Fact: It’s easier than you might think to make your home more sustainable, and this month — Earth Month! — is a great time to dig into some small changes that can make a big difference. I‘ve written about things our family has done to move to a healthier home (all of this is absolutely a “one step at a time” kind of process), and this post builds on that — with even more of a focus on the environment. My hope is that it will be informative and helpful, and that it will inspire you to make one, two, or even more adjustments in your lifestyle to move toward a more earth-friendly home.
Some of these swaps take changing a routine, some take a financial investment, and some involve both, so start where you can. Every little bit DOES make a difference, and we can all play a part in creating a healthier planet!
- Replace Ziploc bags and plastic wrap with reusable versions. I’m a huge fan of reusable silicone bags — like Stasher Bags — in place of Ziplocs. They’re easy to clean (just throw them in the dishwasher) and can be used for other things besides food storage (like popping popcorn in the microwave — so fun!). Instead of using plastic wrap to cover food — and throwing it away and using more the next time — consider investing in something reusable like Bee’s Wrap to serve the same purpose more sustainably.
- Consider composting (either on your own or outsourced). This is something Kevin and I plan to start doing soon, and I’m SO excited! Composting minimizes your household waste (especially for families like ours that eat a TON of produce), and they create beautifully rich soil to use in your yard. It’s a win all around — but takes some habit changes to implement. If you aren’t up for composting in your own yard (or don’t have the space for it, perhaps), see if your area offers an outsourced option. In some cities, you can enroll in a program where a company will come by weekly to pick up your compostable material and they’ll compost it for you (and drop off some lovely soil if you want that at some point, too!). More and more packaging is now compostable as well, so this is a wonderful way to up your recycling footprint.
- Save your veggie scraps to make broth later. Next time you’re chopping up veggies for a salad or stir fry, don’t throw away those celery ends or carrot stems. Instead, put those discarded pieces into a sealable bag and pop them into the freezer. Once you’ve accumulated enough veggie scraps, you can use them to make your own veggie broth! (Don’t worry — it’s an incredibly easy process, and you can make a lot and freeze it to have it easily on hand.)
- Swap out your disposable or cartridge-based razor for a safety razor. And if you’re as intimidated by traditional safety razors as I am, invest in a Leaf Shave razor like I did last year! Leaf Shave razors have three blades and a pivoting head, and so there’s no learning curve, and check out this great sustainability stat from their site: Over 50,000 Leaf Shave users will keep 1.5 million disposable plastic razors out of landfill this year.
- Look for refillable options on products you use over and over. Some great examples of those (things I use) include Seed probiotics (your initial order comes with a glass jar, and your refills all come in compostable paper so you empty the capsules into that original glass jar), Cocofloss dental floss, and Beautycounter Clean Deo deodorant. Not having to use new packaging each time really starts to add up!
- Prioritize brands that use sustainable packaging. So many brands are doing a great job at this, so pay attention to messaging around packaging. Do they ship in ways that minimize plastic use and packaging overall? Are they moving products to glass as much as possible, which is more easily recyclable? Start to notice and then support the brands that are making strides in this area.
- Shop secondhand for clothing. The good news is there are more and more great options for this. eBay, Poshmark, and Thredup are all awesome online sources for secondhand clothing, and of course you can also shop local thrift shops for great finds. For kiddos, I just learned about a neat new online secondhand clothing resource called Shop Tomorrows. You shop the site using tokens, and you can use the code ANNA20 to get 20 tokens (which translates to $20!) to try out Shop Tomorrows.
- Ditch your dryer sheets in favor of reusable wool dryer balls. Not only is this a safe swap (dryer sheets often contain ingredients that are carcinogenic, linked to central nervous system disorders, and more), it’s also a good one to make for the environment since dryer balls are both chemical free and reusable. If it’s hard to give up the fragrance that comes from most dryer sheets, you can add a bit of essential oil to your dryer balls!
- Incorporate cloth napkins and reusable towels into your daily kitchen routine. Instead of reaching for paper napkins at every meal and paper towels to clean up every mess, make cloth versions readily available so you and your family will use those instead. It may mean more laundry, but it also means far less landfill waste!
- Use a menstrual cup instead of pads or tampons. I was VERY intimidated by the idea of a menstrual cup…until I tried it for myself and realized it was amazing. They’re so easy to use and don’t take much time to get used to at all (I promise!). In addition to cutting down on waste in a big way, using a silicone menstrual cup is great for your body because it means you avoid the residual pesticides that can linger on many pads and tampons. No, thanks!
- If you love single-serve coffee at home, opt for a Nespresso over a Keurig. Why? Because Nespresso pods are recyclable for everyone: You just use the free bag they’ll send you with every order to collect used pods, drop off a full bag at a UPS location, and they take care of the recycling of the pod and the composting of the coffee grounds! I also loved this blog post from Nespresso about how they aim to be carbon neutral by 2022. That’s huge — and not long to wait at all!
- Bring plants into your home to purify the air. I’m NOT great with keeping plants alive, but plants can help remove toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and more from our homes, so it’s worth at least giving them a try. I’m happy to report that even I’ve been able to keep several houseplants alive for many months at this point, and if I can do it, anyone can! (Here’s a round up of great plants to consider for to improve air quality in your home.)
- Use silicone baking mats in place of parchment paper. We’ve been using silicone mats for years, and in addition to being sustainable thanks to their reuse, they’re also easy — no more cutting parchment paper and hoping it’s at least approximately the right size. The baking mats also make for the most foolproof cookies ever!
- Add more plant-based meals into the rotation. Using less meat cuts down on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and it also helps save tons of water, so even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan you can help reduce your carbon footprint by eating as though you were one at least once a week. (Meatless Monday, anyone?) Not sure what to make? Look for some inspiration right here on my blog!
- Invest in reusable cotton rounds. I use cotton rounds daily to remove my eye makeup, and regularly to apply toner, to remove nail polish, etc., so replacing disposable rounds with reusable ones is a big deal in my world. It just might be in yours, too!
- Make sure you have a reusable water bottle you love so you’ll use it often (and instead of plastic bottles). I’m very picky about my water bottles, and I adore this one! (If you like a straw version, this might be one you’ll love, too!)
Obviously this list could go on for much longer, but I hope it helped provide some inspiration for some changes you can make this Earth Month. (I have some other ideas you can check out in this post I wrote for Zulily!) Incorporating composting at home is at the top of my list! What about you?