The older I get, the more important living more sustainably has become to me. After I started switching out my skincare and beauty products for clean ones, this felt like a natural next step for me and my family. We’re no where near perfect and I know we’re not the most eco friendly people out there and there’s a lot more we could be doing better, but we’re making progress.
You don’t have to be a tree-hugging hippie to be more sustainable either. But, if you are—that’s cool too! I think I’m starting to lean further that way as I get older, haha! What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you can make small, simple switches here and there to make a difference. Best of all, a lot of these are really easy, and a lot of them will save you money in the long run.
As I become more aware of how much waste we produce in everyday life, I’m actively trying to make better decisions for the earth and our future by reducing my own environmental footprint!
These are all great and easy ways to offset your carbon footprint.
15 Ways To Be Sustainable In Everyday Life
1. Bring your Reusable Coffee Mug to the Shop
I don’t know why I never thought of this before, but it’s genius! Not only does it save a cup and top, but if you have a cool Yeti mug, your coffee will stay hotter way longer. I always hate when I get it in a mug or to-go cup and it’s cold before I’m done with it.
2. Bring Bags to the Grocery
One of the easiest ways to reduce waste! And, if you live in Chicago, you know that there’s now a bag tax of 7 cents per bag, so being green actually saves you money! They’re cheap, hold up better than the paper grocery sacks and hold more. When you have to walk up three flights of stairs with groceries and a baby, I rely on these bags to not break half way up!
3. Get Reusable Produce Bags
I saw some reusable produce bags in the Forks over Knives magazine I bought a few months ago and keep forgetting to order them (guess I should do that right now), but I HATE throwing away all those green plastic bags. Often I don’t even use them, but for some vegetables, I feel like they need to be in a bag and these reusable ones are perfect.
4. Store Food in Reusable Containers
Instead of using ziploc bags, opt for reusable plastic or glass (even better) containers to store food. I recently got a couple of these silicone Stasher bags and I love them! They seal shut, can be used to cook in and are easy to wash!
5. Get a Metal Straw
I love that so many restaurants and hotels are getting rid of plastic straws these days. I personally don’t like straws much anyway, but I do like them when I’m drinking my smoothies and I have a metal one that I use. When it’s dirty I can easily wash it or put it in the dishwasher!
I’ll be the first to admit that we could be better about recycling, but when we have to carry our trash down 3 flights of stairs and then out to the alley, sometimes it’s just easier to throw it all in the same bag. I do try to always recycle cardboard boxes though. I need to get better about glass, paper and aluminum—goals for this year. Junk mail is one thing that’s easy to recycle, but often overlooked! At least I know I’m guilty of tossing it in the trash.
7. Use a Reusable Water Bottle
Not only will carrying a reusable water bottle make you drink more water, it’s better for the environment! According to Plastic Oceans, we are producing almost 300 million tons of plastic every year, and half of it is single use. Tons (literally) of plastic are dumped into the oceans each year as well. All that has a negative impact on sea life and is just sad!
8. Compost Old Food
Food waste is a huge problem in America. On average, one pound of food per person is wasted each day according to this site. One way to avoid food waste is to not buy as much, but if you do have waste, do more with it.
We don’t have a backyard now, but I’d love to eventually have a compost pile so put old food scraps into. I’m not sure about meat in the compost pile, but herbs, fruit and vegetables definitely are a YES! My trainer is a big gardener and told me how he makes worm tea with his worm compost. The compost pile itself makes for nutrient-dense soil if you’re into gardening, and the worm tea acts as a natural fertilizer that’s environmentally friendly because it’s totally natural! This one is a bit more work, but I would love to have a big vegetable garden one day and this will all be in it!
9. Opt for No Receipts
One thing I love about Whole Foods is that they always ask me if I want my receipt before printing. A lot of shops now have those tablets for running your credit card and they also give you the option to have a paperless receipt. Now whenever I purchase items, I always opt for no receipt, or if I need it, I have it emailed to me.
10. Meal Plan
Going grocery shopping with a list and a complete idea of what you’re actually going to cook will keep you from buying too much and wasting food. If something doesn’t get used, freeze it and use it in the future. And, if you need some meal planning ideas, click here to to grab my free meal plans!
11. Keep Plants in your Home or Plant them Outside
Plants help clean and purify the air in your home, which is good for everyone. Plus, having live greenery in your house is proven to boost your mood. I find that it helps a bunch, especially in the winter! If you have a black thumb, opt for easy to care for plants that don’t require tons of watering! Succulents are great, but are easy to kill if you over water them. I love my fiddle leaf fig, but it definitely takes a bit more care—I have lots of tips in this post if you’ve got one!
If you have outdoor space, plant a tree or bush—this can help to offset your carbon footprint.
12. Buy Better for the Earth Feminine Products
There’s been a lot of questions about whether or not traditional tampons have chemicals in them and if they’re safe or not. Thankfully there are other options! There’s brands like Lola (which I use) that uses organic cotton in their products, and have options for applicator-free tampons for less waste. Then there’s the period cup, which I’ve tried and didn’t love, but know lots of people who swear by it!
13. Turn the Lights Off
Admittedly, I’m sometimes bad about this, but I’m slowly getting better. When we leave, I make sure to turn off the lights and keep them off when we’re home and not using them or not in that room. When changing out light bulbs, opt for energy efficient lighting.
I also change the temperature on our thermostat when we’re not there so it’s not working as hard while we’re gone. Nest is a great option for this and I miss ours—we had it in our last place. It picks up on your schedule and adjusts accordingly which saves energy and money! In a small way, you’re able to help reduce carbon emissions created from fossil fuels and natural resources by reducing your own use of electricity and energy.
14. Only Run the Dishwasher or Laundry When It’s Full
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen people run their dishwasher when it’s half-empty and it drives me nuts! Thankfully with the laundry you’re able to select your wash size so you can change the amount of water used per load, but the dishwasher is an all or nothing kinda thing so make sure it’s full before your run it!
15. Take Public Transit or Walk
Obviously, this is not always an option, but when it is, especially during warmer months, I love to get out and walk wherever we’re going. It’s great exercise, a nice way to relax and saves on gas and parking expenses too! Plus, walking is so good for you! I’ve also seen that many cities are moving to more sustainable systems like electricity and even solar panels to power trains and trams.
If you live in a city with good public transport, take advantage! We have a great system in Chicago and while we don’t use it as often now that we have Owen, I still use it as much as I can when possible.
Like I said, we’re not perfect over here, but we’re making small changes here and there to help reduce the waste we create and to be more responsible in dealing with the waste we do have. What other ways do you practice sustainability in everyday life?