7 simple habits to be more sustainable

Going green doesn’t have to happen all at once.  (See my post on creating sustainable habits.) Below are a few easy actions you can consider to be more sustainable, especially if you are just starting out. 

1. use a reusable water bottle

Yeah yeah.  Boring, I know.  You probably could have guessed it would be on this list.  But did you know Americans add 38 million plastic water bottles to the landfill every year?  Plastic takes lifetimes to break down, not to mention most of the cost is wrapped up in that bottle we throw away. So, save some dough and space in the landfill and get a good reusable water bottle that is plastic-free. Try something like this stainless steel one.   There are loads of them out there so look around, consider the size you want, and how insulated you need it to be. Also consider the material.

2. avoid phantom loads

A phantom load is energy drawn by appliances that are plugged in but not being used.  It’s a simple step- all you have to do is unplug unused electronics. Use a power strip, for instance, for your printer, computer and monitor, and just flip the switch when you close up for the day.  Doing this has a few benefits: it reduces unnecessary energy use, which decreases your electric bill and carbon footprint, it can prolong the lifespan of electronics, and also prevent electrical fires when you leave the house. Visit The Spruce for a quick bit more on this.

3. use reusable bags for groceries, shopping, and storage

This is also an iconic act of sustainability.  We use ridiculous amounts of plastic bags for our groceries and shopping, and Ziploc bags for food storage, among other things. So it’s no surprise that this list would include alternatives to plastic bags. 

Reusable bags are easy to come by, (swag item, for sure!) so you rarely have to purchase them. But if you do need to buy some, you can get them at your local grocery store for a few bucks, some clothing, thrift or department stores may sell them, or make your own out of old t-shirts (no sew!).  

Don’t feel like spending your afternoon on a Pinterest fail?  Visit Wendy Barnes Design for artistic, adorable, reusable bags for snacks, straws, etc. and totes for shopping.  She’s a small business owner, and a percentage of her proceeds goes to wildlife conservation.  Win win win!

Breathable produce bags can replace those plastic produce bags from the grocery store, too. 

4. eat less meat

I’m sorry, guys; this is definitely unpopular.  But it’s true.  Eating less commercially farmed meat is better for the environment.  You don’t have to stop eating meat entirely, but you can reconsider the amount you consume regularly.  By letting your sides and veggies take center stage on the plate, you can reduce the amount of meat you eat at mealtime. For instance, instead of a whole chicken breast, only eat half and let your vegetables and sides shine.  Or try to have vegetarian meals just a couple times a week.   Beef, unfortunately, is the least sustainable meat, so if you aren’t on board with meatless meals yet, consider just avoiding beef as much as possible, or commit to buying grass fed when you do want beef.  There are ways to reduce your meat intake, but you should consult a specialist if you intend on changing your diet drastically. 

5. eat leftovers

You guys, did you know there are people that don’t eat leftovers?! This is a shocker to me. I love efficiency, and leftovers are like the ultimate, most delicious form of efficiency.  There is a lot of effort and love that goes into the act of making a meal, and the thought of tossing that in the trash – oh! the disrespect!  I can’t even envision a household where you scrape freshly cooked food into the rubbish bin. 

Think about the ingredients that went into that meal.  How did the vegetables, fruit, grains, meat come to be?  How much soil, land use, fertilizer, water, pesticide and herbicide, farmer effort and attention, goes into your meal along the way?  How many food miles did it all travel, and how much energy was used to keep it cold, ship, store, and deliver to your shelves?  Here’s a hint.  A Hella Lot.  Too much of ALL of that to be tossed away because you ‘don’t like leftovers’.  No, people.  Just no. 

6. use biodegradable sunscreen when swimming

Phew.  Now that I’ve berated you heavily, I’m going to tell you to go shopping.  Yay! Yes, here is permission to treat yourself to something new for vacation: sunscreen that doesn’t hurt marine life when you go swimming after application.  Especially if you are in a smaller body of water that doesn’t have the magnitude to dilute as well as the ocean.  Lagoons, ponds, coral reefs, etc. can suffer negative consequences of mass tourism and sunscreen use. Sustainable Jungle has a great detailed article on sunscreen with some awesome recommendations for where to get the most eco-friendly stuff to save your skin from cancer and burns while saving the beautiful, natural habitat you are enjoying.

7. switch your lighting to LEDs. 

It’s true, LEDs are a lot more efficient than traditional lighting, because traditional lighting loses most of its energy to heat.  An LED give can you the light output equivalent of a 60 watt bulb using only 9 watts or so.  Same light level, lower energy use. Plus, LEDs are often better quality light and can offer a range of colors and features, even smart lighting that includes scheduling and circadian features.  LEDs are more expensive, but they’ll save you on energy and have a far longer lifespan than other bulbs, meaning you’ll buy fewer bulbs over time.  In the end, its worth it.

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