When it comes to ways to reduce your carbon footprint, the options are endless. No, living a sustainable life doesn’t necessarily mean growing all of your own food, trading your car for public transportation, or buying only the best eco-friendly products. These are all aspects of a more sustainable lifestyle, but when we do what’s realistic for us is where we can make the biggest impact.
To help you on your journey to live sustainably, we’ve come up with 43 eco-friendly and zero waste tips. Use the table of contents below to choose sustainable lifestyle areas that are most relevant and achievable for you.
Whether you incorporate one or all of the following tips into your life, we celebrate you in your fight against climate change! When we practice sustainable living together, we can make our world a greener, greater place.
Why is it important to be more sustainable?
If you’re looking for inspiration to live a more sustainable lifestyle, consider the following. If everyone in the world lived like an American (in terms of environmental footprint), we would need 5.1 Earths. Humanity has already warmed our planet to a point in which climate impacts are being felt globally.
Put another way, we absolutely must come together to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change damage by 2100. After 2025, we need our global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) to be on the decline. Keeping global warming below the targeted 1.5 degrees Celsius will require efforts from every single one of us. These easy ways to be more sustainable will help you do just that.
Sustainable food and eating tips
In case you haven’t heard, what and how we eat has a huge impact on our planet! Between meat production and use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, it’s estimated that global food systems account for more than one-third of total GHGe. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to satisfy our cravings in an earth-conscious way. Here are 12 tips for how to eat more sustainably.
1. Get clever with your food scraps
In addition to composting, consider upcycling your food scraps into new culinary creations. The trash can should be the last place your food waste ends up. Rethink your “waste” and you’ll end up saving money on your grocery bills.
Chickpea water can be used in desserts and stale bread can replace a package of croutons (and all the plastic waste that comes with it). Your veggie peels can be saved for broth and even your carrot tops can be turned into pesto or salsa!
2. Compost your food waste with Lomi
Food waste isn’t just a huge loss in terms of money (costs an average family almost $2,000 a year), it’s also pretty awful for our planet. When it ends up in a landfill it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that’s more potent than carbon emissions!
You won’t have to waste food when you have a convenient electric kitchen composter like the Lomi! It’s an easy, quick, and smell-free solution to wasted food. As an added bonus, it’ll transform kitchen scraps, leftovers, and even some bioplastics into Lomi dirt, a natural fertilizer that can be used to support your garden or houseplants!
3. Consume meat consciously
If meat will still be a regular part of your diet, be sure to consume all parts of the animal. Oftentimes, an animal is raised and killed—only to have part of it thrown away or incinerated because it doesn’t satisfy our demand for certain cuts.
But these less common parts of an animal are often full of nutrients and have a different flavor profile than we’re used to. This makes them a fun addition to a stew or curry—or even a special treat for a dog!
4. Drink and eat plants!
One of the tastiest ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Eat plants—and more of them! As meat consumption has continued to rise around the globe along with affluence, animal agriculture is continuing to play a larger role in land use changes, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and water and chemical requirements.
Simply put, our planet can’t sustain our cravings for meaty burgers and cow’s milk bottles. Fortunately, many plant based meat alternatives have emerged, like almond milk. Joined by traditional plant based sources of proteins (i.e. chickpeas, lentils, soybeans), we have more than enough plant based options to celebrate Meatless Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday…).
5. Know how to preserve food
Between pickling, jamming, drying, and freezing, there are many ways to make our fresh summer bounty last a little longer. Not only is food preservation a good strategy to reduce food waste, but it’ll also help you save money while providing the flavor of summer in winter.
6. Make your own
To reduce your reliance on plastic bags, packaging, and other sources of plastic waste, spend more time in your kitchen. If you can make your own crackers, granola, or tortilla chips, you can cut out unnecessary waste.
Similarly, take the time to brew your own coffee. You can use a reusable coffee cup or mug, helping to avoid all of those single-use, non-recyclable coffee cups used by cafes and restaurants.
7. Buy local
Local produce doesn’t just taste better, it also reduces food miles and helps to boost your local economy! Buying local food means that money stays within the community—instead of going to powerful multinational corporations.
Sourcing your fresh produce or organic food from a CSA or farmers’ market also puts you in direct contact with the person who produced it. You can ensure that harmful pesticides and other chemicals were avoided, or if animal welfare was a priority for the farmers.
8. Always have reusable bags and containers on hand
When you’re out and about, be sure to always have reusable containers and bags with you. You never know when you might stop for lunch and could use your own containers for leftovers. Plus, it’s always good to have reusable bags for any type of shopping (grocery, clothing, thrifting, etc.).
