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Living More Sustainably: A Beginners Guide

I’ve made so many simple swaps over the years to be a little more kind to the planet that I hardly think about them now. They’re so ingrained in my day-to-day life, and I’d love for more people to feel the same way (namely, that it's so easy!). 

Please note: This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways I try to save the planet or ways you can save the planet. These are not all the answers, but a starting point. I’ve tagged some products in this post, but I know it’s better to shop locally instead of sourcing all over the internet (so do that if possible!). Also, I love recycling, but I also try hard not to use single-use plastics and add to the problem of where it all goes.

The List

  1. Use reusable bags, folks. Any old tote will do! I also bought a few produce bags a few years back that are lightweight and breathable.
  2. Bring your own water bottle or cup. This is so easy! I have a Corkcicle and a S’well water bottle. Each keep things hot or cold. There’s no need for takeaway coffee cups any longer (also, did you know that most to go coffee cups aren’t recyclable?)!
  3. Use cloth napkins. I just picked up some mustard-colored ones from a local recycled art supply store for next to nothing, that I’ll get years of use from. When they eventually start to fray, I’ll turn them into rags for cleaning.
  4. Dryer balls. My dog thinks these are for him, but they’re mostly for us humans in the house. They reduce static, help clothes dry faster, and don’t contain chemicals. You can add your own scent to them, too, and they’re under $10.
  5. Consider the restaurants you dine out from. Do they offer sustainable to go options? Will they force a million tiny sauce packets on you? Will they put everything in a plastic bag?
  6. Refuse a straw. This one is tough, even though there’s so much info out there about it! Anytime I’m dining out, I ask for no straw in my water. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (because habits are hard to break!). We can only do so much with what we have, but asking for no straw whenever you can is another way to do a little something for those sea turtles.
  7. Meal plan. Buy only what you are going to use and then use it! If my refrigerator looks barren at the end of the week, I feel victorious! Taking a bit of time to plan what you will actually eat saves food as well as money. Seriously.
  8. Don’t use disposable kitchen items! It’s been years since I’ve used aluminum foil, cling wrap, or resealable bags. I seal food in glassware or wrap in a napkin, and I’m doing just fine.
  9. Invest in clothing that will last a lifetime or thrift. I personally love the thrill of thrifting and giving old clothes a second chance, but investing in a well-made piece is another good option when shopping for new clothes.
  10. Recycle and or compost! I do both, and hardly ever take out the trash. Here in Detroit, we’re lucky to have a grassroots compost company who picks up compost weekly, so I don’t have to have a green thumb (or love of worms!) to live more environmentally. I have a big bowl in my freezer where any scraps are tossed for the week, then I pull them out on compost pick up day. My house doesn’t smell and I’m still saving the world, one onion end at a time. But before I found this service, I took my food scraps to my dad's garden. I'm not a gardener, but for years now, I've managed to find a way to compost my food scraps. I feel confident a few of you can, too.

This list is simply something to think about, and maybe a place to start. Have you made small but impactful changes to reduce your footprint? Do you, too, struggle with refusing a straw?