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.
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 environmentally sound life, try incorporating some of these simple tips into your lifestyle.
30. 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.
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!
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.
29. 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.
28. 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.
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, farmer’s market, or commercial composting facility to bring your scraps to.
27. Turn The Water Off While Brushing Your Teeth
Wasting water is a major no-no if you are trying to live sustainably, and the bathroom happens to be one of the biggest water waste culprits. Long showers, long skincare routines, frequent flushing, bath time, large families, and even tooth brushing are all major contributors to wasted water.
If you want to start tackling your own water waste, turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth is an excellent place to start. On average, leaving the water on while you brush wastes around 5 gallons of water, and to put this into perspective: Energy Star-rated dishwashers use only 4 gallons of water per load.
26. Upgrade to LED Bulbs
This one is pretty simple so we will keep it short. LEDs use 75% 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!
25. 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.
24. Eat Local
Eating local means buying ingredients that have been grown in your local area. Traveling to your local farmer’s 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.
Purchasing local ingredients is a good way to support the local economy, and is a great way to reduce your ‘food miles’, which means the food you eat has required less fuel to get to your plate. Additionally, eating local helps your local producers to produce more food, directly helping to sustain the system that feeds you.
23. Resell or Donate Your Clothes
Fast fashion is responsible for around 10% 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.
While staying current and stylish is fun and fashion is an excellent way to express yourself, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment.
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.
22. 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 eco-systems 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! Using materials that have already been produced is an amazing way to get the most out of Earth’s precious resources, and you’ll always be getting a better deal than when you buy new.
21. 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.
20. Discontinue the Use of Pesticides
If you do have a yard, this tip is for you: Stop using 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.
19. Go Vegetarian...Once A Week
Meats contribute more than 56% of all greenhouse gasses produced by food production, making it the overwhelmingly obviously wasteful sector. While it isn’t feasible to believe that everyone will want to go vegetarian all at once, reducing your meat consumption just one day a week can be a good place to start.
Try avoiding meat products once a week just to see how it feels, then see if you start to naturally gravitate towards more vegetable-heavy options. The more you explore a light-meat diet, the more you’ll discover that you enjoy eating.
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!
18. Rinse Dishes in Cold Water
Lots of people feel the need to wash their dishes twice. Once when they are rinsing off the food, and another time once the dish is in the dishwasher. If you use a dishwasher (which you should as they use less water than handwashing), 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 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.
Why cold water you ask? So you don’t waste energy heating the water!
17. Use Rechargeable Batteries
Traditional lithium batteries are chock full of toxic chemicals like, well, lithium. Once discarded, batteries begin to erode, eventually releasing chemicals like lithium and mercury into the surrounding environment where they can be leached into the soil or groundwater.
Rechargeable batteries are often made with fewer toxic chemicals, and can, obviously, be recharged and reused. If you have items that need batteries, pop down to your local convenience store to pick up a pack of rechargeable batteries. You’ll be glad you did, since having dead rechargeable batteries is always better than having dead single-use batteries, and you’ll be helping the environment too!
16. Line Dry When Possible
Driers 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. While driers 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), 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 had you continued using high-heat driers. Line drying your clothes is also a good way to prevent shrinkage, so if you worry about turning your sweatshirts into crop tops on laundry day, line drying can help you avoid catastrophe.
15. 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.
Learning how to sew is a super important life skill, not just because it will help you the next time you split your pants in public, but also because it can help you keep your clothes in good condition for longer! Being able to repair or alter your own clothing is an invaluable skill and one that you’ll realize you need a lot more than you think.
How many times have you thrown away a cute shirt because a button was missing, or get 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.
14. 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.
Some evidence even suggests that using coconut oil can help reduce inflammation and acne, since coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which helps to kill acne-causing bacteria.
13. 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 2 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.
The high heat produced while using a hairdryer can cause brittleness, breakage, split ends, dryness, and frizzy texture. Air drying allows your hair to dry in its natural shape and texture, and can help you improve overall shine and moisture.
12. Avoid Using Air Conditioning
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that air conditioning uses a considerable amount of energy, so you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of ways to keep your home cool without electricity guzzling 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.
Simply installing thick curtains and keeping them closed during the day can help you avoid using your air conditioner as long as possible, though we won’t fault you for switching it on on those 100 degree nights!
11. Unplug Small Appliances
Because this fact has been repeated so many times and in so many places, lots of people think this little fact is an urban myth. Roll your eyes as much as you want, your mother was right, you should unplug your small appliances when they are not in use!
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!
Unplugging your small appliances when they are not in use could save you anywhere from $100 to $200 per year! That’s enough to go out to get toast from your favorite breakfast spot every weekend - so why are you leaving that toaster plugged in?!
10. Choose Biodegradable Alternatives
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.
We’ve already created an awesome list of biodegradable swaps for products you know and love, so be sure to check that out for some more specific suggestions. For now, suffice to say that if there is a biodegradable alternative, you can pretty much guarantee that will be the more sustainable option.
9. 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 Flaxtic, a 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!
8. Reuse Your Towel
News flash: you do not need to wash your towel between every use!
“If I’m cleaning myself in the shower, then how does my towel get dirty?” That’s a great question! It doesn’t! At least not as quickly as most people think.
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. Washing your towels once a week or once every two weeks is perfectly safe and hygienic, and it’ll help you save on water and heat.
Keep this fact in mind next time you visit a hotel, too. In most hotels, dropping your towel on the floor is a signal to housekeeping that you would like a new one. Considering you can easily reuse your towel for over a week, keep your hotel towels hanging neatly in the bathroom to avoid unnecessary replacements.
7. Stop Printing
Printing out items at home has somewhat gone out of vogue with the dawn of mass smart-phone ownership, but that doesn’t mean everyone has caught on. Printing unnecessarily is a huge waste of paper, ink, and electricity, and even if you will get a lot of use out of the document, you could just as easily have saved it on your computer or phone to look at at a later time.
Rather than printing things like directions, recipes, and articles, read these items digitally and save the printing for when it is absolutely necessary.
6. 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 6 pounds of CO2, making paper books quite costly to the environment.
If you must have a paper version of a book, try purchasing second-hand to avoid initiating and supporting the production of new paper. An even better alternative is to make the investment in a tablet or e-reader in order to read books digitally, since this essentially eliminates the need for the felling of trees or production of paper.
5. Install a Low-Flow Showerhead
Standard showerheads dispense more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute while low-flow showerheads produce less than 2 gallons of water per minute. While these savings may not seem super significant at first blush, they can be quite significant overtime or for large households. Low flow showerheads also promote the use of less heat, thereby reducing the overall CO2 emissions produced by your home.
4. 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.
3. Cancel Junk Mail
One of the world’s many annoying facts is that junk mail never stops coming...unless you cancel it! You don’t have to live in silent torture sorting through dozens of brightly colored pieces of junk each week, there is a better way to handle your junk mail! Rather than collecting pounds of unopened letters from companies desperately asking for your money, use this resource to take the steps to rid your life of junk mail once and for all.
Canceling your junk mail will both free up space in your home, and help you reduce the waste you produce! Canceling is way easier than you may think, and once you do, you’ll be shocked at how much less stressful checking the mail becomes.
2. 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!
1. Purchase a Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers are awesome, and if you haven’t already been convinced to join the pressure cooker revolution, we can guarantee this little fact will push you over the edge. Pressure cooking rather than cooking on a conventional gas range can use up to 70% less fuel. Not only is this energy savings good for the environment, but it can also help you save money on your gas bill each month.
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!