Covering topics from better insulation to recycling to decorating to donating to food and fashion these 85 tips for sustainable living will guide you through every area of your home. I’ve got practical tips to help green your living space. It’s a long article, I really hope you enjoy it, it’s packed with a tone of great info.
What is sustainable living?
Sustainable living can be defined in so many ways, for me, it means being mindful of the choices I make when it comes to buying something new, understanding the impact those choices have both on people and the planet and looking for ways where I can reduce my impact. It might mean something completely different for you and that’s totally okay. I’d also like to add that not everyone has access to some of the tips outlined in this post. Accessibility in the sustainable living space is an ongoing issue, one that unfortunately is not easily solved. We need systemic change in policy. But until that happens, small individual acts do add up. So here are 85 ways you can go green!
1. Switch to energy-saving light bulbs
Energy-saving light bulbs also known as compact fluorescent light bulbs use about 5 times less energy than their incandescent counterpart. They also tend to last way longer which ends up saving you more money in the long run. CFLs use about 70% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
2. Switch off the lights!
I can hear my mother yelling at me to do this and now I find myself doing the same thing to my husband. LOL! It seems relatively simple, but turning off a light when you leave the room goes a really long way in saving energy in your home. Leaving the light on costs you money.
3. Try task lighting
Task lighting provides increased light for specific tasks in a room like eating or reading, instead of lighting the whole room with a bulb that’s not that energy-efficient, try using more eco-friendly options to light just that one area.
4. Take advantage of natural daylight
Give your home a makeover, and arrange furniture to optimize natural light. More sunshine is better for our health. Don’t block windows with chairs or couches. Make the window the focal point of the room if you can.
5. Avoid too many spotlights
Yes, these are popular in kitchens and bathrooms but even if you use energy-efficient light bulbs the sheer number of them you need actually makes them a less environmentally friendly option.
6. If you have to have spotlights
Instead of halogen spotlights try LEDs (light-emitting diodes). LEDs are becoming more energy-efficient than CFL’s and are available in a variety of colours and wattages depending on what your needs are. They are more expensive, but like the CFL, they do last a lot longer, so you have to replace them less.
7. Make the switch with the bulbs you use the most
Instead of changing all the lights in your home all at once, that’s way too expensive, switch to more energy-efficient ones as they burn out. If you notice your energy costs are on the high side you can switch out the bulbs to more efficient ones in the rooms you use the most, like the kitchen, living room and tv room. These are the rooms where the lights stay on longer than other areas, so you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money. If you have a dining room for example that you only for special occasions, worry about that room last.
8. Choose the right light for the right job
Make sure you determine how much light you will need, No point using a high-watt light if you don’t need to, it will use more energy. The Energy Star label will show the bulb’s brightness (in lumens), colour (i.e. colour temperature), lifespan, energy usage, and what it will cost to run it for a year. This information makes it easy to compare bulbs, especially if you’re considering bulbs of different types.
9. Disposal is key
Lightbulbs are considered household hazardous waste and need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local municipality for more information or talk to the manufacturer about proper disposal. Energy-saving light bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury, which is toxic, proper disposal is so important. Never put old light bulbs in the trash or the recycling bin.
10. Less is more
How many lights actually need to be on? If you have several lights controlled by one switch you might want to change that. You can do that by simply removing the extra bulbs or use individual spotlight lights or side lamps instead of having all the lights on at once.
11. Every degree counts!
If you reduce the temperature in your home to 19°C from 22°C, you will see a savings of about 6.5% in natural gas savings. If that’s too chilly for you, add a sweater and a second pair of socks.
12. Try radiator values
If you live in an older home odds are you have a radiator. Using radiator valves helps you to control the temperature in rooms you don’t use. Why have the heat blasting through the whole house when you can control it. You will save money. Radiator valves are pretty inexpensive and are easy to install.
13. Get a programmable thermostat
Installing a programable thermostat will help you track the amount of energy your home is using and wasting. You could save 20% on yearly energy costs by using this technology.
14. Let’s talk about insulation
It’s one of the most important aspects of an energy-efficient home. A well-insulated home will save energy and money. If you have radiators in your home you might want to consider insulating behind it. This will help you reduce heat loss thanks to gaps and leaks.
15. Don’t cover the radiator with window dressing
Curtain and blinds that go down over the radiator funnel the heat away from the room and out out of the window. Make sure window coverings are fit snuggly above the radiator to avoid this type of heat loss.
16. Add a chimney balloon
If you have a fireplace in your home that is either not working or not insulated properly you will lose a ton of heat. A great solution is a chimney balloon. “Chimneys act like giant hoovers, sucking the air out of your home. This causes cold air to be pulled in from other gaps, causing the cold draughts we notice. The Chimney Balloon effectively blocks the chimney, stopping warm air from escaping and stopping cold air from getting in,” according to experts.
17. Attic Insulation
Heating is responsible for more than 75% of the energy consumption of the average Canadian household and around half of that heat loss is happening because the attic is poorly insulated. The recommended depth of insulation is around 14 inches. A well-insulated attic will save you about a third of your heating costs.
17. Choose natural insulation
Natural insulation materials include hemp, cellulose, wood fiber and grass. Many of them are biodegradable and safe to handle unlike traditional insulation made from fibreglass. Many of the natural ones listed here also help to control humidity in the home by absorbing moisture when it’s humid and releasing it when the air is dryer. When it comes to large projects like insulation it’s best to talk to an expert.
18. Double glaze your windows
An average home loses up to 30% of its heating and cooling energy through air leaks around windows and doors. If you have leaky windows, you also have rising energy costs. If your windows are more than 10 years old, replacing them may put an end to your skyrocketing heating and cooling bills. If you have single-glazed windows or poorly insulated window frames you might want to consider an upgrade. You can actually do this on your own, it’s cheap and super effective.
19. Draught-proof your doors
Adding draught excluders to windows and doors to save you about 20% of energy costs. There are many affordable DIY options available to you.
20. Use the right curtains
When shopping for curtains look for ones that have a heavy liner. If your existing ones don’t you can always purchase a second cheap pair that can be used as a liner. Close the curtains when the sun goes down, this will help the house retain the heat from the day.
