Many people today are aware of the damage their everyday choices do to the environment.
We hear the ‘broad strokes’ all the time. Use less, don’t waste, reverse climate change, pick up litter, plant more trees, but what does it all mean, and where can you start?
Whether your goal is to live an ‘eco-friendly’ life, or just save money, I have plenty of tips to help you brush up on your green credentials.
Global plastic consumption is a hot topic these days, so it strikes me as good a place as any to start.
From the pollution caused by its manufacture to the countless tonnes of plastic bottles sloshing around in our oceans, the plastic pollution numbers are staggering!
With a bit of careful daily planning, we can all dramatically reduce our plastic usage. Here are 14 ways I’ve already started to wean myself off my addiction to plastic.
Clingfilm is great to store food in, but it comes with a big carbon footprint. Ditch the plastic wrap and opt for more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as beeswax wrap.
The next time you’re in the market for a new toothbrush perhaps consider one made from bamboo rather than plastic.
The next time you run out of product, keep the bottle and buy an ‘eco-friendly refill pouch. These pouches use much less plastic and are widely recycled. They also weigh less which mean they produce fewer emissions during shipping.
If you find yourself in a situation where the only option is single-use, try to go for a compostable option.
Buy some ‘eco-friendly’ grocery bags and ensure that you have one in every bag or coat that you would use when shopping. If you have an old plastic bag, keep reusing it until it falls apart and then recycle responsibly.
Made of plant-based or recyclable materials, biodegradable trash bags are much more ‘eco-friendly’ than their plastic counterparts. Look for ones that are 100% compostable and BPI certified.
There are few options when it comes to recycling razors in the U.S. That is why two billion razors and refills are tossed in the trash every year in the U.S. Opt for a hardwearing metal handle and ‘green’ refills to fit with your ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle.
Plastic clothes pegs suck. They’re terrible for the planet and break easily. Investing in some high-quality wire ones might set you back a few extra bucks, but they will give potentially give you decades of faithful service.
Stop buying expensive bottled water. It’s bad for the plant and your wallet. Get a good quality reusable water bottle, fill it with tap water, and use it daily.
Ditch the plastic dryer balls and sheets for ones made from 100% natural ingredients, such as sheep’s wool. They help conserve energy and money by reducing the drying time.
This is one tip I use daily. I LOVE green tea and sip on it throughout most days. I was shocked a few years ago to discover the amount of plastic lurking in the average tea bags, so I switched to loose leaf tea and a diffuser teapot. Total gamechanger! The tea tastes amazing, and it’s more environmentally friendly. It now really is ‘green’ tea. Sorry!
As my lovely nan used to say “never put anything bigger than your elbow in your ear”, so why do we use so many cotton buds every year. Single-use. Bad for the planet. Could potentially damage your hearing.
My daughters are militant about this one! Every friend they see using a plastic straw gets ‘the talk’. I’m the less militant type, but you should definitely consider buying a set of stainless steel straws to add to your reusable cutlery drawer. Or, simply drink directly from the cup.
When grabbing a quick bite at the mall, avoid the disposable cutlery on offer by always carrying a reusable wooden set in your bag or coat.
The things we do with, and in, our house can significantly impact the planet. Fortunately, there are many ways we reduce that impact.
The average U.S. household used around 77 million British thermal units (Btu), at the cost of nearly $2,000, in 2015. That is approximately 50% more than the average car would use in the same period.
With this in mind, it’s clear that your choice of energy source is vital if you want to make your house more ‘eco-friendly’.
Switching your supplier to one that’s 100% renewable is also a great way to access renewable energy with minimal effort.
Using ‘green’ energy is awesome, but reducing your energy consumption is even better. Here are a few ways I like to save energy, and a few bucks, around the house:
Batteries contain toxic chemicals so we need to do as much as we can to prevent them from finding their way into the trash and eventually landfill.
A good alternative to single-use batteries is rechargeable ones. They can be recharged and reused many hundreds of times and so are thrown away much less often.
When you do need to dispose of any type of battery please do so in a responsible fashion. Home Depot, Lowe's, and Staples all offer free battery recycling.
Most mainstream cleaning products contain numerous ingredients that affect the environment in a harmful way. Wherever possible, you should try to switch to cleaning products that contain no synthetic ingredients.
