If you want to live “greener” but aren’t sure where to start, here are 60 terrific tips that are practical and easy to do. BONUS – Many cost absolutely nothing to implement.
Let’s Get Started!
Sixty ideas can be a bit overwhelming, I know. So read through the list and pick 2 you’ll start doing this week. Come back and choose another 2 for the next week, or mark ideas down in your calendar to remind yourself of the ones you’re going to try.
Quit the Plastic Addiction – Say No to One-Use Plastics
1. Bring a reusable bag or bags.
Single-use plastics and even paper bags that get used once and then stuck in a closet are a huge waste of resources, not to mention the huge amount of damage plastic bags can do to our environment. Microplastics which are tiny pieces of plastic less than the width of a hair (which occur as plastics start to decompose in sunlight and seawater) end up in our water, in fish, in wildlife and even in us.
This should almost be a no brainer at this point. But I still see so many people (and I admit I sometimes forget as well!) not using reusable grocery and shopping bags. Get some reusable bags that are compact enough to keep in your purse and have several in your car for grocery shopping. It’s can be a hard habit to start, but you’ll be so glad you did.
Check out my Resources Page for some reasonably priced reusable bags with one set that will even take care of that produce bag habit that it can be even harder to kick!
2. Say no to the straw.
If you are at a restaurant and have a chance to stop the waitperson before they bring you a drink with a straw ask them to “hold the straw” or say “no straw please.” A few restaurants are already deciding to not include plastic straws in drinks unless you ask for them. If you need to use a straw for whatever physical reason, that’s fine. No guilt from me! But if you don’t, then just drink from the glass – OR carry your own reusable straw
3. Get a reusable cup for your coffee.
AND remember to bring it with you to avoid one-use cups. If you’re in the habit of stopping at the local coffee shop or a Starbucks on your way to work, bring your own travel mug. They’ll be happy to fill that for you. In fact, Starbucks will even give you a 10 cent discount on your beverage when you bring your own cup!
4. Don’t buy bottled water.
Get a reusable non-BPA container that you can clean easily and take that with you. If you’re not crazy about the taste of your water you can install a water filter or buy a water filter pitcher to fill and keep in your refrigerator. You’ll get fresh cold drinking water without having to run the tap for long periods to let the water get cold.
Greener in the Kitchen
5. Shop zero waste stores.
Packaging in stores accounts for a lot of the waste we end up making. If you can, try shopping at grocery stores with mainly bulk products. Farmer’s markets are also a great choice for this. Bring your own containers and bags to fill. If this isn’t an option consider looking for foods that have as little packaging as possible.
6. Plan meals to avoid food waste.
This is a trifecta of a win. When you plan your meals you’ll not only reduce food waste that likely ends up in a landfill you will also save money, time and eat better, too!
Food waste is a serious problem in the U.S. The UDSA estimates that as much as 40% of our food supply is wasted each year! That’s huge. About 31% of this waste happens at the retail or consumer level.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Pick a specific day to plan out your meals each week. Right before you go to the grocery store is a good choice.
- Write down what meals you’re going to make on what day on a calendar so you stay organized and stick with your plan.
- Check your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have.
- Make a careful grocery list of what you need and how much of each item.
- Stick to the list when you are at the store.
- Try not to buy things that you “aspire” to eat, if you’re pretty sure you won’t actually eat them.
7. Buy fruits and veggies in season.
This cuts down on transportation costs of moving foods around the country and around the globe. It will also give you better tasting produce. The produce will likely be a little less expensive. AND, you have a better chance of getting fresher food.
8. Eat Local
This cuts down on transportation costs as well. I admit this can be difficult in some climates where the growing season is pretty short, like in Wisconsin. So sometimes it’s just important to do the best you can and make the best choices possible. Farmers’ markets are great (when they are available) but have you thought of trying a CSA?
CSA refers to Community Supported Agriculture.
CSAs are networks of farms that “offer consumers regular (usually weekly) deliveries of locally-grown farm products during one or more harvest season(s) on a subscription or membership basis. Customers have access to a selected share or range of farm products offered by a single farm or group of farmers based on partial or total advance payment of a subscription or membership fee.” (USDA)
If you want to find out if there is a CSA you can join near you check out this directory on the USDA site.
