For so many of us, myself included, this year has been a crazy roller coaster of events. And one of the most pivotal events that none of us saw coming?
Not just being home here and there and coming home every night like we always have, but doing nothing but existing within the 4 walls of our postal address. No commute to work, no shared office space, no in-person meetings, no dinners with friends, no friends’ houses. I love working from home, and being home in general, but I never in a million years could’ve imagined the year would’ve shaken out like this.
RELATED: 6 Tips for Embracing the Work From Home Lifestyle
When I am home for extended periods of time, I am confronted with all of the many things I do – good and bad – when it comes to being eco-conscious. I’ve cringed occasionally at the amount of trash I throw out on a weekly basis. I’ve been annoyed at myself when I can’t manage to eat the food in my fridge before it goes bad. I’ve thrown out clothes before without giving it a second thought. And I’ve taken insanely long showers, especially on the days that I wash my hair. I know I don’t speak for myself though when I say we’ve all been there. We all do it. We all have dirty laundry when it comes to being sustainable in our own homes when no one is around.
With more time at home, now is as good of a time as any to take stock of our consumption habits. And, being more eco-friendly doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can make it an effortless part of your lifestyle by making a few small, practical changes right at home.
Here are some effortless ways to start being more eco-friendly at home.
15 Effortless Ways to Start Being More Eco-Friendly At Home
Buy a Plant (or Three!) For Your Home
Who doesn’t love a good house plant? Not only do house plants function as amazing home decor, they also work to improve your health by purifying the air and helping your breathe cleaner oxygen at home.
If you don’t have a green thumb – and I get it, because I definitely don’t myself – there are tons of plants out there that are incredibly resilient and easy to keep alive, like bamboo, succulents, sansevieria (snake plants), monstera, and cactus.
Regulate the Temperature on Your Thermostat
Set your thermostat to a few degrees higher during the summer months and a few degrees lower in the winter months to use less energy during the year. Depending on where you live, and the time of year, your recommended thermostat settings will vary. One way to work around this and make it easier to manage is by purchasing a programmable or digital thermostat so you can set it and forget it. Maintaining your thermostat this way will not only help the environment, but will also lower your bill ever so slightly each month. So, basically, why wouldn’t you?
Bonus Tip: Keeping your home between 60 – 80 degrees is ideal for happy, long-lasting houseplants, too!
Use Your Dishwasher
Yep you read that right – the dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing your dishes (the universe is on our side!). If you cleaned a full dishwasher’s worth of dishes by hand, you could use up to 27 gallons of water, compared to most conventional dishwashers that use between 3 – 10 gallons max per load. Of course, make sure your dishwasher is full before you run a cycle, so that you maximize the efficiency.
Make Small Tweaks To Your Laundry Habits
Start washing your clothes with cold water instead of hot, which is a minuscule change that can save tons of energy. When washing your clothes, consider using a washing bag or lint collector, which can reduce the volume of micro-plastics that are introduced into the water through your loads of laundry. And, just like the dish washer, try to hold off on doing laundry until you can run a full load.
When it comes to the dryer, use dryer balls (like these!) to help separate your clothes, drying them more quickly and cutting down energy use. Contrary to what you might think, a lower heat setting will generally also use less energy than high heat, even if it takes a longer time. Last but not least, hanging your clothes to air-dry whenever possible can also help reduce dryer use altogether!
Try Out Natural, Non-Toxic Cleaners
The next time you go to the store, seek out natural, non-toxic cleaners for your home. Always look at the ingredients list, and avoid fragrances (yep) and dyes whenever possible, as these can cause health risks.
Alternatively, you can also use a bunch of common household kitchen supplies to clean your home too. Baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar (both white and apple cider) can work wonders cleaning everything from toilets and sinks, to carpets, to crusty pots and pans. Some quick Google magic will tell you everything you need to know about utilizing household supplies as convenient cleaning agents.
Take a Break From Fast Fashion and Invest in Timeless Pieces (or Rentals) Instead
Unfortunately, fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries there is, and it encourages quick disposal and wasteful consumption habits. The average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, occupying nearly 5% of landfill space. Not to mention how much waste is created in producing and manufacturing these garments in the first place. Now, I’m not saying get rid of your fast fashion. Quite the opposite. Since we all most likely own a good amount of clothes already, my first tip is to do what you can to take the best possible care of the clothes in your possession. Simple enough, right? The longer they last, the less you’ll need to buy. And, the next time you do need a new outfit, consider investing in quality, timeless pieces whenever you can (bonus points if they are sustainably made!). They’ll last you much longer, which again is good news for the planet.
Another option is to consider rental. Renting clothes for big events or vacations instead of purchasing situational attire can help reduce the CO2 emissions that the industry produces by encouraging re-use of garments rather than excess consumption.
(Plus, how many times did you plan on wearing that gown you bought for your best friend’s wedding, anyway? I’m just saying…)
Use Less Paper Office Supplies
I love notebooks and notepads, but there are so many digital tools to keep our lives together these days, that it’s never been easier to go digital. From online calendars to paperless billing, small tweaks like these can cut down on paper consumption and even make your life more efficient as well. If you guys know me, you know I swear by Google Keep. My life wouldn’t be as functional without it.