21. Cover your mail slot
A drafty home can waste a ton of energy and heat. One area we never think about is the letterbox or mail slot. I realized this standing at my side door picking up my mail. We have a screen door but the cold air was coming in. So we’ve covered the mail slot with flexible bristles. You can also use a magnetic seal that will create a constant seal.
22. Stop draughty floorboards
Gaps in wooden floorboards can make your home cold and uncomfy and wastes a ton of energy. You can try non-toxic sealants, underlay or hardboard, which will save you money and energy.
23. Green your roof
This is a bigger investment and there are several options available to you. You can either DIY it, but you need to know what you are doing. Reclaimed tiles are the most eco-friendly option for roofing. Nowadays, there are light-coloured clay tiles that offer the benefits of a cool roof system. Most of the shingles sold today are made from recycled content such as plastic, wood fibre, and rubber. The roof mimics recycled slate and cedar shakes. Recycled shingles are the greenest roofing product. Recycled shingles are quite affordable and are a perfect alternative to those who can’t afford the expensive slate roofs. Before you make any decisions talk to a pro!
24. Go for a solar hot water heater
Using the sun’s energy to heat your water is pretty cool! Today most hot water panels have solar integrated right into their systems. Take to your energy provided regarding your options. On average, if you install a solar water heater, your water heating bills should drop 50%–80%.
25. Take advantage of the sun
Make the most of natural daylight by opening the curtains wide, let the sunshine in. This saves the energy that you may have used in lighting the space unnecessarily and makes the most of natural solar energy.
26. Unclog your drains naturally
I am not a big fan of pouring vinegar and baking soda down the drain. There are many blogs that will tell you to do that. But neither baking soda nor vinegar can cut grease the same way hot water and soap can. Fat, oil and grease that build up in your drain need something more effective than baking soda and vinegar. If your drain is blocked boil some hot water, add 2 tablespoons of regular dishwashing soap then pour the water into the drain, the dish soap is made specially to cut back on grease.
For many years there was a huge debate regarding what is more eco-friendly, washing dishes by hand or using the dishwasher. It turns out the dishwasher is the better option, but you need to follow some simple rules.
When buying a new dishwasher choose an energy-star rated one. You ALWAYS want to run your dishwasher on a full load, this is so important. Avoid the heat-dry option, rinse-hold and pre-rinse features. Once the cycle is done, let the dishes air dry, this will save on energy. The other reason why it’s more efficient is that we tend to waste a lot of water when we do the dishes, most people leave the tap running.
29. Use eco-cleaners
If you read this blog, you know how much I love to clean and I’ve got a ton of blogs on the subject. Most conventional cleaners are made with petroleum-based surfactants derived from non-renewable sources all of which have been linked to health and environmental issues. It’s why choosing eco-friendly cleaners, or even better zero waste cleaners is the best way yo go!
30. Opt for soap nuts
Soap nuts are a great low/zero waste option. Soap nuts come from trees grown in India and Nepal. Their shells contain saponin, a natural soap. There is a lot of debate on how effective they are at actually cleaning. 1 Million Women have an extensive breakdown of the subject. It seems it really depends on how you do your laundry and how soiled your clothes are. Full transparency, I have never used soap nuts, but you, my readers really do love them. 🙂
31. Use baking soda to clean
Baking soda is a fantastic deodorizer and abrasive. It’s very versatile. You can use it to clean the bathroom or the kitchen. You can use it to deodorizer your mattress, your pet bed, and your carpets, simply sprinkle it into the area, let it sit for 5-10 mins then vacuum the area. Use it in the fridge to help with smells, you can also sprinkle some into the bottom of the dishwasher to help absorb food odours. You can also use essential oils to clean your home effectively.
32. Switch to un-paper towels
I am not going to lie, paper towel is one of the hardest habits to break! I’ve got an entire guide on it, which includes my TOP pikcs for alternatives to paper towel.
Step 1 – Do a paper towel audit, take a moment to think about how you are currently using paper towels in your home. Are you using it to clean the sink or other surfaces like glass or mirrors?
Do you use it when cooking to absorb grease? (like bacon)
Are you using it to wipe up gross messes from kids and pets (hello fur ball)
Do you dry your dishes with it?
Do you use it to clean a mess on the dining table or a spill in the kitchen?
Step 2 – out of sight out of mind. I want you to move your roll away from where it’s easily accessible. Put it in the pantry, or under the sink. The point is to get it out of arms reach.
Step 3 – Set yourself up for success, which means having the right tools to help you get the (cleaning) job done.
Reusable Paper Towels – normally made from cellulose. I cannot live without these and I cannot stress enough how freaking amazing they are to clean the home. they are reusable – machine washable, dishwasher safe and equal to up to 15 rolls of paper towels. have at least 6 of these, they last a while. Use them for the sink, the stove (inside and out) inside the fridge, the floor, you name it!
HUCK TOWELS, you can use these to dry off raw meat, clean up after using meat in the kitchen, Once used rinse with super hot water and toss in the wash. You can basically use these for most cleaning jobs in the house. Have at least 24 of them.
UN-PAPER TOWEL – mini cloth towels that attach together with a snap so you can still have them in a roll on your counter and keep them accessible. 2 rolls are perfect.
33. Clean your washing machine naturally
Even the items we use in the home to clean it, need regular cleaning too. Add a handful of baking soda to the drum of your washing ashine and put it on a hot water cycle. I know hot water uses a ton of energy and is not ideal when doing daily laundry. But running a hot cycle every few months to get rid of build-up and odor is okay in my humble opinion. keeping your appliances clean and maintained helps them to last longer and work more efficiently.
34. Try eco-friendly detergents
Conventional detergents are filled with all types of petroleum-based ingredients, many of which we don’t even know are present because manufacturers in Canada are not required to put this information on the packaging, which makes it really challenging to know. In addition, many toxic cleaners enter our waterways and cause all kinds of issues. Things like whitening agents & surfactants are some of the worst. The David Suzuki Foundation has this handy guide on how to choose a cleaner that’s safe for you and the planet. Not sure which brands are the best. START HERE.
