Today I’m going to once again talk about sustainable living ideas, and tips for going green at home.
This post is a continuation of what I discussed in my most recent article on eco living. I consider these posts a part 1 and part 2 of each other. So if you haven’t read that one yet, please do!
To summarize though, I wrote about 3 sustainable living ideas for how to start living a more eco friendly life. They were:
- Air drying your laundry
- Relying on central air/heating less
- Learning to DIY household products
I really do think the sustainable living ideas I talk about in this post complement the ones above. So if you did read my previous post, I hope you enjoy part 2!
Anyways, let’s get into them!
1. Sustainable Living Ideas & Shopping Local First
The world of online shopping has freaking exploded in the last decade. It’s convenient, fast, cheap, effortless, and even fun sometimes.
I think all that instant-access and instant-gratification has kind of done a number on us though. I mean this in two different ways. One, in terms of the drastic increase in volume of products we are now consuming as a society. Secondly, I mean this in terms of the mentality shift that’s happened across society.
Let’s start with the first point. Before online shopping, if we wanted to buy something we had to go to a store, and we could only buy as much as we could physically carry out in our arms. Or, as much as we could physically fit in whatever we drove there in.
How many chairs can you carry out of a store at a time? One? Two? How many can fit in your car?
Sustainable Living Ideas And Technology Don’t Always Mix
Now you can buy 10 chairs with the click of a button and have them delivered straight to your doorstep. Make it 50 chairs, 100, or 1,000 – it doesn’t matter.
This ease-of-access has significantly increased the rate at which we buy as a society, and also quantity.
But as I mentioned before, sustainable living is about so much more than just the actions we take. It’s also about the mindsets we hold.
Since starting my zero waste journey I’ve made a big effort to try and shop secondhand first when it comes to buying new things.
Searching For Sustainable Living Products
Whether it’s a kitchen item, a new item of clothing, furniture, home decor, etc. I always make sure to check out my local thrift stores first.
This has dramatically slowed down the rate at which I buy new products. But I think this is a good thing. I know for a fact that I buy way less than I used to, because it takes me much longer to acquire things. If everyone slowed down the pace at which they buy things, I think we’d all find that we’re buying less. In turn, we’d therefore be producing less waste, and the world would be much better off for it.
So when thinking about sustainable living ideas, my advice in this regard is to think local first – online shopping second. Buying local doesn’t always have to mean “thrift store” though. I’ve decided to fully embrace my thrifty side, but there are tons of small business owners in the world that can benefit from our patronage too!
Sustainable Living Ideas And Semi Trucks Also Don’t Always Mix…
There’s another reason I recommend shopping local. By visiting local businesses you’ll be requesting less long-distance deliveries.
Think of all the times you’ve ordered a product that was shipped from halfway across the country, or across the world. I’m definitely guilty of this, but it’s something that I’m trying to improve upon by shopping local more often.
Sustainable Living Ideas And Big Business Also ALSO Don’t Always Mix
My final point under this sustainable living idea, is to buy “small,” not “big.” Allow me to explain.
When I say “shop local first” I’m obviously referring to location. But I also intend it as a way to think of shopping with small businesses first, over big ones. If you have the opportunity to buy a product with an up-and-coming environmentally responsible startup, or Walmart… I’d choose the not-Walmart option.
Not all small businesses are created equal, but in general, I think supporting small businesses owners is far superior to big box stores and corporate chains with questionable environmental policies.
There are more upsides to this than just being more eco friendly – often times small business owners put more care into the quality of their product, and provide far superior customer service.
So all in all, I think shopping local and shopping with small businesses are two great sustainable living ideas that go hand in hand.
2. The Best Of All Sustainable Living Ideas: Eat A Plant Based Diet
At this point in time it should be no surprise that this makes the list. Study after countless study has been published from the scientific community on this topic. All centered around the devastating effects the animal agriculture industry has on the environment.
The animal agriculture industry is the leading cause of:
- Amazon rainforest deforestation
- Ocean dead zones
- Water use & pollution
- Land use
- Species extinction
- Habitat destruction
Don’t just take my word for it though. Cowspiracy is a fantastic documentary on the subject, and one that I recommend everyone watches. It’s available on Netflix. But for those without a subscription, you can still check out the amazing statistics from the doc on their website, compiled by years of scientific research.
