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Throughout the years, Sean and I have been working really hard to make our home more eco-friendly. We know climate change is a huge deal, so we’re trying to make as little an environmental impact as we can every day.
And surprisingly, these changes aren’t very difficult to make. With just one small change at a time, it’s amazing how eco-friendly your home can become in hardly any time at all!
So, outside of recycling, what are some little things you can do around your house today to be more eco-friendly?
1. Stock Up on Reusable Items
First things first, cut down on your waste. The best way to do this is to stock up on reusable items. The more you reuse, the less you’re throwing away!
Nowadays, Sean and I only have one bag of trash per week to take out on trash day. Sometimes, it’s even less. We’re hardly throwing anything away thanks to some small changes we’ve made.
Reusable Dish Towels
First of all, stop using paper towels! They’re incredibly wasteful and can easily be replaced with a dish towel that can be thrown in with your existing load of laundry.
We got a big pack of about 24 towels on Etsy and love them. I throw them in with my whites whenever I do laundry, so they’re always available. Instead of paper towel, we grab a dish towel for spills, napkins, and general kitchen clean-up. It’s amazing how much waste we prevent just by swapping out one item in our kitchen!
I bring my lunch to work every day, mostly out of financial need. And whenever I pack it, I avoid plastic baggies as much as I can. We tried a few reusable containers for our meal planning and really wanted glass containers to work, but they were too heavy compared to their plastic counterparts.
The important thing is that you’re reusing your lunch containers! Avoid plastic Ziploc bags as much as possible, and utilize things you can wash in the dishwasher. We bought two of this set from Costco and it’s been perfect for the two of us!
And finally, reusable bags. I’ve been wanting to try reusable lunch bags like these ones from Blue Avocado for a while, but in the mean time, start utilizing reusable bags whenever possible! It’s obvious to have them available when checking out at the grocery store, but one of the biggest places we use them is for fresh produce. Instead of utilizing the free plastic bags and twist ties, we throw our produce into a reusable bag and continue shopping! It’s crazy how quickly that plastic adds up, so cut it where you can.
2. Use Paper Grocery Bags
On a similar note, paper grocery bags are a lot less wasteful than their plastic counterparts. Yes, they’re a little more difficult to carry, but they can fit more inside of them, and they’re a lot more eco-friendly!
At our local Kroger, the paper bags are right underneath the plastic bags, so making the switch was pretty easy. If you go to a regular checkout line instead of a self-checkout kiosk, just ask the cashier for paper instead of plastic.
3. Buy Fewer Pre-Packaged Foods
Once Sean and I started cooking food from scratch more often, I realized how much waste our food packaging can create. With cardboard, plastic containers, plastic film, and plastic bags, the amount we’re throwing away just to make ourselves some food is staggering.
While I’m not saying you should cook every meal from scratch (but do that if you love cooking!), keep in mind how much packaging comes with the food you’re eating. Could you get one big bag of potato chips instead of individual, single-serve bags? If you want the portion control that comes with smaller servings, could you package individual reusable containers once you get home from the grocery store, instead of the disposable containers the single-serve products are sold in? Even the smallest change here can make a massive impact!
4. Turn Down the Thermostat
Okay, this one is common, but it isn’t popular. And for good reason!
Sean and I live in northern Kentucky, so we don’t suffer from terribly cold weather (compared to my friends back home in Michigan, at least), but it definitely gets cold here. And yet in the winter, we keep the thermostat at a solid 64 degrees. Yes, our house is cold. Yes, it’s a little miserable. Yes, we wish we could turn it up. But you know what? Not only is it good for the environment because we’re using less gas, it’s also a lot better for our wallets! And those are two outcomes we’re happy to sacrifice for.
If you’re having a hard time dealing with cold temperatures inside your house, wear more layers. It took me some getting used to, but I wear socks every day now. It’s crazy how much impact one small article of clothing can have, but if I’m not wearing socks, I’m insanely colder and more miserable. We also keep a space heater in our office, where we spend the most time, so we’re only heating up one room in the house, and we always have blankets available to cuddle under.
