Sustainable living: 14 simple tips to sustainability

Environment Friendly Living

    Making better decisions today will lead to a brighter future. How do you want to live your life? Exploring, experimenting and learning are all a part of sustainable living. Reducing your carbon footprint is at the core of sustainability. It’s not an easy thing but there are many ways to reduce your impact. Here are 14 easy ways that you can use to start living a sustainable life today!

  1. Recycle: We all know the horrors that plastic has on our environment. In 2013, 299 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide. This was a 4% increase from 2012. Globally, the use of plastic has continued to rise every year. This plastic ends up in landfills where it takes up to 200 years to decompose or it ends up in our oceans.

    A conservative estimate is that over 5 tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, weighing almost 300,000 tons. In addition to this having negative environmental effects, the chemicals used to make plastic can negatively affect our health as well. One of the simplest ways to combat this is to recycle any plastic you use and also to switch to reusable items such as bags and water bottles. This will save energy and cut down on carbon emissions as well as saving you money in the long run. Recycling just half of your household waste, can cut down on 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.



    : Recycle your plastics and paper. You can start doing this by setting outside any plastic and paper that you use so that you may take it be recycled. Most sanitation departments now offer bins for recycling as well as garbage so it’s easier to sort. These products are then disposed of properly and many companies are beginning to reuse them and turn them into products.

    Start using reusable glass Tupperware. Glass Tupperware can be found at your local supermarket or on multiple shopping sites such as Amazon. If you don’t want to use glass, there are also eco-friendly plastic options that you can use in addition to regular plastic Tupperware. Another great way to live sustainably, is to stop using plastic bags. Many stores sell reusable canvas bags that you can use at the grocery store or while you are running errands.

  2. Compost your food: Composting is the process of naturally allowing your food to decompose in a nutrient rich soil known as compost. Composting is done by not throwing your food scraps into the garbage but instead using the soil and compost to naturally dispose of your trash. This reduces the use of plastic garbage bags, the CO2 emissions used by the garbage trucks to collect the trash, and the trash sitting in landfills waiting to decompose. This process helps to allow what nature would do naturally and will decrease your carbon footprint. It’s estimated that for every pound of food thrown away, 3.8 pounds of CO2 emissions are released.



    Look into ways that you can compost in your community, whether through a community if you live in an apartment or in your own backyard. There are now specific garbage cans designed to help you compost in your home, even if you live in a small space. If you don’t want to buy a garbage or compost in your home, you can save your scraps and take it to a center which will compost it for you. This option might not be as green as composting in your house, but it’s a good start for someone looking to make this lifestyle change. This option is also more cost effective than buying a composter since some of them can be costly. For gardeners, the use of compost can be a great way to save money on fertilizer because the compost can be used in its place.

    A great experiment to try, is to put your food in a glass jar with soil so you can watch your food decomposing over time. This will really help you to see the process and it’s a great science experiment for kids. It will take some time to get used to seeing the food decompose and depending on where you keep your bin or jar, you might feel a little grossed out. I would advise you to keep it someplace where it won’t be in constant sight but not so far that you forget.

  3. Stop buying fast fashion: Fast Fashion is a term commonly used for stores such as H&M and Forever2; clothing companies that produce a high amount of clothing with a very quick turnover rate. This turnover rate creates demand within the stores so you always feel as though you need to keep purchasing items to stay current.

    Not only is fast fashion cheap it is also cheaply made and often uses slave labor to keep costs so low. Switch to other options such as buying vintage or buying from companies that produce sustainable clothing. This will cut down on environmental issues such as the use of harmful pesticides and dyes. By reusing clothes, 3 to 4 pounds of carbon emissions are saved for every pound of clothing that is recycled.



    : Head to your local consignment store to see what treasure you can find. There are great options such as Buffalo Exchange as well as companies such as Goodwill. Or sell your own clothes back to sites such as Thred-Up. Thred-up will buy back your clothing and give you a percentage of what they are willing to pay. You don’t always get the best offer but it’s a good way to make a little extra money. The benefits of shopping at consignment stores are that you can find more unique items since it is not mass produced. You also have the satisfaction of knowing you are making a positive impact on the environment.

    Consignment stores might be more expensive than stores such as H&M and Forever 21 but you can often very good designer clothes for up to 50%-60% off. Another great option is to support stores that are taking strides to stop harmful environmental practices. There are several retailers that you can find online such as Zady, People Tree that are selling sustainable clothing as well as making sure they practice ethical treatment of their workers. The clothing from these stores are more expensive but the quality is very good and you will have these clothes for long time.

  4. Change Your Way of Transportation: If you live in a city that has mass transportation, this is a great alternative that can have a major impact on reducing our carbon footprint. Switching from a car to mass transit can reduce your carbon footprint by 4,800 pounds in a year.



    : If mass transit is available to you, try taking it to work or when you run errands. The summer months are a great time to try since it’s not freezing outside. In addition to taking mass transit, walking or biking are great alternatives to using a car. Both walking, and biking are great sources of exercise so not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you will also be doing something good for your body as well. Many major cities are now offering bike sharing programs where you pay a monthly fee to have unlimited access to bikes all around the city. There is cost involved in that you will have to pay for mass transit such as buying a MetroCard or token but it will probably be equivalent to buying gas once a week if not cheaper.

    If you live in a major city, taking mass transit is a great way to save some money and for many of us the cost of owning a car is not something that we can afford right now. If you don’t have mass transit readily available, a great option is to carpool. By just carpooling twice a week, 1600 pounds of CO2 emissions can be saved every year. Carpooling is a great option for work or if you’re attending the same event or venue. You can find coworkers that live near each other and rotate on a weekly basis who will be driving. This will help to save greenhouse emissions as well as money on gas.

  5. Take a 5 minute shower: A great way to limit your carbon footprint is by taking quick showers. Running the hot water for 5 minutes creates the same amount of energy as running a 60 watt lightbulb for 14 hours. By cutting your shower from 10 minutes to 5 minutes, you can eliminate 4 pounds of carbon emissions.


    Over time this will make a huge difference on our environment.


    : Try putting on your favorite song (5 minutes or less) as a timer for your shower, so you know that when your song is finished you should be too! A good start is to time yourself to see how long of a shower you take, you might be surprised! If you have a family, you could set a family shower playlist with everyone’s favorite songs so that the whole family can partake in this. It might take some time to get used to taking longer showers and for days when you have to wash your hair it might not be practical but just incorporating a few 5 minute showers a week will make a big difference in our environment over time.

    For those of us who live in cold climates or just enjoy long, hot showers this will take some time to adjust. But by taking shorter showers you will be helping your skin; Long, hot showers dry out your skin even though it feels very relaxing. Another great option is to buy a showerhead that uses less water. You will have to do some research to compare options and price points but this will help you to reduce water waste and can give a nice update to your bathroom. Over time, taking longer showers will not only help the environment but it will help to cut down on the cost of your electric bill.

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