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Everything you do in your day-to-day life has an impact on the planet.
Some actions are better and more sustainable for the planet, while others – not so much.
Finding simple ways to be sustainable in everyday life could lower your environmental impact, and it can be a great way to become more eco-friendly.
In this post, you will learn about:
- What is sustainable living?
- Sustainable living VS zero waste
- 15 ways to be more sustainable in everyday life
- Conclusion (+ the 3 most powerful actions)
What is sustainable living?
Sustainable living is the attempt of reducing your individual use of the Earth’s natural resources and reduce the environmental damage as much as possible.
A sustainable lifestyle takes into account:
- energy use
- waste disposal
- socialization, and more.
There are various actions and lifestyle changes that promote a sustainable way of living.
Encouraging and sharing the best practices will ensure the greatest environmental, economic and social impact.
And the good thing is that you don’t have to go crazy about it.
By simply changing some of your habits, you can reduce your carbon footprint and leave a positive impact.
Sustainable living VS zero waste:
Sustainable living and zero waste living are very similar lifestyles.
While they are driven to the same goal, and many of them overlap, sometimes each lifestyle prioritizes different actions.
- Zero waste focuses on reducing the trash, and the aim is to send nothing to a landfill. It is about redefining the system by the way we buy, consume and dispose of things.
- Sustainable living is a much broader concept that deals with reducing the environmental impact of large-scale day-to-day activities. It doesn’t necessarily focus on the physical forms of waste.
For example, zero waste living strives to reduce food packaging, whereas sustainable living aims to reduce the food system’s impact as a whole.
A person interested in sustainable living might get something packaged in plastic if it is organic and locally made.
A person interested in zero waste living might get a package-free product that isn’t organic or locally made.
Ultimately, getting the best of both worlds will be the best.
Here are 15 easy ways to be more sustainable in everyday life:
1. Eat more plants
The most sustainable diets are the vegan and vegetarian ones, while the least sustainable one is the omnivore diet.
You don’t have to go vegan overnight to eat more sustainably.
However, eating animals is terrible for the environment.
Livestock takes up most of the world’s agricultural land (77%), and it only produces 18% of the world’s calories.
It releases the majority of emissions from land use, methane emissions from cattle, manure management, and fertilizer use.
Our World Data says it perfectly:
Some super easy actionable tips include:
- Eat more plant-based foods. Challenge yourself, and become a weekday vegan (or vegetarian).
- Incorporate in your diet more of the foods with the lowest environmental impact, like whole-grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil.
- Eat more plant-based protein sources like tofu, beans, peas, and nuts, as they have the lowest carbon footprint, too.
One of my favorite places to find some amazing & simple plant-based recipes is on Youtube.
The channel I can recommend you to check out first is Pick Up Limes:
Other ways to become more sustainable with food are:
- Eat local – Local food has a lower environmental impact. Whenever possible, support and buy from local farmers’ markets and shops.
- Avoid food waste – Food waste contributes to excess consumption of fresh water and fossil fuels. Reducing food waste will save you money while saving resources, energy, and water.
- Meal prep – Make food at home and bring it to university, or work. This will save you money and reduce plastic packaging from to-go foods or snacks.
- Choose organic food – Typically, it requires 30-50% less energy during production. Plus, organic goods keep away harmful pesticides from our land and water.
- Compost – It can be more challenging than all the other options, but composting your food scraps is a fantastic way to live more sustainably. Read my article with 7 composting ways to find more about it.
2. Save energy
By using less energy, you can not only save money but also reduce carbon emissions.
There are many easy ways you can save energy at home.
Some super easy, actionable tips are:
- Heating – If the heating/air conditioner is working, make sure that the windows are closed. Bonus tip – stop the heating 2 hours before going to bed.
- Light – When you’re not in a room, turn the light off.
- Hang dry clothes – Air drying can save both energy and money, too.
- Unplug your devices – Always-on but inactive devices can add 1,300 kilowatt-hours or $165 anually, to your household’s electricity bill. Yikes. Try to always unplug things that you don’t actively use. That can be anything from a plugged-in phone charger, tv, printer, radio, alarm clock, microwave, etc.
You can implement these changes right away.
Some additional tips that can help you to save energy but require more time and effort include:
- Switch to LED Lighting – One of the most energy-efficient forms of light. Just make sure the heat is not trapped around the bulb so it doesn’t get too hot, and it burns out faster.
- Invest in energy-efficient equipment wherever possible – because older devices often use more energy than new ones.
- Green energy – Sign up with alternative energy providers to generate electricity without releasing fossil carbon. It might be solar or wind. You decide what your best options are.
3. Save water
Saving water is another effective way to reduce electricity use, greenhouse gas emissions, and other energy-intensive operations.
