Transitioning from wasteful, indulgent, convenient lifestyles to eco-friendly living is a big change, and when you’re just starting out, trying to make those changes all at once can be extremely stressful.
The good news is that now that you’ve made the decision to make a change, the hardest part is already out of the way. Committing to change is a big step, so congratulate yourself for making it this far! Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to do anything drastic right away. Focus on taking small steps in the right direction and remember there is no such thing as perfection, no matter how stylish zero waste lifestyle advocates portray their lives.
Here are a few small ways to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle that can have a big impact on our planet.
1. Use reusable bags
When you head to the grocery store, bring your own reusable bags. Disposable plastic bags are incredibly wasteful and they don’t break down quickly in landfills. While reusable shopping bags will cost you a bit upfront, they will help to drastically reduce the amount of waste you create every single time you go shopping.
Reusable bags made of canvas, hemp, cotton or other natural fibre are sturdier than plastic bags too, and have several potential uses. In addition to using them when you go shopping, you can use them to store items, pack items when moving, use as a beach bag or library bag and so much more.
When you’ve forgotten your reusable bags and need a plastic bag from the store (it happens, don’t beat yourself up over it, just plan better next time), reuse or recycle it instead of throwing it away. They work well as liners for small garbage bins, for cleaning litter boxes and for dealing with other pet messes. You can also recycle soft plastic bags as many grocery stores now have collection bins where you can drop them off. Read this post for a comprehensive list of places.
Pro tip: If you want to push yourself, swapping single-use disposable items for reusable ones is the way to go. Our post “22 Steps Closer to Zero Waste Living: Disposable Items to Stop Buying Right Now” will help you do just that.
2. Eat less meat
While you may not have considered changing your diet in an effort to reduce your impact on the environment, eating less meat can have a huge impact when you’re trying to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle. Presently, more than 30 percent of the Earth’s surface is being used to raise livestock. According to the United Nations the “livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2.”
By reducing your meat consumption, you are doing your part to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. If people consume less meat, that also means that deforestation is reduced and remain natural habitat for wildlife and indigenous tribes who live in harmony with their surroundings.
So consider eating more vegetables and fruits, or even trying to go full vegan or vegetarian one or two days each week. We recommend starting with Meatless Mondays to make life easier.
3. Use less fossil-fuel powered energy
There are many ways to reduce energy usage at home. In addition to protecting the environment and adding to greenhouse gas emissions (which is the main cause of climate change), doing so could save you big on your energy bills.
When your appliances are not in use, unplug them. The same goes for cell phone chargers and other electronics since many devices draw electricity even when they’re not in use. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible and uses a clothesline or drying rack to dry them instead of putting them in the dryer.
As light bulbs burn out in your home, replace them with more eco-friendly ones. Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, use significantly less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and they last up to five times longer. LED bulbs are a great choice, too.
Reducing your energy consumption at home is as easy as making a few small changes. Even remembering to switch off the lights and turn off the TV when you leave a room can help you be more eco-friendly.
Pro tip: Check out our post “6 Energy Saving Habits That Could Reduce Your Bill By 50%“ if you’re interested in more energy-saving eco lifestyle ideas.
4. Stop water waste
In the United States, most people have access to fresh, clean water. Unfortunately, we often abuse this privilege and waste this vital resource.
Here’s what to do: Don’t purchase bottled water, invest in a water filter instead. Install low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers. Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Only wash full laundry loads of clothes or dishes (this reduces energy consumption, too!). Don’t forget to have a bucket in the shower to capture running water so you can use it on your garden!
Pro tip: The garden consumes lots of water. Make sure to read our post “The Sustainable Garden: Water Saving Tips for Home Gardeners” to learn how to conserve water while making your garden flourish.
5. Buy less generally, but buy eco-friendly if you must
Let’s take clothing as an example. The clothes you wear, like all other items we purchase, have an impact on the environment since it takes energy and resources to grow, mine, produce, package, transport and store these items.
So if you must go shopping for a shirt for example, first aim for second hand since no new raw materials are required and this is the most sustainable option. If you have no time to search for a preloved shirt, then aim for ones made of organic and natural fibres like linen, hemp, organic cotton or sustainable fabrics such as organic bamboo, Tencel and Modal.
When an article of clothing has reached the end of its lifespan, don’t throw it away. Cut it up to use as rags or for a craft project. If it’s still in good condition but you no longer wear it, donate it to charity or give it to a friend and family member who may be inclined to wear it.
Pro tip: Finding it hard to stop shopping? Our comprehensive guide “Individuals in the Developed World Consume More of the Earth’s Resources. Here’s How to Consume Less…” will explain what to do!
Committing to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle seems more daunting that it actually is. Once you commit, make sure to follow these small steps, they’ll add up and you’ll find your impact has been bigger than you thought. Just embrace one thing at a time, keep learning from others committed to living low-waste and eco-friendly, and soon you will be living a life that has much less impact on the environment.
One last thing: don’t forget to share what you’re doing with others so that you may inspire them to start too. The more people who commit to small steps in the eco direction, the bigger the positive impact on our planet!
- 16 Eco-Stylish Reusable Bags, Water Bottles, Coffee Cups and Other Zero Waste Essentials
- How to Challenge Neoliberalism’s Mantra of Consumerism and Infinite Growth to Save the Planet
- Living With Less: Understanding Our Wants and Needs
- 40 Inspiring Quotes About Climate Change, Sustainable Living and Our Natural Environment
- Travelling Zero Waste: Travel Tips From the Zero Waste Experts
Title image credit: The Clean Collective.