When living sustainability first hit the blogosphere, it seemed like it might be some kind of fad. People started toting around reusable grocery bags, and companies began advertising their use of less packaging. But sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s here to stay. More and more people are catching on. We’re becoming more aware of the effects that everyday items that once seemed harmless are having on our planet and it’s vast ecosystems. Some of the changes can feel daunting. It can feel like we don’t have the time, energy or money to make the changes we so desperately want to make. However, I’ve learned that there are some small changes we can all implement without too much effort that can make real differences. These are my top
5 now 6! easy swaps for sustainability and how you can implement them into your life without breaking the bank, ruining your routine or causing unwanted stress in your already busy and stressful life.
1.Reusable Grocery Bags
Reusable grocery bags are one of the first things I can remember seeing pop up on the market that promoted more sustainable living. Grocery stores everywhere started offering their own branded versions of totes and bags that you could purchase for relatively low costs and reuse time and time again on shopping trips. In California, where I’m from, plastic bags were banned altogether; however, instead of them being completely banned, these even thicker plastic bags started making their way into markets. The thicker plastic bags cost around $.10-$.15 per bag, but didn’t seem to be any less destructive than their lighter plastic counterparts. Not only that, but people who weren’t bringing bags had no quarrel with purchasing a couple of these bags and loading them to the brim with all they could fit, trying to save that next ten or fifteen cent purchase. This doesn’t have to be a difficult switch. In fact, there are several reusable bag options that you can try that cost no money at all. If you’re like me, you’ve been saving your old grocery bags since the dawn of time. You can bring these into the grocery store to reuse. I even have a ton of the smaller produce bags that I take with me to the grocery store as well as the farmers market (admittedly, they also work great as dog poop bags). Another free option is to create your own tote bags out of old t-shirts. Instructables.com has a great tutorial on this, and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always cut and tie the bottom of the bag as well. Another option I’ve used quite often for quick trips is just using a large purse. Really anything that you use to carry things in will work – tote bags, purses, backpacks, homemade bags, baskets, cardboard boxes, you name it – if it will hold things it will hold groceries. Want to use reusable bags, but always forget them? Keep a stash in your car. Having bags on hand at all times will make it more difficult to forget grabbing them at all.
2. Reusable Water Bottle
I used to buy Smart Waters at the gas station pretty regularly. I’d buy so many that my car was filled with plastic bottles, sometimes not even fully emptied (such a waste!). Once I realized how much I was wasting (and learning more about sustainability), I knew I needed to make a change. There is a serious water bottle crisis happening on our planet. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute. This influx of plastic, although fully recyclable, has overarched our ability to process it all. There is just too much to handle. If you lined up all the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 alone, they would reach half way to the sun. THIS IS CRAZY. Enter: The reusable water bottle. My reusable water bottle of choice is a 24 oz ThermoFlask stainless steel water bottle. You can purchase a two-pack for around $35 from Amazon (they also sell them at Costco). When you add up all the money you spend on water bottles (if you were like me), you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by switching to something more sustainable. Not only that, but I find that I drink more water, waste less water and I’m no longer contributing to the plastic water bottle crisis that is occurring in our day and age. A perfect accompaniment to your new reusable water bottle, is a filter pitcher. This ensures you have bottle-ready quality water to drink (at a fraction of the cost), but also ensures you aren’t contributing to what is already a crisis of epic proportions.
3. Bring Cutlery From Home
If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I very much enjoy cooking and meal prepping. I love being able to bring homemade lunches to work. Not only does this save me time and money, but it makes me feel better throughout the day. Not only that, but the less fast food I purchase, the less I contribute to the use of single-serve plastic cutlery, containers and other utensils. But up until recently, I was eating my lunch at work and realized that I am still using the single-serve plastic cutlery that my workplace provides. This is an exceptionally easy switch, because it does not cost any extra money, it simply requires you pack utensils from home in your lunch. A typical set for me is a spoon for breakfast and a fork for lunch. I pack them in my lunch bag, use them at work then bring them home to be washed. I think what I’ll eventually do is buy a set of utensils from the thrift store and bring them to work to stay. I can wash and use them at work and stop using the single-serve options that seem so convenient. Truth be told, I think food actually tastes better with real utensils! I’ve also seen people do this on the go so that if they end up eating out somewhere they have their own utensils on hand.