It’s not just the products, it’s also what you clean with. Single-use paper towels, for example, take a significant toll on the environment. Instead, look for more sustainable options such as cloth towels and natural cellulose sponges.
Take care of yourself and the planet by opting for beauty products that are free of harsh chemical and genetically modified ingredients.
I have a sensitive scalp so have always looked for non-synthetic ingredients when shopping for shampoo. Better for my health and better for the planet.
A 2019 NRDC report highlighted “how Americans are flushing forests down the toilet”.
To help play your part in reversing this consumption of trees, consider using a 100% recycled brand or items made from more sustainable sources, such as bamboo.
It takes a staggering amount of natural resources to produce the meat that goes on your plate. Bringing a single steak to your plate consumes approximately the same amount of water as a seven-hour shower!
Popular types of fish are overharvested in order to meet the demand. This can put undue pressure on marine ecosystems. If your budget allows, always look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal of approval.
According to the USDA, between 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted.
Only buy and cook what you need. Keep any leftovers for lunch the following day, or freeze for another meal.
Start simple with salad items and then progress as your confidence grows. It doesn’t get more local than your own yard or community garden, and the cost savings can really start to add up too.
Get a compost bin for those times when you really have no choice but to dispose of food. This will give you natural fertilizer for your garden and also reduce the strain on landfill sites.
To keep as many resources out of landfill sites as possible, we must try to play our part and implement the three R's of waste management:
A typical American household gets through 300 gallons of water per day.
With just a few mindful changes to your daily routine, you can really start to drive that number down. Here are 13 of my favorites:
Get all your bills sent to you via text, email, online account, etc. One less thing to shred and recycle.
You now have a better idea of how to be more ‘eco-friendly’ at home, but what about when you’re out and about?
Personally, I hate a trip to the shops. However, my wife and kids love it. So, how can they hit the mall and remain as ‘eco-friendly as possible?
This is one of my favorites because it means I don’t have to leave the house or even get properly dressed if I don’t want to.
One van can deliver multiple orders on the same trip. The grocery store will plan the daily delivery route to make it the most fuel-efficient it can be.
You can also request that the groceries are packed loose in big reusable trays. This eliminates the need for plastic bags.
With some corporations spending millions to greenwash their products, how can you be sure you are buying a product that fits your ideals?
I always look for products that have been approved or endorsed by official bodies. Here are a few you can trust:
My wife is a bit of a magpie when it comes to shiny things, especially gold shiny things. She is the eco-conscious queen of our environmentally friendly castle and hates the idea that her love of jewelry is bad for the planet. That is why she now shuns the new stuff and goes for vintage or recycled gold products. Reducing the demand drives down the need for new mines to be created.
To help you lead a more ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle you might want to do an audit of your current food choices.
Ethically sourced and humanely produced foods are better for the planet, the livestock, and us. They can also make a huge difference to your own personal environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide emissions.
Wherever possible buy your groceries loose and pack them in your own reusable bags made from ‘eco-friendly’ materials instead of plastic bags from the store. This is a great way to further reduce your plastic waste.
Buying local is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the transportation of food. A local farmer's market, for example, can be an Aladdin’s cave of delicious produce grown in your own State.
Buying seasonal is another great habit to get into. If you’re buying fruit that is not in season in the U.S. then the chances are they've been grown in an industrial greenhouse that uses a huge amount of resources.
Buying lots of the same item can be ‘greener’ in the long run (fewer trips to the store, etc) and can save you money. Make sure you actually need everything you’ve bulk bought though to avoid wastage.
If you live alone or don’t have the need to bulk buy, maybe ask around your neighborhood and get together a big monthly grocery store shopping list so you all make savings.
Sit down at the start of the week and plan all your meals. This gives you a better idea of exactly what you need from the store and helps you buy only what you need. This saves money and reduces waste.
My tribe of happy shoppers love snapping up eco-friendly bargains thrift stores and flea markets. Giving a new lease of life to second-hand items is a no-brainer in my eyes. Save us money and help keep perfectly good items out of the landfill.
The next time you need a piece of furniture consider recycled or reclaimed materials.
We have a lovely coffee table made from reclaimed wood. It’s full of holes, scratches, dents, etc, and looks all the better for it.
There are plenty of YouTube videos if you fancy learning how to stitch and sew.
Learning these simple skills will keep your clothes in tiptop condition for longer and reduce the need for new ones.
