When you hear “living sustainably,” you might automatically think about off-grid living, Earthships, composting toilets and rainwater collection, but in reality, sustainable living doesn’t have to mean a full lifestyle change. Sustainable living is all about limiting the amount of resources we use and the amount of waste we produce. So while it would be pretty cool to live off the grid in a mud hut, there are plenty of easier ways to make a difference for the planet. In fact, you can start living a more sustainable life right now!
At Pela, we are all about reducing waste and contributing to the making of a greener, cleaner world. If you have been wanting to reduce your waste footprint and lead a more sustainable lifestyle, try incorporating some of these small changes into your daily routines and choices.
1. Ditch Bottled Water Once and for All
Ditching bottled water is at the top of our list because, frankly, you should already have taken this step. Bottled water is the kind of product that really makes no sense when you take the time to think about it, and environmentalists have been moving to boycott the sale of bottled water on college campuses, environmentally-minded towns/cities, in certain districts, etc.
Plastic water bottles (though often recyclable) are one of the most commonly littered items, and since most contain harmful chemicals like BPA that can be released with prolonged use, these items are single-use only. In addition, plastic bottles are almost always made from fossil fuels, and they take so long to decompose that they’re essentially permanent residents of the landfills they end up in. They’re pretty much the worst, all in all!
Beyond the atrocious environmental impact of plastic water bottles, bottled water is expensive, and if we are all honest with ourselves, it always tastes a little bit worse than good ol’ tap water! Grab a high-quality reusable water bottle and we think you’ll never look back.
For many of us, access to drinkable water is no issue, but it is important to remember that not everyone is quite as lucky. If you live somewhere where you have access to safe drinking water, ditch the bottled water and donate the money you save to organizations working to make clean water accessible to communities affected by drought, tainted water supplies, etc.
2. Create a Reusable Bag Station at Home
Like plastic water bottles, plastic bags have also been under public scrutiny for their impact on the environment for years. Unlike bottles, plastic bags cannot be recycled and, instead, end up in landfills or littered. Littered bags often end up in lakes, rivers and oceans where ocean creatures mistake them for food or become entangled in the plastic.
Basically, plastic bags are wack, and you should be using reusable bags whenever possible! If you find it difficult to remember to bring your bags to the store, then this tip is for you.
Create a reusable bag station near your door so your bags are the last thing you see before you leave the house! Simple solutions include hanging the bags from hooks, putting them in a basket by the door or even hanging a bag full of bags from the door handle. The key is to make your reusable bags impossible to miss so you can be sure to bring them along on every shopping trip.
3. Compost Your Food Scraps
Renewability is a key component of sustainable living, with the goal being to reduce/eliminate the depletion of natural resources. Composting is a great way to turn your waste into a usable product that can help produce more food — not just for you, but for your community.
Rather than sending food scraps to the landfill where they won’t be able to do any good, consider starting your own composting system to turn your scraps into nutrient-rich food for your plants, your local community garden, nearby farms, etc. You’ll help reduce food waste and create beautifully healthy soil.
Composting does not require a yard, although if you do have one, you can make a marvelous pile! Composting is totally possible even if you live in an apartment, or even if you just don’t have any spare yard space. Composting can be achieved with as little as a 10-gallon bucket under your sink and many cities and townships offer compost pickup if you don’t have a local community garden, farmers market or commercial composting facility to bring your scraps to.
4. Upgrade to LED Bulbs
This one is pretty simple so we will keep it short. LED light bulbs use 75 percent less energy than their incandescent counterparts, a factor that won’t just help you to be more environmentally friendly, but will also save you some money!
5. Commit to Saying ‘No’ to Plastic Straws
Like plastic bags, plastic straws can’t be recycled, primarily due to their low weight. Unfortunately, being lightweight means that straws are easily blown into rivers, lakes and oceans, where they are frequently eaten by marine creatures like sea turtles, gulls and other ocean birds.
Simply saying “no” to plastic straws can make a major difference for the health of our oceans, and is a great way to do your part to reduce plastic pollution.
If you enjoy drinking out of a straw or need one for comfortable/safe drinking, consider purchasing a reusable stainless steel or bamboo straw, or purchasing biodegradable straws for a more sustainable single-use option.
6. Eat Local
Eating local means buying ingredients that have been grown in your local area. Traveling to your local farmers market can be a fun and easy way to find locally grown products, and a great way to get in touch with local producers of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and even beers.
7. Resell or Donate Your Clothes
Fast fashion is responsible for around 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, and considering how quickly the trends come and go, it isn’t hard to imagine why. Each new fashion season brings about the manufacturing of millions of new articles of clothing and, consequently, also brings about the discarding of millions of articles of clothing.
