150+ easy steps anyone can take to live a more sustainable lifestyle
by Lindsay Karlsen
Founder of VALYOS, mother of two Boston Terriers, wife and tree hugger.
Starting on the journey to a more sustainable lifestyle can seem quite overwhelming. There are a lot of things you can change, but the question of where to begin doesn’t have a simple answer. It doesn’t matter where you start though, just that you get started. Every little change will make a difference.
I’ve compiled a list with the easiest steps you can take. It's by far not complete but hope you can find some inspiration. If you'd like to download the list, you can do so here.
16 ways to save electricity
- Open up all the curtains and blinds during the day to get as much sunlight in as possible.
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- When your lightbulbs go, replace them with LEDs.
- Light candles and turn off the lights when you’re having dinner or relaxing in the lounge in the evening. There’s something magical about that too.
- Turn off all electronics on standby before going to bed. Things like the TV, Wi-Fi box, laptop, microwave etc. Of course, leave your freezer and fridge on.
- Have one TV free evening during the week and spend it on playing a board game, being creative or reading a book.
- If it’s chilly, put on a jumper instead of turning the heating on or cuddle up under a warm blanket.
- If it’s too warm, open up your windows and get a breeze going.
- Wear your clothes for longer before you wash them.
- Hang your clothes to dry instead of using a tumble dryer.
- Dry your hair less and minimise your use of hair styling electronics.
- Sweep with a broom on wooden floors, in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Fill your fridge and freezer as they will use less energy to keep things cold. It doesn’t have to be with food but can be a jug of water or with scrap paper in empty spaces.
- Defrost frozen food in the fridge. It will keep the fridge cool and use less energy.
- Don’t boil a full kettle, if you’re not planning on using all the water.
- Put a lid on pots and pans when cooking to conserve energy.
9 ways to save water
- Don’t leave the tap running.
- Time your showers.
- Hand wash your clothes, when possible.
- Use a dishwasher, but only turn it on when it’s completely full.
- Steam vegetables rather than boil. It uses less water and is a lot yummier and healthier.
- When rinsing vegetables, collect the water and use to water your plants.
- Leftover water in the tea kettle and from boiling eggs and vegetables can also be left to cool down and used to water plants.
- Collect rainwater to water the garden.
- Water your garden early morning or late evening, to allow for the water to reach the roots. If watered throughout the day a lot will evaporate due to heat and sunlight.
14 ways to cut down on disposable plastic
- Avoid buying frozen food. It's mostly packed in plastic.
- Give up gum. It’s made of synthetic rubber, which is plastic.
- Get a stainless-steel water bottle. Not only does it cut down on your plastic waste, but it also keeps the water cool for hours.
- Make your own juices from freshly squeezed fruit.
- Invest in a high quality, sustainably made reusable coffee cup. Fill up at home with coffee or tea or bring it to a coffee shop. Most places will fill it up for you.
- When buying drinks, choose glass bottles over plastic.
- Say no to straws, coffee stirrers and disposable cutlery.
- Choose items with less packaging.
- Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in an electric lighter.
- Switch your razor to one made of metal.
- Make your own non-toxic cleaning products.
- Get a tote bag and bring it with you every time you go shopping to avoid buying plastic bags.
- If you order something online, send the company an email first and ask if they can deliver with plastic free packaging.
- Buy plants and flowers in ceramic pots.
16 ways to save paper
- Use recycled paper.
- When printing, try to print on both sides whenever possible.
- Replace paper napkins with reusable ones.
- Use cloths to wipe up spillages.
- Carry a handkerchief with you so you don’t need disposable tissues.
- Swap out your normal toilet paper with recycled paper and plastic-free packaging.
- Turn down receipts when shopping, and ask for one to be sent by email, if you wish to keep a record.
- Put up a No Junk Mail sign on your door.
- Where possible, opt in to receive letters by email and not by post.
- Cut up used envelopes and save unused pieces for note-taking, shopping lists or craft-making.
- Reuse paper as long as you can. If you are writing a shopping list and there’s still lots of space left on the note, then cross out what you bought and keep using it till it’s full.
- Use your phone to write notes on.
- Send electronic invitations for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
- Borrow books from friends, from a library or buy books second hand. If you want to read a new book, then buy it as an e-book.
- Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions and read them online.
- Donate old magazines to a hairdresser, doctor or dentist.
12 ways to reduce waste
- Shop at farmers markets and zero waste shops, where you can bring your own bags and containers.
- Get a growler and go to your local brewery to refill with beer.
- Cook more at home with fresh produce and make extra portions for lunch the next day. This way you won’t be tempted to grab a sandwich on the go, and it’ll save you a lot of money too.
- Drink loose leaf tea.
- Order fewer takeaways.
- Save the cut-offs from fruit and vegetables. Juice them or use to make stock.
- Start composting. You can get a small composting box that fits on a kitchen counter, if you don’t have a garden.
- Store food in containers or in reusable, beeswax wraps rather than using foil and clingfilm.
