I realized (truly it was brought to my attention) that I may have shared my initial post on sustainability at home too soon. I linked out to the Pinterest Live episode without thinking that some of you may not have or use Pinterest.
For that, I’m back tracking to give you the highlights of the original Pinterest TV episode, including all the gems that came out of it.
Top Tips To Achieve Sustainability At Home
To achieve sustainability at home, start with 2 main themes:
- Buy less, enjoy more. How do we do that?
Tip #1: Simplify your processes at home.
Let’s take cleaning, for example.
I’m a certified clean/neat freak & I’ve literally tried all the things when it comes to cleaning. I’ve always loved Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap for everything from full body care to cleaning. But I absolutely love Sal Suds because it is a little more powerful thanks to an added surfactant.
It’s still eco-friendly, made with all natural ingredients & biodegradable. One bottle can clean your entire home (or car) inside & out, from top to bottom. One bottle lasts my family of 3 + a dog at least 2-3 months since it’s super concentrated.
I mix 1T to 32 oz water in reusable glass or plastic bottles & use 1 for each bathroom, the kitchen, outside & keep a small undiluted bottle in the laundry room. One cleanser, all things cleaned!
If I need a little extra scrubbing power I use all natural Bon Ami or good old fashioned baking soda. Bleach? Peroxide (I just pop a spray top on a standard 3% bottle), lemon juice, or sunlight! Deodorizer? Baking soda and/or vinegar. Disinfectant? Alcohol or peroxide.
I could go on & on about how simplicity can help us all achieve sustainability at home, but I think you get it. Subbing out the bleach alone would be a HUGE swap.
Tip #2: Buy sustainable products that get the job done.
These days I rarely buy anything that won’t last for years & years. Or products that aren’t eco-friendly in some way.
A great example is cookware. Everyone loves non-stick cookware but I’ve learned over the years, especially once I started cooking a lot more, that non-stick isn’t forever non-stick. And its delicate – you have to be very careful not to scratch it or rough up the surface in anyway unless you want harmful chemicals leaching into your food. AND because of what they are typically made of, they’re not recyclable.
Instead I love using naturally non-stick cast iron. A standard cast iron skillet can last for generations and even if it doesn’t it’s easily recyclable. It might even make you a little money if you take it to a scrap metal yard.
Same goes for Dutch ovens, ceramic & stainless steel cookware.
Tip #3: Consider your food choices.
Speaking of cookware, let’s talk about one of my favorite subject… FOOD! Specifically food choices.
I know you think I’m going to tell you to start a garden complete with every fruit & veggie you love and compost to fertilize it all.
I would. But what if you don’t like to be outside? Or you don’t have any outdoor space? And your interior doesn’t get enough natural sunlight? Well then gardening wouldn’t be a sustainable activity for you.
Instead I will tell you to try 2 things:
- buy local as much as possible to avoid environmental impacts from supply chains
- buy seasonal produce for the same reason as well as the impact most notably to our water supply when trying to grow things that are not suited to a certain area or during a certain season
Here is a perfect example… We can grow almost anything in my area, zone 9a. BUT tender lettuces have a very short growing season because it’s hot most of the time. Instead of trying to grow those year round, I choose more hearty greens like arugula, kale, chard, etc.
Local farmers do things like this all the time, so heading to your farmer’s market is great way to do good in multiple ways.
Same goes for fruit, sometimes on an even larger scale. Look at the little stickers on your produce, see where it’s coming from. That apple you’re eating was likely grown in Washington, shipped to California for bulk packaging, then to your local grocer supply before it hit your store shelves.
By the time you get it home, that 1 little apple has created a big environmental ripple effect. I’m not saying don’t buy the apples, I’m saying consider the source of the apples.
Tip #4: Carefully consider your purchase:waste cycle.
Now that I’ve got you thinking about all these things, let’s talk about all those purchases we all make.
At the top of the year I challenged myself to buy less & enjoy more. Even started a hashtag… couldn’t use the hashtag much because I didn’t have anything to “show” since I didn’t buy anything. How funny is that?!
The challenge worked really well – I didn’t buy much for the first 3 months of the year. And we’re still not buying much. Necessities of course and I can’t think of much else outside of food & drinks.
I’ve always held to the philosophy “only buy what you need or what you absolutely love”. You have to be very brutally honest with yourself on this & even though I’ve always felt this way, that was really hard for me at first. Really be critical about what’s truly a need.
Simple things like certain foods are not a need if you have staples but happen to want that particular thing. That’s tough!
But what you realize by doing a challenge like this is that:
- you save money on things you think you have to have, that end up being shoved to the back of a drawer or cabinet, never to be thought of again.
- we really don’t need much at all. If we enjoy the things we already have, life is much richer. Literally.
- what’s for you will be for you. When I think something is meant for me, I will leave it where it is – after I sleep on it (i.e. think about it) & if I come back to it, if it’s still there and I’m still strongly drawn to it, it’s mine. If it’s not still there or it is but I’m not as drawn to it, it’s not meant to be.
Whatever the case, whatever my family does buy, we try to look at where it’s made, how it’s made, if it’s made to last, & what it’s made out of.
Tip #4a: What to consider when buying things.
When it comes to anything from home goods, clothing & textiles to furniture, food, & building materials, look for naturally sustainable option like organic cotton, bamboo, acacia wood, mango wood, etc.
Even if you can’t find what you “need” within those parameters, look for retailers that have a commitment to sustainability. A lot of home décor & furniture retailers now feature fair trade, ethical, & eco-friendly lines. They, and those that don’t, also often pledge to do things like plant a tree for every purchase. Every little bit helps.
You may spend a little more up front (but not always) but what you buy will last for decades at least, saving you money & saving the environment in the long run.
Tip #5: Mind your waste.
My family & I did another challenge to see how little trash we could make. These challenges work well for us because we are really competitive people & we have a lot of fun with them.
We’ve never had a full sized trash can in our home, this one or our previous one. So that helps us keep trash down but during this challenge we were shocked to see that after composting & recycling intentionally, we only fill up our 6-7 gallon trash bin about once a week. If that.
Even you don’t compost or don’t want to, in some cities there are companies that will pick up your food waste & compost it for you. Just like recycling. Or you can give your scraps to a neighbor who gardens & has a compost bin.
Between that & the items we’re buying with our new wise shopping philosophy, we can complete the ultimate sustainability cycle. All of the materials we’ve talked about can be returned to the earth or reused in multiple ways without losing it’s effectiveness.
Organically (or not) grown food can be composted. Woods & natural fibers can be broken down & composted or repurposed. Metals can be melted down & made into new products. The limits can be endless. I feel like we are barely scraping the surface of what can be done on this front, starting one home at a time.