Rather than purchasing a new wardrobe and throwing out your old clothes with every seasonal change, try purchasing only limited — but good quality — items that you’ll want to keep around for a long time. If you have items you no longer need or want, try reselling them or donating them to a local thrift store.
8. Buy Used Jewelry
Like clothing, the world of jewelry is massively wasteful, and the continued demand for newly mined precious gems and metals continues to propel the destruction of non-renewable natural resources. In addition to the depletion of resources, mining for precious metals and stones produces a massive amount of waste.
To mine enough gold for a single ring, more than 20 tons of rock and soil are discarded, often into streams, rivers, waterways and oceans. The waste from gold mines contains high levels of cyanide and mercury, both of which are extremely harmful to marine ecosystems and can affect clean drinking water supplies. Rather than purchasing new jewelry, consider purchasing gold and precious gems from thrift stores and having the pieces remade to fit your style!
9. Grow Your Own Herb Garden
Not everyone has the space for a large vegetable garden, but if you have a spare sunny windowsill, you have the space for an indoor herb garden! Purchasing herbs from a grocery store usually means buying them in hard plastic containers, which aren’t exactly the most eco-friendly packaging option.
Growing your own herbs will help you to avoid purchasing single-use plastics like packaging, and will save you some money to boot. Easy and useful herbs to grow indoors include thyme, chives, catnip, mint, basil, chamomile and more.
10. Discontinue the Use of Pesticides
Pesticides and chemical weed killers contain toxic chemicals that affect not only the targeted pests and weeds, but also the surrounding environment. Pesticides can leach into groundwater supplies, pollute the soil, create an unsafe environment for vital species like bees and butterflies and even impact human health. The widespread use of pesticides has been linked to such conditions as Alzheimer’s, certain cancers and even birth defects.
If you have a weed problem, consider pulling weeds by hand rather than spraying them with toxic chemicals. Alternatively, consider planting a bee-friendly lawn to help support the health and population of bumblebees, which play such an important role in our ecosystem.
11. Go Vegetarian...Once a Week
A great way to make your meat consumption a little more sustainable without giving up your hearty dinners is to switch red meats for chicken or turkey. Replacing beef with chicken for just one year could save your household up to 880 pounds of carbon emissions, which is nothing to blink an eye at!
12. Rinse Dishes in Cold Water
If you use a dishwasher (which you should as they use less water than hand-washing), you really don’t need to be rinsing your dishes with soap and hot water. In reality, you can likely get away with scraping large scraps into your composting bin and then giving the dish a quick spritz with cold water before you pop it in the machine. Anything more than a quick rinse isn’t a rinse at all. It’s just washing your dishes twice — and that’s an obvious waste of water.
13. Line Dry When Possible
Dryers take a lot of energy to run, a factor that we don’t always think of when we are rushing to clean our favorite pair of jeans. Even a relatively energy-efficient dryer uses up a surprising amount of resources. While dryers can be super helpful in a pinch or during chilly winter months, line drying your clothes is a far better option whenever possible.
Line drying not only takes zero energy (other than from the sun and wind) and generates zero emissions, but also is way gentler on your clothes. While you may not immediately notice the wear and tear your clothes sustain from regular washing and drying, over time, the rough tumbling and overheating of your clothes will begin to break apart the fibers, stretch elastics, create pilling, etc.
Line drying your clothes can help you reduce your electric bill, reduce your carbon footprint and keep your clothes in good condition for much longer than they would be if you had continued using high-heat dryers. So if you worry about turning your sweatshirts into crop tops on laundry day, line drying can help you avoid catastrophe.
14. Learn to Sew
Like line drying your clothes, this tip is all about preserving the items you love for as long as possible. Throwing things away before they are broken or fully used is a major factor at play when it comes to the topic of waste and pollution. Fast fashion, poorly made clothing and cheap fabrics encourage consumers to dispose of clothes after just a few uses and to replace them with more poorly made clothes.
How many times have you thrown away a cute shirt because a button was missing or gotten rid of your favorite pair of pants because of a rip in the thigh? If you know how to sew, these kinds of problems are no problem at all and you can easily refresh your clothes without buying anything new or contributing additional waste to a landfill.
15. Replace Your Makeup Wipes with Coconut Oil
Makeup wipes are typically made from materials like polyester, polypropylene and rayon, all of which are synthetic, non-recyclable materials. Makeup wipes are intended for a single-use, often either individually packaged or packaged with 10-30 other single-use wipes and saturated in a makeup remover or cleansing solution.
While makeup wipes are definitely a convenient way to remove makeup after a long day, they are by no means a sustainable option and produce a massive amount of waste. Not only are the wipes themselves bad for the environment, but they are also typically packaged in thick, non-recyclable plastics.