9. Drink plastic-free
To avoid plastic bottles when you’re out, say “no” to the bottled water and bring your own. Fill up some glass or plastic bottles with tap water and have them with you to quell your thirst.
If a restaurant or cafe offers you plastic straws, don’t hesitate to say “no” here, too. Instead of plastic straws, you can bring your own stainless steel or bamboo variety. Or just skip it altogether!
10. Connect with people to curb food waste
Food has always been a way to bring people together. There’s a reason barbecues, potlucks, and dinner parties are such treasured aspects of the human experience!
Connecting over food is also a great way to reduce food waste. Now, there are many apps that allow people to list their leftovers and extra food so that they can match with individuals or organizations in their digital community who are in need of food. Too Good To Go and Olio are excellent apps to check out.
11. Start foraging
It’s amazing how much edible food is around us at all times. Sometimes, even what we deem as “weeds” can make for a tasty treat! Mushrooms, greens, flowers, and even parts of trees can serve as a nutrient-rich and delicious complement to any meal. Use the resources provided by Wild Edible for guidance.
12. Grow your own food
Growing your own food has benefits that go beyond sustainability. It gets you outside, helps you connect with your local environment, provides a learning opportunity for kids (and you), and provides opportunities for social cohesion.
Sourcing some of your own food in the backyard also cuts down on the emissions associated with transporting and storing fresh produce. Plus, nothing tastes as good as your own vegetables!
Sustainable shopping and fashion tips
Let’s talk about how to shop more sustainably. At any given time, 84% of Americans are shopping for something. Between desires for bigger wardrobes and advertising that convinces us to buy that new “thing,” our consumption practices are having a serious environmental impact. Fortunately, a more sustainable life is just a few eco-conscious shopping tips away.
13. Support sustainable businesses
Sustainable companies are those putting in the effort to make planet-friendly products. This could mean using methods to measure and reduce their chemical and water usage or using only natural and recycled materials. In some cases, sustainable businesses also become carbon neutral or make donations to environmental organizations to offset the impact of their operations.
When you support eco-friendly companies in your community, you’re supporting not just your local economy—but also global sustainability.
14. Look for quality
Whether you’re looking at new washing machines or need to fill your sock drawer, shop with longevity in mind. While fast fashion or a constantly expanding range of smartphones may make us think we need something new all the time, owning a product for longer is the best thing we can do for our planet.
That said, look for quality materials and durable designs. Many brands are beginning to offer repair options—or you could learn them yourself!
15. Shop secondhand
One of the best things we can do for our planet is to keep products in use longer. Instead of fueling the destructive fast fashion machine, check out local thrift stores or online vintage shops for previously-loved clothes, jewelry, furniture, accessories, and more.
To support secondhand stores, be sure to donate all of your gently-loved products, too!
16. Think of a product’s end of life fate
It’s exciting to open a product box or try on a new sweater for the first time, but it’s also important that we consider what will happen to the product and packaging when we’re done with it.
Packaging and products that are biodegradable and compostable will have a better impact on our planet. They won’t take thousands of years to degrade like plastic. Products that can be replaced or repaired, as well as those that can be recycled are better, too.
17. Buy less
The best sustainable living tip is also the simplest. Just buy less. When shopping, ask yourself if you really need the item—will it bring you true joy? If you do need it, is there a way you can get it secondhand or borrow it?
There are many platforms now that are dedicated to sharing and borrowing clothes, cars, tools, toys, and more. Explore those options before you make a purchase. Living more sustainably can also be fun! Get a group of friends together and host your own clothing or book swap!
18. Support Fair Trade brands
Fair Trade certification ensures that the workers and planet have been prioritized while producing a product. When shopping, you’ll either see a Fair Trade USA logo or one from Fairtrade International—although sometimes brands use their own system for fairly or directly traded goods.
When an ingredient, factory, or product is certified to support fair trading, the workers have been paid a fair amount and practices are in place to support human and planetary well-being. Often, there will be a community fund that supports their children and families, too.
19. Shop in person
Nowadays, the vast majority of purchases are done online—which means not just a shipping carbon footprint, but also a risk that you won’t like the item when seeing it in person.
Especially with clothes, it’s important to try an item on to ensure that you won’t have to return it. It’s extremely difficult for returned gifts to be resold—which is why most of them are sent to the landfill. It’s been reported that a single Amazon warehouse may destroy around 130,000 items a week, most of which were returns.
Sustainable beauty and skincare tips
Whether you like it or not, your personal care routine has a planetary impact. Fortunately, this is an area where sustainable, low-waste alternatives are abundantly available. Just a few simple practices could help you conserve water, energy, and resources. Here’s how.