So, a couple of actionable, easy tips that you can implement right away are:
- Run the dishwasher with only a full load – Can save more than 3,400 gallons of water each year. Wait for full loads for your clothes, too.
- Reuse water – Try washing vegetables in a bowl and re-use the water for your plants or garden.
- Take shorter showers – Add a 4-minute shower timer to remind you when to get out of the shower. I like to play a cool song on my phone and to use it as a “timer”.
- Take cold showers – Cold water uses less energy, plus you are likely to stay in the shower for less time. So, if you are brave enough, start taking cold showers. They are pretty good for you anyway. (have you ever heard of Wim Hof?)
- Stop the water – When you wash dishes or brush your teeth.
- Eat less cheese – Say what? Well, did you know that cheese is a food that uses the most freshwater in its production? 5,605 liters of fresh water are used to produce a kilogram of cheese.
Recycling is tricky.
Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of the waste is recycled.
Even though it isn’t as effective as we all wished, it is still good to separate your trash and place waste in the correct bins.
The two easy, actionable tips here are:
- Follow the recycling rules in your local area – There are different rules everywhere, so the best thing you can do is follow local recycling guidelines.
- Try to reuse items as many times as you can before throwing them away – You can find some cool inspiring ideas on reusing plastic items in my article.
5. Get sustainable reusables
It is completely unnecessary to use so many single-use plastics when there are SO MANY sustainable alternatives.
By being more conscious of your consumption and waste patterns, you can reduce a lot of your trash.
Simply get a couple of reusable items, that will help you to avoid all that single-use plastic.
For example, you may consider getting:
- Reusable water bottle – to avoid plastic water bottles.
- Reusable coffee mug – instead of getting single-use coffee.
- Reusable utensils – instead of using single-use plastic utensils.
- Food container – bring food from home, save money, and avoid getting pre-packed foods and snacks.
- Foldable tote bag/backpack – use what you already have, or invest in something sustainable and reusable.
- Reusable menstrual products – such as a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or menstrual underwear
- Reusable safety razor – A super durable, sustainable, and affordable alternative to plastic razors.
These are just a couple of ideas. You can see over 140 sustainable alternatives for wasteful products in my article.
However, before buying any reusables, see what you already have.
Maybe you already have many things that you can use (we all have reusable utensils already, right?!), and you don’t need anything new.
6. Drive less
Did you know that transportation accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions (in the US)? That’s a LOT.
Bicycles can play a massive role in cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So, consider walking & biking more often. It is better for the environment and your health anyway!
If the destination is too far, use public transportation, or carpooling.
For example, when I was studying in Denmark, I was mostly going to university on my bike.
I was using public transport only when it was extremely cold, or rainy.
7. Travel carbon efficiently
There are a couple of simple ways to travel more carbon efficiently:
- If possible, replace business trips with online conferencing
- Stop domestic air travel
- When you need to go to neighboring countries, choose alternative ways of traveling, such as – train, bus or carpooling.
Reducing and eliminating air travel would be optimal.
However, not everyone can stop flying forever and ever. If you must travel with an airplane, then:
1) Direct flights – It’s best to fly direct rather than stopping over because about 25 percent of airplane emissions come from landing and taking off.
2) Travel lightly – Heavy luggage = greater fuel consumption to fly larger loads. When you travel lightly, with just a carry-on, you will have a lower impact.
3) Avoid waste – Reduce your general waste, and avoid getting things on the plane, since everything is single-use plastic. Bring your reusables and meal prep for longer flights.
4) Offsets – A carbon offset does not reduce emissions. It is a way to “compensate” for the greenhouse emissions of activity, such as flying.
It works by paying to an organization that uses the funds for a climate-friendly activity such as planting trees.
8. Boycott fast fashion
Fast fashion is the rapid production of inexpensive clothing in response to the latest & quickly changing trends.
The clothing industry is extremely harmful to our planet because:
Textile production releases large amounts of GHG emissions and hazardous chemicals into the environment.
- It is a significant contributor to plastic entering the ocean (around half a million tonnes annually). That happens during the washing of plastic-based textiles.
- Most inexpensive clothing is made with synthetic textile fibers such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic. They require fossil fuels and are NOT biodegradable.
The few easy ways to be more sustainable here are:
- Avoid impulsive shopping desires
- Support ethical & sustainable brands
- Avoid buying clothing made from synthetic fibers
Related post: 33 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid
9. Buy second-hand
Another fantastic way to shop sustainably is to choose second-hand items.
Shopping for vintage clothes or second-hand electronics can significantly reduce your impact on the environment, plus it gives the items a second life.
Second-hand doesn’t demand new items, and it is not contributing to the waste stream.
For example, recently I bought a super cute dress in great condition, for less than 1 euro!
