Easy Steps to Living More Sustainably

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The climate is changing and so must we. Every spring Mother Earth generously showers us with hope, whether we deserve it or not (and you know we definitely don't deserve it). Hope in the form of gorgeous flowers and glorious sunshine to warm our skin and souls. But if there is to be any hope for our earth, we have to do our part. So, if you're like me and are looking for ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I've listed a bunch of easy steps we can take to help the planet:

Reduce our use of single-use disposables 

Replace some of your everyday disposable items with these reusable options:

Plastic straws and utensils: 

Opt for paper straws that are compostable and begin to breakdown quickly compared to plastic, which take 200 years to decompose, or buy stainless steel reusable straws like these that can be used over and over.

Plastic bags:

From snack and sandwich bags, to shopping bags, there are several options that are both more environmentally friendly and stylish. I love the designs by Envirosax. They fold up conveniently to a compact size, but then expand to easily fit plenty of groceries. 

Sandwich bags:

  • Stasher bags can be frozen, microwaved and cleaned in the dishwasher.
  • Planet Wise bags work great too and come in fun designs.
  • Bees Wrap is another great option that can also be used to replace plastic wrap.

Water bottles:

Just in case for some crazy reason you don't already own a reusable water bottle, here are 26 of the best water bottles you can buy on Amazon according to reviews.

Paper towels: 

Both of the options below work well for replacing paper towels. I've also gotten into the habit of cutting up old t-shirts to use for cleaning.

Dryer sheets:

Replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls. (You can add essential oils to them for extra freshness!)


And I'm going to go there for my last single-use item replacement - switching out tampons with menstrual cups. Sometimes you have to be a diva to help Mother Earth. I have the Diva Cup and it has worked great for me, but there are several options available and even a quiz to help you select the best one for you.

Conserve energy

Electricity, water and fuel:

These next steps may sound easy, and it's because they are.

  • Turn off the water when brushing teeth. 
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off the lights when leaving a room. 
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs. 
  • Wash clothes in cold water.

An additional step to take is adding a rain barrel. We have this one set up right next to our garden for easy watering in between rains.

And this is an obvious, but important one: use less fuel. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible. Carpool or use public transportation.

Think about what we eat

Meatless Mondays:

Did you know that global livestock production creates more greenhouse gas than all of the cars, trucks, planes, and trains in the world? By cutting meat out of our diets for one day a week, we can help the environment and live a healthier lifestyle. Visit meatlessmonday.com for more information.

We can also help the environment by purchasing local foods that are in season, if possible from the local farmer's market. Transporting food from far away uses fossil fuels for fuel and for keeping foods cold in transit so that they don't spoil.

Food waste:

We can waste less food through meal planning, buying in bulk and then composting what's left over. If you live in Chicago, check out Zero Waste Chicago to learn about options for composting. We live in Oak Park and recently signed up for our village's CompostAble Program. It has been refreshingly easy to compost and I'm amazed by how much less trash we throw out each week.

Maximize our purchasing power

When it comes to fashion, it's time to slow down and ditch "fast fashion." Instead of buying items that will wear out quickly, we should invest in fewer but better quality items. Or instead of buying something that we may only wear once (and pay quite a bit for) we can now rent something instead. Two options for renting include Rent the Runway and Le Tote.

Another idea is to shop at a local vintage or secondhand store, or try out ThredUp, where you can shop for secondhand clothes from the comfort of your couch. You can even send in your used clothing and donate it or sell it for cash or credit!

And we shouldn't forget the power of the purse when deciding where to buy our clothes. The following brands have committed to sustainable methods and even reward customers for recycling. You can recycle old jeans at Madewell and old clothes at H&M and in return they'll give you a discount. Other clothing companies committed to sustainable initiatives include Levi'sAllbirds and of course one of the first defenders of the earth when it comes to clothing, Patagonia.

And in general, we should all just buy less stuff. It's easier to live a Marie Kondo style life if we have less stuff anyway!

Educate our youth

"We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

This Native American Proverb is how we should all be living, not just on Earth Day, but all the time.

It's our job to nurture the earth and educate our children on how to do the same. I am inspired by the activism of today's youth in regards to climate change. My goal is to raise children who appreciate the gift of our planet and accept the responsibility to care for it.

This Earth Day, we went on a walk to the park and picked up trash along the way. By the time we got there, our bag was full. And then we filled up another bag at the park. We took several small steps to help clean up a lot of trash. And every day we'll keep taking steps to make a bigger impact in caring for our planet.

Additional Resources:
If you live in the Chicagoland area check out Zero Waste Chicago.
To purchase environmentally friendly products check out Grove CollaborativeThe Zero Market and Wild Minimalist

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