Over the past few years as I have learned more about ethical fashion and purchasing with purpose, I have simultaneously learned more about the impact our daily habits have on the environment. Now, before you stop reading because you think I’m some crazy, run in a field of sunflowers, hippie tree hugger, understand that I am not. I also don’t want my dear friends and readers who enjoy running in a field of sunflowers and are self-proclaimed hippie tree huggers to think I’m saying that in a negative way… I am not! I like to think of myself a “crunchy lite.” As in, I’m a bit crunchy, but I can’t fit all my trash in a mason jar. Does this make sense? Are we tracking?
REGARDLESS, the facts remain… we (as in collective humanity) produce way too much waste. We create so. much. waste. We don’t recycle enough (only about 1 in 5 plastic bottles are actually recycled), we throw out literally tons of clothing and textile waste every year, and we just dispose of our “stuff” without thinking about the impact that stuff has on the environment.
When I went to Kenya last year, I got to see the Dandora Dump which is the largest landfill in East Africa. It was truly one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen… waste upon waste upon waste upon waste. It was a life changing experience and made me really think twice about my own habits.
I believe we are to be good stewards of this beautiful earth God created for us… and while I am nowhere near perfect, I do believe that if each of us make little changes here and there in our daily habits, we can collectively make a massive difference.
Since the beginning of a new year is often a time for people to create “new year’s resolutions” or start new habits or set lifestyle goals, I have heard from a lot of readers that they want to live more sustainably, create less waste, and work towards a “zero waste” lifestyle.
I can tell you right now that I will never be the person who creates only a mason jar of trash a month. I think those people are AWESOME and I applaud them and admire them. For me, with two kids and one on the way, that is just not possible at this stage of my life. However, over the past couple of years, I have made a lot of little changes here and there that have made a big difference about living with less. We definitely produce WAY more recycling now than trash (I wish our recycling pick up came every week instead of every other!! haha!), and I’ve noticed that I am, overall, just more conscious of HOW I dispose of everything.
With all that being said, I wanted to share some tips with you guys of the little changes I’ve made in my life and my family’s life to reduce waste and live more sustainably – thus, having a more positive impact on the environment! These are all things I’ve done over time and my family has also embraced them.
25 SIMPLE TIPS FOR LIVING WITH LESS & MORE SUSTAINABLY
1. Switch to reusable straws
In the U.S. alone, nearly 500 million straws a day, are used! A. DAY. That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year! They are too small to be easily recycled, so they end up in the trash. And they end up in the oceans. Someone made an entire documentary about the negative environmental impact of Straws and the trailer alone made me think about my own straw usage habits.
So, I did something as simple as switching to reusable aluminum straws. I carry one or two in my purse so I have one when I go to a restaurant (and I tell the waitress I don’t need a straw) or even if I’m going through the Chick-Fil-A drive through, I tell them I don’t need a straw… so I just use my reusable straw. Same with at home, I don’t use plastic straws at home, I just use my aluminum straws. It does take some forethought to remember to have a reusable straw in your purse or car, but once you get in the habit, it’s easy!
2. Switch to reusable water bottles / coffee mug or tumbler / etc.
Like I mentioned earlier, only about 1 in 5 plastic bottles are actually recycled… so by simply switching to a reusable water bottle (or if you’re a coffee drinker, get a reusable coffee tumbler), you’re keeping tons and tons of plastic or cardboard waste out of the landfills and oceans every year. It’s a simple switch that makes a massive impact.
3. Switch to zero waste / refillable bath products
Bath and beauty products are a HUGE cause of waste in landfills. So many people don’t recycle their bath products for the simple excuse that their recycling bin is “not near the bathroom” and the trash can is there and easy.
The reality is, if we don’t make a change, by the year 2050, there will be more PLASTIC than fish in the world’s oceans. More plastic… than FISH. That’s insane to me. Making a simple switch like this can make a massive difference.
I have told you guys about Plaine Products. I discovered them earlier this year and have fallen in love. Not only is their shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and hand soap amazing, but each bottle comes in a refillable aluminum container. When you’re running low on a particular product, just hop on their website, order a refill, and when you receive your new bottle, just switch out the pump and mail back the empty bottle in a prepaid box with a prepaid shipping label that Plaine Products provides!