Or I needed a hairdryer, so I found one from a local second-hand marketplace.
A couple of months ago, I also bought a second-hand soy milk maker, that was in perfect condition, too.
While I don’t always buy second-hand things (because it is hard to always stumble upon something good), I always try to find whatever I’m looking for in second-hand shops (online or local).
This will always be the more sustainable option, plus it can save you some cash.
Related post: 39 Best Online Thrift Stores for Second Hand Clothes
10. Support local brands
Supporting local coffee roasters, food vendors, beer brewers, and other small businesses is not only good for the local economy, but it’s also good for the planet.
Less transit time means less CO2 emissions.
You will get bonus points if you purchase products that are fair trade certified.
“Fair Trade Certified” label on products encourages environmentally friendly production methods and ethical working conditions for workers.
11. Just buy less
Merely buying less stuff is an excellent path to lower emissions.
Let’s say you need something for a special occasion. Instead of buying something that you know you won’t use a lot, try to borrow it from someone.
For example, I usually go skiing once per year, so I always rent the ski equipment, and I borrow the ski pants from a friend.
And I use my normal jacket, which isn’t a ski jacket, but it works well enough.
My point is – whenever you need something choose used, or recycled items, and encourage sharing!
It can be anything from clothing, electronics, books, food, etc.
Reusing, repurposing, swapping, and sharing things is a great way to build community and cut down waste.
12. Go (almost) paperless
You can reduce deforestation by cutting back on your paper use.
A few easy ways to do that include:
- Ditch paper towels – You don’t need them! Switch from paper towels to reusable rags.
- Buy recycled paper products – This will ensure that the demand for virgin paper is reduced.
- Receive letters or bills over email – Nowadays, you can get most of your bills over your email, so make the switch.
- Purchase recycled or bamboo toilet paper – There are SO many great companies offering eco-friendly toilet paper. You can find 19 sustainable & plastic-free options here. My favorite one is from A Good Company because it is affordable, and it lasts super long:
13. Eco-friendly cleaning
Many cleaning products contain chemicals that aren’t the best for the environment (or for you, for that matter).
Luckily, there are plenty of sustainable options.
By choosing eco-friendly cleaning products, you will reduce the amount of plastic packaging you use and the number of chemicals inserted into the water system.
A couple of great eco-friendly cleaning products are:
- Non-toxic (& zero waste) laundry powder
- Loofah scrubbers and plastic-free dish brush
- Castile dish soap
- Natural all-purpose cleaner
- Meliora Cleaning Products
14. Avoid plastic
Whenever you go out shopping, try to buy package-free products.
You can do that by purchasing foods and other things in bulk, in reusable containers.
Since this isn’t always an option, the next thing you can do is – look for a plastic-free option.
Some ideas include:
- Always bring a bag (or backpack) to the shop.
- Ditch single-use thin bags for produce and switch to reusable ones.
- Get a reusable water bottle and avoid getting drinks in plastic bottles.
- Pick foods that are in glass, aluminum, or (recycled) paper. Reuse, upcycle, and recycle the containers.
- Get a bamboo toothbrush and plastic-free toothpaste or tooth tablets for brushing your teeth.
- Plastic-free personal essentials, like skincare, deodorant, etc.
- When I order food, I always write a note to ask for plastic-free packaging (and no utensils). Usually, it works, and they bring everything on paper. If I’m not too lazy, I will go to the place with my own containers, and ask if they can put the food inside.
15. Go zero waste
The production of anything usually requires energy, and it is somehow related to greenhouse gasses.
What is more, some materials, such as plastic, emit greenhouse gases at every stage of production.
Adopting zero waste practices can help you to reduce your impact.
The best way to become (almost) zero waste is through:
- Rethinking what we need and the way we buy
- Refusing things we don’t need
- Reducing the things we use and focusing on long-lasting products
- Reusing what we have
- Repairing what we can
- Recreating things whenever possible (DIYs)
- Composting our food waste
- Recycling as little as possible
Related post: 16 Zero Waste Tips That Don’t Cost Any Money
There you have it – 15 actionable ways to be sustainable in everyday life.
All in all, if you want to make a difference, then you must get involved and take the initiative.
You don’t have to do everything at once, too. Even a couple of these changes can make a positive impact in the long run.
Living sustainably may seem like a hustle, but try to answer this question: “Why do I want to live a sustainable lifestyle?”
Whatever the answer might be, don’t forget it.
Your “whys” will help you make better decisions, take action, and focus on moving towards your goal and the sustainable life you want to live.
Do you wonder which are the actions with the most significant positive impact?
If you want to choose just 3 actions, the most effective in reducing your greenhouse gas emissions are:
- living car-free
- avoiding airplane travel
- eating a plant-based diet