This doesn’t just apply to clothes. The more things around the house you can learn to fix the less you will throw away.
Buy the highest-quality version you can afford. Cheap goods are usually cheap for a reason. That reason is usually poor quality materials and workmanship.
Spending an extra few dollars on the next grill up in the range, for example, might just be the difference between it lasting years and it lasting decades.
A good general rule to follow is to choose natural fibers over synthetics. For example, organic cotton is a much better choice than polyester. It feels much nicer when worn and doesn’t contain harmful microplastics that come out in the wash and eventually end up in the ocean.
Natural fibers are also easier to recycle and biodegrade faster than synthetics.
Using ethical clothing brands (such as Kent, Harvest & Mill and Tradlands) is a good way to guarantee that every item you buy has not exploited the workforce nor the planet.
Choose bamboo fiber cleaning cloths ahead of the more popular microfiber cloths to reduce your microplastic use even further.
Being a dad of two daughters means I know a thing or two about trends (anyone remember loom bands!?) and the fear of missing out (FOMO).
When buying the next ‘must-have’ item it might be worth stepping back for a second and asking yourself “will I still want this item in six months?”. If the answer is no, then maybe spend your money elsewhere.
Our place of work is probably where most of us spend a good chunk of the day. Therefore, if we want to live a truly ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle we need to consider work as well as home.
There are many small things we can all do at work that really start to add up and create a sustainable working environment.
More and more Americans are discovering the benefits of remote working.
This is mostly due to COVID-19 (be honest, who had heard of Zoom before the pandemic?) but now corporations are beginning to understand the cost-saving benefits of having a workforce at home.
It’s a win-win really. Saving money for the boss and the plant for the grandchildren.
Do you get through mountains of books, magazines, newspapers to pass the time commuting to and from work? Switch to reading on your phone, tablet, laptop and take reams of paper use out of your everyday life.
Apps such as Apple Books, Bookly, Madefire, Kindle, and Scribd give you access to more books, magazines, and newspapers than you could even finish.
A vast amount of paper is lost every year to unnecessary printing in workplaces across the U.S. Always try to question whether or not a hard copy is strictly necessary.
For example, save paper and reduce your carbon footprint by signing documents digitally.
Leave the SUV at home. There are many ways you can commute to work and keep an eye on your carbon footprint at the same time. Such as:
Treat your boss’s energy bill as you would your own. Turn things off when they’re not being used.
If employee canteens offered recyclable food containers for you to bag up your leftovers to take home it would dramatically reduce food wastage.
This doesn’t have to stop at work. The next time you order takeout, for example, request that the chef uses your own reusable containers.
If drinking takeout coffee is a part of your daily routine, carry a reusable coffee cup in your bag.
Ditch the memory sticks and external drives, most of which can’t be recycled, and use cloud-based storage services instead. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud are all trusted services.
Children spend a significant chunk of their childhood at school, so helping them to make ‘eco-friendly’ choices when they’re there is a key lesson.
If we teach our children to be mindful of their school traffic choices they will instinctively make better commuting decisions as adults.
Students have to take lots of notes. That can result in them consuming significant resources, especially pens and paper. Investing in an ethically produced laptop or tablet would save an incredible amount of paper and plastic pens over the course of their schooling life.
When prepared a packed lunch ditch the single-use paper bags and opt instead for reusable containers or environmentally friendly reusable sandwich bags.
Younger students, in particular, grow out of their uniforms at an alarming rate. Don’t throw old uniforms away because they’re too small. Keep them in storage for a younger sibling, or donate to someone who needs it.
With COVID-19 restrictions slowly easing, and many of us looking forward to a much-needed holiday, how can we enjoy our time away and remain ‘eco-friendly’?
When your home gadgets are in standby mode they’re still consuming energy. It might only be a small amount compared to when they’re on, but if you’re going to be away for two weeks it’s simply a waste.
Unplug all non-essential appliances from the wall before you travel.
Getting clean sheets and fluffy new towels every day is a new luxury when staying away. However, is the cost to the planet really worth it?
Re-using your towels for an extra day or two, and getting your sheets changes once a week will help you keep up your ‘eco-friendly’ credentials on the road.
Think about your journey. Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. air travel are growing at a faster rate than previously predicted.