35. Freshen your home naturally
I love scents but not synthetic scents and I can actually tell the difference, how about you? I think the longer you are away from these types of synthetics the easier they become to spot, the nose knows! Conventional air fresheners contain some of the worst ingredients like phthalates, we don’t need or want these nasties in our homes, they contribute to indoor air pollution and there are so many natural alternatives.
36. Use Vinegar to add some sparkle
You honestly don’t need anything store-bought to do this. It’s cheap and efficient, use it to clean your floors and surfaces. Add a half a cup of vinegar to two litres of water for floors. Vinegar is one of the best cleaners for glass and windows, mix equal parts water and vinegar, spray the window or glass, wipe using old newspaper.
37. Tackle strong smells with lemon
Placing half a lemon in the fridge will help to absorb odours. For a smelly microwave put a few slices in a bowl of cold water and turn it on for a few minutes and voila, so good!
38. Use lemons for cleaning
I like to use lemon to clean my chopping boards. Sprinkle Corse salt over the entire surface, let it sit for a few minutes. Use half a lemon to scrub the salt into the board, put a little elbow grease into it. Lemon juice can also remove lime-scale from faucets too.
39. Don’t clutter the radiator
I used to live in an apartment and used to dry some of my clothes on the radiator, turns out this is not such a great idea. When you cover a radiator it prevents the heat from circulating around the room the ways it’s intended too. It can also increase dampness which can lead to mould. A better alternative is to dryline your clothes in an area that is well insulated.
40. Use natural moth repellents
Instead of using moth baths, that are toxic, make your own moth repellent by placing some dried lavender in a small sacket and placing it in the cupboard, you can also add some lavender or cedarwood essential oils as moths don’t dig either of them!
41. Use powdered detergent instead of liquid
Powder typically has fewer surfactants, which have been found to be slow to biodegrade and can be harmful to plants and animals. Liquid soap also comes in plastic, which as we know has many implications for the planet.
42. Avoid anti-bacterial cleaning products
Studies have shown that anti-bacterial products can make humans resistant to antibiotics and create superbugs. You do not need to clean your home with these types of products, regular soap will do the job just fine. When shopping for cleaners look for ones that do not contain triclosan, and don’t be fooled by clever marketing making you think you need these items in your home.
43. Avoid fabric softeners
Some fabrics softeners contain formaldehyde and again this is clever marketing making us think we need to add this to our laundry, we don’t! You can add 125ml of vinegar or baking soda to the rise, to achieve the same thing.
44. Make your own spoon and wood butter
Taking care of the items you have in your home is one of the most sustainable things you can do. Proper maintenance for appliances helps them last longer and if you use wooden spoons or cutting boards, giving them some TLC will keep them in good working condition longer.
To make spoon butter is so easy. This is a 2 ingredient recipe. You will need an ethically sourced beeswax that’s all-natural. You’ll also need a good vegetable oil. I like to use cold-pressed sunflower 🌻 seed oil.
Place the ingredients into a mason jar. Use the mason jar as a double boiler. Carefully place the jar Into a pot of boiling water. You won’t have to transfer the liquid once it’s boiled, the jar will be the container itself. When the wax melts and is a golden brown, remove the jar from heat. You’ll probably have to stir it a few times. It’ll take about 40 mins to completely cool and solidify. Then cover the jar and store for 6 months.
2 ounces natural beeswax
8 ounces cold-pressed sunflower oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
To use: Make sure the spoons are dry. Never soak them. Never place them in the dishwasher. Use a soft cloth and polish each one. I like to leave it on overnight and then wipe them down Using a dry, clean cloth. buff off any remaining oil so that the board or spoon does not feel damp or sticky. And that’s it!
45. Get rid of mould with Borax
There is a lot of debate about whether or not borax is safe. It can irritate the skin and eyes, so take care when using it. I use it in the bathtub, I wear gloves. Sprinkle it onto a damp cloth and wipe down the areas where the build-up is, it will also help to reduce growth. For tough stains, create a paste, dab the paste onto the area, leave it overnight then rinse it off. Should do the job nicely!
46. Dry cleaning, a stain on the planet?
There are a number of dry cleaners that claim to be green, natural and organic. Problem is, there are no regulations in place that guarantee that a cleaner is in fact using non-toxic alternatives. If you must dry clean your clothes, I recommend “wet cleaning”, silicone-based cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning. If your clearer is using PERC, stay away. PERC or Perchloroethylene is harmful to our health and the health of the planet. There’s a lot of controversy with the subject of dry cleaning and everyone surely has an opinion. For me, less is more.
Tips to avoid frequent trips to the dry cleaners:
Throw your clothes in the dryer for about 10 minutes with a small damp towel, this acts as a steamer.
Invest in a good steamer. For men, this is a great way to get extra wear out of your shirt. Ladies, this is great for expensive dresses etc.
In the winter wear an undergarment, this will help with sweat stains and odour.
Tackle a stain when it happens.
48. Leave your shoes at the door
Leave shoes at the door and keep out 80 percent of the nastiness they track in, like road sealant, pesticides, lead, and dust. A study done by the University of Arizona found an average of 421,000 different bacteria on shoes. Coliforms, a bacterial indicator of the level of sanitation of foods and water (and universally present in feces), were detected on the bottoms of 96% of shoes. In addition, E. coli was detected on 27% of the shoes, along with seven other kinds of bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause urinary tract infection, and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections. A University of Houston study found that 39% of shoes contained bacteria C. diff (Clostridium difficile), which is a public health threat resistant to a number of antibiotics. This bacteria can cause multiple health conditions, including diarrhea.
49. Use a string mop
Foam mops are cheaply made and don’t last as long as a string mop. I love the fact that you can take the head off and clean it well. I place mine in an old pillowcase and toss it in the laundry, this protects the machine and the string. Again if you take care of your things well, they will last way longer.
50. Ditch the dryer sheets
These un-handy little suckers are coated with chemicals like quaternary ammonium compounds, which cause major health issues and affect the environment. They don’t break down in the landfill and in fact, lead to soil and water pollution. Try using wool dryer balls instead. Wool dryer balls are great. I use at least three dryer balls for a normal load of laundry. Each dryer ball will last for over 1,000 loads of laundry, and every dryer ball you add will shorten your drying process, saving you energy and time. In fact, in some cases, wool balls can reduce drying time by about 25%.