Rather than relying on disposable polymer-based wipes, try using a natural makeup remover instead. Coconut oil is gentle on the skin, safe to use around the eyes and mouth and can dissolve the toughest makeup like liquid lipstick and waterproof mascara. A few teaspoons of coconut oil can remove a full face of makeup and can leave your skin feeling healthier, smoother and more hydrated.
16. Air-Dry Your Hair
Everything to do with washing your hair can become more eco-friendly. That's why we launched Habitat by Pela, our sister company that offers zero-waste, vegan shampoo and bathroom essentials.
Using a hairdryer requires electricity and utilizes a significant amount of power. The process of drying your hair can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours, depending on the thickness, texture and length of your hair. Air drying requires zero electricity, and though it may take a little longer, it can create better results.
17. Avoid Using Air Conditioning
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that air conditioning uses a considerable amount of energy. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, six percent of the United States’ total energy consumption goes just to air conditioning! Thus, you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of ways to keep your home cool without electricity guzzling, emissions-pumping appliances.
Before you switch on your AC this summer, try putting up thick curtains over every window in your home. Thick curtains, also known as blackout curtains, help to keep the sun’s warm rays from heating your home and help to prevent cool air from escaping.
18. Unplug Small Appliances
Even if you are not actively using items like toasters, microwaves and coffee machines, they are likely still draining electricity from your home. This passive use of energy not only drives up your carbon footprint, but also impacts your electric bill! Hold on to your hats because we are about to reveal how much money you have been wasting letting your toaster stay plugged in all these years!
19. Choose Biodegradable Alternatives
Many common products today are unfortunately still made with non-biodegradable materials that will stay in landfills for thousands or even millions of years. Luckily, lots of brands are starting to see the value in creating eco-friendly alternatives to their traditional products, which means we are seeing a lot more recyclable and biodegradable products hitting the market.
20. Ditch Your Plastic Phone Case
This wouldn’t be a Pela blog post if we didn’t mention the Pela Case! We (Pela) are the creators of the world’s first and only fully compostable plastic phone case, an eco-friendly alternative to the hard plastic phone cases you find in most stores. Our phone cases are made from Flaxstic, a plastic-free blend of flax shive and starch-based elastomer that will fully compost in a home or commercial compost pile in a few short months.
The Pela Case is easily the most environmentally sound phone case option currently available, and to tantalize you a little more, we have to mention that we are constantly rolling out new patterns and colors! Switch to the world’s most eco-friendly phone case and start reducing plastic waste in style.
21. Reuse Your Towel
News flash: You do not need to wash your towel between every use!
Your towel can easily last for a week or more before bacteria begin to cling to or grow on the soft surface. Hanging your towels after use allows them to fully dry and prevents the growth of unwanted germs or mold between uses.
While we’re on the subject, let’s also talk about paper towels. They might be convenient, but they’re generally not recyclable or reusable, and eventually they end up in the trash. Another easy way to create less waste is thus to replace paper towels with reusable towels for everyday kitchen cleanups.
22. Buy Second-Hand Books
There are few things better than getting a new book, but with deforestation and global greenhouse gas emissions threatening the safety and security of our planet, now is the time to look to alternatives for products that contribute significantly to pollution and climate change. The production of a single book produces nearly six pounds of CO2, making paper books quite costly to the environment.
We feel you — it’s awful to think about something as great as a book increasing your carbon footprint and causing environmental damage. If you must have a paper version of a book, try purchasing second-hand to avoid initiating and supporting the production of new paper.
23. Install a Low-Flow Showerhead
Standard showerheads dispense more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute while low-flow showerheads produce less than two gallons of water per minute. While these savings may not seem super significant at first blush, they can be quite significant over time or for large households. Low-flow showerheads also promote the use of less heat, thereby reducing the overall CO2 emissions produced by your home.
24. Invest in Quality
Remember all that fast-fashion waste we’ve been talking about? Well, here is where you can really make a difference. While it can be tempting to pick up dozens of pieces of clothing for little money, a far better use of your funds is to save up and purchase one or two high-quality items. High-quality items will last far longer than fast-fashion options, eventually saving you money over time and reducing your carbon footprint.
25. Save and Reuse Glass Jars
Although glass jars are recyclable, they also happen to be a super useful item to keep around your home, which is why you should make a habit of saving and reusing them! Glass jars that used to contain pasta sauce, pickles, jams, etc. make excellent drinking cups, paint-water receptacles, pen holders and so on.
Sturdy, washable and usually accompanied by a twist-on aluminum cap, glass jars purchased from the grocery store can even be reused to can your own foods!
Do you already use any of these sustainability tips in your daily life? What are some other ways you like to reduce waste and live green? Visit Pela for more information on compostable plastics and be sure to check out our blog for more lists like this one while you’re there!