How-To

How to Start Living Sustainably: A Beginner’s Guide for the New Year

by Dani Howell January 03, 2019

You hear so many ways you should be living sustainably that it can feel a bit overwhelming. With so much you can do, it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s certainly how I felt when I first decided to start living more sustainably. I found it’s easiest to start with a few eco-friendly improvements and add on from there. That way you make changes you can stick with long-term. So, where to get started?

While it’s great to recycle, it’s even better to reduce the waste you’re creating altogether. Then, you won’t even need to recycle as much. To cut down on waste, consider picking up some of these habits:

Buy products that will last. Investing in lasting items not only means you’ll get something that works well, but you’ll also get an item that’s more environmentally friendly. When you buy durable, heirloom quality, you don’t have to worry about throwing out a new product every year or two when it breaks.

Repair rather than replace. If something breaks or wears down, you don’t need to get rid of it. Instead, see if you can get it fixed. This goes for everything from appliances and electronics to shoes and car parts. Sure, some items may be beyond repair, but it’s worth seeing if there’s a way to fix it before recycling.

Stick with reusable products. Water bottles, grocery bags, straws, sandwich bags—if you can buy a reusable version of an item, do. It’s almost always better for the environment than a disposable or single-use recyclable option. With a quick online search, you can find a pretty long list of reusable products that will help you cut down on waste.

Looking for more ways to live sustainably? You can make daily routines more environmentally conscious, too.

Wash clothes in cold water. It turns out that heating water uses by far the most energy when washing, so a simple way to save is using cold water. You can even find laundry detergents made for cold water to make sure your clothes are cleaned effectively.

Start composting. Composting is a great step to start reducing what you put into landfills. There are a bunch of different kitchen scraps you can compost: fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, eggshells, loose-leaf tea, cooked pasta and rice, houseplants, paper napkins and towels, and that’s really just the start. What do you do with that compost? If you garden, you can use it to add nutrients, like carbon and nitrogen, to your soil. Otherwise, some cities have programs where they’ll pick up your compost, or you can often donate it to community gardens (or any friends with a garden).

Drive less (or not at all). The ease of this option depends on where you live. But, if you live in a city or near public transit, take advantage of more environmentally conscious travel options. Taking a subway, bus, streetcar, or any other mass-transit option will allow you to decrease your personal contribution of vehicle emissions. Better yet, see if you can walk or bike wherever you’re going. This will cut back your carbon footprint and build exercise into your everyday routine.

And, that’s just a start. There are all kinds of other ways to start living sustainably, too, like making your own household cleaners, shopping for clothes ethically, and buying local. Once you start working a few of these changes into your lifestyle, it’s easier to keep adding new eco-friendly methods to your routine. Soon, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your environmental impact.

What steps do you take to live more sustainably?

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