I really love Earth Day. Over the past few years, Earth Day has become my favorite holiday because it makes me think about the world around me. Each April, I spend time evaluating how I am living my life and the impact that I have on the community around me. It’s always a great reminder to see how I can live in a more sustainable manner and do my part to ensure that I am creating a better planet for generations to come.
In the spirit of Earth Day, I thought it would be fun to share some of my best tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle. I think we typically hear the same things again and again: drive less/bus more/commute by bike whenever possible, take shorter showers and use less water, buy used items instead of new, don’t leave lights on, etc. So, I wanted to share a few of my favorite ways to live greener that are easy enough for anyone to do and will help you to live healthier, save money, and reduce your impact on the planet.
#1 Buy local and eat seasonal
#2 Clean without chemicals
- The oil-cleansing method (for washing my face/removing makeup)
- Baking soda and vinegar (for my hair)
- Coconut oil (for moisturizing skin and hair as needed)
- DIY lavender bath salts (great for soothing achy muscles)
I also love using Dr. Bronner’s soap (it has a ton of uses for cleaning the house too) and I rely on mineral makeup, which has a pretty low warning score in the EWG cosmetics database (this is a great tool for evaluating if your products are safe or not). The bottom line is that less chemicals on our skin means less toxins in our bodies and the planet. Woohoo!
#4 Buy in bulk
One of the best incentives to live greener is that it actually saves you money in a lot of ways. I highly recommend shopping in the bulk section of your local grocery store if you’re not already because it helps you to cut down on your plastic usage and it’s much more affordable than buying pre-packaged items.
One of the big pro’s is that you can also try out a small amount of a new ingredient without committing to a large bag. If you want to try a new recipe that calls for one cup of almond flour, for example, you can simply buy exactly what you need! I tend to clear out our pantry on a pretty regular basis, but if you find yourself having to throw out a lot of flours or ingredients that have gone bad, shopping in bulk is great because you can buy exactly what you need = less waste and more savings.
If you do buy in bulk, some health food stores will also let you bring in your own reusable containers so you can avoid using the plastic bags. Check with your store first as they will usually weigh the container so they have the tare weight (before you start filling up your containers with goods). If your local store doesn’t allow you to bring in your own containers or if it’s not an option for you, you can also buy reusable cotton bulk bags for the bulk bins.
#5 Avoid plastic
Okay, we all know that using plastic isn’t the greatest (for us and the planet), but it’s everywhere so I know this can be a hard habit to kick. One of my cats is obsessed with licking plastic bags so this has proven to be great incentive for me to avoid using plastic at all costs. Several years ago I switched to using cloth grocery bags and these actually make grocery shopping much easier than the old plastic and paper varieties. I also invested in some reusable produce bags and this cut out an amazing amount of our plastic usage.
If you use sandwich or plastic baggies, there are a lot of great reusable options out there nowadays. One of my big sources of plastic used to be food storage containers for taking food to work or storing leftovers. Awhile back I upgraded to glass Snapware containers and found these to be much more convenient because you can reheat food in them (with no worries about BPA) and they don’t ever spill, even if you are transporting watery foods. (And, trust me, once you’ve had soup spill on you during your morning commute, you’ll never forget it!)
If you are making the switch from plastic to glass food containers, instead of throwing out your old plastic ones, be sure to look for ways to re-purpose them around your home. I’ve found the plastic ones to be great for storing office items or as drawer organizers. And, if you buy bottled water, this is one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic usage because there are a ton of great reusable water bottle options out there. I personally like the stainless steel ones and the glass varieties.
#6 Unplug chargers and use power strips
I think we frequently hear the message about turning off lights and being conscious about turning appliances off, but we don’t often think about “phantom power,” or the fact that electronics still use power when they are turned off. (How Stuff Works has a great article explaining this.) One of the easiest ways to counter this is to use power strips in your home and turn the strip off when the electronics aren’t in use. I also make sure to unplug laptop and phone chargers as those are especially big consumers of electricity, even if the computer or phone isn’t plugged into the cord.
#7 Don’t let food go to waste
This may seem like a silly tip, but I often hear from people how much food they end up throwing out due to spoilage because it didn’t get eaten in time (especially for produce). This is a huge waste of food and money.Here are some handy tips I follow to make sure we use everything that I purchase:
- Line the bottom crisper drawer with paper towels. This helps to absorb extra moisture, which means produce stays fresh for longer. It’s also helpful to not wash produce until you’re ready to eat it as extra moisture means it tends to spoil quicker.
- Store herbs in your fridge in a small jar of water to help them stay fresh and perky. If you know that you won’t be able to use them in time, you can make pesto at home and freeze it for later use, or simply mix the herbs with a little oil and freeze it to use later in stir fries and soups.
- Only buy enough produce for a few days to make sure that you can consume it in time. If you tend to forget about it hidden away in the produce drawer, then place the produce front and center in your refrigerator to remind you to use it.
#8 Recycle, compost, and start a worm bin
I followed Seattle Tilth’s guidelines to create my bin, bought some worms at a local gardening store, and then just added in our food scraps. It took several months for the worms to multiply so I couldn’t add all of our food scraps right away, but as the worms multiplied, it was a great way to get rid of kitchen scraps and create amazing fertilizer for the garden. If you’re looking to get started with a worm bin, this is a great guide.
And after all that hard work of eating healthier, living a little more sustainably, and saving money, you certainly deserve a treat. Might I suggest this incredible raw chocolate superfood pudding? It’s one of my favorite desserts and I love adding a fresh sprig of mint to it as a fun “Earth Day” dessert.
What are your best tips for living greener and more sustainably?