars to the wooden rafters, and then keeps his parts in see-through jars that just screw in to the top. SO COOL. Ever since then, I’ve been determined to find other clever ways to reuse old jars. Other ideas include storing office supplies, using as a soap dispenser, making your own candles, etc. Read more ideas here.
10. Save empty plastic containers to start seedlings or to store leftovers
11. Save veggie or meat scraps to make your own broth
12. Eat seasonal whole foods
Eating seasonal produce is beneficial to the environment in many ways. Eating whole foods means you’re fueling your body with more natural food. Additionally, it cuts back on packaging waste and carbon footprints of food factories. Eating whole food goes hand in hand with eating seasonal. Find out what produce is in season near you here.
13. Buy local produce
Buying local is better for you and the environment. Make it easier on yourself by finding a local CSA to buy into. Buying local also means you’re buying seasonal.
14. Make your own ice
15. When replacing kitchen utensils, purchase bamboo or silicone, not plastic
Around the house
16. Replace burnt out light bulbs with LED bulbs
LED light bulbs last longer and use less energy than regular incandescent light bulbs. Another popular energy and money-saving option are compact fluorescent bulbs (or CFLs). Read this article to decide which option is better for you.
17. Sign up for PaperKarma to eliminate junk mail
PaperKarma is an awesome app that will take you off of pesky junk mail lists from credit card companies, insurance companies, and more. You enter your address, take a picture of the mail you don’t want to receive any more, and PaperKarma does the rest. It’s only $1.99 a month – sign up here.
18. Opt for electronic notices (bank statements, bills, etc)
19. Use double sided printing
Regular printers have a double-sided printing feature! I didn’t know about it until just recently. If you don’t know how to use it on your printer, google your printer brand/model and double-sided printing to find out how.
20. Save gift bags and boxes to reuse
21. Use newspaper or brown paper bags to wrap gifts instead of buying wrapping paper
22. Weatherproof your windows and doors
Nothing lets warm or cold air out of the house like leaky windows and not properly sealed doors. Weatherstripping and air sealing are two relatively inexpensive ways to keep your house using energy efficiently. Hint – this will also save you money on fuel costs!
23. Use thick curtains
Thick (or any) curtains are another great defense against letting cold air get in via windows during the winter. This is an easy way to help your house heat efficiently in addition to keeping your privacy.
24. Fix broken appliances instead of automatically buying new ones
25. Get a programmable thermostat
Smart thermostats are the way to go. Basically, you set temperatures for different times of the day, so you’re only using as much heating fuel as needed. Not home during the day? Set your thermostat to automatically turn down when you leave in the morning and turn up a little before you usually get home.
26. Ask your electricity company if you can switch to green energy
Honestly, I’d never heard of this until doing research for this article. Apparently, some electricity companies allow you to switch your supply to green energy for free by request. The company that supplies my house charges $7.50 extra per month. Check with your electricity utility to see what their policy is!
27. Use bar soap instead of liquid soap
Bar soap cuts down on plastic consumption and waste.
28. Use shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoo
I only recently heard of shampoo bars, and will be trying some out after my current hair product runs out. Check out this guide on the pros and cons of shampoo bars and how to choose one that works for you.
29. Try going makeup free for 1 week a month (or 2 days per week)
Personally, I don’t wear makeup. But I know a lot of women do, so this is for you. Makeup comes in a lot of packaging. You need tools to apply it, which come in packaging and need cleaning and replacing, and you need wipes or cloth to get it off every night. That’s a lot of plastic waste. Challenge yourself to cut back on both how often you wear makeup and how much makeup you wear.
30. Use reusable cloths for makeup removal
31. Try reusable pads/menstrual cups
Tampons are terrible for both you and the earth. If you want to find out more about reusable period products, read this article.
32. Use bamboo toothbrushes
There’s some debate out there on if bamboo toothbrushes are actually more sustainable than plastic. They still have plastic bristles, come in packaging, etc. Read this article for more info and do your own research before deciding.
33. Collect your shower water while it’s warming up with a bucket (use for plants, animals, or other needs)
34. Re-use bath towels
I switch out my bath towel every week, which I thought (and still do think) was normal. One day at work, the topic of how often we shower and change out bath towels came up (don’t ask me how). The majority of my coworkers said they shower every day and use a new towel each time. I was shocked. Honestly, it’s a waste to wash your towels after one use. Not only are you using more water, electricity, and detergent to wash them, but you’re wearing down the fibers in your towels faster.
