5 Things You Can Do To Live More Sustainably
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Hi friends! I know a lot of you are also starting out on the journey of leaving a softer footprint on this earth, so I wanted to share a few things you can do to live more sustainably. Some of these things I have been doing for a while, others I have just recently started. Like many lifestyle changes, creating less waste is not an overnight process. It takes time to form new habits and rhythms in the home. Wherever you are in this journey, hopefully these tips can be of help to you.
Of course the ultimate goal is to strive to live "zero waste" but if we're being realistic, many of us don't have the time or resources to live that intense of a lifestyle. Zero-wasters will say that "it's really not that hard!" but I'm not going to act like living in the exact opposite way of the world isn't a struggle and something that takes a lot of time and dedication. Maybe you feel differently, but right now, for me to give myself the strict goal of "zero waste", I feel as though I'm setting myself up for disappointment and guilt. What I am focusing on right now is making small changes that will add up overtime, and eventually I may be able to say "hey, I'm a lot closer to zero waste than I thought"
My family has always recycled for as long as I can remember. All of our bottles, cans, cardboard, etc. And I never really thought of any of that being waste because it was being recycled. But I recently read how a lot of recycling companies lie and in reality, over 90% of materials we put out for recycling, never actually get recycled. That really opened my eyes to the fact that just recycling isn't enough and I need to actually cut down on the amount of packaging and waste I produce. Of course I will continue to recycle cardboards and cans and any plastic possible, but the ultimate goal is to not even have anything to recycle.
Unfortunately we are living in a world where the healthier and more sustainable options are often more expensive. Our health is an investment, so although buying unwrapped vegetables at the grocery store may cost you a few extra bucks, it is well worth it. Your health and this earth will thank you.
Composting cuts down on a lot of waste because it creates a place and a use for all your food scraps. Keep a cute bucket or tin by your sink and collect everything from banana peels to lemon rinds and empty it twice a day into your compost. You can invest in a compost bin or even just begin a pile behind your garage.
If you live in an apartment or someplace where composting in your own backyard is not possible, check to see if your city has a place for compost. If they do, collect your food scraps in a container with a lid and drop them off at the local compost weekly or bi-weekly.
Learn more about composting here.
2. Buy fresh and in bulk
Processed foods are most likely a main form of waste in every home. If you think about it, there's hardly anything that can be purchased waste free. They've even come up with ways to shrink wrap veggies and now they have those annoying little plastic wraps on the top of bananas (I swear they started doing that just to spite zero waste people).
I definitely have my fair share of processed foods (albeit organic and vegan, but still.) It's important for me to have certain things around that are easy and ready to throw in the oven for days that I'm too busy or I'm too far gone down the path of "hangry" to be able to cook anything. Creating less waste means trying my best to cut out most processed and pre-packaged foods. This may require a little bit more planning and meal prep, but it will be well worth it as my health and the environment will benefit.
If you live near a Whole Foods, Earth Fare, or any other health food store with access to bulk, now is the time to start taking advantage of that. Things like nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, etc that most people buy in plastic bags can easily be bought from the bulk section instead and are often cheaper. Using mason jars and bulk bags to shop in the bulk section also saves plastic and paper bags.
Instead of buying packaged produce like Trader Joe's tends to have, opt for unwrapped veggies like heads of lettuce instead of bags, single potatoes, etc. Things like that tend to be fresher anyways. Invest in reusable produce bags instead of using the plastic ones available.
As a part of my simplistic lifestyle, I eat a plant-based diet, meaning I don't consume meat, dairy, or eggs- all things that come in plastic and excessive packaging. Most everything I need for my meals can be found in the produce or bulk sections of the store. (Refusing to support animal agriculture also softens my footprint as I save 1100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forest, 40 pounds of grain, 20 pounds of co2, and 1 animal life each day.)
Choosing fresh, unpackaged, and organic fruits, veggies, and bulk items will benefit the environment and your health in a big way.
3. Cook at home, make your own
Cooking and eating at home not only reduces waste but is also easier on your wallet and your health. By cooking at home, you're able to choose and know exactly how your food is made and what is in it. Many things that we are sold at the stores can easily be made ourselves, much cheaper.
For example, things like nut butters can easily be made at home. Purchasing nuts in the bulk section, blending them at home, and storing the butter in a glass jar is so easy and way fresher! Choose to bake homemade bread with few ingredients instead of buying plastic wrapped bread full of chemicals at the store. Once you go fresh, you'll never be able to go back.
We live in a generation of convenience and we are conditioned to believe cake comes from a box, bread comes in a bag, and soup comes in a can. Learning the simple pleasures of making things homemade, natural, and organic will change your life. Cooking meals at home with the bulk and waste-free items you purchase at the store and using washable cooking utensils creates a waste free meal that you can feel good about.
Invest in some reusable produce bags, grocery bags, bulk bags, mason jars, glass water bottles, a stainless steel coffee cup, and wooden utensils and keep them in your car or your purse so you can bring them everywhere.
Reusable produce bags and grocery bags eliminate a lot of waste and plastic during your grocery shopping trips. If you are out an about getting a drink, having your mason jars and reusable coffee cup on hand will eliminate the waste of plastic cups, lids, and straws. Having reusable utensils in your purse is handy and will take away the worry of having to use plastic utensils if you do end up eating out somewhere.
A few of my favorite zero waste products are:
5. Simplify your bath and beauty routine
Simplifying my bath and beauty routine is one of the best things I have done in my pursuit of a simpler life. I no longer use toxin filled, scented bath and body works lotion, instead I make my own. I no longer buy toothpaste in plastic tubes, I make my own. I no longer paint my nails or wash my hair as often, and I make everything I can myself. Not only has this improved my health, but it leaves me more space and time to focus on more important things. I am 90% zero-waste when it comes to my bath and beauty products and 100% chemical-free.
If you haven't already, I highly recommend beginning the switch to all natural, homemade products. Many organic and all natural brands care about sustainability and environmentally friendly packaging way more than the big name, chemical filled brands. Making your own products creates less waste, costs less, and is so much better for your health. You can find all of my bath and beauty recipes here and a list of all my bath and beauty products here. In my opinion, this is the best area to start making changes in, especially if changing your food and shopping habits seems daunting right now.
I hope that these five tips inspire you and give you a good starting place if you too, feel called to living more sustainably. Give yourself patience and grace, as this will take time. I'm still learning too, so we can journey through this together.