The year is coming to an end and as we all know the last few months of the year go by in the blink of an eye. Are you looking to close the year out in a high note and knock off some of the goals you had set for the year? Or are you looking to end the year well, so that it carries you into 2023 with some momentum?
If part of your goals this time of year are around living a more sustainable lifestyle, we have compiled an easy list of eight sustainable practices that can get you on the right track. We can not stress the importance of sustainability enough as we’ve seen the effects of unsustainable practices on climate change more often than not.
When thinking about sustainable living - there is no better place to start than in your own home. This is a place where you will have almost complete control over the elements and can best shape to meet your goals when it comes to sustainability.
Read below to learn more about different upgrades or opportunities around your home that can help you reach your sustainable development goals.
#1 Find inspirational resources
A great place to get started when you are trying to create a sustainable home is to find 3-5 resources that you can pull inspiration from to get your sustainability journey started.
Whether you consume more modern forms of media such as social media outlets like Tiktok and Instagram or prefer more traditional resources like books and newspapers - do a little research and find outlets that work for you.
We recommend starting with 3-5 resources that you are actively checking and enjoy consuming. This will be a good baseline for you to stay up to date with and will hopefully serve as a wealth of knowledge and new ideas as you continue to optimize your homw with sustainable practices.
However you want to organize these or keep track of them, that is up to you. It might be adding them to your favorites on social media or scheduling a calendar reminder to check-in with these resources. But do so in a way that these are easily accessible and right in front of you starting out so that you get in the habit of checking them.
#2 Find a refill store or business
Now that you have some resources to learn from and that you connect well with, it is time to get to work. A great place to start is by researching refill stores or businesses.
As companies have consisted to cut costs and find cheaper packaging options, the options for consumers to purchase have become less and less sustainable. Very often now being only single-use plastics, which in many cases can’t even be recycled.
A great option for consumers, which is becoming increasingly popular, are to opt for refill stores in your area to refill some of your everyday essentials. The demand for stores like this is growing as everyone is seeing the side effects of cheap, unsustainable packaging entering our ecosystem. These are definitely more common in bigger cities or towns, but do some research and see if there is a sustainable business in your area.
By making this switch you will drastically minimize the amount of waste that your household is producing. No refill stores near you? Thats ok - you now have two opportunities. The first is to try and start a refill store of your own! Now, we know this is a stretch and would require time, money, etc - but this community is very close-knit and if you are interested there are definitely people out there who would help show you the way. The second option is to research companies that are using refillable sustainable packaging as part of their business like Reel Paper! Our recycled paper towels are plastic-free and made of sustainable materials.
There are a lot more companies transitioning to this type of sustainable packaging model, which is awesome to see! We’ve seen everything from bathroom essentials like body wash and shampoo, to house cleaning products. A few sustainable brands that we have seen are Blueland and Plaine Products.
#3 Invest in a reusables cabinet
Another tip that we swear by is in a reusables cabinet for reusable items like cups, straws, travel ware, etc. How many of each depends on everyones situation - we like to keep a couple of each around, just in case you are in a rush or something comes up and you need an extra.
By keeping everything in one tidy location, you will just be training yourself to go to that spot every time you are about to do something that could involve a reusable. For example, if you are running out to grab a coffee - you can just go to your reusable cabinet and grab your reusable mug and straw to take with you. Now you can say no to plastic straws and reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.
If you can find these items secondhand - amazing! If not, this little investment will go a long way and set you up greatly for living a more sustainable life.
#4 Buy secondhand
Speaking of buying secondhand - this should be your first instinct whenever considering making a purchase for your home. We have highlighted this in other blogs as well, but we always recommend taking inventory of your home and creating a list of items that you are and aren’t ok with buying secondhand. If you want to take it one step further, you can also note the outlets you prefer for both buying secondhand and new in this document to help with your searches! Having this list will just make it easier when the time comes to make a new purchase of any type - you can refer to this existing list and see where to start your search.
Buying secondhand will not only help reduce waste, hurt big corporations' bottom line, and save you money - but it will also be a lot of fun! There is nothing better than snagging a great secondhand purchase, that fits your needs perfectly, and doesn’t hurt your wallet. Now - this isn’t always the case, so you will need to be prepared to be burned on a bad purchase and to be patient if you are looking for something very specific. That said - these are both things you need to be prepared for when buying new items as well.
You will be amazed at all of the amazing items you can find that people are selling. Some of our favorite apartments and designers nowadays have almost entirely outfitted their homes/apartments with secondhand things.