- Save glass jars and reuse them for storage or arts and crafts projects.
- Purchase soap nuts for washing clothes. They are reusable and 100% biodegradable plus the trees, they grow on, converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. What’s not to love?
- If you’re having a clear out, then donate unwanted items to charity shops. They take anything from books, clothes, kitchen items, home décor, blankets, curtains, functioning electronics, sports equipment and so much more. Ask at your local charity shop if you are unsure what they will accept.
- Get some period panties or reusable pads for female hygiene.
14 ways to eat sustainably
- Cut down on your meat consumption. Start with one meat-free day a week.
- Buy organic or free-range.
- Buy sustainably sourced and non-endangered seafood and fish.
- Choose wonky-looking vegetables and fruit, as these are less likely to be purchased.Pick fruit from farms and in nature.
- Choose seasonal fruit and veg sourced locally.
- Pick fruit from farms and in nature.
- Grow your own herbs, tomatoes, chilis or other vegetables, that don’t require a lot of space.
- Avoid highly processed foods.
- Avoid food containing palm oil or at least choose brands using sustainably sourced palm.
- Plan your meals and do one big shop per week to minimize food waste and limit your carbon footprint, if you drive to the supermarket.
- Serve a meal on plates and leave the remaining food in the kitchen. This helps curb overeating.
- Freeze leftovers if you’re not planning on eating them the following day.
- Freeze meat, certain vegetables and bread if it’s getting near to its expiry date and you are not planning on eating it right away.
- Don’t go to all-you-can-eat buffets. A lot of the food gets binned.
12 ways to become a conscious shopper
- Rent or borrow for special occasions like birthdays, weddings or anniversaries.
- Before buying anything ask yourself if you really need it or if you already have something that can fill that need, if it gets fixed or changed.
- Plan ahead what you want to buy, so you don’t get tempted to buy something spontaneously.
- Don’t buy something just because you’re being offered a discount or free delivery when buying over a certain amount.
- Buy second hand or vintage.
- Research a brand and check labels and ingredients to be sure it’s made sustainably.
- Look for certifications like Organic and Fair Trade.
- Consider where an item ends up when it is no longer of use. Is it biodegradable or can it be recycled?
- Purchase from brands that offer repair services.
- Invest in good quality and timeless designs that will last for years.
- Avoid clothes with any new plastic in them. This includes polyester, nylon, fleece, rayon, organza, taffeta, spandex, lycra, elastane and acrylic.
- Support independent artisans.
12 ways to make your clothes last longer
- Wash per instructions.
- Wash sensitive items in a washbag.
- Always wash clothes inside out.
- Only wash when dirty or very smelly. Slightly smelly clothes can be hung out to air.
- Limit dry-cleaning as it often uses harsh chemicals.
- Steam instead of iron.
- Avoid the use of a tumble dryer and airdry. There’s less of a risk to shrink certain fabrics and heat is known to break down elasticity.
- Buy good quality wooden hangers to avoid stretching the shoulders of the garments.
- Fold up heavy items to avoid stretching.
- Store in a cool and dry place, where it can breathe, and moths are not able to access.
- Learn how to repair small holes and add buttons.
- Get a fabric shaver and remove the lint balls from your favourite items. They will look almost brand new afterwards.
12 ways to change your beauty routine
- Make your own face cleaners, masks and scrubs.
- Transition over to soap bars for shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
- Choose body scrubbers and washing mitts made from natural materials.
- Change your tooth paste to plastic-free and natural and swap out your toothbrush to a bamboo one.
- Use reusable and washable makeup remover pads and avoid facial wipes.
- Switch to natural deodorants.
- Use sustainably sourced natural oils for haircare.
- Start using eco-friendly home hair dyes or find a hairdresser, that uses these.
- Choose products with biodegradable, recyclable or reusable packaging.
- Avoid any toxic and harmful chemicals.
- Avoid cosmetics and facial scrubs with microbeads.
- Get an organic silk pillowcase. It’s better for your skin and hair.
10 ways to make sustainable choices for your baby
- Swap over to cloth diapers and reusable nursing pads. It reduces waste and saves you money too!
- Use natural diaper rash creams.
- Make your own baby food. It gives you full control over what your little one consumes.
- Choose pacifiers made from natural rubber.
- Get wooden baby teethers and wooden rattles.
- Ask relatives and friends with bigger kids, if they have anything your baby can inherit.
- Source second hand or organic clothing. Babies outgrow clothes so quickly, so they often don't wear clothes more than a few times.
- Join a toy library, buy second hand toys or buy toys made from natural materials.
- Decorate the nursery with second hand or upcycled furniture and décor.
- Buy a second hand buggy and car seat. Just ensure they function properly.
9 ways to be an eco-friendly pet parent
- Adopt. So many pets are looking for loving forever homes.
- Donate anything you're not using to local animal shelters.
- Turn your waste and old clothes into toys.
