As a registered dietitian and newbie homesteader, it should go without saying that sustainability is important to me. Especially in the kitchen, garden, and at home. And I always love discovering new ideas for sustainable living that I can put to use right away.
So if you’re anything like me, read on to learn some of my favorite ways to make sustainable living part of your everyday.
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What Is Sustainable Living?
Sustainability is the concept of living with only what we truly need so that we can preserve resources for our future.
When many people think of sustainability, they think about the environment. As humans, we depend on our environment, and the natural resources it provides, to survive. To live sustainably means you aim to live in a way that reduces your personal impact on the environment around you.
Why is Sustainable Living So Important?
What we do to protect our environment has direct social and economic impacts, which is why it is so important we make sustainability a priority.
There are two main areas in which we can aim to reduce our impact: climate change and resource depletion.
Climate change is impacted by the pollution being released into the air every single day.
Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, agriculture, electricity production, and the industry sector all contribute significantly to global warming.
Many of the ideas in this article aim to help reduce the amount of emissions being produced as a direct result of the consumption of a product or food.
Natural resources, like the water we drink and the oxygen we breathe, are not unlimited in their supply.
We must do our best to reduce our consumption of these life-providing resources so that many future generations can thrive.
17 Ideas for Sustainable Living
There are hundreds of ways to live a more sustainable life. My favorite place to start is right at home, in the kitchen and in the garden.
In this article, I give you 17 ideas for sustainable living that anyone can try. Pick one and start today!
Ideas for a Sustainable Kitchen
The kitchen is a great place to start if you’re interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle. From how you shop for groceries to what you eat for dinner, you can make a big impact with just a few tweaks to your usual routine.
And, the best part is, some of these ideas for sustainable living in the kitchen are actually good for your health!
1. Meal Plan
Meal planning is a fantastic way to benefit both your health and the health of the planet.
And it can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. At its most basic level, meal planning simply means planning what you are going to eat for the day, week, or even the month.
But you might be wondering, what does meal planning have to do with sustainability?
Well, by planning your meals, you’re likely going to end up with less food waste. And less food waste equals less strain on our planet’s resources and less pollution.
2. Don't Forget Your Leftovers
In a similar vein, making a plan to use your leftovers helps to create less food waste.
Working leftovers into your meal plan is an easy way to do this. Some simple tips for utilizing leftovers include:
- Bringing leftovers to work for lunch the next day.
- Making a brand new meal from last night’s dinner.
- Making broth from bones and vegetable scraps.
3. Stick to a Shopping List
Using a shopping list at the grocery store is another important part of meal planning.
And it not only reduces food waste by letting you focus on buying only what you need, but it may help you spend less money too.
4. Buy Local
Buying locally reduces pollution because your food doesn’t have to travel as far to make it to you.
When many people think of local food, they immediately think of fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. But, you can also buy local meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, honey, and even spices and prepared foods.
Farmers’ markets, CSAs, and even some grocery stores are great ways to find local products.
5. B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bag)
Bringing your own bag to the grocery store (or to any store, really) is an easy way to reduce your use of single-use plastics.
In fact, many cities and town across the United States are banning the use of plastic bags.
Personally, I not only use reusable bags for my groceries, but I have also stopped putting much of my fruits and vegetables in individual plastic bags. I treat the produce department like a farmers’ market and just throw it all in the cart without a bag.
6. Eat More Home-Cooked Meals
Cooking at home more often will not only benefit your health and wallet, but it’s also great for the environment.
A meal cooked at home requires less energy and resources, creates less food waste, and may utilize more locally sourced ingredients than a restaurant meal. And when it comes to takeout, by skipping the temptation of ordering out, you’re reducing the amount of takeout container waste that ends up in our landfills each year.
7. Try Plant-Based Recipes
Trying to incorporate more plant-based recipes into your routine is a great way to eat more sustainably.
When comparing pound-for-pound, plant-based foods use significantly less water to produce than animal-based foods. In addition, animals and their manure produce and release methane into atmosphere, contributing to pollution.
This doesn’t mean you have to become vegan or switch to an all plant-based diet overnight. Simply going “meatless” a few nights a week can help make an impact.
8. Cook with Seasonal Ingredients
Cooking in season is not only a great idea for sustainable living, but it tastes better too!
Seasonal ingredients are usually fresher, require less transport time, and have more nutrients.
To start eating more seasonably today, look for what’s on sale at your grocery store or visit the local farmers’ market.
Ideas for a Sustainable Home
Home is often the place where many people start their journey to sustainability.
And of course, that makes sense. Home is where we have the most control over our daily habits, our lifestyle, and our product choices.
This section covers a handful of ideas for sustainable living and simple swaps you can make in your home to become more sustainable today.
9. Replace Plastic Water Bottles with a Refillable One
Perhaps the most common and easiest swap to make is the reusable water bottle.
A reusable water bottle, especially a stainless steel or BPA free water bottle, is an excellent way to help reduce your carbon footprint.