Some people complain about dryer balls not removing completely the static electricity from garments. There’s an easy fix! Just spray the dryer balls with a bit of water before throwing them into the dryer. This elevates the humidity level in the dryer and should remove any static. However, you can also pin a safety pin into one of the dryer balls and let the metal diffuse the static. You can also take the clothes out as soon as they avoid over-drying which creates static.
Remember how dryer balls work! They stumble around your clothes, separating them and letting warm air flow more easily. For them to work properly, they need space; they need room. This means that wool dryer balls work more efficiently with medium to small-sized loads. Separating that giant load into two smaller loads will mean a shorter drying time, guaranteed.
Let them air dry between uses to keep them fresh.
51. Just say no to bleach.
When it gets into our waterways it can lead to high levels of dioxins. Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They belong to group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Bleach is also toxic to humans and animals if ingested. If the words “poison” or “hazardous” appears on a product, it’s time to rethink that buy. Also avoid phosphates, ammonia, glycol ethers, parabens, acids and chlorine. Always read the label, but keep in mind that even eco cleaners can contain some of these harsh ingredients. Do your homework, talk to the manufacturers, ask questions.
To be really green you can use lemons as a bleaching agent, just add a cup of lemon juice to your wash cycle. Or you can try my DIY all-natural bleach alternative.
52. Use brushes for dishes
Instead of using those green and yellow sponges, they contain plastic and can’t be recycled. Try using brushes instead. I use Eco coconut Kitchen Cleaning Brush and Scourers. The bristles are made from sustainably farmed coconut husk’s which is the outside of dried coconuts. You can also try to look for brushes where the handle is made from wood instead of plastic.
53. Use block soap
This helps to reduce plastic packaging significantly. Block soap will cost you more but lasts close to 6 months, so the savings are pretty obvious.
54. Make a list before you shop
Make a list of the items you need before you shop, this helps to prevent buying something you already have. This is really so important, not only does it help you stick to a healthy meal plan all week, it helps you stock up on staples, which are normally much cheaper. When choosing your recipes (there are a ton online) choose ones that have healthy staples like whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, yams and brown rice paired with budget-friendly proteins like legumes, lentils (all packed with fiber) and eggs, instead of meat and poultry. On Sunday’s before I head out to shop, my hubby and I sit down and plan out the week, I have a selection of recipes that I rotate and I shop according to which ones we choose for the week. I also set aside time on Sunday to cook a batch of food for the week, it makes packing lunch for my family so much easier.
55. Get to know your kitchen garbage by doing a DIY audit on all the items you typically buy
Before you head out to the grocery store create a master list of all the food and cleaning supplies you purchase on a regular basis (have a look at my stories for what that list might look like.)
Once you have created your list start looking for all the items that create waste and put a checkmark beside it. Anything that comes in styrofoam, like eggs, checkmark it. Styrofoam can’t be recycled. Anything in glass or aluminum is okay, these items have higher recycling rates.
I also want you to pay close attention to all the parts of the packaging, for example, you might buy cookies that come in a cardboard box (yay we can recycle that) but the cookies themselves are in a plastic bag inside the box (ugh! WHY? not recyclable!)
It’s really up to you how deep you want to go. But I find when you write it all out and can see it clearly on a piece of paper it makes you more aware of the waste you create and that is where the power in this exercise lies.
The next step in this exercise is to create a chart with three columns.
Column 1 – the item eg: egg container.
Column 2 – can it be recycled or reused, in the case of eggs if it’s in Styrofoam then no.
Column 3 – is there an alternative? in the case of eggs, yes, shop for cardboard, it can be recycled and even composted. Spealking of compost, what types of garbage bags are you using? Are you susing an indoor compost bin? It’s a must.
Column 1 – peanut butter in a glass jar but with a plastic seal on it
Column 2 – can it be recycled or reused? The jar can but the plastic seal cannot
Column 3 – is there an alternative? yes, buy it in bulk
Now, when you head out to the grocery shop, take the chart with you, so you know what alternatives you are looking for. Please remember to have patience, Rome was not built in a day and it takes time to find alternatives and even stores the work for you!!
56. Use what you have! We often forget how much money we already have tied up in stuff inside our kitchen cupboards.
A lot of the time when we start something new we want a clean slate and in this case that can mean throwing out all the unwanted plastic lurking in the home (you can resue some of that tupperware you know). Please don’t do that. If you have plastic wrap and baggies that’s ok. Plastic baggies can be used to store odds and ends (not food) like nails, kids crayons, paint brushes etc. I have a few plastic baggies in the garage that I use for these types of items. You can use plastic baggies to create a DIY cold compress. Just fill it with water and put it in the freezer.
If you have glass jars in your fridge or pantry wash them out and reuse them! They are great for bulk shopping and food storage. I’m sure you have lots of reusable bags lying around as well, we all do.
Remember new items, even if they are eco-friendly have an environmental impact. Glass jars are recyclable but they have a pretty big carbon footprint when manufactured. Glass is made from sand and uses a great deal of water in the manufacturing process, so use it before you lose it. If you don’t have enough jars, you can get them second hand or look at trade apps like Bunz or Facebook’s Market Place.
57. Get to know the bulk section, more and more we are seeing bulk options in bigger grocery chains
Sometimes they are more limited in what they offer, but if you refer back to your DIY waste audit and chart you will most likely be able to find some bulk alternatives. If your bulk section needs work, you might have to shop for those items in another store. Health food stores typically have good options.
I know bulk shopping is a privilege and if you don’t have access to one, it’s okay. There are other ways to have success. Buy items that come in glass, aluminum or cardboard. And also think about what you might be able to make yourself, eg: Hummus, guacamole, nut milk etc. There are a ton of recipes online. If you must buy plastic, look for the number 1 or 2 on the container, these have higher recycling rates.
Another tip, if you buy yogurt, don’t buy 6 single little plastic containers, rather buy a large container that you can divvy up at home. This way you are only thrown out one container, not six.
Sticking to the produce section will also help you reduce the waste you bring into the home. Remember you are working towards simplifying your life, buying less means you save more money and when you apply these tips you tend to eat better as well.
