Last week I shared the origins of my own green living journey in a blog post titled, “Planet Earth: Our One and Only Home and Our Caretaking Responsibilities.” In this post, I addressed the need for us to do the responsible thing and make changes to our bad consumption habits before we do irreparable damage to our home planet.
While change sounds like such a chore, it’s much easier than we might think. We don’t have to make major changes in order to improve our environment. In fact, by making small changes, such as using reusable grocery bags, refusing to buy plastic products, eating at home, growing our own food, and even sharing this post to raise awareness—these are all little ways that can have a big impact.
There are so many little changes you can make in your own life that will have a big impact on the environment in the long run, which is why I decided to compile a list of 101+ green living ideas to help you get started today!
Before you read the list, here are a few tips:
- Start small. Don’t try to do the entire list all at once or you will get overwhelmed and give up.
- Choose the changes that would be easiest for you to implement and once you’re comfortable with those little changes, add a new change.
- Set a goal and work towards it.
- Give yourself a timeline. If your green living journey takes a year, two years, or even five years, that’s okay. Go at a pace you’re comfortable with.
For many years, I used the excuse that I was just one person and my small contribution would never make a difference in a world of approximately 7.8 billion people. What I didn’t consider, however, is this: If every person in the world makes one small change in their lives, the global impact would be enormous!
So I have no excuse not to make small changes to improve the environment around me and neither do you! Together, we can impact the world!
*Disclaimer: Some of the below ideas may not be possible at this time due to health regulations in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (e.g. coffee shops are not accepting reusable travel mugs at this time to prevent cross-contamination). Always follow the advice of your local health authorities. However, you can place these ideas on the backburner until we see a return to normal.
101+ Tips to Live Green
To make it easier for you, I have broken down the ideas into sections based seven core values, as stated in my Vision, Mission and Values:
- Rethink purchase choices
- Refuse single use
- Reduce consumption
- Reuse everything until it can’t be used anymore
- Repair old stuff before replacing it
- Repurpose something old into something new
- Recycle when all other options have been exhausted
Rethink Purchase and Investment Choices
- Rethink your purchase decisions before buying something. Ask yourself if you really need it.
- Before buying an item, find out what it’s made out of so you can make an informed purchase decision.
- If you have trouble with overspending, take only the amount of cash you need when shopping and leave your credit card at home to ensure you don’t spend beyond your means.
- Cancel your credit cards and use only cash to ensure you spend within your means (again, only if you have difficulty with overspending).
- Choose to buy quality items. These may be more expensive, but will save you money in the long run because quality items will last longer than cheaply made items. In addition, quality items will be worth repairing instead of replacing.
- Choose to buy local. This reduces the amount of fuel that will be used during shipping and transportation. If you’re unable to pick up your purchase, ask the shop owner if they have a home delivery option.
- Choose to buy handmade quality products.
- Choose to buy products that are sustainably-sourced and fair trade, such as coffee and tea, free range and organic, etc.
- Choose to replace plastic products with compostable products, such as bamboo toothbrushes.
- Support companies that have a clear environmental plan to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Ask/Petition your local grocery store to reduce wasteful packaging.
- Ask/Petition large manufacturing companies to change their packaging methods to reduce wasteful packaging and eliminate plastic (e.g. chip bags, electronic manufacturers, etc.).
- Invest in tree replanting projects.
- Invest in ocean cleanup projects.
- Invest in experience gifts for family and friends instead of giving physical gifts, such as a movie or a spa treatment.
- Invest your time as a gift to family and friends instead of giving physical gifts, such as hosting a girl’s movie night or doing chores for a spouse or parent.
- Opt out of gift exchanges, especially at Christmas, to avoid the giving and receiving of unwanted gifts.
- Choose to cook your own meals at home instead of eating out.
- Choose to live simply and frugally.
- Downsize your home, your possessions and your lifestyle. Ask yourself this: Do you really need a massive house and/or lots of stuff? Does your stuff bring you joy and happiness, or make you feel stressed and your home cluttered?
- Make a meal plan and grocery list prior to grocery shopping and only buy items that you need for the week to ensure you don’t waste food.
Refuse Single Use
- Refuse to buy plastic in any form wherever possible. That means no plastic wrap, no sandwich baggies, no water bottles, etc.
- Refuse takeout and bring your own lunch to work instead.
- Refuse to buy plastic-wrapped grocery items, wherever possible (such as plastic-wrapped meat, plastic-bagged fresh produce, etc).
- Refuse plastic straws in your drinks and use only compostable straws or reusable glass or metal straws.
- Don’t buy junk food. Your body doesn’t need it anyway.
