May 26, 2023
 in 
Lifestyle

What are Some Simple Ways to Adopt an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle?

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he world of sustainability, and the pressures driving it, can be overwhelming. It’s only made worse by reports like this one which shows that most of the world’s fossil fuel emissions are the product of just 100 companies. If that leaves you wondering whether sustainability is worth pursuing or where to even start with it, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’re going to unpack simple, actionable steps that you can take to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. How we, eat, shop, and consume has an impact, so let’s make sure it’s a positive one wherever we can.

Table of  Contents

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

Let’s start with the basics: reducing overproduction and the waste that goes to landfills. The reduce, re-use, recycle approach provides easy ways to re-think what we throw out so that we can buy, and hopefully consume, less.

The importance of this is two-fold:

  1. Landfills emit greenhouse gases and other toxic fumes when waste is left to rot or worse, burn. Not only does this contribute to climate change, but it can cause serious air pollution and health issues for those nearby.
  1. The production of things like clothing uses huge amounts of water and chemicals so by lessening how much of these items get wasted, and how much we buy, we can help reduce production.

Creating less waste means creating fewer problems for our environment to deal with. Here’s how you can enact the reduce, re-use, recycle method in your daily life:

Reduce

One of the easiest ways to create less waste is to reduce, or at least be more mindful of, how much we consume. Here are some ways to cut back:

  • Shop less and try to stick to buying things that will last.
  • Reduce your reliance on single-use plastic or packaging. For example, bring your own shopping bags and coffee cups when you’re out or request minimal packaging for online orders where possible.
  • Buy in bulk to reduce how much packaging you use and if it’s available, sign up for refill options on products you use regularly.
  • Say no to things like promotional material or extra single-use cutlery and straws when buying food.

Re-Use

“Circular consumption” is one of the big sustainability buzzwords at the moment and simply refers to the idea of using things over and over, rather than sticking to the linear system of buy, use, and then throw away. Extending the lifespan of our items means lessening how much gets thrown out.

Here are some ways you can apply a circular consumption method to your life:

  • Mend things instead of throwing them out.
  • Buy items second-hand and donate whatever you no longer use.
  • Do clothing and furniture swaps with friends to get your community involved.
  • Re-appropriate items that seem unsalvageable eg. Turning an old t-shirt into cleaning rags.
  • Switch from using disposable to reusable items with things like razors.

Recycle

Not only has the recycling sector helped create thousands of jobs, it’s also helped divert glass, plastic, and aluminum from landfills so the materials can be turned into new items instead. It’s another means of incorporating circular consumption into our lives but there are a few tips you need to know if you want to become a pro-recycler:

  • Always check the rules for your area on which materials can be recycled and how it needs to be packaged for collection.
  • Clean and dry your items before recycling, and then give everything a sniff test. There shouldn’t be anything rotting in there.
  • Keep lids on the plastic bottles you’re recycling.
  • Flatten any cardboard down beforehand so it doesn’t make things unnecessarily bulky.

Conserve Energy and Water

Even if you’re not in a position to install sustainability measures such as clean energy or greywater systems, we all have the power to make water and energy conservation a priority. 

Energy usage, especially when sourced from fossil fuels like coal or natural gas, contributes harmful emissions to our atmosphere. One of the easiest ways to shift to an eco-friendly lifestyle is to simply use less energy.

For water conservation, it’s a similar issue. The difference however is that you’re less worried about fossil fuel emissions and more about putting pressure on a resource that can’t always keep up with us. Many urban areas, like LA, have grown beyond what the local water availability can comfortably meet.

Saving water not only helps during droughts but saves electricity too because there’s less to pump. Here are 10 ways you can put water and energy conservation into practice:

  • Use energy-saving appliances and lightbulbs.
  • Run your dishwashers and washing machines when they’re full and pick the eco-friendly cycle whenever possible.
  • Turn off your appliances when they’re not in use and if you can, put a timer on your water heater so it’s not wasting electricity by reheating water when it isn’t needed.
  • Save shower water in buckets to water your plants.
  • Water your garden in the morning or evening so you don’t lose water to evaporation. That way you should be able to water less frequently.
  • Plant drought-resistant plants that won’t need as much watering.
  • Minor water leaks account for about 1 trillion gallons of water lost each year so check your home regularly for leaks.
  • Try to use slow cookers as they’re more energy efficient than just leaving things on the stove.
  • Switch your showerheads and faucets out for low-flow options.
  • Replace old toilets with ones that are “WaterSense approved” as they can save approximately 1300 gallons per year according to the EPA.

Choose Sustainable Products

Sustainability can look like many different things, especially when it comes to product marketing. We’re sold all sorts of things as “clean” or “eco-friendly” without really knowing what that means or if it’s true. 

What to Look for in Sustainability Products

When trying to choose products that can add to your eco-friendly lifestyle, keep an eye out for these things:

  • Shipping: If you’re ordering online, check if carbon-neutral shipping is an option
  • Packaging: Many brands claim to have recyclable packaging but it may not be widely applicable. Plastic-free is generally better as paper and cardboard are easiest to recycle and compost at home.
  • Ingredients: The best is to have ingredients that are biodegradable as it means they’re less likely to cause pollution in our water systems. How ingredients are sourced however is also important. Palm oil, for example, is connected with major deforestation so if your product has that in the ingredient list, it’s best that it be certified sustainably sourced.
  • Transparency: Is there transparency over ingredient sourcing and general sustainability practices?
  • Sustainability work: Many brands give back to the environment through various initiatives. Do your research when buying from someone new to see what sustainability measures they’re taking and how they’re planning to improve their impact over time.

Break up with Fast Fashion.

The reality is that even when fast fashion brands like H&M have claimed to have eco-friendly lines, they’ve been exposed for misleading the public. Fast fashion brands, by virtue of their exploitative and often polluting production practices, are rarely as sustainable as they market themselves as being.

Greenwashing, or the practice of making something appear more sustainable than it is, is becoming a bigger issue every day. It’s impossible to avoid it entirely but a way to help is by supporting products from brands that have slower, more sustainable, and transparent production methods.

Small businesses that operate a made-to-order approach tend to incur far less waste than their big, corporate counterparts. Their quality also tends to be better. One of the worst parts about fast fashion isn’t that their production processes are fast and wasteful, but the clothes themselves often don’t last. 

Ultimately, the most sustainable product you can buy is one you won’t be throwing out too soon and allows you to support businesses with an eco-friendly approach.

Eat a Plant-Based Diet

How and what we eat forms a big part of an eco-friendly lifestyle. Agriculture and the methods used to produce our food have contributed to everything from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution and deforestation. The foods we buy matter.

The production of meat has some of the most negative impacts on our environment in that it produces the most greenhouse gas emissions, uses the most land, and requires the most fertilizer and irrigation water. It’s why switching to a plant-based diet, or even just reducing your red meat and dairy intake, can be so beneficial.

Changing up our diet can be daunting, and even triggering for some, but eating more plant-based foods doesn’t need to be complicated. Try out Meatless Mondays or research some vegan recipes online to try out with friends – exploring a plant-based diet can be a fun, community effort that gets everyone eating healthier and reducing their environmental impact.

That said, there are nuances when it comes to switching to plant-based options. It’s generally a healthier choice, but it’s still important to prioritize buying local, seasonal food and supporting small growers whenever you can.

Start Somewhere

There are so many different ways you can create an eco-friendly lifestyle for yourself – from diet and shopping choices, to simply checking your home for leaks more regularly.

We all have to start somewhere. What matters is that we don’t just sit back and pretend like our choices don’t have an impact. As Greta Thunberg said on the issue, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”