4. Thrift, Thrift. Thrift
Again, if you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I’m huge into thrifting. Thrifting is the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much me entire life that I didn’t even realize was sustainable. It’s sustainable because instead of purchasing new things, you are recycling pre-owned items and saving them from the landfill. Truth be told, most of my house is furnished with things from the thrift store and most of the items in my closet are thrifted as well. Not only is it sustainable, it’s a great way to save money. You can find pretty much anything at the thrift store, especially if you’re patient, and I regularly find things that are brand new at a fraction of the price they would normally be. For more tips about what to look for at the thrift store visit my post here.
5. Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets
Dryer balls are a great way to live more sustainably in that they cut down on waste as well as save you money. Dryer sheets can add up in cost, but with dryer balls, you buy one set and reuse them over and over. Certain sets allow you to add essential oils for an extra scent and others can even attract lint (for those of us with pets, this is a lifesaver!). My favorite set comes from Grove Collaborative (click here for a referral link). You can buy them alone or purchase them with a bottle of essential oil. (PS. Grove has alot of other great sustainable options for cleaning supplies and other home items – be sure to use the referral link above for your FREE set of cleaning items). I love my dryer balls because they make it so that the clothes dry faster (less energy) while also helping to reduce lint and static from my laundry. I definitely recommend checking these out.
6. Reuse Your Ziploc Bags
Sometimes, trying to be more sustainable can cost money. All of the new reusable snack bags, beeswax food wrappers, fabric produce bags – sure they all look great on your Instagram, but sometimes it’s just not practical to go out and spend a bunch of money on your newfound values. Plus, I know when I started trying to make small changes to my life, I still had alot of things I wasn’t ready to give up yet, or maybe ever. One of these things is Ziploc bags. I know, I know… They’re plastic, single use and get thrown out super quick thus adding to the overall problem. But this got me thinking, I already have a giant Costco sized pack of bags (it’s just me and my husband in the house, so buying in bulk makes things last forever). I don’t want to just toss them out and then spend even more money to buy new alternatives. I did some research online about the materials and makings of these little zipper pouches. Did you know you can wash them and reuse them? Yup. Thus making the Ziploc bag reusable. There’s a couple different ways you can wash them depending on your preference and time. The first is to hand wash. You simply flip the bag inside out, wash and set on a rack to dry. Make sure the bag is open and standing on top of it’s zipper when it’s drying so that the inside (which is actually the outside) dries completely. Another method that I was super surprised even worked is the top rack on your dishwasher. I prefer to hand wash since this can take up alot of space on your top rack, but it is a faster and easier solution if you’re in a rush. Simply do that same thing and flip the bag inside out. Place on the top rack of your dishwasher. I liked to use heavier glasses and things around the bags so they don’t end up flying around inside the washer. You can run a normal cycle with a dry cycle and voila! Resuable Ziploc bags. This is a great trick, and instead of spending money to buy those fancy velcroed snack bags you’ve been eyeing, you’re saving money instead.
So these are my main easy swaps for living a more sustainable life. Each of them are easy to switch and are either free, low cost or will end up saving you money in the long run. There are a bunch of other less easy swaps that I may write about later on, so let me know if you’re interested in those as well! I should also note that this post is not sponsored in any way. I link products that I enjoy using as a recommendation to you. I purchased these with my own money after doing my own research and have been very happy with the results. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!
How do you try and live a more sustainable life? Do you find some things are easier than others? Are you more likely to make a swap if it doesn’t effect your current routine or spending habits?