- Refuse to buy a Christmas tree. Instead, decorate a tree in your yard or make a tree from repurposed materials.
- Take pictures of beautiful flowers instead of buying or picking them.
- Choose to grow wildflowers in your yard instead of buying them for special occasions. Wildflowers also benefit the honey bees.
- Replace disposable shaving razors with an electric shaving razor.
- Refuse single use toothpaste tubes and plastic toothbrushes provided by your dentist after your annual cleaning.
- Don’t mow the dandelions in your yard so the bees can use them as a food source.
- Refuse to cut down trees in your yard, unless they’re diseased. Instead, plant new trees to house birds and other wildlife.
- Use loose leaf tea instead of tea bags. Did you know that most commercially-packaged tea bags are not compostable because they’re made from tiny microplastics?
- Don’t use wrapping paper or plastic cellophane to wrap gifts. Instead use gift wrapping alternatives, such as old bed sheets or reusable bags.
- Refuse soft drinks and choose to drink water instead. Your body will thank you for not ingesting all that extra sugar, which is bad for your health anyway.
- Don’t litter. Put your trash in the appropriate compost, recycling and garbage bins.
- Bring your own reusable grocery bags to the grocery store to avoid using plastic bags.
- Subscribe to e-flyers from the stores you shop most at and sign up to stop printed flyers from being delivered to your home. Most of these flyers get tossed in the recycling bin anyway.
- Refuse freebies if you don’t need them, such as pens and coffee cups that many companies hand out as promotional materials. This stops the production of products at the source and reduces clutter in your home.
- Don’t print and hand out business cards or refuse to accept business cards. Most business cards are thrown in the trash before the customer even walks out the door. Instead, print your contact information on a small poster and encourage customers to take a picture of your business “card.” Or create an e-business card that you can text or email to customers so they can save it in their contacts.
- Use paper bags instead of plastic garbage bags. If you’re composting, you won’t have damp items in your garbage, so you won’t have to worry about leaks.
- Buy food staples in bulk to reduce wasteful package, such as a 10 kilogram bag of flour versus a 2 kilogram bag. If stored properly, flour and other food staples will last a long time, which also saves you from having to go to the grocery store more often.
- If you need smaller quantities of an item, such as nuts, dried fruit or chocolate for baking, buy them from the bulk section in the grocery store. In addition, bring your own reusable container to store bulk items instead of using plastic bags.
- Reduce your meat consumption.
- Preserve excess fresh produce by canning it or freezing it to use later in baking, sauces or casseroles.
- Bake your own bread and store it in a bread box or reusable bread bag. If mixing and kneading dough is not your thing, breadmaker appliances make breadmaking even easier nowadays and you can schedule the bread to bake fresh first thing in the morning. Or try a no-knead bread recipe.
- Pack lunches and leftovers in reusable containers instead of plastic bags or cling wrap.
- Fill your own reusable water bottle (preferably one made out of metal or glass, not plastic).
- If you must buy filtered water because your water isn’t safe to drink (particularly for those who live out in the country and may have a contaminated well), fill gallon jugs at a water filling station, such as Culligan Water or at your local grocery store.
- Take a foraging course or read a book about foraging. Then test your knowledge by foraging for wild foods and herbs in nearby forests. *Note: don’t take more than you can eat or use to ensure there’s plenty of food left for the wild animals.
- Plant a garden and grow your own fruits and vegetables instead of buying fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.
- Pick and use fruit from fruit trees in your yard and/or neighborhood (with permission from your neighbours, of course) instead of buying fruit from the grocery store.
- Use reusable napkins instead of paper napkins.
- Use reusable diapers for your baby.
- Make your own cleaning supplies from non-toxic ingredients, such as baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice and store in a glass container (try this recipe). This will help to reduce the amount of toxic cleaning supplies that are produced in wasteful, plastic packaging.
- Make your own reusable makeup remover wipes from cut-up old towels (see tutorial here) or purchase reusable wipes from a local maker.
- Make your own shampoo and conditioner bars (try these recipes: Coconut Shampoo Bar and Natural Conditioner Bar).
- Make your own homemade bar soap (try these recipes: Coffee Bean Soap or Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Soap).
- Make your own toothpaste from natural ingredients (try this recipe or this recipe).
- Make your own body lotion and store in a glass jar, such as Gingerbread Body Butter.
- Make your own natural lip balm (try this recipe).
- Make your own deodorant, such as Sage and Lavender Deodorant.
- Ladies, use a reusable menstrual cup instead of pads or tampons to reduce plastic waste.
- Install a bidet in your bathroom to replace toilet paper.