Not to mention, their products are clean and non-toxic and safe for EVERYONE from adults to kids to use!
BONUS, use the coupon code “MOLLY” at checkout for 20% off your order from Plaine Products! Win. Win. Win!
Listen to my interview with Plaine Products co-founder, Lindsey McCoy, here! And check out my past blog post about Plaine Products here.
4. Switch to other refillable household products like soaps, household cleaners, etc.
I have recently discovered a local Durham, North Carolina company called Fillaree! They do have a local brick and mortar store (so if you’re in the Triangle area of North Carolina, visit them in person!) but they also have an online shop!
Fillaree hand makes small batch soaps and cleaners that are vegan, organic, synthetic-free, and designed to be refilled over and over. This is HUGE, y’all. HUGE. Fillaree makes so many amazing and sustainable products like soaps, body butters, household cleaners, and even compostable sponges.
Yes, you can make your own (I have recipes for hand soap and face wash here!), but for those that are not in the DIY camp, Fillaree is a GREAT options for household cleaning and care products that are clean and sustainable!
5. Have a recycling bag or small recycling bin IN YOUR BATHROOM
Like I mentioned above, many people don’t recycle their bath or beauty products. MOST of the containers of the products you use every day in your bathroom *can* and *should* be recycled. But most of them are not. So, create a space in your bathroom where you can put empty bath and beauty products to be recycled. Since not all of my beauty and bath products are refillable (like Plaine Products), for me, I have a little bag in my bathroom that I put the empties in, and when the bag is full, I take it out to the recycling.
Do whatever works for you. But make it easy on yourself! The easier you make it on yourself, the more likely you will be to actually recycle the recyclable items rather than tossing them in the trash.
6. Use reusable grocery bags
This is a switch I made a couple of year’s ago, and once I got into the habit, it’s been super easy to make the switch. Plastic grocery bags are a cause of so much litter, trash, and pollution. Most recycling centers can’t recycle plastic grocery bags easily… so they need to be taken to a specific type of recycling center. Which most people don’t want to go through the effort of taking the bags TO the recycling center. So, they get thrown away. And, well, you know what happens after that.
Just by getting the habit of ALWAYS having reusable grocery bags or grocery totes in your car makes a big difference. So that way, when you go to the grocery store, you can easily grab them and head inside. When you get home and unload your groceries, just get in the habit of immediately taking your reusable grocery bags back out to your car when you’re done unloading everything.
I use everything from old tote bags to large fabric gift bags and everything in between. But, if you’re looking for a great reusable market tote or grocery bag, check these out!
7. Take it even a step further and get reusable produce bags!
This was a recent switch for me. I always hated having to use the plastic bags in the produce section for my fresh produce. This year I wanted to make sure to find a sustainable and zero waste alternative, and I found these mesh produce bags on Amazon and I love them! They’re very well made, hold EVERYTHING, and wash easily. I’m a huge fan.
I keep them in my car with my reusable grocery bags and I’ve already noticed a big difference in how much plastic produce bags I was using and wasting before.
8. Buy from local produce boxes, CSAs, or shop from the farmer’s market
9. Switch to reusable beeswax “plastic” wrap
I cook A LOT in our house which means we have a lot of leftovers. We also eat a lot of fresh produce and I was constantly wrapping up leftovers and partially eaten produce in plastic saran wrap. I hated using it but I didn’t think there was an alternative… until I discovered this Bee’s Wrap sustainable food storage wrap. It adheres to itself and creates basically like a vacuum seal around your food or container. I bought it in December and I have fallen in love with it! It comes in a few difference sizes and you can wrap up everything from bread to meat to produce to bottles to jars to… well, you name it. You can use it over and over! You just wash it in the sink with soap and warm water and leave it to dry and reuse it again. Each wrap can be used over 100 times.
10. Switch to reusable snack bags and lunch containers
My kids are in preschool a couple days a week and Lilly has to pack a snack every day. Last year I made the switch to reusable snack bags and lunch containers and we love it. Get a cute lunch box or cute snack container. Label it with your kid’s name and VOILA! Easy peasy. Not to mention, if you go to work in an office setting and you pack a lunch, do the same for yourself. I love these ones and they come in a bunch of cute patterns.
11. Switch out paper napkins for cloth napkins
You can even cut up old fabric scraps or clothing to make cloth napkins!