35. Take shorter showers
36. Bring along reusable grocery bags
You can get these at almost any grocery store for one or two dollars each.
37. Get reusable produce bags
Ditch those thin, pesky, plastic produce bags you get at the store. Bring your own to cut back on plastic consumption and keep your veggies fresher at home. Browse here.
38. Buy in bulk when possible
The caveat here is that you should not buy in bulk if the product is still packaged individually. The major advantages of buying in bulk are reducing waste from packaging and saving money. You will save money whether the bulk items are packaged individually or not, so avoid individually wrapped items combined into a bigger package.
39. Bring your own containers to buy in bulk
For grains, seeds, and spices that are sold by weight in the bulk department, bring your own containers to store what you’re purchasing. Every store has their own policy on whether personal containers are allowed, so ask before you try. You’ll need to weigh your containers before you fill them up so you can tare the scale.
40. Buy beer in growlers instead of cans/bottles
When possible, buy beer or kombucha in reusable growlers instead of cans or bottles.
41. Shop at thrift stores
42. For new clothes – pay more for higher quality clothes instead of cheap, fast fashion
43. Borrow books from the library or buy secondhand
Libraries are free and sustainable? Sign me up! Thrift Books is a great place to buy used books for cheap.
44. Make homemade cleaners
Making homemade cleaners help keep harsh chemicals out of your home. I’ve personally never tried any, but as soon as my current solutions run out, I plan on making my own. Check out this article with 8 homemade cleaner “recipes.”
45. Use plant based sponges
Those disposable sponges we use to scrub dishes and wash the bathroom are terrible for the environment because they’re made of plastic polymers. Twist sponges are plant-based biodegradable sponges – a much better alternative!
46. Wash clothes in cold water
47. Use your electronics until they die
Think twice before automatically buying the newest smartphone. Do you really need it? Does your current (input relevant electronic device) still work properly?
48. Get a solar charger for your electronic devices
49. Get a “smart” power strip
Smart power strips cut power to outlets that have devices plugged in while they’re not being used. Wifi and voice controlled power strips are common now (super fancy). Find out more about them in this article.
50. Use rechargeable batteries
Get yourself a set of rechargeable batteries! Never find yourself out of batteries again.
51. Keep a portable set of cutlery at work or in your car to eliminate the need for plastic forks, spoons, knives
Something like this set would be easy to keep in your car for a moment’s notice. One-use plastic cutlery has a short-lived lifespan and is incredibly wasteful. If you do end up using them, keep them to wash and reuse in the future.
52. Carry around a reusable water bottle
Stainless steel reusable is preferable to plastic reusable bottles, although anything is better than single-use plastic bottles! This is a very easy way to be more sustainable.
53. Avoid straws
Avoid one-use straws at all costs. If you need a straw, bring your own. Check out these reusable straws. Like the water bottles, stainless steel is preferable to plastic, but anything is better than single-use.
54. Avoid styrofoam
55. Donate old clothes and other items instead of just throwing out
56. Opt for e-tickets or emailed receipts instead of paper
57. Pick up after yourself
Apart from being good for the environment, picking up your own trash is common courtesy.
58. Grow your own herbs
I know that whenever I buy herbs, the bundles they come in are way too much, and I end up wasting what I don’t use. Growing your own herbs eliminates waste, can save you money, and they’ll be the freshest herbs you can get. If you don’t have room to grow a garden outside, try an herb container in your kitchen or living room. This one includes basil, cilantro, oregano, and rosemary.
59. Start your own vegetable garden
If you’ve never grown your own vegetables, I suggest finding some books at your local library to get you started. Pinterest is also a great place to find free resources.
60. Plant native plants
Native plants require much less resources than non-native, take less work to maintain, and helps local wildlife. Read this article to find out more about why native plants are important.
61. Scale back how much grass is in your yard
Regular old green grass is not native to North America. Americans use an incredible amount of resources every year to keep their grass green and healthy, just to use more resources to cut it short. There are many more sustainable alternatives to grass, which you can read about here.