- Make your own laundry detergent and store in a glass jar (try this recipe).
- Make your own reusable dryer sheets (see this tutorial).
- Make your own wool dryer balls (see this tutorial).
- Line dry clothes instead of using the dryer.
- Buy a reusable Christmas tree instead of cutting down a live tree (some environmentalists will tell you to buy a real Christmas tree over an artificial tree because an artificial tree is made of plastic; however, I personally don’t agree with the idea of cutting down a tree for one-time use, so I make an exception to buy a plastic artificial tree which will last for the duration of my life or longer if it’s well-maintained).
- Make your own reusable Christmas tree from garland or wood (see my step-by-step tutorial here).
- Buy ebooks or digital copies of movies instead of physical copies.
- Open your curtains in winter to warm your home by natural sunlight, and close them in summer to keep your home cool.
- In summer, leave your windows open overnight and in the early morning to cool your home without using air conditioning. Close the windows before the air warms up to conserve the cool air and use fans to circulate it.
- Cook outside in summer to keep the house cool.
- Use natural sunlight wherever possible to light your home in lieu of turning on the lights.
- Turn off the lights whenever you’re not in a room.
- Unplug appliances and electronics that are not in use to conserve electricity.
- Convert your home to hydro-powered electric heat in lieu of gas heat.
- Install solar panels to power or heat your home.
- Ensure your home is properly insulated to reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Walk or cycle to work instead of drive a car.
- Take public transit instead of drive a car.
- If you must drive, organize a carpool.
- Don’t let your car idle longer than necessary.
Reuse Everything Until It Can’t Be Used Anymore
- Buy clothing secondhand from garage sales or thrift stores instead of buying new. You’ll help to reduce the production of new items and save money at the same time.
- Buy books, music and movies secondhand instead of brand new.
- Buy secondhand furniture and give them a makeover to match your home decor.
- Crafters, purchase your craft supplies and tools secondhand or borrow from other crafters wherever possible.
- Regrow food scraps in reusable containers, such as lettuce and green onions (for more info, see “7 Ways You Can Regrow Food Scraps”).
- Reuse vegetable food scraps to make vegetable broth.
- Reuse fruit food scraps to make homemade jam.
- Reuse boxes, bags and bubble wrap that you received from a gift or an item you had shipped to your home. Use it to wrap another gift or ship an item.
- Reuse disposable plastic containers or aluminum cans as storage containers or desktop organizers, such as this Tuna Can Swing Out Storage Tower.
Repair Old Stuff before Replacing It
- Repair items that breakdown instead of replacing them with new items, such as appliances and furniture.
- Repair clothes with holes, missing buttons or frayed hems before throwing them away or repurposing them.
- Bring worn down shoes to a cobbler for repair.
- Repair your electronics before replacing them with a newer model. Sometimes it just needs a simple clean, but for more complicated repairs, check YouTube or contact your local electronics store for assistance.
Repurpose Old Into New
- Repurpose old items into something new and useful, such as mason jar lid coasters.
- Upcycle items at the end of their life into a work of art. For example, turn your grandmother’s old handkerchiefs and doilies into wall art (see this tutorial).
- Weave plastic bags into decorative baskets or reusable bags.
- If clothing can no longer be repaired, reuse it for other purposes, such as bags or rugs (try these ideas).
- Decorate your home using deadfall from nature, such as a birch branches, pine cones, rocks, or driftwood. Try making this Driftwood Orb or make a Branch Coat Rack.
- Don’t throw away old towels at the end of their life. Use them as cleaning rags.
- Make your own reusable grocery bags from recycled items, such as old T-shirts (try this No-Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag Tutorial).
- Make your own reusable produce bags from mesh produce bags to avoid using those flimsy plastic produce bags in the grocery store (see this tutorial).
- Use handkerchiefs made from old clothing to replace disposable facial tissues.
Recycle When All Options Have Been Exhausted
- Educate yourself on items that can and can’t be recycled. The blog, “Greener is the New Black” has a great informative 3-part article on recycling (see the blog post here).
- Ensure that items you recycle are properly washed to prevent contamination.
- Return old and broken electronics to recycling centres for proper disposal.
- Return old paint cans to recycling centres for proper disposal.
- Return expired medications to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
- Return plastic bags to grocery stores that have a plastic bag recycling program.
- Pick up litter on your daily walks and recycle it or repurpose it.
- Compost food scraps. See “A Beginner’s Guide to Composting” by Greener is the New Black.
I’m sure there are many more ideas you can try that I haven’t listed above, but this list gives you a starting place. How do you plan to start your own green living journey? Reply in the comments below.
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