5. Reuse Water Glasses
If you’re drinking a lot of water around the house, the glasses you’re using don’t have to be washed that often. Water doesn’t cause a ton of buildup, so as long as you remember which glasses only held water, you can keep those out of your dishwasher rotation.
The problem is the remembering part. To help with this, Sean and I each picked a glass (mine is Detroit Red Wings themed, his is Game of Thrones themed) that we use exclusively for water. We don’t drink anything else from them, and we don’t use any other glasses for water. That way, those glasses can get washed a few times a month, but in general don’t get put into the dishwasher during every cleaning cycle.
6. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
It’s easy to wash clothes on autopilot. Put the clothes in, pour detergent over them, press start. But have you ever really paid attention to your washing machine settings?
One that I always try to keep in mind is the water temperature. On my machine, there’s hot, warm, cold, and tap cold. Unless I’m washing something that I need to sanitize (like guest room bedding, for example), I use the tap cold setting. The detergent is still getting the fabric clean, and I don’t need everything sanitized with scalding hot water. That shit takes energy to heat up! And that uses gas, which can harm the environment and my wallet. No, thanks!
7. Eat Whatever You Have on Hand
This is the least exciting of all of the steps. Eat what you have on hand, even if it’s super boring.
If you can make a meal out of what’s in your fridge and pantry (and you have the time to do so), eat that. Sure, it might be leftovers that look less than appetizing, or it might be the same food you meal prepped four days ago and you’re sick of it, but if you’re trying to be eco-friendly, as much as it hurts, it’s time to suck it up. It might be boring, but you still need food, and if you don’t eat what’s on hand soon, you’re going to have to toss it. If you really can’t stomach it, freeze it if you can. But make sure you don’t forget about it forever!
On a similar note, don’t forget to check your current stash when you go to the grocery store. Are your bell peppers fading quickly? Plan out a meal that uses bell peppers and make it this evening! Don’t stock up on a ton of new food when you’ve already got half a fridge full. It’s another one of those tips that’s good for the environment and your wallet.
This salad, for example? It was roughly the 8th salad I’ve had in a row, and the avocados didn’t look that hot. But I cut them up, threw everything together, and made a delicious, albeit hodgepodge, salad.
If you’re already consuming less, reusing more, and are conscious of your energy usage, you might be ready for the next step: composting.
It took Sean and I a bit of research and mental preparation before we took the leap and made a compost bin, but we’re so happy we did. This is a major factor that contributes to how little waste we produce every week, because we’re only throwing away packaging for shipments and food.
To create our compost bin, we took an old trash container and drilled a bunch of holes in it. In the sides, in the lid, in the bottom… everywhere. Then, we stuck it in the corner of our yard and filled it with non-animal waste. Fruit, veggies, coffee grounds, egg shells, and basically anything besides meat gets tossed in our compost. We’ve had it for a little less than a year, and we’re excited to use our compost for a new veggie garden this spring!
To keep it simple, we have a tabletop compost bin. It’s nice to leave it on the counter while we cook, and take it out to the yard to empty once it’s full. Plus, it’s got a carbon filter at the top that eliminates any weird smells you might be worried about!
And for the non-compostable items like meat? We feed it to the dog. It’s going to get thrown away if we don’t, and he needs to eat at some point. Why not kill two birds with one stone? If you have a lot of leftovers, put them in one of your reusable containers and throw it in the fridge. I promise, your dog will still be interested in the treat tomorrow.
9. Consume Less, But More Purposefully
Overall, being eco-friendly means being conscious of how much you’re consuming, and what you’re consuming. It’s like having a capsule wardrobe: it’s great if you have a ton of pieces you love, but they should be high-quality so they last you as long as you want to keep them.
All over your home, from the kitchen to your closet, invest in things that last. Buy high-quality knives so you won’t have to get a new set every two years. Buy a really nice pencil skirt in a neutral color instead of a bold pattern you’ll get sick of after 3 wears.
The less you consume, the better. But don’t consume less and throw out half of it. Consume with purpose.
As trendy as it might be, having an eco-friendly house isn’t as easy as it should be. But with one small adaptation at a time, you’ll have an eco-friendly house before you know it!