If you are interested in making some eco-friendly changes in your life but don’t want to pay the premium, read on. Here are 10 easy eco-friendly changes you can make in your regular routine. Some of these changes you can implement by using things you probably already have around your home.
1. Use up what you have before buying more
Spring brings the desire for fresh starts; that’s why so many of us spend time “spring cleaning” every year. This spring, pull out what you have hiding under your sinks and in your drawers. How many of us have multiple bottles of the same cleaning product or half empty bottles of different lotions and other personal hygiene products? Probably most of us.
While purging our homes and lives of this excess clutter may give us that instant gratification we so desire, aim to use up everything you pulled out. Some things will take a couple days or weeks to finish while others may take several months. When you’ve used up what you have and are ready for a replacement, opt for a more eco-friendly alternative. This is also the most cost efficient way to start switching to eco-friendly products since you’re buying new products as needed rather than buying everything all at one time.
2. Kick the reusable wipes and use old tee shirts or towels for cleaning
Cleaning wipes are convenient but they are made of synthetic materials that are harmful to the environment and wildlife. They also take years to break down, if at all, depending on the material. We use them for a couple minutes but they exist for generations. You can achieve the same results by using a disinfectant spray and a reusable cloth whether it’s a wash cloth, an old tee shirt or towel that you’ve cut into rags. When you are done, just toss them in the washer with your other towels. This also saves you money on paper towels!
3. Reduce carbon emissions from shipping by buying locally
“The 15 largest container ships or bulk carriers out there will emit the same amount of heavy carbon emissions or sulfur emissions as every single car in the world combined.” – Danielle Doggett, of Sailcargo
When we buy goods from local businesses and produce or other groceries from our farmers markets, we help reduce emissions created from cargo ships, planes, and delivery trucks transporting products. Not only is that great for the environment, but it also means you are investing your dollars back into your community; thus supporting local economic growth and local jobs. Many local vendors at the farmers market are even offering online orders for curbside pickup to make it just as convenient as going to the grocery store.
When you can’t find what you need locally and have to make purchases outside your community, try to support eco-conscious companies that work to support their communities and provide ethically made goods from ethically sourced materials. An easy way to identify these businesses is to look for the “1% for the Planet”, “Certified B-corp”, or “Fair Trade” badges on their websites.
4. Skip the plastic. Use reusable bags or boxes – even through this pandemic
When shopping for produce, skip the plastic produce bags. These little plastic bags hold our food for the short amount of time it takes us to shop and drive our goods home but will live in a landfill forever. We wash our produce before consumption anyways, so skipping the step of bagging them can make a big difference!
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to use our reusable bags as most grocers are banning them or asking that they stay in your cart, away from the counter. A simple fix is to ask for your groceries to be placed back into your cart after checkout so you can bag them yourself when you get to your car.
For impromptu shopping, keep an extra bag in your car, purse or backpack so you are always ready. Or, if it’s just a few items, skip the bag and carry them.
Pro tip: Save time by skipping bagging your groceries and just use a couple laundry baskets or boxes to place your goods in. This makes carrying them into your home, disinfecting and putting them away much quicker too!
5. Use your food scraps!
Keep a container in the freezer of all your food scraps such as carrot tops, celery stalks/leaves, onion/garlic peels, bell pepper stems, broccoli stems, chicken bones or scraps, etc. When your container gets full, place the scraps in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least an hour. Once you strain out the scraps, you’re left with a delicious broth that can be used for soups and sauces or in place of water when cooking things like rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, etc.
6. Reuse materials around your home
We are living in the DIY era and there is no shortage of blogs, social media posts and articles on how to reuse common items found around your home. A large tomato sauce jar can become a new home for a plant, empty salsa or sauce jars can be used to store leftovers or portioned grab n’ go snacks!
Last year I sent a friend of mine a linen bedsheet that was too small for our bed. She hand-dyed them with plants and sewed them into the most darling reusable bags that I’ll cherish for years to come.
So before you throw it out or donate it, get creative and discover news ways to extend its life!
Recycling is one of the best things you can do to preserve and get the most out of our resources. In America, only 9% of plastic gets recycled. That means over 90% of the plastic we use, whether it’s shopping bags, food packaging or household items like shampoo/conditioner bottles, ends up in landfills, our waterways, the ocean or even worse: back into the food and water we consume.
Properly recycling plastic, cardboard, shopping bags, cans, etc. protects our environment, food/water sources and wildlife. It saves on energy and other resources required to make new products with virgin plastic and paper materials as well.
8. Conserve water and electricity
With so many of us working from home right now, we can all save a little extra on utilities by reducing our water, gas and electricity usage where we can. Some simple cuts are shutting the water off while washing our hands or brushing our teeth, limiting showers to 10 minutes, turning off lights, televisions or stereos when we aren’t in the room, hand washing dishes or waiting to run the dishwasher until it’s full and washing clothes with cold water (which also prolongs the fabric life).
9. Switch to reusable water bottles
Did you know that 1,500 plastic water bottles are used per second in the US? That’s 90,000 bottles per minute, 5.4 million per hour, 129.6 million per day, and nearly 50 billion per year!
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce that number is to refill your own water bottle. Whether it’s a Klean Kanteen, HydroFlask, a mason jar, or just a plastic bottle you may have previously purchased or acquired, you are doing your part.
10. Plant trees by surfing the web
Yep. You read that correctly and it truly is that simple. Ecosia is a Certified B-Corp company that has built a web browser just like Google, FireFox, and Safari but they use their profits to plant trees worldwide, where they are needed most. To date, web searches made by Ecosia users have funded the planting of more than 91 million trees!
All you have to do is download the Ecosia web browser or extension on your device and use the internet as usual. It even keeps a tally for you so you can see how many trees you’ve helped plant by using their browser!
Want to learn more about how you can reduce waste or are you interested in switching to a low impact or zero waste lifestyle? Find more tips from some of the leaders in the low impact and zero waste movements!
Litterless – a guide to making simple eco-friendly swaps and finding plastic free shops near you
Green Dreamer – a podcast on sustainability, hosted and produced by eco-journalist Kamea Chayne
Max La Manna – a guide to zero waste cooking and a plethora of delicious, simple recipes from Zero Waste Chef, Max La Manna