At Pela, we live and breathe environmentalism, which is why we are constantly on the hunt for innovative ways to live more sustainably. With everyone socially distancing at home with our families, right now is the perfect time to take a look at our houses, condos, and apartments to see what changes or additions can be made to create a greener, cleaner space.
We’re so excited about sharing these 33 ways to make your home more environmentally friendly, so we won’t waste any more time. Keep reading to discover tons of easy ways to start living your life with a little more care for the planet.
33. Stop Buying Paper Towels
Paper towels are one of those items that most of us grew up using, which means most of us continue to use them in our kitchens today. While paper towels are indeed a super convenient tool for quickly cleaning up messes, they are also pretty inconvenient for the planet. In the US alone, more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used annually, and since paper towels aren’t recyclable, all 13 billion pounds end up in landfills.
Like other single-use and disposable items, paper towels are one of those items you should discontinue using for the sake of the environment. We promise you’ll be surprised how easy it is to live without paper towels once you have taken the plunge and gotten rid of them for good. Easy and sustainable replacements for paper towels include washcloths, natural sponges, pieces of old clothing, dish rags, towel scraps, and more.
If you want to get as close to the paper towel experience as possible, there’s an environmentally friendly option for you too! Pick up a roll of “If You Care” reusable paper towels from Food52. Each roll includes 12 sheets, and each sheet can be reused for up to a week. These reusable paper towels are made from cotton and plant-derived cellulose, so once you are ready to get rid of a sheet, you can just toss it in your compost pile.
32. Purchase a Set of Dryer Balls
Dryer sheets, those thin polyester sheets you use to reduce static and soften your clothes, are yet another single-use item that you could stand to do away with. Not only are dryer sheets non-recyclable, but they are also full of volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which have been linked to respiratory conditions like asthma.
The majority of the chemical additives included in dryer sheets are completely unnecessary for cleaning our clothes, and cause harm to both human health and the environment, so why keep using dryer sheets? The answer: You don’t have to!
While hang drying is really the most environmentally friendly way to dry your clothes, there are times when that just isn’t an option and you need to pop your clothes in the dryer. Rather than adding a polyester dryer sheet to your next load, try adding a wool dryer ball instead. Try these environmentally friendly wool dryer balls from Coyuchi, each of which can be used upwards of 1000 times.
31. Cold Wash Your Clothes
Speaking of laundry: did you know that about 90% of the energy used by a conventional washing machine is used to heat the water? Crazy, right!? Washing your clothes in cold rather than hot or warm water is a super simple way to reduce your household’s carbon footprint, and it could even help you save a little on your energy bills!
Best of all, washing your clothes in cold water can help you keep your favorite outfits looking fresh and new for longer. Warm water can be harsher on the fibers of your clothing, contributing both to stretching and shrinking. Warm water can also help to set stubborn stains, making it near impossible to remove them. Cold water is gentler on clothes but tougher on stains, so making the switch is an all-around win.
30. Plug Appliances Into Power Strips
You have probably heard that you should be unplugging your small appliances when you aren’t actively using them, and this is true! Unplugging items that mostly just sit around waiting to be used (toasters, lamps, coffee makers, etc.) are slowly draining energy from your home, wasting valuable resources, and hiking up your electric bill.
While some items - like those you keep on kitchen counters - are easy to unplug and plug back in again between uses, other electronics have difficult to reach cords, or are less convenient to unplug and plug back in daily. Items like TVs, wifi routers, speakers, and other entertainment electronics drain energy the same way small appliances do, even when they aren’t being used.
To eliminate wasted energy, consider plugging electronics like TVs and gaming systems into power strips, which can easily be switched on and off between uses. Power strips make it possible to turn multiple appliances on and off all at once, making it way more convenient to turn things off when it comes time to go to bed.
29. Hang Some Curtains
Whether it be heating or cooling, the job of keeping your home at a comfortable
temperature is one that often requires a lot of energy. Some homes are built with energy conservation and efficiency in mind, but many others are built for pure aesthetics and with little concern for how the residents will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer without constant air conditioning and heating.