9. Grow some of your own food.
There’s nothing more “local” than your own back yard. Growing your own food can cut down on transportation costs and reduce your carbon footprint. You’ll also know exactly what was used on your food. Some people tend to think “all or nothing.” I can’t grow all my food so why bother. But growing even some of your own food can be rewarding and save you money.
Not enough space for a garden? Think again! Even if you live in an apartment you can grow some of your own food. Check out this post I wrote for great information on what to grow and how to grow it, even if you don’t have much space.
10. Eat organic to cut down on pesticides.
This is part of the reason it is so nice to grow your own food when you can. You know exactly what was used on it (and what wasn’t.) Choose organic foods, when you can, at the grocery store as well to avoid pesticide contamination and encourage more growers to go organic.
I know organic produce can be more expensive so if you need to save money (and who doesn’t) focus on buying the “dirty dozen” produce as organic produce. As a refresher, the dirty dozen fruits that use the most pesticides are:
- sweet bell peppers
11. Go meatless.
If you don’t want to be a vegetarian or vegan, that’s fine. Go meatless one or two days a week. Eating lower on the food chain uses less energy and is less damaging to the environment. See this post I wrote on how eating meat is exacerbating climate change for more info on why eating less meat can be an important part of living greener and more sustainably.
12. Choose sustainably sourced fish if you eat fish.
Finding sustainable fish can be a little complicated. To make it easier you can use an app like the one from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch and ask questions at your local store to find out what you can about what’s in the seafood case.
13. Choose Fair Trade Certified and sustainable foods when you can.
Fair Trade Certified goods not only empower farmers and protect workers and fishermen, they also protect the environment. You can read more about what being Fair Trade Certifed means at the Fair Trade website.
14. Compost food waste.
When you do have food scraps or end up with food that goes bad before you can eat it, compost it rather than throwing it in the trash to go to the landfill.
Composting doesn’t have to be super complicated and you can even do it year ’round. Find out more about composting here in this post I wrote about composting in winter.
15. Reuse plastic and glass bottles and jars for food storage.
That half-gallon plastic juice bottle washed out with the label removed can be a great rice storage canister. Cut off the bottom of a plastic gallon jug to start seedlings. The bottom of a cardboard beverage jug will work great for this, too. Get creative. Recycling is good. Reusing is even better.
16. Install aerators on all your faucets.
This will cut the water flow without losing the water pressure. They are inexpensive and easy to install so you can probably install them yourself. This can be a great project to do with kids if you’re kids are the right age. For more ideas on getting kids to want to save water, you can visit this post that gives 30 great tips to get kids on board.
17. Use glasses of leftover water to water plants.
If you’ve got kids you’re probably used to finding have drunk glasses of water around the house. You don’t need to pour it down the drain. You can water plants with it. Don’t want to be watering willy nilly throughout the week? I understand. It’s easy to overwater or underwater this way. Fill a jug kept for this purpose and dispose of excess water by watering outside plants.
18. Cover pots when boiling water or cooking.
This will speed cooking and reduce energy use.
19. Use cloth napkins instead of paper.
They feel a lot nicer and they save trees. You can easily use a cloth napkin for more than one meal as well. Just color code them so everyone knows whose napkin is whose. Cotton bandanas even work well for this.
20. Buy clothing from sustainable makers.
The power of the purse is no joke. More and more people want cage-free eggs, and the egg producers catch on and start going in that direction.
Spend your clothing dollars wisely with companies who consider protecting the environment as important as making a profit and not only will you feel better about what you are wearing, you’ll be using the consumer power you have to influence clothing makers.
21. Use your clothing longer.
If you want to live green, then being a slave to all the latest fashion trends is going to be difficult to reconcile. Our “fast-food” type “throw away” after a season fashion industry doesn’t do our environment any favors. If your clothes still fit and still look good, keep them and use them longer. Buying classic styles will help keep you “in style” no matter what the fashion magazines and gurus are telling us.
22. Choose eco-friendly fabrics.
Some fabrics are more environmentally damaging to produce. So choosing clothing made of linen, hemp or organic cotton is a good idea. You can check out this post for more information on the most eco-friendly and least eco-friendly fabrics and a few in between.
23. Shop and donate to charity shops.
Upcycling and reusing are a big part of a greener more sustainable life. When you shop thrift stores you get to do just that. (AND it’s sort of like a treasure hunt so it’s a lot of fun!) Donate your gently used clothing as well to give it a new life. There’s an added bonus that you get to help your favorite charity at the same time!