In my recent post about my oat milk recipe, I also discuss the land use, water use, and green house gas emission comparisons of different milks (hint: dairy milk is way more damaging to the planet than plant based milks by a large margin).
Learning about the environmental impacts of animal products was a really eye-opening learning experience for me. And it really solidified my vindications for living a plant based and vegan lifestyle. Truly, there are so many reasons to go plant-based, but I feel like I should actually devote whole posts to this topic alone.
For now, I’ll just focus on a few of the most shocking facts to introduce you to this topic.
The Most Sustainable Diet (And The Least)
- Livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
- Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.
- Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
- Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.
- Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land.
- 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.
- For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
Luckily, we don’t need animal products to survive! It’s not only possible to survive on an entirely plant based diet, it’s possible to THRIVE on a plant based diet.
It’s also easier than ever.
How To Go Green With Your Diet
Plant based eating is so much easier than it seems. Not only are meat and dairy alternatives literally everywhere in stores these days, but the internet is also FULL of recipes. I have a large collection of vegan recipes on my own blog, which I hope you check out sometime!
But know that whatever you are craving – a vegan version exists of it. Want to eat sushi? A burger? Pasta? Pizza? Ice Cream? Bagels? Nachos? Lasagna? Doughnuts? Stir fry? Dumplings? Cookies? A vegan version exists for all of these things.
If the idea of going vegan is intimidating, remember that you don’t have to jump in right away, if you’re not ready. Learn to embrace Meatless Mondays, or go meat-free Monday through Friday. Take on the vegan 22-Day Challenge (which is full of resources to help you succeed), or find a buddy to try new recipes with.
You can start with simple swaps like replacing dairy milk with almond milk. And don’t forget, that there is a world of delicious faux meat and faux dairy products out there for people to transition with (if cooking isn’t your thing). For example, whenever I serve a quick spaghetti dinner to people with Gardein’s “meatless meat balls” most are shocked to find out they’re vegan.
So when it comes to starting a vegan lifestyle, my advice is this: It’s way easier than you think. It’s one of the most significant lifestyle changes an individual can make to reduce their environmental impact, and live a more sustainable life. In fact, when it comes to this list of sustainable living ideas, it’s by far the best change you can make.
3. Sustainable Living Ideas and the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot
Some people call these the 5 R’s of zero waste and sustainable living. I’ve talked about them before in some of my zero waste posts, but I wanted to go over them again now. The idea behind the 5 R’s is to limit what you consume, and then ethically/responsibly get rid of items you no longer need when the time comes.
A lot of sustainable living ideas revolve around reduction. Reducing how much energy we rely on, how much waste we produce, how much pollution our lifestyle causes, etc. The 5 R’s can be a helpful and easy saying to remember when it comes to thinking about how to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Going Green At Home Starts With Owning Less
First and foremost, refuse what you don’t need in your life. When you stop to think about it, we’re offered a whole lot of “free” stuff when we’re out in public. Grocery store attendants will automatically start packing your groceries in “free” plastic bags at checkout unless you say otherwise. Servers at restaurants will automatically place straws on a table when they bring out drinks. Many stores offer free gifts or samples when you make a purchase. Airlines pass out free water cups and packets of nuts, etc.
None of these are things we actually need though. We can tell our servers a polite “no thank you” when they attempt to give us a straw. We can bring our own bags to the grocery store. We can bring our own reusable water bottles and snacks on short flights.
The more we refuse, (especially when it comes to plastic), the more environmentally friendly our decisions become. Learning how to use less plastic is something we can all work towards.
The next R is to reduce. Reduce how frequently we buy new things, and also reduce our reliance on items that we know aren’t the most eco friendly products. For example, I’m pretty big into cooking. I used to buy tin foil, plastic cling wrap, wax paper, and parchment paper pretty often at the grocery store to meet my cooking needs. My husband came home one day with a gift for me though, a silicone baking mat (I hadn’t even known these things existed!).
Now, I rarely ever buy foil or other oven-paper products. My silicone mat takes care of everything! It’s easy to clean, it will last me years (if not a lifetime), and I now send way less foil/wax-paper to the landfills.