Clearly, when traveling overseas you might have no other option but to fly. However, when taking a domestic trip it might be better to drive or take the train.
The more you pack the more fuel it’ll take to move your luggage to your destination. Be mindful of what you pack and maybe even consider a range of super-light, ‘sustainable’, luggage.
When looking at potential accommodation options you should keep an eye out for the Green Key certification.
In order to become Green Key certified establishments need to meet a set of high standard environmental requirements, so you can sleep easy with your eco-conscious clear.
I’m mildly obsessed with food, so where I’m eating on vacation is important. Whenever possible I like to support local restaurants that attempt to limit, or even eliminate, food waste.
I also like to support the local economy by swerving the big chain restaurants in favor of small independent establishments.
When planning your daily itinerary, ensure you’re not causing damage to the local environment.
If you’re on a hiking vacation, for example, take extra care to plan your routes to avoid areas that you could damage by walking through them.
Avoid visiting zoos and attractions that exploit animals. Try to seek out conservation projects and view the animals in their natural habitat.
If you must fly then try to do some extra research and find the most fuel-efficient airline that flies to your destination.
Skip the occasional lunch, or hold dessert, and use the money you save to support a project that plants trees to offset the carbon footprint of your trip.
This applies domestically as well as internationally. Dropping litter a lazy habit we should all try to avoid.
Keep all your litter and dispose of it responsibly at the hotel. Or, better still, pack your snacks and drinks in your own containers to keep litter to an absolute minimum.
For some, trying the local delicacies is a huge part of the vacation experience. For the sake of endangered species please do your research before you travel so you know what you can and can’t eat.
The same applies to souvenirs, be careful that you’re not inadvertently supporting the illegal animal trade by purchasing ivory jewelry, for example.
I’m coming to the end of the article now and I hope I’ve given you food for thought for you to continue your ’eco-friendly’ journey with us here at The Roundup.
Before I wrap things up I have a few more general tips that I feel might interest you.
Tampons and sanitary pads are single-use items so not at all ‘eco-friendly.
One big change you might want to consider is swapping your single-use brand for a menstrual cup. This is a silicone cup that catches all the blood. It can be cleaned reused each month.
This is one that slips under the radar a bit but is still worth considering.
Give the gift of ‘eco-friendly during the holidays and ensure that everything under the tree is wrapped in sustainable gift wrap or recyclable paper. This will enable the recipient to recycle the wrap rather than putting it in the trash.
Clearly replacing your car or SUV is a big expense, and I’m certainly not advising you to do it unnecessarily. However, when you’re next in the market for new wheels, maybe swerve the gas guzzlers and look at ‘greener’ alternatives.
The range of electric cars available these days is growing all the time. Some even come with government subsidies to make them more appealing to the wallet.
If it’s not time for a new car yet you can still play your part by making sure you look after it. Properly maintaining your car will make a huge difference to fuel efficiency and the level of emissions it produces.
Instead of just throwing them in the trash, take a close look at exactly what you receive in the mail and cancel anything you don’t need.
Even if you’re shredding and recycling all unwanted mail, it’s still more environmentally conscious to never produce them in the first place.
We all use many more chemicals than we actually realize, especially around the garden. Try to limit your use of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides.
When it comes to disposing of chemicals (paint, fertilizers, insecticides, cleaning products etc) do so in a responsible fashion at an approved site.
A: If you break it down into small chunks, and take in one industry at a time, it should technically be possible to live in a 100% sustainable world. The WWF has, for example, looked into 100% sustainable timber markets.
A: It’s generally considered that the most sustainable ways to get water are rainwater harvesting, reclaimed water, and desalinization.
A: Sustainable practices in the U.S. include crop rotation, green space, sustainable construction, and clean energy.
A: According to Harvard University, there are three main reasons to avoid bottled water.
A: According to Wikipedia, a sustainable city is “designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact (commonly referred to as the triple bottom line), and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same”
Copenhagen, Portland (Oregon), Singapore and Lisbon (Portugal) are examples of cities currently working towards this goal.
I hope I’ve given you food for thought.
I don’t feel like our future is already written. I don’t feel like climate change is irreversible. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten ourselves into a hopeless situation. YET!
Whilst there are people in the world prepared to make small changes every day that have a big overall impact, there IS still hope.
In the words of Canadian academic and environmental activist, David Suzuki: “In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”