Pro tip: some suburban and urban areas are better than others when it comes to finding older pieces with a lot of charm. Make a fun road-trip with friends to some of the premier destinations for secondhand items and share the excitement about your new finds.
Similar to buying secondhand and getting the most out of existing products/goods is upcycling. To make your home more sustainable you should always be thinking about the ways you can upcycle products that you bring into your home. There are definitely varying degrees and levels to upcycling, but we recommend starting with the basics and then relying on some of the resources you follow to see what heights you can get to.
In terms of the basics - here is one example - any glass jars that you bring into your home should almost always be kept to be used for something else. These can be used as storage containers, glassware for your home, or little planters for herbs you grow. Glass containers - barring if they break or shatter - can be reused an unlimited amount of times just as long as you keep them clean. If you are to get rid of them, they can definitely be recycled, but the unfortunate reality is that only 9% of recycled materials are actually recycled in the United States. Meaning that the remaining 91%, ends up in landfills or even worse polluting our ecosystems.
Take this example and expand upon it - another one might be cardboard boxes. You know a time is going to come when you will need to ship something - so keep them around to be reused, instead of recycling them right away. If you are tight on space - maybe reach out to neighbors or friends and see if anyone needs any to use.
#6 Grow food
Speaking of using glass containers to grow some herbs - thats a great starting point for our next tip - grow your own food.
Growing your own food drastically reduces your carbon footprint and is a great way to ensure that you are consuming foods that you know were grown without any harmful treatment processes.
Now this one is a lot easier said than done, but if you can stick with it and get into it this is a very rewarding and engaging way to live a more sustainable life. You will quite literally be needing to get your hands dirty on this one, but it is worth it.
In terms of getting started here - it will again depend on your circumstances. Depending on the climate you live in, space you have available, and other factors - you will have a certain amount that you can take on from the outset.
First off - this is again a great one to rely on your 3-5 resources to learn from and get information on how you should approach growing your own food. A lot of people do this already so they can help you navigate some of the obstacles and give you some tips on getting started and maintaining a healthy ecosystem to grow your food.
Second - we recommend starting with something simple like herbs and spices. These do not require a lot of space or care to grow - don’t let that intro fool you, they can still be a challenge to keep alive and thriving, but at the very least they are a good place to start. While these are small, they still will have a big environmental impact - think about all of the plastic-wrapped herbs you have purchased over the years, all of that packaging will be eliminated if you can make this switch.
Once you have mastered your herbs and spices then use your research to find out the best items to grow in your area and during each season.
Pro tip: if you can’t grow your own or aren’t having any success - try joining a community garden. There are thousands around the country and are a great way to be a part of a sustainable community around you.
#7 Track your waste
Now this one is a little less sexy and also takes a little more work on your end. But that said it can really be one of the most telling practices you can adopt when trying to live a more sustainable life.
How often you want to do this is up to you, but a great way to live more sustainably is to take time and review your waste basket and take inventory of what you are throwing out.
Again - this will be a little gross, but over time you will start to see trends and get some serious learnings from the waste you are producing. This will also give you some great data to work back from and start to minimize your environmental impact on the planet.
For example if you notice that you are discarding 15 plastic produce bags a month from the store - you can pinpoint reusable produce bags as an investment that will decrease your plastic waste each month.
Pro tip for this: set a reward for yourself and make it a good one. If you are going through this exercise, you are an all star and deserve to be rewarded for it. So set a goal and a nice reward - maybe a massage - so that you can keep yourself pushing in this endeavor.
#8 Set water and energy benchmarks
Another thing that you should be tracking to have a more sustainable home is your water and energy usage each month. This is a pretty easy thing to do, simply check your water/energy bills for the monthly usage and input that into a little tracker so you can see your month over month changes.
This might be a little trickier if you live in an apartment complex - if that is the case try to push on your landlord to make these available to you so that you can see what your output is like.
Once you have that information - set a benchmark for yourself based on what is recommended by reputable environmental agencies such as the environmental protection agency and work on getting to or beating those numbers.
You can then test different techniques each month and see what kind of impact it has on your scores. For example - if you want to reduce your water bill - try setting a 3 minute timer for each shower that month and see what that changeup does to your water usage. You can also opt for energy-efficient appliances to see the impact that switching will have on your energy usage.
We hope these tips help you make your home more sustainable to live in. Sustainable business practices can also be incorporated into your sustainable workplace to have an even greater impact. If you have any questions or are looking for more tips - follow us on social media.