① Use what you have
This may seem counterintuitive, as “eco-friendly” versions of everything from cleaning products to clothing items have become available in recent years. But, as tempting as it may be to give your home or wardrobe a complete eco overhaul, it isn’t necessarily the most mindful move when it comes to the use of resources. Have a plastic dish brush that still has plenty of life in it? Consider using it until it’s totally ready to be tossed and then dispose of it responsibly. Or, better yet, demote it to a tub scrubber until it’s completely dunzo; this way, when you do finally upgrade to a more sustainable replacement, you’ll know you got the most out of the item and made the best use of its resources.
The same concept can go for glass food containers, spent candle jars, or any other household item that you can imagine a second life for. Sustainable living is truly a practice in creativity as much as it is an effort toward more mindful choices.
② Focus on food waste
One of the most significant issues we face today is that over a third of food produced is either lost or wasted. This contributes to up to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. A few ways we can help mitigate this are:
- Only buy what you need when grocery shopping, especially when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, as they break down more quickly.
- If you do have an overstock of something, try a new recipe to use it up, freeze it, or see if a neighbor could use the surplus. This way, everyone wins and nothing goes to waste.
- Another win-win is composting! If you have yard space, consider putting those food scraps to work instead of letting them smell up your trash bin. By doing this, they’ll be creating nutrient-dense soil for later use in a garden, potted house plants, or to be shared with friends and neighbours. If you don’t have any outdoor space, alternatives like Bokashi composting, vermicomposting, or an electric countertop composter are great options for the city-dweller. Many organisations also offer drop off sites for folks to offload food scraps. This alone has the power to divert tens of millions of tons of food from entering landfills each year!
- There are numerous apps that offer food waste tips and solutions. A few of my faves are:
- No Waste, which helps keep track of the food you have at home to help avoid spoilage and make the most of your money.
- Share Waste connects people around the world with nearby food scrap dropoff sites.
- Grocery delivery platforms that offer “ugly” and other imperfect food items that would otherwise get tossed at the supermarket help reduce food waste at a discounted cost to you. I like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market (U.S. only) but I’m sure there are several others available as well.
③ Try DIY!
Another way I enjoy reducing my impact (as well as my grocery bills) is to make DIY versions of foods and personal products at home. This saves both money as well as product packaging, which can account for over 80 million tons of household waste each year, 13 million of which end up in the ocean (Yikes)!
There are countless online articles and How-To’s to help get you on your DIY way, but a few easy items I make regularly are things like nut milk, non-dairy yogurt, and pizza dough. A few personal and home care items that are super simple to reverse-engineer as well are dry shampoo, body lotion, bug repellent, and simple household cleaners like this one, among many others.
④ Buy secondhand
The market for secondhand goods is bursting with great finds. From pre-loved apparel to furniture, appliances, tech items and so much more, scoring something you’ve had your eye on for a fraction of the cost can feel like a win in the game of life. Not only that, you’re giving new life to something and saving it from a potential death sentence in the landfill. So whether it be on Marketplace, OfferUp, or at a nearby swap meet or estate sale, there’s a whole world of gems waiting to be found and loved all over again (for pennies on the dollar)!
⑤ Start where you are
As with any lifestyle change, living more sustainably won’t occur overnight. I believe that the best approach to more mindful living is to simply start where you are and see where the journey naturally takes you. Personally, I’m passionate about food and healthy eating habits, so a lot of my focus falls in that realm. But everyone’s interests and skill sets are different, so simply getting attuned to what lights you up will make the transition feel effortless. If and when you see an opportunity or feel inspired to make a change, do it! But, don’t feel like you have to or that you should because someone else (ie. me) told you to do so; that way will never stick.
Just begin where you are and take baby steps that work for you and your lifestyle. And no need to be hard or put extra pressure on yourself either. No one is perfect, and we learn as we go. So, even if you feel like you mess up, don’t stress, just keep moving forward. Big changes are made incrementally and, over time, you’ll notice a shift in your overall outlook and habits. Simply start today and you’ll be on your way!