10 EASY Tips for Sustainable Living

I thank my friend Gail for forwarding me this excellent article on how we can all lighten our impact on Mother Earth.  By adopting Bea Johnson’s suggestions, we will use less fossil fuel, thereby decreasing our carbon emissions that are warming the planet.
In addition to dramatically reducing the amount of waste her household generates, Ms. Johnson also reports such benefits as significant savings of money, improved health, and more time with her family.  I call this a win-win outcome.
From my first reading of Ms. Johnson’s article, I’ve decided to put drier lint (from those rainy days when I can’t hang the laundry outside) into the compost bin, rather than in the trash can.  I will also try her homemade shampoo of baking soda and vinegar.  If it works, I will be able to cut back on plastic (made from petroleum) and save money.
I am interested in hearing from EARTH CONNECTION readers about your own experience if you try any of Bea Johnson’s 10 tips.–April Moore 
posted Sep 14, 2011


Grocery cart photo by Bruce Turner

Photo by Bruce Turner.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted a better world for our two boys, now 10 and 11 years old. We embarked on a journey to do our part for the environment: My husband quit his job to join a sustainability start-up; I tackled the home.

I started by adopting reusable water bottles and shopping totes, but slowly took it further by replacing disposables with reusables (toilet paper excluded), shopping in bulk with cloth bags, bringing glass containers to the store for wet items (meat, deli, fish, cheese, oil…), and even testing more extreme ideas, like shampooing with baking soda and vinegar for 6 months. A year’s worth of our household solid waste now fits in a quart size jar.

What we discovered along the way is that the benefits of the zero-waste lifestyle go well beyond the obvious environmental impact. It has not only made us healthier (since the healthiest foods do not come packaged), but it has also saved us a great deal of money. Most importantly, we now have more time to do the things that matter most to us, like spending it with our kids.

We find that we have become a closer and happier family in the process. We have found balance without compromising our goals, aesthetics, or sanity. Zero-waste living is on auto-pilot.

The zero in “zero waste” makes it sound scary and hard to achieve. It is actually not as as hard as it seems, and it is as simple as following these five R’s, in order:

  • Refuse what you do not need.
  • Reduce what you do need.
  • Reuse by using reusables.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
  • Rot (compost) the rest.

1. Fight junk mail. It’s not just a waste of resources, but also of time. Register to receive less at  www.catalogchoice.org.

2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another “free” pen?

3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.

4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.

5. Swap disposables for reusables (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.

6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market.

7. Know your city’s recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.

8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).

9. Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).

10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you’ll be to use it freely.

An attempt at going zero waste starts with small changes. It’s within anyone’s reach, and change starts at home.

Bea Johnson wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions for a just and sustainable world. Bea blogs at The Zero Waste Home, where she shares personal stories and waste-reducing tips with a growing community of people are taking a stance on needless waste.

6 Responses to “10 EASY Tips for Sustainable Living”

  1. Patsy Wagner Says:

    April, I’m curious to know the proportions for the baking soda and vinegar shampoo. I would like to hear how the recipe works for you.

  2. Katharine Layton Says:

    These are very useful ideas! My offering is to try washing your face with honey. My daughter Kate taught me this, and it works. Honey is a natural anti-microbial, removes oils and dirt, and its best attribute is that it will not cause that terrible disappointing gush of oils your skin responds with at around the 2 week mark of trying yet another commercial oily skin cleaning product. I think it is good for all skin types, and I almost forgot to mention that it is the tastiest cleanser you’d ever want!

  3. Maggie Cissel Says:

    Very good ideas. Didn’t know about lint in the compost. Interested in the shampoo recipe.

  4. Hank Says:

    Here are a few more easy things to do: turn down the thermostat by 1 or 2 degrees. You will hardly notice it but you will save on your bill. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. Always turn out the lights when you are not in the room.
    Be sure all your windows are latched when the A/C is on. Consider pulling shades on windows that get direct sunlight.
    Check your tire pressure in your car tires, it makes a substantial difference in mileage if your pressure is low. Get the junk out of your trunk. Heavier car = lower mileage. Take your boat hitch off when you don’t need it. Remove your ski, surf and bike racks when you don’t need them. Drag makes for less mileage.

  5. Kevin R. Holly Says:

    Very interesting! This blog always had interesting things.

  6. Carolee Caccavale Says:

    You have got to get these grocery guide ebooks – http://www.foodsniffr.com/clean_eating_grocery_list.html

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