If you find yourself using climate controls frequently in your home, even when you
are dressed appropriately for the season, try installing thick curtains over all of your windows. Thick curtains help to keep sunlight and heat out during the summer, and help to prevent heat from escaping through your windows in the winter. Keeping your curtains closed during the warmest parts of the day can help you to avoid switching on the AC, and we promise you’ll feel fewer drafts once winter rolls around and you have a protective window covering.
28. Fix Leaky Faucets
A slowly dripping faucet may not be alarming, but when you consider all the drops put together, the average household’s leaks can account for up to 10,000 gallons of wasted water every year. A single leaking faucet, dripping at a rate of once per second, can waste nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year alone - so how harmless do those drips look now?
The easiest way to save on wasted water is to go through your home to check for leaks. Dripping faucets, running toilets, showerhead leaks, and so on are the most common culprits, but a quick exploration of your household’s water sources is all it takes to know whether or not you have a problem. If you do discover a leak, contact your plumber of choice, or try tightening your faucets yourself.
27. Order Less Takeout
Having food delivered or ordering takeout can feel like a little piece of luxury, but if you care about the environment, you’ll really take that to heart and cut back on your delivery orders. You see, the problem with takeout and delivery is that most restaurants package their foods to go in hard plastic containers, most of which are difficult to recycle, especially if you aren’t willing to take the time to wash out each individual piece. While some of these containers are recyclable, the majority of takeout containers are ultimately thrown away in landfills or littered.
One of the major takeaways to be had from most environmental movements over the past decades has been that we need to reduce our use of single-use plastics and plastic in general, and that means being a little stricter with ourselves. Ordering less takeout simply means fewer containers. With any hope, as more people begin to speak out against the use of single-use plastics, the restaurant industry will get on board and begin using more sustainable packaging.
26. Invest in Solar Panels
Like single-use plastics, we need to become less reliant on non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels if we have a hope of helping the environment to recover. Rapidly depleting natural resources, climate change, urgent weather shifts, and the steady decline of our planet’s health has forced people to begin to explore renewable and clean energy sources, but unfortunately, no widespread movement has yet managed to take off.
If you have been waiting for a vast renewable energy movement to get rolling and for the key to eco-friendly energy to be handed to you, you probably have a little while longer to wait. Luckily, despite there not being widespread resources to help private citizens to turn their homes a little more green, there are plenty of resources you can seek out on your own if you are interested in investing your time in renewable energy alternatives.
Solar panels are perhaps the most well-known green energy alternative, but nevertheless, remain relatively rare in most urban and suburban areas. Solar energy relies on the powerful rays of the sun, harnessing this energy to partially or entirely power a home or business. Installing solar panels can help you to become entirely non-reliant on fossil fuels, or can help to ease some of your energy burden, but either way is an amazing step towards a cleaner future for our planet.
Want to know if your home could be a good candidate for solar? Check out this guide from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy to see the process involved in planning your own home solar electric system.
25. Reuse Paper Grocery Bags as Garbage Liners
Yes, you should still be bringing your reusable cloth grocery bags to the store with you, but on those rare occasions when you forget, be sure to ask for paper. Paper grocery bags are, first and foremost, easier to reuse than their flimsy plastic counterparts. Plastic grocery bags are often too thin to survive even a single trip to and from the grocery store, so expecting one to last as a garbage bin liner is a bit too tall an order.
Second, paper grocery bags are made from plant-derived materials, making them biodegradable and in some cases compostable. Because paper bags are biodegradable, they won’t spend the centuries plastic bags spend in the landfill, and won’t leach toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater as they decompose.
Because of this, paper grocery bags make an excellent eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic garbage bags, and doubled up, can even keep sticky or wet items contained until garbage day arrives.
24. Keep Your Cat Inside
There are lots of reasons to make your cat an inside cat, but if you are a nature lover, it may surprise you to learn that letting your sweet feline friend outside could be destroying the environment. Believe it or not, outdoor cats are thought to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year, wreaking havoc on native populations and the natural balance of the ecosystem. Keeping kitty inside can help you to protect native songbirds and other small critters in your area, and will help to guarantee your cat stays safe and healthy.