Bulk buying helps to reduce food waste as well. It allows you to buy just what you need, therefore reducing any leftovers that might sit in the cupboard and ultimately go to waste. And think of this: purchasing oatmeal from the bulk bins saves 5 times the waste of its packaged equivalent. If you are looking for low waste, bulk shops in Canada, we have a provincial guide.
58. Set yourself up for success.
That means keeping reusable shopping bags and mesh bags (for produce) on hand all the time. Reusable shopping and produce bags are essential when you are trying to reduce waste at home. Plastic bags are literally choking the planet, globally we consume nearly 1 trillion of them a year. You DO NOT need to buy these, use what you have. An old pillowcase makes a great bread bag. I recommend having at least 5 of each. If you don’t have that many (most of us do) then you can buy them secondhand or you can look on trade APPs and websites.
I stash mine in the trunk, the glove box and even under the seat. Also make sure you have tons of jars at home, if you are shopping in bulk and using bags you will need to store that food when you get home. Look in your fridge, I bet you have some glass you can reuse. You can also use these jars at the bulk shop for dry goods like lentils etc. I have forgotten my bags many times, so I started writing “BAGS” on my grocery list, it helped me a lot! LOL! Reusing jars saves a ton of resources as well, like water and energy used to create new ones. This is a photo of the kit I keep in my car.
Additional tips when shopping:
Empty bags completely after use.
Wash all bags regularly.
Use bags that are easy for the cashier to fill.
Open bags that fold up into themselves while you are waiting in line. Don’t make the cashier wait for you to open them.
Types of bags:
Compact: Small enough to shove in your pocket.
Comfortable: With a long handle you can sling over your shoulder.
Self-contained: Rolls up into itself or a built-in little holder bag.
Big and strong: Can carry a heavy load of library books or groceries.
DON’T take free bags at events, you know the ones they hand out for free crap we don’t need. They are normally cheaply made and in many cases contain plastic (polyester).
59. Use your reusables properly
Starting in the produce section. First thing is to look for naked food, this is food that has ZERO wrappings on it, like bananas. I use my mesh bags for heavier items like yams, potatoes, apples etc. Mesh bags will make life easier for you at the checkout because the cashier can see through the bag easily. For items like leafy green and mushroom, I use my muslin bags. You can find these second hand or on trade App’s like @bunz_official or in the Brand Directory.
A lot of stores have deli-type sections like olive bars. Perfect opportunity to use your glass jars. These types of bars also offer things like beans, artichokes, dolmades, marinated Gigante beans and mushrooms, grilled artichoke, Cornichons, Marinated Mixed Mushrooms and much more.
Cheese- shop for this at the cheese counter and use your own container. You don’t need to get the tare in this section as the cheese is pre-weighed and then placed on the container, you can stick the price on your own jar. The same goes for the meat section, the meat is weighed and placed in the jar with the sticker on top, making it easier for the cashier to see it.
For baked goods, shop the pastry section where there are bins packed with bagels etc. instead of buying them in plastic packaging. I want to stress that you may run into trouble in some grocery stores when you are trying to do this. It’s ok it happens.
If you get a no, this is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with the shop owner or manager. Remember you are a paying customer, you actually have a lot of power. Most places want to make their customers happy! The more we speak up the more things will change, we want to enact a broader positive influence on the places we shop so, remember:
Always be polite.
Be as clear as possible about what you expect.
Understand that it is their right to refuse your reusable containers.
Bottom line: SUPPORT SHOPS AND BUSINESS THAT SUPPORT YOUR CHOICES AND LET OTHERS KNOW ABOUT THEM.
60. Try to store food without plastic
When I began this journey many years ago I learned the hard way, I stored spinach in a mesh bag, it wilted very quickly, I was so upset. So I started doing some research. I watched the film Just Eat It years ago and picked up this amazing tip: Create an “Eat-me-first” bin or basket for the fridge!
Label it: “Eat-me-first”. Add sad-looking produce and foods approaching their “best before” dates. Find recipes that incorporate bin items.
Here are some other simple rules to follow:
I store most of my fruit at room temperate on the counter. If you buy fruit remember to eat it within a few days. I keep bananas away from everything!
Store artichokes, carrots, and celery in bowls of cold water in the fridge.
Store avocados, strawberries, figs, and any other berries in a paper bag.
Store beets, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, green beans, and radishes in open glass containers covered with a damp towel in the fridge.
Store cauliflower, herbs, and cherries in closed glass containers in the fridge.
Store broccoli rabe, corn, snap peas, spinach, and cut melon in open glass containers in the fridge.
Store greens in closed glass containers covered with a damp cloth in the fridge.
Store cabbage, eggplant, and spring onions right in the fridge crisper.
Containers I use:
Weck Jars, Le Parfait Jars, Ball Jars, Stasher bags stainless steel and tiffins.
61. Try A DIY
DIY ALL PURPOSE CLEANER
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp liquid Castille soap
about 1 1/2 cups water
Add the baking soda and water to the bottle. Give it a good shake, then add the castile soap. You can add some essential oils if you like. I use this on the stove and kitchen and bathroom sinks.
1 cup baking soda
¼ cup castile soap
1 tbsp hydrogen peroxide
Mix into a paste
Amazing for sinks and tiles in the bathroom and kitchen!! Honestly, this is one of my best recipes, it’s easy to make and works so well!
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1 tablespoon cornstarch
10 drops essential oil (lemon, orange or grapefruit)- optional
Combine all ingredients into a glass spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Always do a spot test.
62. Get to Know your farmers market.
There is a large debate concerning the carbon footprint of organic and conventional agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations claims that by switching to organic agriculture farmers can reduce up to 66% of CO2 emissions. Large agricultural companies claim otherwise. For example, BASF claims that organically grown apples have higher overall energy consumption (+15-25%), CO2 emissions (+5-15%), and land use (+30%). If you can, choose sustainable food.
While organic and sustainable products often sound synonymous, this is not always the case. Organic products consider mainly the aspect of human health, while sustainable practices take into account the economic, social, and ecological factors to ensure that we will continue to have the resources to protect the Earth.
So, how do you find sustainable food? While there is no sustainability label yet, there is an app for that! Called Harvestmark. Plus, there is always the farmers market, where you can find out the story of your food directly from the growers. If no sustainable option is available, organic food remains the second-best choice as often it is grown in a more sustainable fashion than conventionally grown produce.
