5 Easy Steps for Living a More Sustainable Life

You can make simple swaps to help save the planet.

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April 18, 2019
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“Oh, we don’t recycle,” a friend of mine recently told me when I asked where in his apartment I should toss an empty bottle of wine. I must not have hidden my disapproval well because he quickly apologized, adding, “You’re judging me so hard!” To be honest — as a proud, sustainability stickler — I was. I mean, it’s not like the future of the global food economy depends on us all doing our part, or anything…

Cue up any green-living documentary, and you will understand why the lightbulb has gone off for me and countless others. The good news is, it’s never too late to hop on the bandwagon, and, while living a more sustainable life might seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have be a chore. Here are some simple hacks for lowering your carbon footprint ASAP (no tree hugging necessary). And don’t worry, I will be sharing this article with my non-recycling BFF.

Keep Reusable Canvas Totes in Your Car

Numerous cities are cracking down on plastic, charging additional fees or banning plastic bags altogether. By keeping reusable totes in your car, you will help both the environment and your wallet. I’m a fan of Onya Produce Bags and the oh-so-durable Scout Bags when it comes to my weekly Trader Joe’s hauls. For food storage, opt for glass containers like the ones from Lifefactory or Snapware.

Only Buy Produce You Will Actually Use

According to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council report, fruits and veggies account for 39 percent of all wasted food in the U.S.. Before heading to the store, be sure to make a detailed list of only the produce you know you need — this will cut back on over-purchasing and potential tossing. For any items you go through quickly (or that can be easily tossed in the freezer) buy in bulk to cut back on wasteful packaging.

Other culprits of food waste might surprise you. Discarded peels or other food scraps make up nearly 20 percent of total municipal solid waste, which release a global warming-contributing greenhouse gas, according to the NRDC. To combat this, one company, RIND, is leading the pack with its dried-fruit-snack line, which keeps the peel intact. Bonus: The company claims the peels pack up to three times more fiber and vitamins than inside of the fruit alone.

Stop Buying Bottled Water

I’m slightly neurotic when it comes to nixing bottled water and opting for reusable on-the-go guzzlers instead. That line of thinking also flows into ditching the gallon jugs of H2O I used to store in my fridge. Now, when it comes to filling my Yeti, I tap into my (pricy but worth it) Berkey Water Filter System, which the brand claims removes 200+ contaminants. I also use it in my SodaStream when fixing for some bubbly, which I enjoy sipping on with Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel straws. There are so many simple ways to make your daily water consumption completely sustainable.

Photo by: Ekaterina Smirnova/Getty Images

Ekaterina Smirnova/Getty Images

Opt for Plants and Fish Before Meat

According to Jacqueline King Schiller, author of PESCAN: A Feel Good Cookbook, you might want to rethink that cheeseburger craving. She claims that, “the overuse of antibiotics in industrial livestock farms contributes to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria”, and the waste from those farms can go on to contaminate both our air and water.

The solution can be as simple as gradually reducing animal products in your diet and opting for a few meatless meals per week. For those looking for high-protein options, Schiller recommends local, sustainable seafood like sardines, mackerel, herring and farmed mollusks, which she claims have the lowest environmental impact. If you need some help when shopping, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, has a section of ‘Best Choice’ fish, which will “ensure that you are buying sustainable products,” according to Schiller. Another pro tip: Look for products with the blue Aquaculture Stewardship Council label or Marine Stewardship Council logo.

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Photo by: Betsie Van der Meer/Getty Images

Betsie Van der Meer/Getty Images

Shop Local, Organic and Seasonal

Besides supporting your community, buying locally can cut down on food travel and energy-hogging storage. “Growing organic allows the soil to regenerate, and also avoids poisoning humans with very nasty, non-organic pesticides, herbicides and soil amendments,” explains Shel Horowitz, a consultant at the intersections of profitability, social change and planetary healing. “It also avoids the problem of new pests and even pathogens evolving resistance to those chemicals.” If shopping local isn’t an option, reach for foods with a Fairtrade label, as environmental protection is ingrained in the practices of participating farmers.

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