We’re celebrating Earth Day every day with a comprehensive (and super fun!) Sustainability Series. Check back every Friday for a new article about how to live life in a more eco-friendly, mindful way.
What Is Sustainable Living?
Sustainable living is a lifestyle aimed at reducing the use of Earth’s natural resources and minimizing our impact on climate change and the environment. Simply put, take only what you need and replenish what you can. By following sustainable living practices, we’re trying to ensure a healthy, safe planet for future generations.
While this may seem like a lofty goal, it is a necessary one. Everything we need to survive—food, water, shelter—relies on a healthy planet.
Living sustainably doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. You don’t have to go off the grid or grow all your own food. Start today with simple practices for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Top things you can do to live more sustainably include:
- Use less plastic (products and packaging)
- Reduce your single-use paper product consumption
- Conserve water
- Conserve energy
- Recycle and reuse
- Borrow or buy second-hand
Some of the above practices can be done on your own and some require a bit of teamwork. But all of them help contribute to a more sustainable planet. Let’s get into the specifics of each idea below.
How to Reduce Plastic Use
Plastics contain hazardous chemicals that contribute to the pollution of our land and water. Depending on the type of plastic, it can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to break down. That’s a long time! Here are some ways to reduce your use of this material.
1. Use a Refillable Water Bottle
Plastic water bottles are ubiquitous. They crowd our landfills and pollute our oceans. Instead of buying single-use bottled water, get a refillable glass or aluminum bottle to carry around with you.
2. Bring Reusable Bags for Grocery Shopping
Dig out those old tote bags and use them for your next shopping trip. For produce, instead of using the thin plastic bags the grocery store provides, purchase reusable netted bags.
3. Ditch Single-Use Utensils
Instead of using plastic forks, knives, spoons and straws, keep a set of reusable utensils and straws in your desk drawer or bag.
4. Store Leftover Food in Glass Containers
Glass containers make it easier to figure out what’s in the fridge, can be used to reheat food and won’t stain like plastic.
5. Use Reusable Bowl Covers
Replace plastic wrap with reusable bowl covers made of fabric. The elastic edging allows you to use them on multiple-size containers and the fabric is machine washable.
6. Use Bar Soaps
Instead of bottled liquid soaps and shampoos, try using bar soaps or purchase eco-friendly refill packages.
How to Reduce Your Use of Paper Goods
Like plastics, we can reduce our paper usage by ditching disposable items. Here’s how.
7. Carry Your Own Travel Mug for Coffee and Tea
It’s easy, inexpensive, and most coffee shops will refill them for you.
8. Use Cloth Instead of Paper
Use washable microfiber cloths instead of paper towels for wiping up spills, and cloth napkins instead of single-use paper napkins.
9. Go Paperless
Pay your bills online. You’ll not only reduce the clutter but also save money on postage.
10. Use Both Sides of the Paper
When printing documents, print double-sided. Instead of scribbling notes on paper, take notes on your smartphone, tablet or computer. If you must use paper, write on both sides.
How to Conserve Water
It’s almost magical: Turn on the faucet and clean water flows freely. The supply seems endless, but water is one of the most wasted natural resources. Here are some ways to conserve it.
11. Don’t Leave the Water Running
Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving.
12. Install a Low-Flow Showerhead
They not only decrease your water usage by up to 40%, but also lower your heating costs by reducing the amount of electricity needed to power your water heater.
13. Use the Dishwasher
You’ll be happy to know that you use less water washing your dishes in the dishwasher than doing them by hand. Save more water by scraping instead of rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill the sink or a basin with water to wash and rinse dishes.
14. Fix Leaky Faucets and Toilets
Those drips from a leaky faucet and the sound of a toilet that won’t stop running are not only annoying, but they also waste a lot of water. In fact, a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day.
15. Decrease the Amount of Water You Use for Landscaping and Gardening
Catch rainwater and use it to water the garden and house plants. Plant drought-resistant vegetation and trees that don’t require a lot of watering. If you must water your lawn, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually in the early morning or after sundown.
How to Conserve Energy
Flip a switch and the lights come on. Turn the ignition key, and you’re on the road again. We use electricity and fossil fuels to power so much of our daily lives that we sometimes take them for granted. Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your consumption of these precious energy sources.
16. Use Less Hot Water
Use cold water to wash your clothes. Lower the temperature setting on the hot water heater. Insulate the hot water heater and the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes with an insulating wrap that you can pick up at a home improvement store.