Independent studies show organic agriculture is likely to have a smaller carbon footprint, but they use more land per kilogram of produce.
Other useful tips for shopping at a farmers market:
1. Bring your own bag or cooler, it’s good for the planet and valuable social capital.
2. Ask about organic, in many cases small farms can’t afford the cost of third-party certifications and many of them do implement organic practices and don’t use pesticides, so ask.
3. Bring small bills
4. Don’t be afraid of the ugly duckling, we tend to shop for the best looking produce, but sometimes that odd-looking tomato or potato tastes better and (in some cases) is cheaper.
5. Get there early and buy in bulk, you can always freeze what you don’t use.
6. Shop around to compare price and quality.
7. Try something new each week
63. Ditch the coffee pods
One of the biggest waste generators in the kitchen is coffee pods. 🗑
In Canada, two-thirds of adults enjoy a cup of coffee daily, and 25 percent of those cups of coffee come from single-use pods. Canadians discard 2.8 million pods a day, including those made by Nespresso, Tassimo and Keurig. These companies claim that the pods can be recycled but all the parts need to be separated first. Residents must perform multiple tasks (remove the lid, empty grounds, and clean containers) to ensure the coffee pods can be properly processed in the Blue Bin recycling.
A Review of Single-Serve Coffee Pods in the City of Toronto’s Waste Diversion Programs found that there is a clear lack of evidence to suggest that coffee pod users will follow the multi-step process to properly manage the pod after use. Some manufacturers offer take-back schemes, so please contact the brand who makes your coffee pods see if this is possible.
A couple of years ago there was a major showdown between Keurig and the City Of Toronto. Keurig stating that they’ve done extensive testing on the recyclability of the pods but the city says it does take some work to get them there and they are not seeing consumers separating the pods the way they are supposed to be.
That is just one of several reasons why the department doesn’t appear set to allow coffee pods, Keurig or otherwise, into the recycling stream.
Two years ago the city of Toronto completed a one-week audit at its material recovery facility and found that over 97 percent of coffee pods that came through still had coffee grinds inside. Officials also worry that allowing Keurig cups in the blue bin will leave residents confused, leading to them accidentally throwing in pods from other brands that are not recyclable. Keurig says it trusts customers will do the right thing; if they’re allowed to. I am not so sure. In my opinion, coffee pads are one of the easiest things to eliminate from your home.
64. Compost food instead of wasting it.
Composting food waste is environmentally friendly and a great way to reduce what you send to landfill. Homemade compost is also rich in nutrients and makes the perfect fertilizer for homegrown veggies and herbs.
What Is Compost?
All organic matter decomposes, it’s the planet’s way of recycling so it doesn’t get overrun by new growth. (We could all take a lesson from Mother Nature at times!) This circle of life starts with a living organism – flora or fauna. It lives, it dies, it’s decomposed by fungi, bacteria, bugs and worms and is reabsorbed by the soil. Compost is fuel for life and it’s absolutely necessary to our survival. According to Environment Canada, biodegradable materials, such as food waste, make up around 40 percent of all residential waste in Canada.
Composting isn’t an answer to the problem of food waste – food that’s thrown away by homes and businesses that could be eaten. Compost makes use of the bits leftover, that we can’t eat. Veggie peelings and eggshells are a great example. It makes sense to recycle food scraps where we can. Compost enriches the soil, which means we can grow more food. With our growing population, we need all the nutrient-rich soil we can get!
65. Get to know your neighbourhood!
Going low waste I often get questions about accessibility regarding where to shop for low waste food and items. In some cases, you may live in an area where there aren’t any. One of the things I do recommend is to really get to know your neighbourhood and the stores in your area. A lot of the time we are programmed to pick the large box store that’s close by because it’s convenient and often times we miss the small, more boutique local shops that might be closer thank you think.
The other option is to think about buying in bulk online. You can find beauty, household and even bulk items to DIY. The packaging can be recycled, upcycled, refilled or composted.
66. Save energy when you cook
This kind of #ecoaction can reduce your personal carbon footprint, something we all have, we drive, we heat and cool our homes, we shop, all these daily actions make up our individual carbon footprints.
So making some adjustments inside the home we can reduce that footprint 👣
One way is to cook keeping the energy you use at its lowest.
1. Try to match the size of the pot and the burner
2. Don’t overfill pots with water. Follow the cooking instructions, normally it’s enough to just cover the food
3. If you need to boil something you can boil the water in the kettle, a Kettle is more energy efficient
4. Keep the stovetop clean. Lots of build-up can make the burner work more making it less efficient by using more energy.
5. use high-quality cookware that is made from highly conductive materials typically allows you to get the same results while using approximately 25% less heat. Glass or ceramic pans are better in the oven, and pans with a copper bottom are better on stovetops.
6. Try smaller appliances like a slow cooker and pressure cookers
7. Optimize your preheated oven by cooking several items in a row.
These types of actions help to reduce the amount of energy and carbon your home uses. Two things that contribute to climate change.
Being energy efficient In the home will also save you money. And try to opt for eco-freindly cookware too.
67. STOP wish-cycling
Wishcycling basically means that when you are about to toss something in the recycling bin, like a pizza box or plastic disposable item and you realize you are not sure if it should actually go in the blue bin or the garbage. I’ve been there, more than once. Standing in front of the two bins and tossing the item into the recycling bin HOPING and WISHING It will be recycled. You think in the back of your head that someone at the other end knows you’ve made a mistake and will fix it! NOPE, this does not happen. Simply wishing an item is going to be recycled does not make it so! This habit is doing more harm than good by creating more waste than recycling facilities can handle. Wish-cycling contributes in a big way to contamination, which is when an incorrect item or material is added to a specific waste stream, in this case, the recycling stream.
When a batch of recyclables is contaminated, there’s a good chance it’ll be rejected and end up in the landfill. In other words, because of that one problematic thing you tried to recycle, tons of properly recycled items get landfilled. I think you’ll agree that this is a tragedy, and it runs completely counter to what recycling is all about.
Wondering about recycling instructions for items in your municipality? Call and ask them. Wish-cycling wastes time and money. Your recyclables are all processed at a local materials recovery facility. No two are the same. Each is outfitted with unique equipment and capabilities. That’s why communities have such varied waste management programs.
