10 Simple Tips for Sustainable Living

  • Written By:Lily Cameron
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by Lily Cameron, founder of Wild Minimalist and author of Simply Sustainable

When we think about the effects of climate change, and acknowledge our own wasteful habits, it can feel overwhelming and even depressing. You may wonder how you ended up with so many disposable products in your home and want to do better, but don’t know where to start. The important thing is to start small and take gradual steps to reduce the trash sent to landfills. Here are a few simple tips to jumpstart your low-waste lifestyle.

Morning Beverage

Begin your day with your favorite hot beverage and zero plastic waste. If you’re a coffee lover, consider making your own brew at home with a pour-over and reusable cloth filter, French press or stovetop espresso maker. Take it a step further by buying beans in bulk from your favorite local roaster and be sure to compost the grounds when you’re done, or sprinkle them around your garden as a natural fertilizer. For tea lovers, skip teabags (which are often made from plastic) and try loose-leaf tea.

Zero Waste To-Go Kit

The best way to avoid waste on-the-go is to be prepared. Assemble a zero waste kit with a reusable tote bag, food container, water bottle, cutlery and a cloth napkin. By bringing your own reusable essentials, you will be able to avoid most disposable items when you’re away from home. Stow your kit in your bag or car—you never know when it may come in handy.

Practice FIFO

When it comes to fridge organization, practice the FIFO rule or First In, First Out. Place groceries that are more likely to spoil towards the front of your fridge at eye level so they’re immediately visible when you're looking for something to eat. Challenge yourself to use up these older items before buying new groceries.

Save Scraps

Did you know that food, not plastic, is the most wasted material in American landfills? Help curb food waste at home by reusing scraps that you would normally toss or compost. Save vegetable trimmings to make a flavorful, homemade broth, turn stale bread into breadcrumbs and use the zest and peels from juiced citrus fruits for baking, cocktails or infusing DIY cleaning sprays.

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Use Up Disposables

Before you get rid of all your single-use plastic and buy a bunch of new reusables, be sure to use up what you already have. Let each disposable item serve its purpose before replacing it with something more sustainable. This will give you time to adjust to each change and be mindful about what eco-friendly alternatives you can use when the disposable item runs out.

DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

Make your own all-purpose cleaning spray with a few simple household ingredients. Mix 1 part white vinegar with 4 parts water in a spray bottle and add optional 10 drops of essential oils, like lavender and eucalyptus, for aromatherapy. The cleaner works great on windows and mirrors, stainless steel, bathroom counters and showers as well as grout and tile. Avoid using the spray on marble or granite surfaces, as the acid can etch these sensitive stones.

Start Composting

If you don’t already, start composting food scraps and other biodegradable items around your home like paper towels and napkins, wood skewers and toothpicks, dust bunnies and nail clippings. If you don’t have a home garden and your sanitation service doesn’t offer the service, consider trying a bokashi bucket, electric composter, vermicompost or search for a site to drop-off scraps (some farmers’ markets offer one!).

Ditch Paper Towels

When you run out of your last roll of paper towels, try switching to unpaper towels or reusable cleaning cloths. They’re more durable and absorbent than paper towels, and best of all, you can wash and reuse them when you’re done. Always try to select fabrics made from natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and hemp and skip microfiber cloths which can shed harmful plastic fibers that end up in the ocean.

Green Your Dental Routine

Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used still exists in a landfill (unless it was incinerated)? Switch to a bamboo toothbrush with a compostable handle, toothpaste in a recyclable aluminum tube or glass jar and compostable silk dental floss in a refillable glass vial. It’s easy to care for your teeth and gums and reduce waste. Now, that’s something to smile about.

Just Say No

It seems like we’re constantly offered free items—branded tote bags, beauty samples, junk mail, and even the disposable cutlery added to take-out meals. We often accept these freebies because we don’t want to seem difficult or rude, but when we do, we reinforce the demand for disposable products that we don’t actually want or need. Get in the practice of refusing these items and letting people know that you’re trying to reduce waste. A simple “No, thank you” will also suffice.

To learn more low-waste lifestyle tips for your home and on-the-go, check out Simply Sustainable by Lily Cameron.

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