17. Turn Off the Lights When You Leave the Room
Your parents were right: you should turn the lights off when you leave the room. You can also set your outdoor lights on a timer to turn on and off at set times.
18. Turn Down the Heat and Lower the Air Conditioning
When leaving the house or going to bed, adjust the thermostat. Make it even easier by installing a programmable thermostat you can control from an app.
19. Change Your Light Bulbs to LED Bulbs
When an incandescent lightbulb burns out, replace it with an LED bulb. LED bulbs use less energy and last longer.
20. Hang Your Clothes to Dry
When weather permits, hang your clothes out to dry. If you can’t use a clothesline, hang clothes on a drying rack. Not only will you save energy, but your clothes will last longer. If you do use the dryer, use wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener sheets to reduce dry time, wrinkles and static.
21. Unplug Your Electronics When Not in Use
Unplug electronics when not in use. To make it easier, plug several devices into a smart power strip so you can turn them all off in one fell swoop when it’s time to power down.
22. Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape
Make sure to get regular tune-ups. For better gas mileage, check the tire pressure to make sure they are properly inflated. Don’t be a lead foot! Slow down and drive at a steady speed.
23. Carpool or Take Public Transportation
Carpooling with one other person can cut your commuting expenses in half. If you live in a large city, taking public transportation is more cost-effective than paying for gas, parking, insurance and the wear and tear on your car. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even carpooling or using public transportation a couple of days a week will reduce your carbon footprint.
24. Walk or Ride Your Bike
Walking and cycling are great ways to save energy and get your exercise in.
25. Shop Locally
Reduce the miles you drive—and support your community—by shopping locally and batching your errands.
26. Weatherize Your Home
Check windows and doors for air leaks and fix them using caulking or weather-stripping. Install insulation in the attic, walls, floors, basement and crawlspace. When it comes time to replace windows, install energy-efficient windows.
How to Recycle and Reuse
Recycling and reusing what you already have might take a little effort and creativity, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.
27. Recycle as Much Trash as Possible
Community programs typically recycle plastic containers and bottles, glass jars and bottles, paper products including cardboard, mail, magazines, newspapers, aluminum and tin cans. Check with your local recycler for the specifics of your town’s program.
28. Dispose of Hazardous Waste Safely
Some municipalities offer special disposal events for things like old paint cans, chemicals, batteries or electronics. Check your local newspaper, Facebook community forum or town hall website for dates.
29. Reduce Food Waste by Composting Scraps
Reduce the amount of trash you produce and have beautiful, rich soil for gardening by composting. Compost fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea and tea bags, eggshells and nutshells. You can also add leaves, grass and plant clippings.
30. Donate Unwanted Clothes
Donate used clothing to Goodwill or other local charitable organizations. If the clothes are unwearable, use them for cleaning rags.
31. Repurpose Items
Get creative and find new ways to reuse items you already have. Wash out empty peanut butter or condiment jars and use them to store grains and pasta. Reuse gift bags and ribbons. Use plastic food containers to start seedlings or to store small items like buttons or paper clips.
How to Borrow or Buy Second-Hand
Before you make your next purchase, stop and think: Do I really need this? Or can I borrow or rent it from somewhere?
32. Renew Your Library Card
Instead of buying books, go to the library to take out a book or download an electronic version on your smartphone or e-reader.
33. Borrow or Rent Formal Wear
Unless you attend black-tie events on a regular basis, it doesn’t pay to purchase formal wear. Why not borrow something from a friend or opt to rent a dress or suit for the event?
34. Borrow or Rent Occasional-Use Household Items
Instead of buying an item you only need once in a while—folding table and chairs, a wood splitter, etc.—borrow it from friends or rent it at a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes.
35. Shop Thrift Stores for Toys
Instead of buying toys that kids quickly outgrow, get gently used toys at second-hand shops or tag sales. You can also donate toys you’re looking to get rid of.
As you can see, there are so many ways to start living more sustainably. But don’t get overwhelmed! You don’t need to start doing all of these things at once. Start simply. If your community recycles, get a recycling bin. When a lightbulb goes out, replace it with an LED bulb. Instead of getting your coffee to go in a paper cup, start carrying a travel coffee mug. By making these small changes, you set an example for others to do the same.
Become a Certified Coach at HCI
If you’d like to learn more about health, wellness and living more sustainably, consider joining the Health Coach Institute. Whether you’re looking to shift careers or just want to expand your education, there’s a variety of courses designed to meet your needs. Check out our Become a Health Coach program and finish in just six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.