23. Avoid Single Serving Snacks
We’re heading into the kitchen with this tip, so be prepared to take a good hard look at your snacks! Snacking is a healthy, normal habit, especially if you live in a house full of kiddos. Snacks can be part of a balanced breakfast or lunch, or can be a standalone item to help tide over rumbling tummies between meals. Snacks are great, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
Most popular snacks are packaged in convenient, single-serving portions, usually separated by individual plastic packaging. Snacks like string cheese, yogurt, single-serving chips, travel-size snacks, etc., are wrapped to maintain freshness and to make these items easy to grab on the go. While busy parents might rely heavily on items like these, there is no reason for most of us to continue to purchase single-serve snacks like these, especially considering the incredible amount of packaging used for each individual portion.
Rather than investing in another bag of individually wrapped cheeses or single-serving pudding cups, consider purchasing snacks that naturally come in bulk. Nuts, carrots, fruits like grapes and strawberries, and home-popped popcorn are great options, all of which can be found without the excessive plastic packaging.
Need something that is self-contained and convenient for those days where you need to rush out of the house? Try a banana or an orange! These fruits have their own natural, fully compostable packaging.
22. Vacuum Your Fridge Coils
Hold on. Vacuum my what?! Your fridge coils.
Most standard refrigerators have a series of coils mounted under or behind the unit that help to disperse and remove heat from your refrigerator and its contents. Most people have no idea their refrigerator has coils, much less that they should be vacuuming them, so if this is the first you’ve heard of this trick don’t worry.
Over time, your fridge collects dust, dirt, and grime, which settle on and coat the coils. This layer of grime reduces the ability of the coils to release heat, forcing the refrigerator to work harder and expend more energy to maintain the same low temperatures. A quick wipe down or vacuum of the coils once a year is all that is needed to help you to conserve energy and to help you reduce your household’s impact on the environment.
21. Collect Rainwater
While many of us are able to take access to clean water for granted, millions of people worldwide find themselves without fresh water for drinking, cleaning, bathing, or even farming each and every day. Water is a precious resource, and though many of us are lucky enough to live in areas where water is relatively abundant, we should still be doing our part to conserve and protect the water for everyone else.
A great way to conserve water and to take full advantage of the natural resources you have access to is to collect rainwater and runoff from your home. A simple rain barrel is the easiest way to start, and you’ll be shocked to see just how much you can collect after a single rainfall. Once you have a few gallons, you can start to use the water you have collected just as you would use the water from your tap. Some uses for collected rainwater include:
- Watering houseplants, gardens, and lawns
- Flushing toilets
- Washing vehicles
- Rinsing produce
20. Limit Shower Time
Taking a long, hot shower might feel good, but when you realize just how much
water you could be wasting, you’ll want to cut your wash time short. Without a low-flow showerhead, the average shower delivers upwards of seven gallons of water per minute, 2.5 gallons of water per minute with a low-flow head. Considering the average shower time is around 10 minutes, most people use between 25 and 70 gallons of water per shower.
To reduce both energy and water consumption, try limiting showers in your household to 5 minutes or less. Reducing shower times won’t just help you save water, it will also help you save money since you’ll be using less energy to heat water for long showers.
19. Buy Reusable Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs are one of those single-use items that everyone knows are bad for the environment, but everyone continues to purchase. We get it. Cleaning your ears feels good, and until now, there haven’t really been any good alternatives to single-use q-tips. Unfortunately, cotton swabs typically include a short plastic stick connecting the two ends of the swab, and it is precisely this stick that makes q-tips so bad for the environment.
Non-recyclable and easily littered, cotton swabs can be found in abundance floating in streams, lakes, and oceans, or strewn through parks, alleyways, urban gardens, etc. To avoid purchasing another 1000-pack of plastic cotton swabs, try finding a more environmentally friendly way to clean your ears like the Last Swab reusable cotton swab from Last Object. The Last Swab can be used, cleaned, and reused more than 1000 times, so as long as you don’t lose your corn-based carrying case, you’ll be set for at least a year or two of squeaky clean ears without the additional waste.
18. Get Comfortable In the Dark
Are you one of those people that is comforted by leaving the lights on? One of those people that simply forget to switch them off when you leave the room? Afraid of the dark? Regardless of why you leave the lights on, you are wasting electricity. During the day, utilize the natural light in your home to avoid flipping on the switch. At night, turn off lights in rooms you aren’t using to conserve energy and to save money.
