Simple living can feel remarkably overwhelming when you’re getting started. Many of the conveniences of modern life are bad business for the planet, and taking charge at home is one easy way you can help make the world just a little bit better place for everyone.
The only problem is… Where do you start?
I get it. When I started studying environmental science, I was completely overwhelmed by how many different options I had when it came to living lightly. But really, tt doesn’t take much to downsize a little and make a big impact. There are tons of simple and practical ways you can live with less that will actually improve you quality of life.
Sustainable for the planet and sustainable for simple lifestyle? Yes, it is possible. Here are 18 tiny steps to living more sustainably.
1. Glass reusable containers.
Pyrex has some nice reusable glass containers available, but my favorite way to store food is in mason jars. They are inexpensive, you can reuse them forever, and they are beautiful – especially in comparison with the ugly, cheap plastic containers you find everywhere. Also, the lids always match and are easy to replace. Why choose anything else?
Your local garbage and recycling company has a list of what you can and cannot recycle. Print it out and put it above your mini waste management center to make recycling faster and
Composting can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a basic composting guide to get you started.
4. Buy in bulk.
Cut out packaging, and your garbage stream gets reduced fast. Most grocery stores will let you bring in your own containers to fill with bulk goods as long as you bring an extra one so they can zero their scale. If you’re not sure, you can call and ask what their policy is. (Ask them in a way that makes them sound progressive, and you’re gold.)
5. Host a clothing swap.
Lose weight recently? Kids outgrowing all their clothes? Send out a dozen messages and host a clothing swap. Offer to take everything left at the end to a local thrift store (or maybe a consignment shop to earn some extra cash!)
6. Eat a vegetarian diet.
It takes over 5000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Even more shocking than that, 33% of of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by the U.S. are devoted to producing livestock.
7. Go car-free.
Ride a bike instead. Or bus. Or Zipcar. Or share with your neighbor! The options are endless. The point is that you don’t actually need your own car all the time (and if you are spending that much time in your vehicle, consider for a moment how that makes you feel).
8. Stop buying stuff.
When you think you must buy, borrow first. Then buy reused. Then buy local.
9. Move into a smaller house.
My friend Nina lives in a bus. I live in a 520 sq. ft apartment with my two kids. And you know what? It is the perfect size for us. I do miss having a yard to send the kids into, but we’re lucky enough to be within walking distance of the nation’s largest city park, the aptly-named Forest Park.
10. Bring your own bags.
This is one of the easiest things you can do to help end the trash stream! Eliminate plastic bags from your home for good.
11. Go paperless.
Sign up here to stop receiving junk mail.
12. Make your own cleaning products.
My friend Nina has all the recipes you’ll need over at Shalom Mama.
13. Grow a garden.
Even without much space, you can still garden. Container gardening is a great option for apartment dwellers. You can also rent a plot at your local community garden.
14. Conserve energy.
Turning off the lights when you leave a room, shutting off an unused power strip, can make a big difference on your electric bill, and save a lot of energy. Weatherizing windows and doors, insulating pipes, and lowering the thermostat, can cut down on heating costs too. When replacing appliances, buy new appliances with the Energy Star label, that way you can be assured of their efficiency. To save water, try low-flow showerheads and toilets, collect rainwater and use native plants and drip irrigation in your yard. Reducing your shower time by even a minute can save water and the electricity needed to heat the water too!)))
15. Cloth napkins.
This one is so easy. I’ve never understood how people can be so okay with throwing money away on paper products that just get… thrown away. Save money and use cloth instead.
16. Use a clothes line.
Granted, this isn’t practical everywhere or at all times of year, but you can save a bunch on utility bills and make your clothes last longer simply by hanging them. Bonus: it’ll make your arms look great.
17. Stop using disposable coffee cups.
Living sustainably may just turn you into a mason jar aficionado. Buy a Cuppow instead!
18. Make your morning coffee at home.
I‘m fortunate enough to have ten years of coffee experience behind me, but really, it doesn’t take more than watching a few good Youtube videos, fresh beans, and filtered water to make incredible coffee.
These tiny steps hopefully make something crystal clear – simple is sustainable.
Working towards sustainability doesn’t have to completely change how you live. You’re probably already doing some of the things listed above.
Sustainability is simply another reflection of your environment, the tell-all of what’s going on under the surface for you. Clutter everywhere? A garage packed to the brim with stuff that goes unused and has mostly been forgotten? It speaks volumes about what it is you value.
Take one tiny step today. Then take another tomorrow. You can create a better, lighter life – and it can be this simple.
P.S. If you like the idea of taking tiny steps to improve your life, you might enjoy #tinychallenges, a free 30-day series of self-care-centric prompts to help you get those tiny wins that edge you towards the life you want.