It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with headlines about a warming planet and trash piling up in landfills. While major renovation projects like installing solar panels or drought-resistant landscaping can have a big impact, they’re not always landlord-approved (or within budget). It’s also not realistic to drastically reduce your trash output overnight. Still, there are little things you can do that have a positive impact on the planet and your home.
For starters, limit the number of recyclables you have in the first place. Do your best to buy products with less packaging (more on this in a minute) and save those plastic takeout containers to store your lunch or leftovers. Remove the labels from old jars to create vessels for DIY candles or a set of vases that are perfect for layering. Once you start looking for opportunities, you’d be surprised by how many practical uses there are for a single container.
Other pointers include buying products locally to reduce your carbon footprint (although we did link to online products here to give you a sense of price and availability), giving vintage furniture a second lease on life, and supporting companies with sustainable practices. Here are 10 more easy things you can do, starting today.
Change Out Your Showerhead
On average, a typical showerhead uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Even if you limit your showers to 5 minutes (something else sustainability experts recommend), that’s close to 20 gallons of water per shower per person. Yikes. Installing a low-flow showerhead can cut consumption by at least 20 percent. Bonus: It also helps you save on your water bill.
Ditch the Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets often have harmful chemicals and are only good for a few uses. Wool dryer balls are made from natural fibers (unlike petroleum-based plastic dryer balls) and help clothes to dry faster, thus cutting down on electricity. If you miss having a scent, simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and air dry before tossing them in with clothes.
Re-Think Toilet Paper
Hear me out: The French knew what they were doing when they came up with the bidet. It’s hygienic and there are affordable options you can easily install on your existing toilet. If you’re not ready to do as the Europeans do, consider sustainably grown bamboo toilet paper. Even better if it comes packaged in paper, versus plastic, and is made without a cardboard core.
Opt for Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs
The key is to look for bulbs that have earned the “energy star” rating. These typically include halogen incandescent bulbs, CLFs and LEDs. They’ll help you save big on electricity (up to 80% more than traditional incandescent bulbs) and also last up to 25 times longer.
Invest in Sustainably Made Sheets
Companies like Coyuchi make sustainability a priority. These percale sheets are made from 100% organic cotton and have a serious impact. With just this product, 1,471 days of drinking water were saved, 7 miles of driving emissions were avoided, and 141 square feet of land was farmed without using pesticides, according to the retailer.
Start Your Day Sustainably
The Keurig is convenient, sure, but those little pods wreak havoc on landfills. If you don't already own one, opt for a reusable pod and buy coffee grounds from the bulk section. An even better alternative? A French press. Both the reusable pod and French press can also be used with loose-leaf tea (those paper tea bags are said to carry toxins and pesticides).
Buy Refillable Products
To reduce packaging, bar shampoo and soap are ideal, but if you prefer liquid form, look for companies that offer refillable products. By Humankind eliminates single-use plastics by 90 percent or more with its mouthwash, deodorant, and shampoo. When you’re ready for a refill, it’s easy to order online and get free shipping. Follain, the clean beauty store, also offers a 38-ounce refillable hand soap in lemongrass or lavender that you can re-fill online or at any of their brick-and-mortar locations.
Cut Back on Cotton Swabs and Makeup Wipes
By Humankind also makes a 100% biodegradable cotton swab. Instead of using cotton pads to remove your makeup, go old-school and use a cloth, or opt for these bamboo makeup remover pads. You can hand wash them in the sink or throw them in with a load of laundry.
Single Out Your Single-Use Kitchen Products
We’ve covered the main culprits before (including plastic bags and disposable utensils), but we’ll add two more to the list: parchment paper and wax paper. Both contain harmful toxins when ingested. Silicone, although it’s a man-made material, is much safer because its chemical composition does not change when it’s heated or cooled. It’s also non-stick.
Get Creative With Flowers and Foliage
As any plant lady knows, potted plants have a number of benefits, including that they’re natural air purifiers. They also look great year-round, cutting down on the amount of money and resources you’d spend buying flowers. Other alternatives include foraging for plants in your backyard or buying flowers at the local farmer’s market.