For me, living a sustainable lifestyle is all about the big and small choices I make every day that contribute to a healthier environment. These choices voice my opinion on climate change, food, health, waste, consumerism, and many other issues we care about. Below is a list of 15 small changes you can make in your home to start living more sustainably. These easy tips help you save water, energy, reduce your waste, and drastically reduce your footprint!
- Keep a Bucket in the Shower
I keep a re-purposed 2.5-gallon bucket in the shower. It’s the perfect size to collect cold water from my shower before it comes out nice and hot. Since I don’t have a garden I use that water to flush the toilet, but you can use it for anything. It’s really easy to reuse for the toilet, you just dump it in and it flushes. It not only helps me save 2.5 gallons every time I showe but also helps me save one flush, which depending on your toilet, can use up to 2 gallons of water. In a 4 person household you can save up to 126 gallons (477 Liters) of our most precious resource per week.
- Wash Full Loads
A washing machine will use the same amount of water and energy depending on the setting, not how much clothing you put in there. You can maximize the water and energy you use by washing full loads. I wait until I have a full load or ask around the house if anyone needs to wash.
- Invest in a Drying Rack
In most countries around the world people don’t generally use dryers, clothes are dried outside saving a lot of energy. Sure, dryers are extremely convenient, especially if you don’t have an outdoor space, but they are as wasteful as they are convenient. Invest in a drying rack, or hang up a line and save energy! You can do this with all your laundry, or a part of it and still save energy.
- Make Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping Lists
Food waste is a serious problem in the US and many other first world nations. Be a part of the solution by stopping this waste at home. By making meal plans and shopping lists you only buy what you’ll use. Buy only what you’ll think you’ll need and never buy too much produce only because it’s on sale. If you’re just not into making lists and meal planning, buy versatile ingredients that compliment each other. It also helps to go grocery shopping only when you’re out, that way you always use everything up.
- Use a Power Strip
Appliances and electronics consume energy even when they’re not in use, accounting from 5-10 percent of your total energy consumption. Unplug appliances when they’re not in use, and to make it easier use a power strip that only requires the switch of a button. I have my laptop, TV, and Roku player plugged into a power strip that I turn off when I’m not using.
- Unsubscribe from Catalogues
Save trees, water, and fossil fuels simply by unsubscribing from home catalogues. It took me 30 minutes to sit down and unsubscribe from all the catalogues that I received on a monthly basis at home. I not only did it because I wanted to save paper, I didn’t want unnecessary consumerist marketing delivered to my door. I simply emailed the customer service department a simple, to-the-point message. Worked very well!
- Use Dish Towels
Cut down on your paper towel use by switching to reusables! You can invest in quality, beautiful towels or cut and reuse old bath towels and t-shirts. Yes you do have to wash them, but you can wash them along with other laundry, washing full loads.
- Clean Naturally
Conventional cleaning products contain non biodegradable chemicals, test on animals, and pollute our water. Switch to all natural cleaners! You can ease the transition by buying all natural cleaners or commit to sustainability by cleaning with two basic ingredients, baking soda and vinegar! Zero Waste Chef wrote a great article on this that you can read here.
- Buy Recycled Toilet Paper
Although there are alternatives to TP, not everyone is willing to cut it out of their lives, but everyone can buy post consumer recycled paper!
- Freeze Food
I freeze food all the time. Especially fruit that I think is going to go bad before I’ll get to it. I then use the frozen fruit in smoothies. For years my mom has been making pinto beans every couple of weeks and freezing until we use them, lowering energy use. You can freeze food in Tupperware, glass jars (as long as you leave room) and Pyrex containers. But make sure to actually use it and not just fill up your freezer!
Okay, this is obvious, but I have been to many homes that don’t have a recycle bin. This is a great way to start! Also, many homes limit their recycling to plastic bottles and cans but in reality there is so much more that can be recycled. Contact your local waste hauler for a list of recyclables in your area.
- Line Trash Bin with Newspaper
Plastic bags aren’t necessary. You can reuse old newspapers to line your bin. Treading My Own Path has a great tutorial you can read here. If that’s just not for you, reuse all bags as trash bags, this includes bread bags, cereal bags, and produce bags.
- Reuse Jars
I have a lot of jars, but with the exception of one or two, all have been pre-used. I have jars I bought second hand at thrift shops and many jars that came with tomato sauce, mayonnaise, jams, and other foods. Jars are great for drinking smoothies, canning, storing bulk foods, freezing, and using as glasses. To remove the labels you can soak the jars in hot water for 15-30 minutes, remove the label, and remove any left over glue with any type of cooking oil.
- Compost Food Scraps
Composting can seem overwhelming at first, but once you learn the basics it becomes very easy. As long as you’re only using organic ingredients there’s basically no wrong way of composting, because it will all eventually break down! But there are certain methods to control the smell, the bugs, and the speed at which your food turns into compost. If you have a yard, starting a compost can be really easy, but there are also options for those living in small quarters with little to no outdoor space. You can have a regular compost or a worm bin, buy a bin, or make your own. A simple google search will result in lots of info, here’s a start. Why compost? Food waste that is sent to the landfill not only consumes a lot of energy to get there, it takes up lots of space, and it breaks down anaerobically, producing methane, a harmful green house much worse than carbon dioxide!
- Buy Local and Seasonal
The best way to do this is by shopping at the local farmer’s market or signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture). Sure, organic and local food tend to have a higher price point, especially considering how cheap processed and unhealthy food is, but it’s totally worth it. You can offset the costs by buying less meat, more veggies, and you’ll be saving a lot of money by no longer wasting food! What good does 99 cent/pound chicken do if half of it will end up in the trash? I’d much rather spend $40 a week on sustainable healthy vegetables than unhealthy, packaged, junk.
This is just a start to living a lower footprint lifestyle and helping the world be a better place. I’d love to hear yours, what are your green living tips?