Introducing items that can’t be processed by your MRF can damage it, which means nothing gets recycled until the equipment’s up and running again. This is very expensive. It also happens much too frequently. When recycling becomes uneconomical, some local governments might think twice about doing it. By recycling right, we’re doing our part to keep it affordable.
68. Try Kitchen scrap gardening
Kitchen scrap gardening is when you grow plants from items you’d normally throw in your compost bucket. Vegetable and fruit scraps like oranges, lemons, limes, sweet potatoes, avocados, carrots, beets, onions, celery and ginger work well (these are just some examples). Do you need a green thumb? No! and this is what makes this kind of growing so fun. It’s easy and you can get your kids involved too, it’s a great way to reinforce the sustainable living concepts of recycling and reusing. Plus, it’s a kick to grow new plants from old plant parts.
How do you actually grow kitchen scraps? You’ll probably get better results if you start with high-quality organic produce since some non-organic produce is actually treated to prevent sprouting. Also, keep in mind the climate you live in will determine if and when plants started from scraps can be transferred to an outdoor garden. I’ve written up a comprehensive guide with tips and ideas to help get you started.
69. Shop for local food when possible
Food miles are a major contributor to climate change. You might be surprised to know that those apples you love are shipped here all the way from the USA. We have an abundance of apples that grow right here in Ontario, so look at the label to make sure it’s locally grown.
70. Order a vegetable box
Instead of driving to the supermarket, opt to have a. organic veggie box delivered to your doot. This not only supports your local farmer it will also help reduce chemicals used in conventional farming and reduce emissions created when you drive to the shop.
71. Avoid high-tech cartons
Try not to buy items like juice and milk in cartons, they are very hard to recycle because they are made up of different types of materials. They do take less energy to manufacture and transport than tin cans do.
72. Opt for second-hand furniture
We talk a lot about #secondhand clothing but what about second-hand furniture? That thrill of the find can be applied to this part of your home as well. But you want it to get it right! Here is my BIGGEST tip for buying used furniture: ⠀
Watch out for costly upcycling. It’s a common mistake to assume that you can upcycle any old thing cheaply and effectively. A good rule of thumb is to purchase only items you know you’ll be able to restore on your own or know how much it will cost to get it done professionally.⠀
Some restoration services can be quite expensive, and the finished piece may end up costing a lot more than you had anticipated. You have to use a bit of common sense. If you want to change it a lot, think about whether it’s worth the money it will take to restore it. ⠀
Don’t get trapped into buying something because it’s cheap. Not everything can be saved, so be careful that you can turn your vision into reality and don’t end up wasting money.⠀If you’re buying with the intention of painting an item, then look at its finish. Laminate, for instance, is really hard to paint over without lots of sanding or specialist paint that can be quite costly.⠀If second-hand furnutire is not your vibe, then here are some of the best sustiabale decor stores.
73. Repair and reuse
Instead of throwing out clothing that has minor damage, try mending it instead. If it’s out of your wheelhouse of skils, take it to a seamstress to help. We’ve become accustomed to throwing out things for missing a button. When I grew up, my granny taught us to mend all our things. We bought things and we took care of them, was made sure they last. Really damage clothing, like a stained t-shirt can be turned into rags for cleaning and dusting. You can also consider selling your used clothes on-line.
74. Stop the junk mail
Most junk mail gets a one-way ticket to landfill, once there it breaks down and produces methane gas, a major contributor to global warming, not to mention the resources that go into making it, including trees and massive amounts of water. Start by switching to e-bills.
75. Recycle as much paper as you can
Recycled paper uses up to 70% less energy in production than virgin paper. So recycle as much of it as you possibly can!
76. Buy recycled toilet paper
By making toilet paper from ancient forests essential to the climate fight, tissue companies are flushing away our forests and our planet’s future. Toilet paper releases carbon with every flush, landing major U.S. tissue makers in the hot seat for their role in turning Canada’s boreal forest from a climate asset to a liability. I wrote an entire article of on the issues surrounding toilet paper and it’s detrimental effects on the climate, do you know how your brand stacks up? I’ve also got a list of some of my favouroite eco-friendly toilet paper brands.
77. Create your own recycling system
Make recycling in your home easy by creating your own recycling system. Use boxes that can be carried and emptied easily. Have different containers for materials such as paper, plastic and glass, and use stackable bins that take up less space.
78. Get to know your areas recycling rules
One of the easiest things you can do is learn about recycling in your area. Understanding what can and can’t be recycled is key to reducing the amount of garbage heading to landfills. The City Of Toronto has an app called waste wizard that helps you put the right things in the right bin. The app is not perfect but it can teach you a lot. Keep in mind that when people assume their take-away, a single-use coffee cup is recyclable (it’s usually not) and they deposit that wax-lined coffee cup with some unfinished liquid into the recycling bin, that whole bag is now considered contaminated and will go straight to landfill. Recycling is also not perfect. But it does help. When you start to understand what kind of waste you are creating it gives you the knowledge to make a change and reduce waste.
79. Opt for wooden hangers
What kind of hangers do you use to hang your clothes? I’ve good mostly wood and a few old plastic ones that I will need to take to the grave because they can’t be recycled. SO I am reusing those suckers as much as I can. LOL! Only 15% of the 8-10 billion plastic coat hangers produced each year are recycled. The remaining 85% usually end up in landfills.
Most plastic hangers are made of #6 plastic (polystyrene) or #7 plastic (polycarbonate). To prevent the plastic hangers in your life from going straight to a landfill, donate them to a local thrift store or Goodwill donation center. Wire hangers can be taken back by dry cleaners. Practices such as garment-on-hanger (GOH) shipping are doing their best to keep the throwaway-hanger business booming.
GOH is a practice where individual items of clothing are shipped from the factory on a hanger, meaning the store has no need to retain hangers for reuse after the merchandise has been sold because every new item from the factory already comes with its own throwaway hanger! GOH is the opposite of sustainable. It’s estimated that 30 to 40 billion articles of clothing come into the US already on a hanger! And sadly, very few of them will be recycled.
