Sustainable Living for Beginners: 10 Ways to Ease Into It
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Sustainable living for beginners can be weird and confusing at first.
I was called “crunchy” for the first time about 10 years ago because I breastfed and cloth diapered my first baby and I was completely offended.
Little did I know that that was actually not a bad thing and I would learn to embrace the term “crunchy” to its FULLEST.
Over the years my “crunchiness” has taken on a life of its own!
My mom calls me “innovative” and it’s not because I’m “crunchy,” it’s because I’m living sustainably and didn’t really realize that’s what I was doing until now!
Let’s dive into this new world that is so completely unique that hopefully you’ll be inspired to change a bit and you’ll inspire others to do the same!
What is Sustainable Living?
“Sustainable living for beginners is the practice of reducing your demand for natural resources by making sure that you replace what you use to the best of your ability” (1).
This is a lifestyle choice. Just like how you change the way you eat (like keto or paleo or whole foods plant-based), you have to change the way you live.
You’re choosing to change the things about yourself that you may have ALWAYS lived with but you know they are bad for you and the environment.
For example, styrofoam cups. It takes 500 years for styrofoam to decompose (2). Why not put your coffee in 1 stainless steel coffee mug that you use forever instead of 2 styrofoam cups (or more) each day?!
Is Sustainable Living the Same as Homesteading?
No…but closely related.
Homesteading is when you make your own things…your own clothes, your own food, your animals, your own heat, and electricity, etc.
But while homesteading, you ARE living sustainably. You’re not relying on all the outside influence to sway your decisions on what you use.
Do I have to be Zero Waste? What is That Exactly?
Zero Waste is pretty much “reduce, reuse, recycle.” You will repurpose ALL THE things you use so nothing goes to the landfill.
You will not do that in the beginning but you’ll probably work up to it. It’s an advanced sustainability skill.
Sustainable living for beginners is to just ease you into the process.
This is a lifestyle change and it doesn’t need to be all in all at once. It will be weird at first. Your friends will be like “Ugh, you’re not using Tide?!”
You’re making a healthier choice for yourself, your family, and the environment.
In the beginning, take baby steps…I’ll help you in the future to go to Zero Waste…it can be done!
AND WITH CHILDREN! (Stay tuned!)
10 Tips for Sustainable Living for Beginners
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Don’t buy so much stuff! You don’t need it! Recycle ALL you can! Lots of people have no idea what all can go in that recycle can that the city provides you! I have taken a few field trips to the dump (hey! I homeschool my children…gotta teach them something!) but that place is a FASCINATING place! They literally have to sift through everyones’ “recyclables” because people put actual trash in there not knowing what is what. Here is a list of what my city says is recyclable…print it off and put it on your fridge so you can have it readily available!
- Newspapers, magazines, and office paper
- Junk mail and phone books
- Paperboard or cardboard such as retail boxes, food or beverage package containers, etc.
- Hard plastic containers numbered 1-7 (On the recycle symbol on the container is a number). Make sure to rinse these containers out first: water and soda bottles, detergent bottles, milk jugs, cooking oil bottles, syrup bottles, margarine tubs.
- Aluminum cans
- Aluminum tin foil (no food contamination)
- Steel and tin cans
- Clear, green, and brown glass bottles (please rinse).
Things not accepted:
- Light Bulbs
- Ceramics and mirrors
- Batteries and electronics
- Plastic bags
- Pie plates
- Motor oil cans
- Contaminated aluminum foil
Gosh…if you really think of it, that reduces your trash by A LOT!
2. Curbside groceries:
They like to put one thing in one bag and give you a CRAP TON of plastic bags! Put a note on your order to not do this. You can also request paper bags or you can even request them to use no bags at all (they may not do this one but hey…you’re a beginner and learning to live sustainably which means you have to learn new ways to get around the norm!) You can also give the shopper your old bags for them to recycle there at the store.
3. Start your own garden or shop with a local farmer:
Do you know how much fuel and packaging and excess goes into getting the food to the grocery store?! It’s crazy! We still have the plastic bags on our farm (I know! I know! I’m trying to find a different way! I’m not sure it’s out there yet!) but at least you’re not contributing to all the “excess.”
It is just another thing you can keep out of the landfill that just doesn’t need to be there.
5. Shop thrift stores for clothes.
You find some really cool and unique designs in there that will make you super stylish. Again, you are not contributing to the whole extended process of making BRAND NEW clothes. When you’re done with your old clothes, repurpose them into napkins or handkerchiefs (advanced sustainability!).
6. Make your own.
Whatever you want…toothpaste, deodorant, bread, all of the above. Again reducing your consumption of plastic, one-use containers.
7. Slowly start to shift your household goods to more sustainable ones.
When you run out of your Tide, don’t just go buy it again at the stores, try something new….like this Kind Laundry. It’s a dehydrated sheet of laundry detergent! No more ooeeyy gooeeyy sticky crap, this stuff is amazing! I will write a review article on it! Use this link to get 10% off your first order!
8. Shop with sustainable companies.
This one goes hand and hand with Number 7. There are lots of sustainable companies out there that are coming up with sustainable products that are completely AMAZING and not sold in stores! Like this Blueland cleaning company. They send you a glass or silicone bottle to use (forever) for your cleaning products. Their cleaning products are little tablets (think alka-seltzer), you fill up your bottle of water and drop in the tablet, and like magic…cleaning product! The best thing, their packaging is completely compostable which means ZERO WASTE!
9. Repurpose things.
Think twice before throwing it in the trash. What else could it possibly be used for? We buy nuts from Costco and they come in these 3lb buckets, we’ve been repurposing them to hold cereal, flour, or other little odds and ends so that way our pantry looks uniformed. They’re also recyclable.
10. Get a bidet.
This is probably an intermediate to advance sustainable living skill but none-the-less. There are a ton of different types out there on the market with all the bells and whistles but here’s one that is nearly the same price as the ONE pack of toilet paper at Costco…so pretty much you would be saving that amount of money EVERY TIME you would have to buy toilet paper. Not to mention that it takes 37 GALLONS of water, 1.3 KILLOWATTS of electricity, and 1.5 POUNDS of wood to make 1 ROLL OF TOILET PAPER (3)!!!
So should you start a sustainable life as a beginner?
ABSOLUTELY 100% YES!
Are you going to be perfect? No! But you’re learning and changing and everything change counts!
And just slowly doing these little changes will help you embrace your new lifestyle and make it an easier process.
I love this quote…
“It’s just one plastic bottle,’ said 8 billion people.” – Elizabeth Harrington