Over the last few years I’ve become really aware of all the waste that’s produced from the average household. It’s been a mission of mine for us to make changes towards helping us reduce waste at home and just have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. One thing I want to mention is that these changes have been slow, one thing at a time. I often talk to people who are overwhelmed about making a bunch of changes at once to be more conscious, but you don’t have to switch the way you do everything in one day, one month or even one year! I think the best way is to take on one or two changes at a time until they’re easy for you and then from there it’s easy to add more naturally.
Below I’m sharing some ways that my family has been slowly going more green.
Ditch the loofah and use a wash cloth
This is a switch I just recently made. It was driving my crazy that I was buying a new loofah several times a year so I simply stopped. I just use a plain old wash cloth and while it’s not as sudsy and fun to squish, I actually think I like it a lot more. Plus they last forever and I already own plenty.
Stop buying plastic: focus on wood, metal or glass
Avoiding plastic started in our kitchen. As we replaced or added new items we would try out best to buy stainless steel, glass or wood items. For example, for our leftovers we use a glass food storage set almost exactly like this one. We also really use glass jars a lot and no you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of glass jars. If you buy things like salsa or pasta sauce they almost always come in a glass jar that can be reused. I use glass jars for so many things like storing precut vegetables, soups and chilis, precut lettuce that’s ready for salads, etc. This switch doesn’t need to cost you a lot.
Instead of a plastic cutting board, we use a bamboo one. And just last week while we were shopping in a cute children’s boutique I came across these adorable bamboo Disney cups! They are biodegradable and way more eco friendly than the plastic cups most of us get for our kids. Those are just a few examples. You can start slow and don’t have to throw out all your plastic items, just stop bringing more into the house and replace as needed.
I know there are two types of people: people who love thrift stores and people who hate them. If you refuse to step into a thrift store remember that there are other options to buy perfectly clean and sometimes brand new second hand items. One option for clothing is ThredUp which is a place where people mail in their unwanted clothes and they, as a company, pick the best items then sell them on their website. So you know their items are the best of the best. You can sign up using my referral link and we’ll both get a $10 credit.
Another option is Poshmark which is almost like a more on trend, youthful version of eBay. Poshmark is there to mediate any problems that may arise so you don’t need to worry about getting ripped off. I’ve bought and sold many items on Poshmark and have never had an issue.
For anything else I can’t tell you how many brand new, or almost new, items I’ve bought from places like craigslist, Facebook or even yard sales. We buy almost nothing from retail stores these days and I’m proud of it!
Eat more produce, less packaged
It’s been a big focus of ours to eat more plant based, not just for our health but because we feel it’s better for the environment too. Consider the extra processing and packaging that boxed/canned/bagged items have to go through.
Pick the loose produce
Even better than the tip above, go for loose produce rather than produce that’s nicely bagged or in plastic containers for you. A lot of times I don’t even put my produce in a bag (gasp!) since I’ll be washing it anyway, but when I do I love using my reusable produce bags! You can get them here and they weigh basically nothing so if you’re buying produce by the pound it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Switch plastic bags for reusable
Similar to switching to reusable produce bags like I mentioned above, I’m SURE you’ve heard of reusable shopping bags. There has been a big push for this lately in a lot of areas. In fact where I live grocery stores can’t give out free plastic bags so you’re kind of forced to bring a bag in and if you forget one you either need to buy a reusable bag or skip bagging and throw it all in your car without one. I actually love this and it helps me remember to bring my reusable bags in. My favorites are the kind that fold or zip up nicely. I usually try to keep one in my purse for when I forget a bag which is pretty often.
Turn to greener hobbies
What kind of hobbies do you have? Are you really into DIYs and crafting? I used to really be into sewing and other crafts. But lately I’ve been ditching those kinds of crafts and moving more towards hobbies that create less waste and even help our family. I love our little veggie garden and my other hobby is this blog! If you’re looking to pick up a hobby try to brainstorm a couple that don’t create a lot of waste or use a lot of resources. Even stuff like sports or running can be hobbies that have much less of an impact that one that uses a lot of materials.
I love using cloth napkins! It’s really not as hard or crazy as people make it seem. Most people I know are still suck on disposable napkins. I just keep a small basket under the sink and that’s where we throw dirty kitchen rags and cloth napkins. Once or twice a week they get thrown in the wash. We’ve dramatically reduced our paper towel waste over the years by switching to cloth. Right now we really only use paper towels on pet accidents or really dirty jobs. Since changing to cloth napkins our household uses about 2 rolls of paper towels a month.
Stop taking home leftovers (order efficiently)
This one was tough for us! Years ago my husband and I were good at sharing meals when we went out. Most restaurants serve enough for you to eat and take leftovers so instead we would split a meal and leave totally satisfied. Maybe even have room for dessert once in a while. But once we had our son and he started eating table food we started getting our own meals and sometimes even a meal for him. We’ve pulled back a bit and now when we do go out we make an effort to share two meals between the three of us. Sometimes my husband and I will share a meal and grab a kids meal of some sort or a side for my son. It saves us money, but it also saves the take out container from the trash.
Alternatively you could bring your own take out containers to restaurants, but we aren’t brave enough for that quite yet. Kudos to you if you’re able to do that!
Borrow instead of buy
There are so many occasions where you can borrow items instead of buying them. Events where you’ll need a nice piece of clothing are key times to raid your sister or friends closet. If you’re having a party and really need a cake stand just that one time, borrow it! There are really so many situations where you can borrow to not only save money, but save from having to buy and store something that will rarely be used. The less we buy the less companies produce and that means less resources used and less items in landfills. Winning all around.