This is just one example of how to reduce. Maybe you’re really into beauty products, or crafting. Maybe you’re into music, or sports. Whatever your hobbies and interests are, try to think about the most common products you regularly buy for it. What might you be able to reduce, or find a creative and more sustainable solution for?
Sustainable Living Ideas & The Next 3 R’s
These next R’s are great sustainability tips for going green at home: Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.
The items that you do buy – how can they be reused instead of trashed? Take for example the many random jars you may buy from the store. Whether it was a jar of salsa, pasta sauce, or peanut butter, I usually try to find a new purpose for it in my home. I have a pretty big collection of jars now, that I use to store my bulk goods that I buy. My repurposed jars now hold bulk nuts, seeds, dried fruit, loose leaf tea, and beans in my pantry! I also make my own salad dressings and sauces pretty often, so these jars come in handy for that too.
When it’s time for me to stock up on rice, I try to find the biggest bags I can in bulk. Those giant 20 lb Royal bags are usually what I buy – the outside bag is made of some kind of hemp/cotton material.
I save these cotton bags and use them as grocery bags now. And as for the plastic bag that was inside it as a lining, I use that as a freezer bag for holding vegetable scraps now (so I can make homemade vegetable broth later).
Instead of tossing an old t-shirt out because it has holes or stains, maybe it could be cut up and used as cleaning rags instead.
The point is, before placing an item in your trash can, stop to think how that item could be reused in a different way. Get creative!
How To Go Green By Recycling
If you can’t reuse an item, then the next R in line is to recycle it. Recycling is something everyone should be doing. I’m embarrassed that it took me as long as it did to get passionate about recycling. As a teen and young adult I knew it was important, but never really placed priority on it. I threw paper and glass items in the trash all. the. time.
Now it’s a huge part of my life and how I think about consuming. I thank books like Garbology and Rubbish! for really opening my eyes up to the world of landfills, and all the challenges and complexities they face. The less we send to the landfill, the better.
Recycling is a huge part of that, but so is recycling responsibly. If you’re recycling a glass bottle that had a salad dressing in it, make sure to rinse it out thoroughly. If it was a glass bottle, but had a plastic cap, make sure to carefully separate the two out, so the cap goes in a bag for plastic recycling, and the bottle in a bag for glass recycling. Don’t get lazy and just throw everything in together. Recycling centers all over the country are heavily burdened for more than one reason, but a big part of the problem is pollution in the recycling itself (meaning glass, paper, plastic, and all sorts of materials being sent to facilities all mixed in and not separated properly). It is OUR responsibility to sort our recycling correctly, BEFORE it gets sent to the recycling facility. So take care!
Ways To Go Green In Your Garden
That leaves us to the final R – rot. Composting food waste and any other material that is biodegradable is so important. Food does not biodegrade when it gets sent to the landfill. It becomes trapped by tons of garbage that gets piled on top of it, and stays in a mummified state producing methane. I talked about this a lot in my post on reducing food waste – so I recommend you give it a read to learn more!
Do you have a yard? Do you have a friend or family member that does? Consider exploring the world of composting as a final means to reducing what you send to the landfill.
Sustainable Living Ideas From The Past
Our grandparents, our great grandparents, and their great grandparents… all the generations before us used to rely on their own creativity and skills when it came to living. If you’re looking for great sustainable living examples, look to the past.
Whether it was baking their own bread, drying their laundry on a clothes line outside in the sun, making their own lotion and soaps, shampoos, or mending their own clothes, etc.
If there was one statement to make, that summarized all of these sustainable living ideas, it’d be this: Often the simple solution, is the most environmentally friendly one. Doing things “the old fashioned way” or “slow way” will likely beat out using a machine every time.
Learning to tolerate our living environments more, and rely on modern comforts and luxuries less, will allow us to make big strides in eco living.
Buy local, and support small businesses whenever you can. Stop supporting one of the most environmentally destructive and cruel industries on the planet by exploring a plant based diet. Finally, get comfortable with rethinking your purchasing habits with the 5 R’s.
Eco Friendly Living For All
I hope you enjoyed this blog post on sustainable living ideas. I think all of the things on this list are pretty doable, and easy to start!
If you have any other thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear them! If you try any of the sustainable living ideas on this list, or have questions about anything, I’d also love to hear from you! Leave a comment below to get the discussion rolling.
As always, thank you for reading! 🙂