- Buy high quality, long-lasting toys.
- Choose recycled and organic over the conventional pet items.
- Choose cat litter made from recycled materials.
- Switch out your dog poo bags with biodegradable ones.
- Try out eco-friendly alternatives to flea and tick treatments. You can find organically-made shampoos and sprays or make your own.
- Bake homemade treats and cook meals or buy organic.
10 ways to give
- Reuse giftbags and wrapping paper.
- Create your own cards from recycled materials.
- Give an experience rather than a physical item.
- Plant a tree together.
- Donate to a charity in the gift receiver’s name.
- Offer to babysit. Guaranteed to go down well with most parents.
- Offer to help 1 day in the garden, painting a room or with other DIY projects.
- Bake a cake.
- Put together a sustainable lifestyle starter pack or spa pamper hamper with natural soaps, bath bombs, face masks etc.
- Give a beautiful plant (with care instructions).
6 ways to choose eco-friendly technology
- Once your batteries die out, switch to rechargeable batteries.
- Charge small electronics and batteries with a solar powered charger.
- If your electronics break, get them fixed. If they cannot be fixed and you need to replace them, look at buying second hand. If that’s not an option, then find an energy-efficient alternative.
- Install a programmable thermostat to save on heating.
- Store all your files, images and videos on a cloud, rather than on physical hard drives.
- Use Ecosia as your preferred search engine. They run on 100% renewable energy and donate some of their profits to planting trees.
7 ways to lower your transport footprint
- Walk when possible. Instead of taking the bus 1-2 stops, then walk that extra 10-20 minutes.
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can work up your fitness level.
- Get a second-hand bicycle and ride as much as possible to work, to the shops, when visiting friends and relatives.
- Take public transport more.
- Carpool to work or with friends when going to events.
- Drive efficiently, if you do drive, by going easy on the gas and brakes. Keep your car service up-to-date and check your tires, as low tire pressure will hurt your fuel economy.
- Looking to buy a car, then go for a second hand, electric or hybrid.
13 ways to travel responsibly
- Go camping.
- Reduce overseas travelling and explore your home country or neighbouring countries by car or better yet by train or bus.
- Choose self-catering over all-inclusive holidays. There’s so much food waste at all-inclusive hotels, so by making your own meals on your holiday you stop contributing to that.
- Many boutique hotels and holiday homes are implementing solar power, or other green initiatives. Stay at these over larger hotel chains.
- Bring your own eco-friendly toiletries and don’t use the “free” shampoos and soaps, that you can find in most hotels.
- Fly economy. It takes up less space on a plane, so you share the same fuel consumption with more passengers.
- Offset your carbon emissions. You can go to carbonfootprint.com, which allows you to calculate your footprint and offset it through international and community projects. Or book flights through FlyGRN, who offsets your carbon emissions with their revenue.
- Travel out of season to prevent straining resources.
- Discover a city by foot or on a bike-tour.
- Respect the places you visit, and don’t stray from paths. You could damage the natural environment.
- Don’t take beach sand, shells or anything of the kind with you home. It might seem harmless but if 1M people do this, it can leave places desolate.
- If you want to buy souvenirs, then question where the item has been made and how. Look for artisan made products, which can be identified by intricate details.
- Avoid animal entertainment like riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, petting cute animals or walking with lions.
13 ways to create an eco-friendly office
- Sign up for local recycling schemes and sort all recyclables.
- Remove all the small bins next to the office desks. It encourages everyone to dispose of their waste in the right recycling bins.
- Cancel water deliveries and install a smart water filter onto the kitchen tap.
- Invest in a good coffee machine to discourage takeaway coffees.
- Make sure there’s enough cutlery and kitchenware.
- Decorate the office with a lot of plants. It’s beneficial to both reducing the office’s carbon emissions and it will purify the air too.
- For business cards choose recycled paper and an eco-friendly printer.
- Switch to refillable printer cartridges.
- Turn off your laptop and unplug your workstation before you go home.
- Install motion-activated light switches.
- Make sure the company website is powered by green energy. You can check its status on Danu Design.
- Establish a team of sustainability officers to be in charge of implementing any new green initiatives.
- Encourage remote working where possible.
7 other ways to save the environment
- Change your electricity provider to a green energy supplier.
- Wash your clothes in a washing bag that filters micro plastics. This will stop the micro plastics from ending up in the sea.
- Change your kitchen sponges to eco-friendly alternatives. The colourful ones, we see in most kitchens, are made of plastic. Once they start falling apart, those little bits end up going down the drain.
- Use natural fertilisers and pesticides in your garden. You can make your own.
- Plant wildflowers, trees and scrubs to attract insects and birds.
- Leave no trace and take your own rubbish with you, when out. No recycling bins around? then take your rubbish home with you and sort it there.
- Collect rubbish on your walks. Just a few pieces are better than none.
Remember that no one does any of the steps perfectly. Make small changes where you can. Before you know it, some of these steps will turn into long-lasting habits.