Ten Easy Ways to Practice Everyday Sustainability

By Jess Friedman

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Those of you who know me, like, in real life know that I’m a big fan of the Earth and all the ways we can take care of her, so Earth Day is kind of a big deal to me. In honor of this often overlooked holiday, today I’m going to share 10 easy ways to practice sustainability in our every day lives. After all, shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?

Turn off the lights

You know when you were a kid and your mom was always yelling at you to turn off the lights when you left a room? Turns out, Mom was actually onto something. Not only is it better for your electric bill, but it also helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. In 2017, 63% of the electricity generated in the US came from coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gasses. Only 17% came from renewable resources.[1] Turning off your lights is especially important if you’re still using up the last of your incandescent bulbs. These bulbs are highly inefficient, with only 10% of their energy use going toward emitting light. The rest of it is given off as heat. You’re going to thank me for this tip come July, when your air conditioning unit is already going to be working overtime. You’re welcome. However, there is a caveat to this tip if you’ve upgraded to CFL bulbs. These bulbs are more efficient, but depending on the manufacturer, they can actually use more energy to get started. The general rule of thumb is if you’re going to be coming back to the room within 15 minutes, it’s okay to leave your CFL light on. Otherwise, you should turn it off. [2]

Take shorter showers

You know when you were a kid, and your sister was always banging on the bathroom door and telling you to hurry up? Turns out, sister was actually onto something. The average American uses 25,300 gallons of water annually, which calculates out to almost 70 gallons per day. With global temperatures rising and many areas of the world experiencing severe drought conditions, every bit of water saved will go a long way. According to Boston University, if you shorten your shower by just 2 minutes, you can reduce your water usage by 10 gallons. [3] Reducing your water usage also reduces the amount of energy needed to heat your water, and installing an efficient showerhead will also help save water without sacrificing water pressure.

Squeegee Your Shower Walls

While we’re talking about showers, how about these fancy thing-a-ma-bobs right here? They’re squeegees, just like the ones you might use to clean your windshield or your windows. I learned this trick from my Mom, who has kept one of these in the tub for most of my life. After you shower, just give your walls a quick scrape. This helps prevent the buildup of soap scum and residue, which has two great benefits: (1) you’ll use fewer harsh chemicals to keep your house clean, and (2) your tub will stay fresh longer, giving you more time to do things like turn off all the lights your kids have left on.

Use fewer single use products

If you were to walk through your house and count the number single use products, I’m willing to bet that number would add up quickly. Paper towels, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, cleaning wipes, cotton balls, disposable cutlery, straws—most of these products and many others are used a single time before they end up in a landfill. But here’s a fun fact for you: all of them can be reused or have reusable counterparts available. Take your plastic sandwich bags, for example. If you were to start using reusable containers for your lunch, you’d keep 540 plastic baggies out of the trash—or worse, the ocean—each year. Tupperware containers or waxed canvas bags are a great way to pack your lunch, and they can be easily cleaned and used again. If you can’t quite wean yourself off the incredibly useful zipper feature of plastic bags, opt for freezer bags instead of thin baggies. The thicker freezer-strength bags can be washed and reused several times before they lose their usefulness. [4] A few other ideas: Instead of reaching for the paper towels next time there’s a spill in the kitchen, grab a dishcloth or a tea towel instead. Love your morning coffee to go? Ditch the paper cup and use a metal or ceramic mug. Love your leftovers? Buy or make reusable beeswax food covers. All you avocado fans will love that one, as I’ve heard they’re actually the best thing ever for keeping your avocados fresh. But I’m sorry. I can’t help you figure out how to make them taste better…

Make it Yourself

When it comes to reusable products, there are actually a number of things that you can make yourself and use over and over again. Easy Reusable Face Wipes | Jest Kept Secret My personal favorite reusable product hack are these little guys right here. I really love using a particular facial cleanser at night before I go to bed, but I was tired of throwing away so many cotton balls. So I went to the fabric store, bought the smallest amount of black polar fleece I could get, and cut it into smaller pieces. After I use them to clean off my makeup, I toss them in a mesh delicates bag and wash them with my clothes once the bag gets full. Also, ladies, here’s an extra secret just for you: not only are feminine hygiene products so dang expensive, but when 20 billion tampons and pads are added to landfills every year, it really adds up. You can buy or make reusable pads, and there are a variety of reusable products on the market that can replace your tampons. For more inspiration or instructions for how to make reusable products that you’ll use every day, check out my Pinterest board, Everyday Sustainability.

