Sustainability Series: 6 Easy Everyday Ways to Live More Sustainably
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Among the health and fitness resolutions brought into the new year, I've been happy to see a lot of friends and family adding sustainability practices to their intentions for 2020. While going completely zero waste isn't attainable for us at this point, especially in the building industry, we can take steps to be more sustainable in our daily lives. Here are some of our easy everyday changes we're making to live more sustainably.
1. Avoid Plastic
Small decisions to avoid plastic makes a big impact overall. There are easy habits we can create to avoid using so much plastic. Bring your own tote bags shopping, carry out small purchases without a bag, and use cotton produce bags grocery shopping. Refuse single use plastic such as straws, sandwich bags, plastic cutlery, Q-tips, etc. Ban plastic water and soda bottles, and carry your own metal or glass bottle instead. Choose to buy items packaged in glass instead of plastic, then reuse the glass. Around the holidays we created an eco-friendly gift guide, and a lot of those items help eliminate the use of common everyday plastics.
2. Reuse When You Can
This applies to everything; from food storage to clothing to furniture to kids' toys. This can be a hard concept to get used to for some. Even when you can afford new and the whole retail world is at your fingertips, reusing products helps reduce waste and gives items another life. As an interior designer, my favorite way to do this is by antique shopping or utilizing Facebook Marketplace for home decor and furniture. For clothing, shop secondhand shops like The Real Real, Buffalo Exchange and ThredUp.
3. Go Paperless
Almost every billing system these days allows for paperless billing and payments. Choosing the paperless option is wonderful for so many reasons. First, less paper and ink are being used. Second, it eliminates transportation needed to deliver that item. Third, it clears off your countertop from piling mail. Fourth, it is more accessible to find records in the future. Eliminate disposable paper plates, bowls, etc. when hosting friends and family gatherings. Doing dishes isn't the most fun chore after a get together, but it's less wasteful.
4. Clean Cleaning
Cleaning products are filled with harmful chemicals for you, your family and your home. In 2019, after using up my existing cleaning supplies, I switched to cleaner cleaning options for my home and limiting the amount of products I have. In my laundry routine I started using an Eco Egg and wool dryer balls instead of traditional laundry detergent and dryer sheets. I cannot boast enough about the Eco Egg. It's good for 720 loads of laundry, hypoallergenic, replaces laundry detergent (and their bulky plastic packaging), and eliminates the chemicals from detergent from going into the water system. For the rest, I turn to Grove Collaborative to find natural household products and brands. As a reminder, you don't need every specialty cleaner under the sun like companies lead you to believe. Soap or vinegar with warm water are usually sufficient. My final tip here is to use rags in place of paper towels whenever you can.
5. Eat Fresh, Locally & Seasonally
Buying and eating fresh produce is beneficial in so many ways. First, it's healthier for you. Second, it comes in its own natural packaging instead of plastic. Third, it supports your local farmer. We highly recommend joining your local CSA because it brings farm fresh food to your home. Plan out weekly meals before shopping to limit food waste. Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook and blog is one of my favorites for meal inspiration. Reducing meat consumption also helps minimize your carbon footprint.
6. Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency in your home will help save energy and increase savings. Technology allows us to program our thermostats from our office chairs. Turning down your thermostat 7-10 degrees in winter and up in summer while you're away at work and sleeping will significantly boost your energy savings. Draw your window treatments while you're away to help with insulation. Create a habit with yourself and children to unplug small appliances after using. Select ENERGY STAR efficient appliances. Lastly, switch over your light bulbs to LED. Some energy companies also have rewards programs and incentives to put money back in your pocket.
We challenge you (and ourselves) to be more conscious of our every day consumption. Making small changes will help keep your home and our planet cleaner. As Zero Waste Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau says, "We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."
- Katie Miller and the Jkath Team