According to this facts sheet from EarthDay.org, Americans buy an astonishing 50 million plastic water bottles every year. This breaks down to approximately 13 water bottles per person per month.
So, by using a refillable water bottle, you are helping to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and in the ocean.
10. Swap Common Kitchen Items with a Reusable Version
If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint even further, the kitchen is filled with single use items that can be swapped for reusable ones.
Try not using paper towels for a day or two and you’ll quickly realize how engrained they are into your daily habits.
Over 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the United States. And manufacturing these paper towels is one of the leading causes of global warming.
Switching from paper towels to washable kitchen rags is a great way to help reduce the tons and tons of paper towels that end up in landfills each year. My favorite paper towel alternative is these microfiber cleaning cloths.
Plastic Wrap and Aluminum Foil
Both plastic wrap and aluminum foil are common kitchen items used to store and preserve food and both, unfortunately, contribute to pollution.
Beeswax wrap has become a popular, sustainable alternative over the past few years. It comes in a variety of patterns and sizes and, when cared for and used properly, can be reused for up to a year!
Switching to reusable sponges is another wonderful way to help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills.
And it’s also more sanitary too. You can easily throw reusable sponges in the wash with your laundry and have a clean sponge every time you do the dishes!
11. Switch to a Reusable Metal Straw
Another easy swap to make is switching to a reusable stainless steel straw.
Stainless steel is a great choice because it is easy to recycle, durable, and BPA free.
12. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
When it comes to keeping your home clean and your family safe from germs, you may instinctually reach for cleaning sprays and wipes without really considering what they’re made of. Not surprisingly, since they’re so easy and convenient to use.
But unfortunately, the ingredients in most of the common household cleaning products are not good for our environment.
So next time you run out of your favorite cleaning product, see if you can try replacing it with a DIY cleaning product instead. Often, you can make homemade cleaning products with simple ingredients you have around the house.
My favorite is equal parts white vinegar and water. Combine both ingredients in a spray bottle, shake to combine, and use with a reusable cleaning rag.
Ideas for a Sustainable Garden
Gardening in and of itself is a largely sustainable activity. Whether you grow your own vegetables and herbs to eat or plant a native wildflower garden for the bees, you are positively contributing to your local ecosystem.
This section covers some fun ideas for sustainable gardening that will hopefully inspire you to get outside and try a few of them!
13. Compost Kitchen Scraps
Kitchen scraps, leftovers, and spoiled foods are major sources of food waste in the United States.
For many people, it’s hard to understand the impact of throwing away a few rotting apples or the extra servings of soup that were never eaten. But, according to this article in Forbes, U.S. households waste nearly one-third of the food they buy.
The impact of wasted food isn’t simply that it can’t be consumed by others who might need it. It also negatively impacts our environment by contributing to pollution and depleting our natural resources.
By composting kitchen scraps, you’re not only putting that food waste to good use, but you’re also likely using that compost to grow your own food supply.
14. Or Feed Them to Your Chickens
If you’ve ever considered raising chickens, a fantastic reason to do so is to reduce your food waste and to help create compost for your garden.
Chickens are natural foragers and there is not much they won’t eat. Personally, my food waste has decreased significantly since I decided to raise chickens last year. I’ll feed them vegetable peels, overripe fruits, and even leftover chicken!
And the best part is, chickens will naturally turn all of these food scraps into compost through digestion. Simply add the chicken manure and coop bedding to your compost bin and you’ll have amazing garden compost in no time.
15. Trade Your Lawn for a Vegetable & Herb Garden
While a thick and luscious green lawn can feel like a status symbol amongst neighbors, the truth is that a traditional backyard lawn serves no real purpose. And even worse than its subpar functionality, a lawn uses an alarming amount of water every year.
In fact, according to this article in Stanford Magazine, a one acre lawn would require 26,136 gallons of water each day.
By replacing some of that lawn with a vegetable garden, herbs, or even native flowers, you are making your backyard serve a purpose.
16. Plant Native Flowers to Support the Local Bee Population
Bumblebees are a pollinating species of insect that play an important role in local ecosystems. In fact, much of our food depends on the pollination of bees.
Unfortunately, the population of bumblebees has seriously declined over the past several decades. By planting native flowers, you’re provided much needed food to our hungry little friends and helping them keep their numbers up. In doing so, you may even increase the yield of your vegetable garden.
If you want to take it a step further, consider raising your own honey bees. Just keep in mind, non-native honey bees may compete with native bees.
17. Use Eggshells as a Calcium Supplement
Many people may not realize that eggshells are made up almost entirely of calcium carbonate. Yes, the same type of calcium we need for our bones, teeth, and nails!
You can save eggshells, whether they be from your own chickens or store bought, and turn them into a DIY calcium supplement powder.
If you’re not keen on taking a homemade eggshell supplement, you can also use your eggshells in the garden or feed them back to your chickens.
What Ideas Do You Have?
So, I hope this list of ideas for sustainable living gave you a place to start and inspired you to start living more sustainably today.
Of course, there are many more ways to live sustainably. I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks in the comments below!