Skip the Bottled Water

If you’re anything like me, you don’t drink nearly enough H20. This is one area where conserving water actually isn’t a good thing, so drink up—but for the love of all that is good in this world, get yourself a reusable water bottle. That plastic water bottle you bought from a vending machine comes with all sorts of ecological baggage. Plastic bottles are made from oil, use as much energy to produce as it would take to power 190,000 homes for a year, and less than half of them will get recycled. By using a reusable water bottle, you’ll help reduce the 5-13 million tonnes of plastic that end up in the ocean each year.[5][6]

Fix it Yourself, Felix

In the words of everyone’s favorite Disney movie handyman, “I can fix that.” Next time something breaks or wears out, instead of throwing it away and buying a new one, see if you can fix it. The internet is full of tutorials on how to fix just about anything, from clothes to computers to appliances to cars. Clothes are especially easy to mend. Got a tear? All you need is a needle and some thread and voila! Good as new. And remember, the handier you are, the more likely you’ll be to chosen to colonize a new planet when this one becomes inhabitable. Learn how to fix stuff. Your life depends on it.

Thrift Stores for the Win

You know that really annoying song about some guy who has twenty bucks and likes popping tags? Turns out, Macklemore was onto something. With more than 15 million tons of used textile waste generated each year in the US alone, buying clothing second hand from thrift stores and consignment shops can make a huge difference. Not only that, but your wallet will thank you for spending less than you would at a department store, and since many thrift stores support charities, your purchase might also be helping at-risk and underserved communities. That’s like the trifecta of sustainability, right there. [7] You can get more than just clothing at thrift stores, too. Here are a few things I’ve rescued from thrift stores:
Thrift Store Buys | Jest Kept Secret
From left to right: All the frames on my gallery wall, this cute vase for my decorative flowers, this baking dish (perfect for making brownies), the trinket shelf that holds all my souvenirs from Europe, and some of my favorite books
And remember, this tip goes both ways. After you’re done using something, don’t just throw it away. If it’s still usable, donate it to your favorite charity shop. You may even be able to get a tax break for it.

Open the Windows

As the weather warms up this year, it will be tempting to turn up your AC. But before you do that, try changing into cooler clothing and opening your windows to let in the breeze. Leaving that AC off for as long as you can stand it saves both energy and money, and as one who lived in a tent in New Mexico for five summers of my life, I promise it ain’t that bad to go without AC. You actually kind of get used to it. Unless you live in the humid south. If you live there, you’re allowed to run your AC because I get it. I grew up in Georgia, and I know that humidity is pretty much the worst thing ever. And when summer turns to winter again, as it inevitably does (uuuuuugh), remember to bundle up in sweaters and jackets before you turn up the heat.

Make Your Voice Heard

Believe it or not, consumers actually have a certain amount of power to drive the market. Whether you’re shopping for food, clothing, household goods, electronics, cars, a house, whatever, choosing options that are more environmentally friendly sends the message to producers that that’s what people will buy. Taking a little time to learn about industry standards and choosing to support companies that utilize green practices can be monumental in our fight to save the planet. But let’s get real here for a second. I know all too well that sometimes, the more sustainable option is also more expensive. And for those of us who live on a tight budget, it just might not be possible. So what can you do? Just do the best you can. Every little bit helps. Every daily effort to practice more sustainability in your own life will make a difference. The most important thing is to be aware of the issues and to do what you can, right here, and right now—no matter where you are in life—to be a little bit kinder to the earth.

What are your favorite ways to practice everyday sustainability?

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[1] EIA.gov

[2] Energy.gov

[3] Boston University

[4] One Green Planet

[5] Ban the Bottle

[6] The Guardian

[7] The Balance: Small Business

Jess Friedman

Jess Friedman

Jess is a Canadian-American who's always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about strengthening families by empowering women to make space for things that bring them true and lasting joy. You can read more posts by Jess here.
Jess Friedman

Jess Friedman

Jess is a Canadian-American who's always ready for the next adventure. She loves all things living, always has a million creative projects in progress, and polishes her nerd badge daily. She is passionate about strengthening families by empowering women to make space for things that bring them true and lasting joy. You can read more posts by Jess here.

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