12. Switch out paper towels for reusable rags and kitchen towels
You can also use old t-shirts for dish rags / cleaning cloths!
13. Ditch tissues for a handkerchief
14. Switch out your cotton rounds or cotton balls for reusable muslin face cloths
I use these muslin face cloths for things like toner, cleanser, mask removers, etc.
15. Stop using makeup remover towelettes and switch to a washable makeup remover cloth
I am absolutely OBSESSED with my EndureLash eye cloth. It JUST uses warm water and removes 99% of my makeup. It’s amazing! I never have to use makeup remover towelettes anymore.
16. Ladies, use a menstrual cup instead of tampons
The Lena cup is awesome! I know, this is possibly TMI, but this is a huge deal! Would anyone be actually interested in reading a blog post on menstrual cups? That is… If I was ever brave enough to write one… 😐
17. Try cloth diapering instead of using disposable diapers
We have cloth diapered both our kids and we will cloth diaper our third child as well. The amount of money we’ve saved and waste we’ve reduced over the years by cloth diapering is incredible. I have a whole blog series on cloth diapering on the blog here. We do have to use disposable diapers for church nursery and school, but we cloth pretty much all the other times!
18. Go roll-free with your toilet paper!
Now, I’m not ready (and will never be, honestly) to go without toilet paper, but switch to the tube-free toilet paper. Just eliminating toilet paper rolls makes a big difference!
19. Switch to rechargeable batteries
These are my favorite!
20. When it comes to buying clothing, FIRST shop consignment, thrift, second-hand, buy-sell pages, ThredUp, Poshmark, etc.
Textile waste is a huge problem! Shopping second hand is one of the most ethical, sustainable, and waste-reducing ways to shop. Plus, secondhand clothing is almost ALWAYS more affordable than anything else. So you’re saving money, too!
21. When it’s time to get rid of clothing ask yourself these three things:
- Can I repair it? A lot of our clothing we are quick to throw out when it’s torn, ripped, or has a broken button. Taking the time to mend or repair loved pieces can help reduce a massive amount of textile waste!
- If I can’t repair it, can I swap it with a friend or sell it online? Some people may disagree with this, but I actually think swapping clothing with a friend or SELLING clothing online on buy-sell pages or places like ThredUp or Poshmark is a BETTER choice than donating it to a thrift store. When you swap with a friend or sell clothing online, you KNOW that the person receiving the piece / item will actually wear / use it. When you donate clothing, a lot of times that clothing is just tossed out or donated to a third world country that doesn’t actually need that clothing. This is a whole ‘nother post topic for another day, really… but the truth is, donating clothing is NOT the best option.
- How can I sustainably dispose of it? If you can’t repair it, sell it, or swap it… find ways to SUSTAINABLY dispose of your clothing. Find a textile recycling plant near where you live, find an organization that takes clothing and doesn’t dispose of it improperly. Take the time to do your research. Yes, this takes a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it to know that your clothing is being disposed of responsibly.
22. Buy more sustainable toys
Let’s be honest, most of our kids don’t need more toys. But if you are going to get them a toy, look for a toy WITHOUT batteries, look for wooden or sustainable material toys, or buy toys secondhand. And when it’s time to get rid of toys, sell them or find a local center that can use used toys.
23. Go Paperless!
Most companies offer paperless billing these days. Even 1099s and W-2s at tax time (timely, huh?) can be delivered paperless these days! Just by switching to paperless billing or getting important paperwork via email or online can reduce a ton of unnecessary paper waste.
24. Unsubscribe from unwanted catalogs, mailing lists, and magazines
Over the years, I have somehow gotten on a bunch of unwanted mailing lists and I receive a TON of random catalogs and magazines in the mail. I do whatever I can to unsubscribe from all of them. There are a few ways to do this, but Catalog Choice and DMAChoice are the easiest! Fill out your information and stop unwanted mailings today! 🙂
25. Borrow books from the library!
How often do you buy a book, read it once, and never read it again? The library is great for reading and sharing!
So there you have it! 25 super SIMPLE tips for reducing waste and living more sustainably!
Remember, this is a process. Start with one thing and make a change and then go from there! It doesn’t have to happen overnight. What do you think? Do you do any of these things already? Any of these did you learn about for the first time?