7 Easy Ways to Make Your Life More Sustainable
I don’t like pretty lists filled with unachievable upcycles and unrealistic goals. I don’t like them because they make sustainability seem way harder than it has to be, and this deters people. So maybe I’ll never be the person who uses rope and heat to cut wine bottles into glasses—although I’m definitely jealous of anyone who does—but I’m not alone.
For many of us, it’s about keeping it real. We like tips that we can actually incorporate into our busy lifestyles. This means easy swaps and things that we can do once and forget about forever. And yes, I’m well aware climate change is out of control. I’m not naive enough to think if we all do these 7 things, we’ll save the planet. It’s going to take a lot more than at-home actions. But on a personal level, when the time comes, I need to know I lived as sustainably as possible. What about you?
Here are 7 easy ways to make your life more sustainable:
1. Ditch plastic bags. Plastic bags are bad news bears. They end up in oceans, harm the ecosystem and its animals, and leech toxins. Probably the easiest thing you can do is switch out plastic produce and grocery bags for reusable ones. A few tips: For convenience, buy linen and mesh bags for shopping. Leave some in the car, in the hallway, and in your purse. For the most sustainable and affordable option: Makeover some old pillowcases like Erica from A Waste Not Kind of Life did. With one pillowcase, she sewed two produce bags.
2. Have a dedicated face cloth and forget about cotton rounds. Disposable cotton rounds, even when organically grown, are something we simply don’t need. I picked up a discounted The Body Shop organic cotton cloth for 6 bucks and haven’t bought a stack of rounds since. The cloth is soft on your skin and won’t tear or leave fibre residues like disposables. You can hand wash with some Castile soap and hang dry after each use or simply rinse and toss in with your regular wash cycle. Also, you needn’t look to The Body Shop. You can upcycle old t-shirts or find fabric for much less at a sewing or thrift shop.
3. Stay away from malls and shopping centres unless you have a specific item you need to purchase. Mindless consumption is wasteful, expensive, and never makes us as happy as we hope. But, when we’re bored and the weather is too rainy or too cold or too hot, we retreat to indoor centres that tell us we need this new shiny useless thing. Wandering around aisles of items you don’t have makes you want them—even if you don’t need them or have the money to spend. Most of the time, the things we buy on a whim stay in the closet or drawer or collect dust. It’s best to know what we need and seek it out when necessary.
4. Stop cleaning with paper towels. So...I'm *kinda* a germaphobe and that personality tick means I spent too many years cleaning up spills and counters with expensive, wasteful paper towels. It was one of those habits that was so automatic, I never thought about it until my spouse pointed it out. Since then, I’ve switched to using cloths that I toss into the regular wash.
5. Consider menstrual cups, leak-proof panties, or reusable linens. The days of disposable tampons and puffy pads are over. Not only are these costly additions to a monthly budget, they’re detrimental to landfills and add up quickly. Oh yeah, and they’re uncomfortable! There are alternatives that are cost-effective, sustainable, and suit anyone’s style. 6. Commit to having a reusable water bottle on hand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people waste money on overpriced water in a plastic bottle so that they could quell their thirst on-the-go. Save yourself and the planet the hassle and get into the habit of having water with you.
7. Skip meat a few times a week. Meatless Mondays are great, but we can definitely do better—and there’s massive motivation to do so. Meat is expensive, can cause or exacerbate certain health conditions, and it’s pretty much terrible for the environment. Now, I’m not saying we all need to go vegan. I’ve been there and done that and have come to understand that my most sustainable (and healthy) life includes small quantities of turkey, chicken, and fish. Everyone and their diet is different. I have food allergies (eggs, beef, dairy, red beans, green beans, garlic, etc…) that prevent me from eating many things in the first place. I work with what I can eat to get the nutrients I need while considering my ecological footprint.
A few times a week, this means skipping meat altogether. I’ve come up with dishes that even my steak-loving spouse devours:
Creamy coconut chickpea curry with sweet potatoes and broccoli
Black bean, sweet potato, and quinoa burgers with dill vegan mayo
Sweet corn quinoa chili topped with crushed tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime
There are endless ways to reduce your ecological footprint. This is a beginner's list, so stay tuned for more intensive options coming in future posts.