17. Look for Used and Recycled Furniture
An important part of living more sustainably is looking for ways to avoid excessive consumption and unnecessarily using unused resources. Furniture is an excellent example of the kind of item that is often thrown away before it has been fully used, which likely explains the abundance of second-hand and vintage furniture
stores present in most major cities. While a mattress may be something you want to purchase new, there is no reason your end tables, bookshelves, or chairs need to come to you directly from the factory.
Next time you want to spruce up your home with a new piece of furniture, consider reusing or recycling a piece and visiting your local consignment, thrift, or secondhand store. No good candidates in your area? Take to the Internet! Sites like eBay, Craigslist, and even social media platforms offer plenty of opportunities for you to find perfectly good, reasonably priced furniture that hasn’t been made using newly gathered resources.
16. Choose Compostable Products
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll give you a few examples just to get you started: Rather than buying a hard-plastic phone case, try buying a fully compostable phone case that won’t spend centuries in a landfill!
15. Plant In Your Community
Your ‘home’ isn’t exclusively the physical space you own or rent - your ‘home’ is
also your neighborhood and your community. To help contribute to the greenification of your community, try participating in locally organized projects like planting native plants on boulevards, cleaning up local lakes, or helping to keep the local community garden free from pests and weeds.
No matter where you live, chances are there you can find some sort of local group working to make your community a better, more environmentally conscious place. Once you find those Earth warriors, find out how you can contribute time, energy, or resources to improving the neighborhood.
14. Install Energy-Efficient Bulbs
This is a trick we’ve mentioned before, but it’s such a good tip that we think it bears repeating. Replacing your traditional incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs can give you an energy savings of 70%, so make the switch now to save both resources and money!
13. Create a Rain Garden
Rain gardens are natural areas specifically designed to collect water after heavy rainfall and use it to keep homes and businesses from flooding, sewer lines from overflowing, and so on. Rain gardens ensure that heavy rains don’t result in damage to your home, since instead of rainwater building up around your foundation, it is being channeled into deep pockets of the Earth to help support the growth of native plants. Building a rain garden in your backyard is surprisingly simple, especially considering what a major difference it can make.
12. Select Eco-Friendly Paint
“Eco-friendly” paint is paint that doesn’t contain toxic gasses and chemicals like volatile organic compounds. These toxic chemicals are released into the air and
atmosphere, both polluting the planet and doing harm to human health. Indoors, VOCs are unable to dissipate, and levels can be much higher than outdoors, resulting in symptoms like headaches, nausea, respiratory irritation, and more.
To protect your lungs and the planet, try choosing a low-VOC or eco-friendly paint alternative. Companies like Clare Paint are dedicated to creating healthier alternatives to traditional paints, and have created excellent formulas that are completely free of VOCs and are made using low-waste production methods like recycled packaging and water-waste monitoring.
11. Plant Native Plants
If you love to garden, one of the best things you can do for the environment is to plant native plants. Planting native plants helps the soil to be healthy, and can help to promote the health of other local wildlife. Most notably, butterflies and bumblebees love native and Indigenous plants, so if you want these helpful pollinators to visit your garden, start learning about what grows naturally in your area.
10. Give Green Gifts
To show your appreciation to friends and family, consider beginning to gift only eco-friendly and green items to help get your loved ones hooked on eco-friendly living. It is going to take effort from all of us to help the planet to heal and repair itself, so the sooner we all start to include our loved ones in our eco-friendly passions, the better.
9. Keep Your Oven Closed
Whoever taught you how to cook probably yelled at you to keep the oven closed, and they were right! Each time you open your oven you are losing heat and energy, which then must be built back up again before whatever you are baking can be finished. If you want your food to cook in a timely manner and want to avoid unnecessary energy use, be sure to keep that oven door closed when you cook!
8. Install a Low Flow Toilet
Like low-flow showerheads, a low-flow toilet reduces the amount of water being used for each flush. Regular toilets typically flush 3.5 gallons of water, but a simple switch to a low-flow toilet could help you save more than half of this water without compromising the quality of the flush. Low-flow toilets are available at most major hardware stores, so all it takes to make the switch is a quick call to your plumber.