20. Ditch the disposables
When it comes to many beauty and skincare products, disposability has become the norm. But it doesn’t have to be! As one of the most sustainable methods for cleaning up our bathrooms, you can consider all of the single-use products you use and swap them out with reusable versions.
As an example, stainless steel safety razors, reusable cotton pads, and menstrual cups can all be used to replace the more wasteful versions.
21. Use water conservation practices
While washing your face or shaving, it can be easy to forget that the water’s on. But this provides a great opportunity to conserve household water. Do your best to remember to turn off the tap water while at the bathroom sink. Cutting down your shower time and avoiding baths can help, too!
22. Stop using unnecessary plastic packaging
If you were to look at the list of ingredients on items like body wash, shampoo, or conditioner, one of the first ingredients you would see listed is water. Not only is it foolish to use products made with water in a shower where you can add your own, but these liquid versions require plastic packaging, too.
In the US alone, more than 550 million shampoo bottles are thrown away every year! Add conditioner and body wash, and you get A LOT of plastic waste. Switching to zero waste solid bar versions instead could significantly cut your plastic footprint.
23. Avoid toxic ingredients
Beauty products are unfortunately a common source of exposure to toxic ingredients like SLS, parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde. Not only are these dangerous to your health, but they’re pretty awful for our planet, too. Stick to non-toxic personal care products instead.
24. Use less products
Don’t let the idea of a hair or skincare product detox scare you. Your body naturally produces what it takes to keep your hair and skin looking great. Often, the products we use actually strip our hair and skin of these natural compounds, which means that more chemical compounds are required!
Try out “no poo” for a while to see how your hair responds to no shampoo and conditioner. Give it a few weeks to see how your hair responds then, if desired, re-introduce it to natural products and apple cider vinegar as a rinse. Similarly, cut your daily skincare routine so that you consecutively use less products.
Tips to be more sustainable at home
When it comes to how to be more sustainable at home, a lot of the tips will help you save money, reduce your interaction with toxic chemicals, and enjoy experiences (instead of stuff) more. Between using an electric composter to ditching paper and plastic products, these tips can help you save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at some sustainable lifestyle tips for your home or apartment.
25. Know how to recycle properly
When a product ends up in a landfill or incinerator, it doesn’t just release carbon emissions and microplastics. It’s also a total waste of the synthetic and natural resources that went into it in the first place.
Practicing recycling—and knowing how to do it properly—can help to close the gap on some of these materials so that they get reused. Check with your local curbside collector to make sure that you aren’t “wishcycling” (putting non-recyclables in the recycling bin).
26. Love the contents of your home
The average American home has over 300,000 items. Do you feel connected with all of the stuff in your home? Would you be willing to repair something instead of just replacing it?
If you’re on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle, be sure to show the products in your life a little love. Value the fact that they’ve been made with materials from all around the world and have often passed through the hands before they made it to your house. Then, be sure they’re regularly cleaned, repaired, or maintained to last longer.
27. Make DIY cleaning products
Conventional cleaning products often include dangerous ingredients and are packaged in disposable plastic. Fortunately, you can all make your own cleaning products with a few items you probably have in your kitchen.
An all-purpose cleaner could be made with simple ingredients like white vinegar, baking soda, citrus peels, and/or essential oils. Use an upcycled glass jar or spray bottle to store it and you’ve got a 100% zero waste cleaning routine.
28. Cut your energy consumption
Electricity use is a big contributor to carbon emissions. Taking the time to save energy can help to reduce your overall carbon footprint. This can be accomplished by switching from fossil fuel energy to eco-friendly forms of energy, like solar power.
Alternatively, you can cut energy needs in your home by switching to energy efficient appliances, adjusting the settings for your heating and air conditioning systems, or making energy efficiency improvements. Practices like using plastic covers on the windows in winter can help to save energy by keeping your home warmer.
29. Light up your home with LED bulbs
Hands down the easiest way to use less energy, switching to LED bulbs will still light up your space, but help you save energy (and money) in the process.
PRO-TIP: Avoid artificial light when natural light is available. Open the blinds and curtains to illuminate your indoor spaces.
30. Avoid the “phantom load”
Even when they’re turned off, appliances and electronics that are plugged in will continue to consume fossil fuel energy. To avoid this—and reduce your energy consumption—be sure to unplug everything that isn’t in use.
31. Improve your laundry routine
Most clothes don’t need to be washed after every wear. In fact, going longer between washes will help to extend the life of your garments.
When you do wash them, be sure to use eco-friendly laundry detergents. Because washing machines consume a lot of water and energy, use cold water only and be sure to only wash full loads. Dryer use involves even more carbon emissions, so you can really reduce your carbon footprint by drying clothes on the line when weather permits.