Consider contacting your favourite sustianable clothing brands to urge them to minimize their use of coat hangers and to stand against unsustainable practices like GOH. To minimize your personal consumption of coat hangers try a capsule wardrobe; it will reduce your need for hangers and reduce the eco-footprint of your closet.
80. Understand fast fashion and how it can be more accessible
A new FREE online sustainable fashion Toolkit that is bringing together hundreds of sustainable fashion resources in a centralized location for everyone. It’s about time, now brands and consumers will have access to a ton of information that will help to break down barriers to sustainability by making resources that already exist accessible and easy to use.
The Toolkit was built with everyone in mind. This is a global industry and resources are applicable to any fashion business, anywhere in the world, and at any stage of the sustainability journey. It features vetted resources – reports, guidelines, standards, articles, podcasts, case studies and platforms – easily searchable by category. Get comfortanble slow fashion and learn how to create a minimalist wardrobe.
81. Rent a dress
We all love to dress up for the holidays and that comes with the want (not need) to purchase a new dress every year for that special occasion. One that will cost you money, one that you will probably only wear once, one that will hang in your cupboard long after it’s been worn, or one that will most likely end up in landfills. Canadians send more than 12 million tonnes of clothing and textiles into the waste stream every year! Now renting is not 100% eco-friendly, there is a lot of dry cleaning and shipping involved but ultimately there are some pretty good benefits.
82. Donate your clothes properly
We have plenty of opportunities to deal with unwanted clothing, but too many are still ending up in the garbage. It’s more important than ever that we work towards extending the life of our wardrobe by swapping, mending, and donating our clothes!
Here are two easy ways you can donate your clean, dry and odourless clothes:
Clothing donation bins offer a convenient and easy way to donate clothing, shoes, accessories, bath and bed linens etc. as there are hundreds of bins located across the province in highly visible and accessible locations. Many charities operate these bins so not only do you get to declutter your closet but you are helping to support these charities.
Second hand/thrift shops. In Ontario, there are a variety of thrift stores that accept donated clothing, such as The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Goodwill and Value Village. This website has a whole bunch of great ideas too. It’s also so imporatn that you ger rid of your old stuff properly, like jeans and socks.
83. Try a second-hand capsule wardrobe
Can you create a second-hand capsule wardrobe? Two issues to discuss!⠀I buy ALL my jeans at a Thrift shop. We all wear jeans, It’s difficult to find a garment as widely embraced, worn and loved the world over as jeans and yet they have a pretty massive negative impact on the planet and the people who make them. it takes 2,000 gallons (7,600 litres) of water to make your favourite pair of jeans! EEK!⠀
Today, the capsule wardrobe has become “trendy” and I think that’s doing more harm than good. We see so many blogs, articles and even books on the subject, but in many cases, the actual tenets behind the concept have been completely lost.⠀
I’ve seen blogs that promote upwards of 30 pieces of clothing per season; this is far from the concept of a capsule wardrobe in my opinion. A capsule wardrobe should have nothing to do with shopping for new clothes every season; the whole point of it is to challenge how and why we consume, meanwhile maximizing the use of what we own. The minimum number of items will change from person to person, but it’s important to focus on the benefits that have nothing to do with fashion.⠀
Benefits of building a second-hand capsule wardrobe:⠀
Integrating a capsule wardrobe can affect how you see your participation in other consumption patterns. Once you start down a path of more conscious consumerism in one area, it can provide inspiration for other ways to live intentionally and lessen your impact on the environment.⠀
Removing shopping for the sake of shopping from your lifestyle frees up a lot of money. When you do need to replace an item, you can consider repairing/adapting what you have or buying a replacement at a second-hand price. link in bio for a full blog on the topic!
84. Reduce microplastic in your home
Fabrics come in all shapes and sizes, but do you ever give a second thought to the impact those fabrics have on the planet. Take polyester, for example, it’s evolved from your dad’s 70s disco shirt to our generation yoga pants and undies, and the more we use and need polyester the more of an impact it has on the planet. Polyester has become ubiquitous in our clothes, it’s cheap to make, works very well when combined with other fabrics and can be found in dresses, t-shirts, and jeans.
In the last decade or so, we have seen a decline in cotton production and an increase in the use of polyester. This means one thing, the clothes we are wearing and buying are increasingly becoming plastic. The most common types of polyesters (polymers) are polyethylene terephthalate or PET, plastics that are derived from crude oil used to make things like bottles.
After an extensive processing process, manufacturers are able to turn these plastic fibers into the fabric we call polyester. With the global demand for synthetic fibers on the rise, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not just the manufacturers who are to blame. We, the consumer, need to wake up and realize that our need for fast fashion is having an unbelievably detrimental effect on the planet.
A little on cotton vs. polyester:
– uses large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers to grow
– these are emitted into our atmosphere
– polluting the air we breathe and water we drink
– it also takes a great deal of water to produce cotton
– uses much less water in production
– uses toxins (but not generally released into the environment)
I’ve been using the #guppyfriend to help reduce the amount of microfibre coming from my clothes washing. Have you tried it? Another way to reduce microplastic is to get to know your fabrics and we’ve got a ton of guides to help:
85. Declutter ethically
Decluttering. It can mean so many things to so many people. For me, it means having an organized and tidy home. It’s also an ongoing process like doing the laundry or cleaning the bathroom. It’s easy to get caught up in buying more stuff than we need and decluttering can really make you face your stuff head-on. If you do it mindfully, you can challenge yourself and your attitude toward buying more things. Start by asking yourself: did I really need that? Is this a waste? How could I get by differently?
The issue with decluttering from an ethical lifestyle standpoint is that it creates “stuff” to get rid of. But there are ways to do it without needing to just chuck things away. I try to do a really thorough declutter about 3 times a year: spring, early autumn and just before Christmas. But this is only a rough schedule and we tend to re-home, re-use, repair and recycle as we go along in between too. So where do I send all the stuff? And how do I make sure that it stays, as much as possible, out of landfill? And how do I keep it simple so that it doesn’t take over our lives? Buy less, buy better. Recycle. And properly.
Well, there you have it! I could have gone on and on with this list, there is so much more to add. This post took me a week to write. I really hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear from you. What are your sustainable living tips for your home? Tell me in the comment below.
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