Make from scratch
Similar to buying produce instead of packaged food, you can make so many items from scratch pretty easily. I don’t make everything from scratch, but I do what I reasonably can. I love making bread which saves a bread bag. I love making all sorts of baked goods that normally come in those plastic clamshell packages. When I make food from scratch it truly does make me feel good to know that I made what I’m feeding my family or friends. This would make a good useful hobby too like I referenced a few paragraphs above.
Donate instead of trash
Please don’t throw away things that can be used! I recently snapped at a friend because she was about to throw away some home decor items when she didn’t want them and said she didn’t have time to go donate them. I feel a little bad about the way I handled it, but please (please!) consider donating items or even posting them for free in your local classifieds. Items that can still be used never get thrown away around here. I reuse or rehome as much as I possibly can and only true garbage goes in the trash.
Decorate with plants
When I was younger I used to make fun of my mom for trying to turn our house into a jungle. Now I’m following in her footsteps. There’s just something about having plants around that make my home feel natural and fresh. Try using plants as decor rather than buying manmade items from places like Target or Home Goods that you generally keep for a year or two and then replace with another piece of home decor you decide you like better. As pretty as those items are, I feel much better with greener choices. If you suck at keeping plants alive try succulents as they need very little care.
Shop all at once
One change I’ve made more recently is really trying to do my shopping in spurts. My grocery shopping I do all at once to save me on gas and time, but also to ensure we eat everything we can in the house before heading to the store again.
The main place I’ve been focusing on shopping less is Amazon. I love the convenience of Amazon and I know I’m not alone. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many purchases I make there each year. Seeing our recycling can filled with boxes from online shopping makes me a little anxious. What I do now with websites like Amazon is I will add items to my cart and then once I have something I really (truly) need to buy right now I’ll buy everything in my cart at once to try and minimize my carbon footprint as well as save from using as many boxes. One bonus is that many times I’ll decide I don’t need an item while it’s sitting there waiting so it ends up saving me money in the end.
Make cleaning products
Most cleaning products can be replaced with homemade. I clean most of my house with a simple vinegar water mixture. There are recipes all over the internet, but I like this visual list of Natural Cleaning Recipes. I rarely buy cleaning products these days other than laundry detergent, dish soap and pet stain/odor products.
This is a switch we made a few years ago and I can confirm it’s amazing! I love drinking from straws, but I hated throwing them out after each use so I ordered a set of stainless steel straws. One extra bonus to stainless steel is it keeps drinks icy cold as it’s coming up the straw. Ice water just tastes so much better and colder from a stainless steel straw. There are also silicone straws if you have little ones and you’re worried about it, but I haven’t had any issues with my son hurting himself on the straws, etc.
Reusable snack bags
One thing I really encourage people to stop using is plastic baggies. They’re such a trap. They’re so easy to grab and use without even thinking so I simply stopped buying them. I bring my son snacks out and about all the time, I just use reusable bags or my glass food storage. The first set I got was from an etsy seller! I love supporting independent businesses. I recently also got a set of Skip Hop Zip Snack Bags. My son picked out the Monkey, but they have several cute little animals to choose from. I put all sorts of snacks in these like crackers, pretzels, fruit like grapes or even sandwiches and have never had an issue. The Skip Hop bags you just turn inside out and wipe down and the bags I got from the easy seller I just throw in the wash with our cloth napkins and kitchen rags. Easy.
Pine cat litter
One thing I’ve always hated about cats was the dust and the smell from clay cat litter. Not to mention the gross way it would clump and stick to the side of the litterbox. I started looking for alternatives and after trying a few we settled on pine litter pellets. We’ve been using pine litter for about a year now and I don’t think we’ll ever go back. We use Feline Pine and while it does take a little longer to scoop, it’s so much nicer and so much better not only for the environment, but also for the health of the people (and kitties) in your home.
Eat less meat & dairy
I’m not preaching vegetarianism or veganism at you! Just reducing your meat and dairy consumption is an amazing help to the environment! Most people don’t realize that growing meat uses a lot of resources. Between all the water and the food they eat, the waste they produce, the processing, etc. One huge way to help out is to stop or at least reduce how much you eat meat. Growing vegetables and grains puts way less stress on the environment than livestock does.
Reusable water bottle
Luckily this is pretty common, but I still cringe at all the people who still buy bottled water regularly. I really love my RTIC 30oz Stainless Steel Tumbler and I use it with one of the stainless steel straws mentioned above. My toddler son also has stainless steel sippy cups. When I think about toddler sippy cups I imagine a dozen plastic cups with lids that are hard match up that come tumbling out of the cabinet. Not for us! He has 3 stainless steel sippy cups and we haven’t needed to buy more. One of our favorites is the Foogo Stainless Steel 10 oz cup.
Before you cringe, I know it’s not for everyone. Years ago I didn’t think it would be for me either, but it’s been pretty easy and enjoyable. It’s a little extra work, but once you get a routine down and figure out which set up you like best it’s a piece of cake. I wrote a whole post on our first year of cloth diapering that you can check out here. And don’t forget, you can part time cloth diaper. Some people get nervous about being out and having to deal with cloth, etc. In my opinion some cloth is better than no cloth. We cloth diaper at home, but sometimes use disposables when we’re out or on vacation. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy as long as we’re doing our best.
There are many small lifestyle changes that create less of a negative impact on the earth. This post contains just some of them. I’ve been changing things slowly over the last decade. I’m still not perfect and probably never will be. But what’s important is that we’re trying as a family. I really encourage you to just take one or two of the tips above to see if you can make your household a little more eco friendly too.
What are some switches you can think of that I haven’t mentioned here?