32. Reduce the water requirements of your shower and toilet
Water efficient toilets and shower heads can significantly reduce the amount of water required in some of your daily activities. If installing water efficient toilets isn’t something you want to attempt, you can just follow the motto, “if it’s brown, flush it down. If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
33. Avoid thermostat extremes
When you’re at home, you can opt for more eco-friendly thermostat settings by dressing for the season. If it’s winter, don’t turn the heat up as much and instead wear cozy socks, extra layers, and even a blanket. Similarly, a house doesn’t need to be a frigid 68°F in summer—especially if you’re wearing light, breathable clothing.
A smart thermostat can help to adjust your home’s temperature when you’re not home.
34. Rid your cleaning routine of paper towels
If there’s one cleaning tool Americans are obsessed with, it’s paper towels. We use more than many other large countries, combined—to the tune of 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year!
Instead of contributing to deforestation and high amounts of chemical use (i.e. bleach), consider making the switch to paperless paper towels. Many companies sell these, and they’re typically made of washable, reusable materials like organic cotton or hemp. You can also make some with your own recycled materials—old t-shirts!
35. Don’t forget about your outdoor “home”
Green spaces are critical for our health and well-being—as well as that of our planet! Regardless if you’re a homeowner or renter, you likely have some green spaces that you can call “home.” Spending more time in your backyard or local park can connect you with your local environment.
Caring for it can take this connection one step further. Consider starting a pollinator garden or exploring the environmental benefits of composting in your outdoor space. You can also cut your grass less and plant trees to support habitats for wild animals and provide shade (which can also help with your home’s cooling requirements). Their ability to help reduce climate change is another reason people plant trees.
36. Swap your plastic phone case for a Pela one
Cell phones are an essential part of our lives—especially while on the go. As such, they need protection. Unfortunately, most of them are plastic-based. While they can protect your phone, they’ll end up doing a lot of damage to our planet!
Fortunately, in addition to providing one of the most-loved electric composters, Pela also has a compostable phone case. It’ll look stylish as it protects your phone—and our planet.
Sustainable living while you’re out and about
Living more sustainably isn’t something you just do from the comfort of your own home. Eco-friendly actions should follow you wherever you go! In addition to avoiding bottled water and plastic bags and using your own reusable coffee cup, here are some other ways to practice sustainable living outside of the home.
37. Make your legs your primary mode of transportation
When you can, leave the car keys behind and choose to walk or bike instead. This will give you a great workout, allow you to see more of your community, and save our planet by reducing air pollution.
38. Avoid travel-sized bottles
Avoid bringing travel-sized personal care products (shampoo, body wash, deodorant) or using those provided by a hotel. The small packaging makes them extremely difficult to recycle—and they end up costing an arm and a leg!
39. Invest in an electric vehicle
Because cars are such huge contributors to air pollution and require fossil fuels to operate, electric vehicles are the clear winner from a sustainability perspective. As good news for all of us, they’re getting cheaper, too! Check out this guide to see how much you can save when buying or leasing an electric vehicle.
40. Share transportation
When a motorized vehicle is necessary to get you from A-to-B, look to public transportation. In addition to taking a train, bus, or subway, you could also consider starting or joining a carpool. Doing so can offer many benefits from a health, planetary, social, and financial perspective.
41. Trade flights for road trips
In most cases, energy consumption for an airplane is far higher than that of a car. If boarding passes and baggage checks are a regular occurrence in your life, consider swapping air travel for road trips. Taking a bus or train is an even greener way to travel!
If you do have to travel by plane, check out carbon offsets so that you can support projects to compensate for the emissions produced during travel.
42. Vote for the planet
Many of the key carbon emissions reductions that are needed must come from world leaders. Try to stay knowledgeable about local representatives and their position on environmental issues. Make your voice heard so that the level of change required has a chance of happening.
43. Participate in local clean-ups
Many communities have organizations that are dedicated to preserving natural resources by hosting regular clean-up events. Beaches, parks, and rivers are common places where people join to pick up litter and do basic restoration tasks.
If you don’t have a group like this locally, consider starting one!
When you choose to live sustainably, chances are, you’ll live better. Avoiding fast fashion will connect you with local producers. Growing your own vegetables will remind you of all the life that exists within your backyard. Saving the planet is better for your health, well-being, and wallet.
Whether you remember to bring reusable bags with you while you shop, or use the best composter to transform your kitchen waste into nutrient-rich dirt, you’ll be securing a habitable planet for future generations. And there’s no greater feeling than that.
Written by: Heather Seely