7. Decorate with Rugs
Like curtains, rugs can help to regulate and control the temperature of your home, and can keep you warmer (or cooler) for longer without the use of air conditioning or heating. Like insulation, rugs help to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a room, thereby helping to reduce your home’s overall energy consumption and footprint. In the winter, rugs help to keep feet warm and keep heat trapped inside the house. In the summer, carpets can help to absorb heat, making the process of cooling down a room more rapid and efficient.
6. Buy Organic Bedding
Did you know that the bedding you buy could have an impact on the environment? Most people put very little thought into buying a new set of sheets or a new duvet cover, but if people know the real cost of their bedding, they might be more careful with their choices.
Naturepedic is a natural bedding brand that crafts its products from organic cotton. Sustainably grown cotton uses less water, is gentler on the skin, and is never exposed to harmful pesticides or chemicals. Naturepedic starts environmentalism from the ground up, first promoting the health of the soil in which they plant their cotton, and continuing from there.
5. Pay Bills Online
Recently, we mentioned canceling your junk mail as an effective and easy way to reduce your household’s paper waste. Like junk mail, physical paper bills are a big waste of natural resources, especially considering how easy it is to pay your bills online.
If you are still receiving monthly statements from your utility companies, take this opportunity to hop online and change your settings to paper-less or online billing. Paying online is way easier than paying by mail, and all your statements are stored in one place right on the website. By paying online, you eliminate the need to track paperwork and can reduce your personal carbon footprint all at the same time.
4. Reduce Plastic Consumption
Many of the points listed here have included some mention of avoiding single-use plastics, so this is as good a time as any for your weekly reminder to try reducing your plastic consumption in general. It isn’t just single-use items that wreak havoc on the environment after they are no longer useful, plastic items made to last are equally as harmful to the planet.
If you want to live a greener life, committing to reducing your plastic consumption is just something you are going to need to do. We are all going to need to put a little effort into making better, more sustainable choices, and that doesn’t just mean when we have the time or things are convenient.
A good place to start if you have been wanting to tackle some hidden plastic waste in your life is to purchase your own compostable plastic phone case. Pela Cases are long-lasting and durable, just like traditional hard plastic cases, but come with the added benefit of being able to completely decompose without a trace in just a few short months.
3. Make Your Own Dog and Cat Treats
Dog and cat treats typically come packaged in thick plastic bags and containers, most of which are non-recyclable. Like other kinds of plastic packaging, the most sustainable option is to avoid these items altogether, which means you are going to need to find a reliable alternative to your usual commercial pet treat options.
Instead of buying prepackaged dog and cat treats, try making your own treats at home! Making treats for your furry friends is a lot easier than you might think, and doing it yourself comes with the added bonus of you knowing exactly what (and how much) is going into your four-legged baby’s stomach.
2. Opt for Natural Kitty Litter
Traditional clay kitty litter has a dirty secret, and it’s not one that your precious cat dropped in there this morning! Clay kitty litter is bad for the environment, both in how it is produced and in how it is disposed of. Clay kitty litter is mined, which obviously destroys existing natural resources and landscapes. Once clay kitty litter has been used, it must be sent to a landfill where it sits for eternity with other types of waste.
For a more environmentally friendly option, try natural plant-derived kitty litters like World's Best Cat Litter. World’s Best is made from corn, and is free from harsh additives, scents, dyes, and other potentially toxic ingredients. Unlike clay kitty litter which has to be thrown away, World’s Best is septic safe and can be flushed away without you worrying about flushing harsh chemicals into the local waterways.
1. Talk to Friends, Family, and Neighbors
One of the best (and easiest) things you can do to live more environmentally sustainable is to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about making green choices themselves. Each small change you make to your own lifestyle is making
an impact on the planet and helping to move us towards a greener future, but imagine what an impact you could make if you encouraged all your friends and family to make those changes too.
As passionate lovers of the environment, it is super important to bring green living
into every aspect of our lives, and begin to help our loved ones to work with us for the common goal of protecting the planet. Next time you have a chance, try sharing something new you have learned about living sustainably with a friend or family member, and keep having conversations that help to educate and inform those around you about the environment.