Greener in the Bathroom
24. Take a shower rather than a bath.
A 10-minute shower with a low flow showerhead uses about 25 gallons of water. The average bath uses between 35 and 50 gallons. Which brings me to my next tip.
25. Use a low flow showerhead.
If you haven’t installed one of these yet. It’s a great way to save water and money on your water bill. Showers are the 3rd largest water user in the house after toilets and wash machines. So you can save quite a bit here.
Regular showerheads flow at 5 gallons a minute. Low-flow flow at 2.5 gallons a minute. But don’t worry about getting a wimpy shower. The newer showerheads have great aeration and you’ll never notice there’s less water coming out of the showerhead!
26. Time your showers.
If you lose track of time while you’re in the shower (I know it happens to me) set a timer to remind yourself when your 10 minutes, 8 minutes or 5 minutes is up.
27. Collect water from your shower.
You can use a bucket under the tap to collect water while you’re waiting for the water to get hot. You can use this water to water plants, inside or out, or even flush your toilet manually to save water that way. One good way to do this to water plants outside is to have a covered bucket or barrel you can take the bucket and dump it into. That way you’ll be able to use it to water plants when it’s convenient.
28. Turn off the tap when brushing teeth or shaving.
It’s so easy to forget this and let it run, but if you turn it off you’ll save a lot of water each year.
29. Fix Leaks.
If you’ve got a leaky faucet or toilet it can waste gallons and gallons of water each week. So go on “leak patrol” with the kids and test all faucets and the toilet to see if anthing is leaking. To test the toilet for leaks, put about 10 drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 10 minutes without flushing. If the water in the bowl starts to turn color you’ll know you have a leak.
30. Get more use out of a disposable razor.
Disposable razors can certainly be used more than once. If you want to keep your razor sharper longer, you can rub the blades across an old piece of denim.
31. Use a menstrual cup.
Rather than disposable tampons or pads, consider trying a reusable menstrual cup. Everyone I know who’s tried it says it’s way more convenient than having to change a tampon every few hours. Find out more about them here in this NPR report. (And yes, they are safe.)
32. Use cloth diapers.
If you have little ones and you’re trying to reduce waste, this is a great way to do it. But I totally understand that it’s not as convenient (or practical in some cases) as using disposables.
33. Choose a non-plastic toothbrush.
Every 4 months or so we’re supposed to get a new one. Cut down on plastic waste by choosing a toothbrush made from bamboo like this one available from Amazon.
Greener in the Laundry Room
34. Use less energy to get your clothes dry with these 3 tips.
- Use dryer balls to cut drying time.
- If you throw a dry towel in with a load of wet clothes they’ll dry faster.
- Use drying racks to cut down on how many loads you have to put in the dryer.
- Be sure to clean your lint filter EVERY time to save energy and prevent possible fires.
35. Wash clothes with cold water.
Most of the energy used for washing clothes is from heating the water. So wash in cold whenever you can and you’ll save all that energy.
36. Make your own cleaning products.
This way you’ll be able to use eco-friendly ingredients and not have to worry about harmful chemicals. It’s amazing what plain white vinegar, salt, lemon and baking soda in various combinations can clean!
37. Make your own “Swiffer” sheets.
No need to buy the one-use disposable ones. You can cut up old cotton t-shirts that are no longer useful or old terry cloth towels into the correct size and insert them the same way you would the disposable ones. Then you can wash and reuse them.
Throughout the House
38. Unplug your devices.
Computers sitting on “stand by” while you are not using them use up a lot of power. So do TVs and other appliances. Anything that is showing a light when it is “off” is using power.
It can be a hassle to unplug everything. So if you want to make it easier use a surge protector power strip that you can switch off with one click.
39. Save Electricity by unplugging your charger once your phone or device is charged.
Your charging cords are using power even when you don’t have anything plugged in to charge. So unplug those when not in use as well.
40. Go Paperless.
Print out as few emails and other communications as possible. Have your bills emailed to you and pay online to avoid envelopes and postage! Use programs and apps like OneNote, Evernote, Todoist to keep your notes and lists with you without the paper.
41. Recycle whatever you can.
Glass, aluminum, plastic, paper, cardboard, lots of things can be recycled. To find out what is recyclable in your community contact your local municipality.