Bonus Tip: Want to reduce the volume of junk mail you receive? You can even remove your name from general mailing lists, reduce credit card solicitations, and cut down on charity donation requests.
Reduce Your Shower Time
This one is a tried-and-true tip you’ve probably heard before. We all love a good hot shower, but reducing shower time is one of the easiest things you could possibly do to conserve water.
I wash my hair 1-2 times a week, which is usually when I shower the longest. Other than that, I try to keep my showers around 5 minutes or less.
Air-Dry Your Hair Instead
You don’t always have to use heat on your hair. In fact, doing so only ruins the health of your hair in the long run. Choose to air-dry your hair instead, which will save you from excess energy consumption and damaged locks at the same time.
Hit Up the Local Farmers Market
Make it a habit to hit up the farmers market whenever you need some fruits, veggies, or snacks. Supporting farmers markets helps you support local, as many farmers markets require vendors to sell food produced within 200 miles (versus the 1,000+ miles your produce might travel if purchased in a grocery store). What’s more, the majority of farmers who participate in farmers markets farm using techniques that reduce waste and promote soil health. As you might know, the farming industry is up against big food industry giants whose practices may not be as sustainable. By supporting farmers markets, you’re affirming sustainable practices. That, and you get arguably some of the tastiest, freshest produce, too. Have you ever tried honey or apple chips straight from the market? Absolutely unparalleled.
Check Your Meat Intake
You may or might not find this point challenging, depending on your current diet habits. But, for the meat eaters in the room (myself included), it’s crucial to know that the meat industry makes up 80% of global greenhouse gasses. So, whether we like it or not, our diets can have a direct impact on the environment.
Reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume can have a positive effect on the environment and combating climate change, even in small increments. You don’t have to cut out meat altogether if that’s not your thing, but consider going 1 day (or more) each week without meat and see how you handle it. As you get used to all the fun things you can cook up that don’t involve meat, consider upping it to 2 days, or 3!
With the sheer volume of non-meat and non-dairy products available, it’s honestly not hard to make the conscious decision to incorporate more of these foods into your grocery lists. Plus, hello Impossible Burgers?
Meal Prep to Reduce Food Waste
Are you a planner? Because planning your meals before you go to the grocery store will help you reduce food waste by understanding exactly what you need in order to get through the week. What will you cook these next few days? Can you make any meals in bulk? Are there any meals that use similar ingredients you can make back-to-back so everything gets used (my biggest culprit: chicken/beef/vegetable stock, which always seems to leave me with random leftover amounts, unless I plan a meal for the next day that uses the rest of it up)? Thinking about these things ahead of time will help make your grocery trips more breezy and leave you with less to worry about going bad in the fridge.
Switch to Reusable Whenever Possible
Do you change your coffee filter everyday? Try using a reusable one instead. Sure, it might cost you a bit more upfront, and sure, you’ll have to rinse it rather than tossing it, but in the long run, it’s a win-win. Less expensive as time goes on, and less harmful to the environment. Same goes for other things, like grocery bags and straws.
Think about all the things in your everyday life that can be swapped out for reusable alternatives. Some ideas:
- Straws (try these metal ones instead)
- Coffee filters (there’s a swap for that)
- Cotton Makeup Pads (why not washable + reusable?)
- Water Bottles (this one is obvious, right?)
- Grocery Bags (hello cute grocery totes)
- Sandwich Bags (check these out)
- Parchment Paper or Foil (snag a reusable silicone mat)
- Dryer Sheets (ditch these for a dryer ball)
What other small swaps can you think of?
Practice Proper Recycling
I will admit, I am not perfect at this and this is often something I think that we all tend to overlook. What can you recycle, and how? Honestly, it surprises me how little I knew about something I do every day, before sitting down to write this article. See below for some things I didn’t know until recently!
Bonus Tip: Some general guidelines for better recycling –
Do not throw plastic bags (or sandwich bags, or plastic wrap) in the recycling bin. These items are notorious for getting caught in recycling machinery.
Rinse and dry your containers before recycling. They don’t need to be squeaky clean, but they do need to be generally free of food and liquid.
Stop recycling things made of more than 1 material. This includes the bubble wrap envelopes you receive in the mail, unfortunately.
Throwing something in the recycling bin and ‘hoping it was the right move’ can actually ruin entire recycling loads. When in doubt, Google it first!
Which leads me to my next point. Recycling rules vary by region. Doing a quick search on your city can help you understand what can and can’t be recycled where you live. If you’re in Los Angeles like me (or Austin, Chicago, Sedona, Flagstaff, Houston, or Philadelphia), this is a handy website for getting to know what will and won’t fly.
Last but not least, a fun tip – stop reading this article and get outside! This may sound trivial, but all those hikes, beach days, long walks, and sunsets can help remind you of what’s on the receiving end of these tiny changes you’re making. It’s not for nothing, and every little change has a ripple effect that extends far beyond just you or me.
Need some inspiration? Check out some of my favorite outdoor destinations here, here, and here.
Which of these steps do you already take in your own life? Which might be the most challenging to try? Let me know below!