Like "fake news" and "woke," sustainability is a term that pop culture and the media have diluted. At its heart, sustainability is a lifestyle theory that tries to create balance within the ecological systems around us. For example, the more waste we make, the more that sits in a landfill and poisons the soil, which seeps into the groundwater, which can harm people and animals that drink from it.
Living sustainably isn't some lofty ideal that's limited to homesteaders and disaster preppers. After all, just about anyone can make these small sustainable changes to their daily lives.
Challenge Yourself to a No-Buy Month
An ultimate way to practice sustainability is to challenge yourself to not buy anything other than necessities for a month. Of course, food ingredients and cleaning supplies are exempt. But, cutting out those quick trips to Target can help break you of the impulse buying we all fall victim to. The more you buy, the more packaging there is to rot in landfills.
It's hard to fight against massive corporations pumping out millions of products every day and doing their best to convince you that you need what they sell. But a no-buy month isn't about changing the world's environmental problems. It's about forcing yourself to slow down, think critically about your buying habits, and take that new perspective into future purchases.
Thrift "New" Clothes Whenever Possible
For decades, thrifting clothes was seen as a last resort, and it had a connotation of being a type of punishment for people who weren't in an income bracket to constantly buy the latest fashions. Yet, there's been a huge uptick in thrifting with young millennials and Gen Zers. These kids are paving the way to breaking down fast fashion waste.
However, it's important to use thrifting as a way to get items you actually want or need in your wardrobe. With thrift stores becoming overrun by higher income earning people buying loads of clothes to resell or chop up and customize, prices are rising and availability is dwindling. So, for every piece you purchase, consider donating a piece in its place.
Switch to Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Everyone knows how harmful plastics are to the environment, but it can be hard to find products with packaging that's recyclable or biodegradable. Beauty and health products are notorious for this. One way to kick it to big beauty is to switch to using shampoo and conditioner bars instead of liquids filled in plastic bottles.
Of course, there's going to be a trial run of figuring out the product that works best for your hair texture and type. But these are the most sustainable bathing products we have access to right now.
Darn or Patch Holey Clothes Instead of Tossing Them Out
Your grandparents and great grandparents would marvel at the size of your wardrobe today. Before mass manufacturing and synthetic fibers, fabric and tailoring could be extremely expensive. So, everyone learned how to repair holes and tears by darning. Darning involves sewing new thread into the warp and wefts of the original fabric. When you're done, no one will know that there was a tear in the first place.
But, if you want to add style, you can consider sewing or ironing on vintage patches, filling the holes with colorful scrap fabrics, etc. When your favorite pair of pants starts to look threadbare, don't toss them in the trash. Instead, think mend, mend, mend.
Throw Out Plastic Containers in Favor of Wax Wraps
If your plastic containers are starting to get those thin spots from microwaving them one too many times, don't jump out to the store to replace them. Instead, look for reusable wax wraps to store your fresh ingredients. You can protect things like a cut onion, half of a delicious sandwich, and a bowl of soup with these sticky wraps. They're multi-use and multi-purpose and are made of mostly natural materials. At about $15-$20 a pack, it's a simple and cheap change you can make towards creating a sustainable kitchen.
Stop Using Disposable Make Up Wipes
Makeup wipes really changed the game in the 2010s. The premoistened cloths made taking your makeup at night easier than ever. But, they're not great for the environment and don't break down like eco-friendly packaging is designed to.
Instead of sticking with your disposable makeup wipes, find a makeup remover formula that's similar to the wipes you use and supplement with a reusable wipe or pad instead. You can find these for super cheap and in a variety of fun colors and prints. It's a tiny, but impactful, way to live a more sustainable life.
Repurpose Your Throwaway Stash
When that pile of old shoe boxes and Amazon packages gets taller than you, it's time to recycle them. But, not everywhere has access to recycling centers, and some places tout that they recycle, but most of it goes unsorted and to a landfill. Keep your boxes, bottles, and cans out of the trash by repurposing them. Here are a few fun ideas for you to try:
- Use shoe boxes for drawer organizing instead of plastic trays.
- Store your jewelry on cardboard sheets instead of plastic dishes or hanging trees.
- Paint your glass jars to store common bathroom products like cotton balls.
Shop With a Plastic-Free Cleaning Supply Company
The 2010s saw a rise in conversations surrounding sustainable and eco-friendly cleaning. But hunting down the best brands for each cleaning product, and getting refills to your house on time, can be a roadblock for many people. Turn to subscription-based eco-friendly cleaning supply companies instead. Companies like Grove Collaborative can be your one-stop shop for getting the eco-friendly products you want.
Browse Local Craft Pop Ups for Home Decor
Walk into a home goods store and try not to balk at the prices. As with many decorative things, the prices of home décor prices have skyrocketed in the past few years. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars for a rug or macrame hanging, look for craft pop ups in your area. Get connected with artisans who hand make their wares. This is an actionable way for you to get involved in your community and support local business, all while getting exactly what you wanted in the first place.
You'll probably end up spending the same amount of money, but you'll have a contact for future commissions. What better feeling than customizing your house to your taste instead of to whatever's on sale at the store that day?
If You Garden, Get a Kitchen Compost Bin
Composting has a hippy dippy reputation, but it's a great way to get two uses out of your food. Plants and veggies love organic material, so instead of buying artificial additives or fertilizer, you can support your garden's growth with your leftovers.
You don't have to put in a massive compost bin outside and fight with your HOA if it's not in line with their beautification policies. You can set up a small, easily managed bin on your kitchen counter for organic scraps like the root ends you never use.
Sustainable Living Doesn't Have to Feel Hard
Sustainability has a pop culture reputation of "if you're not living uncomfortably, then you're not doing it right." But that couldn't be more wrong! There are hundreds of small changes you can make in your everyday life to live more sustainably. And while they might not knock back the clock to before fossil fuels and mass manufacturing, they do have an impact on your immediate environment. So, love your community more by trying out these sustainable living ideas.