10 Simple Ways to
Make Your Life
A LITTLE GREENER
A rough, old handmade wooden bookcase stands right next to my desk in the current furniture configuration of my office space, bearing the weight of a rather large collection of books and memorabilia. One of my dad’s friends made it for me thirty years ago and I have hauled that beast around with me ever since…it has survived divorce, multiple pet attacks and over a dozen moves. And still it stands.
I’ve thought about getting rid of it a few different times, replacing it with something prettier and less rustic looking, but the single fact that it is such a huge monster has kept me from letting it go. (A big bookcase is a treasure, my friends.)
I’m currently painting it for the first time, a bright pop of coral, possibly a form of blasphemy for those who revere stained wood. I suspect it will remain with me until it falls apart or I live in a space without room for it.
But this bookcase is an exception. I, like many of you, am a product of the purfunctory consumerism that we breathe in daily. I am used to getting whatever I want whenever I want it. And if I get tired of something, I just replace it with something new without any thought about the effect outside of my own little life.
When you think about it, we live in an almost completely throwaway society. It’s kind of sad, really. The idea of spending money to repair things, of re-purposing things, of using what we already have? It’s easier, and often cheaper, to just replace things.
This throwaway mindset coupled with our addiction to instant gratification equals a level of consumerism never seen before.
Out with the old…in with the new! And even though I can’t see firsthand the effects that my purchasing power has on the environment doesn’t mean they aren’t very real.
Fortunately, we as a society have also become more aware of the importance of environmental sustainability. But how seriously do we take it? I struggle with this and so I know others do as well. It can be hard to adopt personal, small-scale habits based on such a global-sized problem.
So I compiled this list of ten simple ways to start making our lives a little greener. These ideas not only benefit the environment, they also benefit your health, your pocketbook and your community! Some additional and very personal reasons to embrace positive change.
1. Adopt a plant.
I am an enthusiastic houseplant momma. And indoor plants have shown to boost mood, reduce stress and possibly even improve the air quality of your rooms, according to Healthline. You could even try growing your own herb garden.
Or if you are really ambitious, try planting an outdoor garden. Outdoor gardening has a ton of health advantages, along with the financial savings, plus environmental benefits like a reduced carbon footprint and a reduction in your use of packaging materials.
2. Eat more vegetables.
Or more specifically, eat less meat. According to Scientific American, ‘Meat—particularly beef—drives climate change in two ways: first, through cows’ emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and second, by destroying forests as they are converted to grazing land’.
Implementing a Meatless Monday may be the single most powerful change you can make personally to combat climate change and is also a positive change for your own health. (Because who here actually eats enough veg?!)
When you do choose to eat meat, look for labels that specify free range, organic and hormone and antibiotic free.
3. Shop with reusable bags.
Committing to shopping with reusable bags and making sure to recycle any plastic bags you do happen to collect is a simple way to protect the planet. This is a small habit with a big impact.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, ‘It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately, the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment’.
It’s easy to forget how significant a choice it is to forgo plastic bags, but this is one of the simplest ways to be green. And besides…it’s like accessorizing to go to the grocery store, y’all! Some of those green bags are CUUUte.
4. Buy local.
Shop for produce, honey, fresh eggs, and bread at your local farmer’s market. Supporting local fishmongers and butchers, farms, and co-ops or grocers helps your community and protects the environment by reducing packaging waste and fossil fuels used for transport.
And it’s easy to find local markets using Local Harvest. And just think of all the yummy treats and treasures to be found. 🥕
We can also get in the habit of shopping local for other things as well. You likely have a number of small businesses nearby (as I do) with unique and practical merchandise that could certainly use your support. Try making these shops your go-to for things you need to buy, instead of turning directly to Amazon.
5. Shop second-hand.
From cars to furniture to clothing, the next time you need something, consider looking at second-hand items first. Local thrift shops, Craigslist, Freecycle and Buy Nothing groups are great places to find perfectly good items someone else has simply grown tired of.
The most obvious benefit of shopping second-hand is the financial savings. But there are other benefits as well.
Our purchasing power involves a process, not just a product. Buying second-hand items reduces the strain on resources, removes the need for additional packaging and lessens the overall cost of product transportation. And as a bonus, some second-hand items, like wooden furniture, may be of better quality than what you can buy new with the same money. It can even be a bit if a treasure hunt! 🥳
For any item you may only use once or twice, consider renting or borrowing. Renting may cost a few more dollars, but you won’t have to pay for the care and storage of an item you don’t need over the long term.
6. Experiment with eco-fashion.
Eco-fashion may seem like an intimdating concept (it did to me) but a great place to get started is to simply educate yourself a little about the sustainable fashion industry. This Beginner’s Guide is a great first step.
Next up, go browsing! Take a tour of some of these 35 Ethical Clothing Brands and familiarize yourself with what is available and where you can buy. Then the next time you need something, you know where to look.
7. Reduce paper.
As someone who likes to kick it old-school with paper bills, actual grocery lists on a pad and real, honest-to-goodness books, this one is a challenge, not gonna lie.
But there are a few easy changes that can limit the amount of paper waste we collect. (And maybe that stack of stuff on my desk!)
Switch to cloth napkins and try paperless paper towels.
And for all you book lovers like me, make use of your local library, electronic resources and only purchase hard copy books secondhand. (Gulp.)
8. Drive conciously.
Take the small steps to improve your gas mileage and reduce your emissions.
Keep your tires properly inflated (Yes! that’s makes a difference!), keep your filters clean, change your oil on time, get regular scheduled maintenance and don’t use your car as a storage unit or trash bin. (The extra weight hurts your gas mileage.)
Keeping your vehicle in good shape optimizes gas mileage and vehicle performance, which seems obvious, but is still a struggle for some of us.
Also, learn to be a zen master behind the wheel. Every mph over 60 decreases your gas mileage. And jerky stops and starts (including erratic road rage episodes) also use more gas. So practice your deep breathing behind the wheel and save money and the environment both.
9. Show my stuff more respect.
It’s a fact that sometimes it is more expensive to have something repaired than to just replace it with something new. But when you start thinking about what happens to all that stuff you just tossed out…where it ends up…suddenly I feel the need to be more aware of the view I take of my things.
This probelm is about mindset, as well as about habit. Treating my belongings well and with respect, regardless of how much I paid for them. The attitude that allows me to treat things carelessly because they were inexpensive to buy or will be cheap to replace has to go.
First of all, I need to take good care of my things so they will last as long as possible. Wash my clothes less often and hang them to dry. Clean the vacuum according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Basically treat my things the way I would if my mom was watching.
Secondly, I need to look at all of my options for repairing before replacing. Mend clothing, have things altered as needed, get shoes re-soled or repaired. Reupholster or refinish furniture. See if electronics can be refurbished.
Lastly, I can learn to be more creative and find ways to repurpose or reuse things before they go right to the trash pile. And if I do need to let things go, make sure they are disposed of properly.
10. Get educated.
The first and most important step in creating a greener life is to educate yourself about why it even matters in the first place. This list of documentaries and this list of books about sustainability are great places to get started.
I know it can be hard to prioritize sustainability when so many other things in life demand our attention. And we will take to some habits more easily than others. For example, I’m an avid recycler and regularly use my green bags, but I still struggle with converting to paperless paper towels and shopping more locally (ie limiting my Amazon addiction).
The truth is that going green is a journey and we all travel at a different pace. The important thing is to get started! And to work on baby steps in the right direction.
I hope one of these simple ways to go a little greener inspired you! What are the green solutions you have already embraced in your own life?