42. Clean or repair things you would normally throw out.
Here are a few examples of easy fixes:
- Soak an old showerhead in vinegar to remove lime build up rather than purchasing a new one. It’s easy to do without removing the showerhead. Just fill a plastic bag with white vinegar, insert the showerhead and tie the bag onto the pipe with a twist tie. Wait a few hours and your showerhead will be like new.
- Sharpen scissors with aluminum foil. Take a piece of aluminum foil and fold it over a several times. Cut through the layers with your scissors and they’ll sharpen themselves.
- Scratched furniture? Use a cut walnut to rub on the scratch and see if you can’t make it look like new again.
On the Road
43. Use public transportation or carpool.
Every time you can reduce the usage of your car is a win for the environment.
44. Drive the speed limit for better gas efficiency.
Speeding can lower your gas mileage by 15-30% at highway speeds. Use the eco feature on your vehicle if your car is equipped with it.
45. Don’t drive aggressively.
Rapid acceleration and hard braking also reduce gas mileage by similar amounts. Driving more smoothly is better for your car and safer as well.
46. Keep tires inflated to the correct pressure.
This saves on gas mileage, too. It can make a .6% to 3% difference in the mileage you get.
Greener Living All-Around
47. Use fewer printer cartridges.
When you know you’ll have to print a document you are creating yourself, select a font that uses less ink like Century Gothic which uses 30% less ink than Arial.
48. Use low energy light bulbs like compact fluorescents (CFLs).
I know. I used to hate these too because the quailty of the light made it look like you were living in a cheap hotel. But if you get the warmer light ones the effect is much better. CFLs use 1/3 less energy and last 8 times longer.
For a bit more money up front you might also consider switching to LEDs which use even less energy. Again, the warmer lights tend to look better and feel more like home.
49. Lower your thermostat during the heating season.
This seems like a no-brainer, too. But there’s a balance between comfort and saving energy and money that it’s important to find. Putting on another sweater is easy. So you’ll need to decide what you can do here.
50. Raise your thermostat temperature during the air conditioning season.
You can save a lot of money and energy by letting it be a couple of degrees warmer in your house when you are using the air conditioning. Especially if you’re going to be away for part of the day.
51. Use Freecycle.
Freecycle.com is a great place to find things you need that others don’t need anymore and to share what you have with others.
52. Use the library.
Libraries are awesome resources for books and so much more. My library offers all kinds of great free programs that include the arts, crafting, history and more for patrons of all ages. Libraries are also a wonderful way to “share” resources and make sure that we aren’t consuming extra goods unnecessarily.
53. Give green gifts.
Spread the “green” by giving gifts that are made from recycled materials, or are environmentally friendly. You can also consider donating to a green charity in someone’s name if it’s a charity they like.
54. Choose recycled paper.
If you need to print something or are choosing wedding invitations or other custom printed items choose recycled paper. It looks just as good as the “new” paper and can be used for almost any document.
Greener in the Garden
55. Protect the bees!
Bees are an integral part of our food supply. Without their pollination efforts we literally will NOT have enough food. So be careful with pesticide use (avoid it if possible). And make your yard bee-friendly by planting plants they’ll love. You can check out his post on 10 plants that can help save the environment (and the bees) here.
56. Use plastic containers that salad greens come in as mini-greenhouses.
Put shallow trays planted with seeds inside the clear plastic greens boxes and close the lid. Your soil and seedlings will stay moister without being watered as often.
57. Collect rainwater with a rain barrel.
And use it to water your plants.
58. Ditch the Lawn.
And grow food crops, flowers, low-water requiring ground covers or anything that isn’t so water, energy, and labor-intensive and gives back to the environment instead of taking away from it.
59. Throwing a party? Use the dishware you already have whenever possible.
If you need disposable items buy paper-based ones that are biodegradable or compostable rather than plastic. Need more flatware than you have? Have a friend who’s coming to the party bring some to use on the party day.
60. Start a “Tool Club.”
Borrow tools and items you only need for one project rather than buying them. This saves on packaging and storage space in your house, not to mention saving money.
To start your club get a group of friends who are interested in joining and have them list what tools they have available that they’d be willing to lend. Then make a master list and copies of it to give everyone so they know where they can find that reciprocating saw when they need it.
Thanks for reading!
And there you have it, 60 Ways to live a greener life starting today. Each and every suggestion might not be something you can do, but every “green” earth-friendly choice we make can make a difference! Thanks for caring about our planet and doing your part to help!