Our homes are a reflection of who we are but sometimes, they’re void of our personal values. Case in point: Sustainability is top of mind for me but I often have a hard time inviting green practices into my daily life. I always mean well—I recycle and I aim to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint—but in my day-to-day, I sometimes forget to make the small choices that can make my lifestyle more sustainable. Sound familiar?
While the most impactful environmental efforts will need to be a part of a wider global effort, there are still habits we can all practice in our everyday lives that will make a positive difference. Here are some little helpful hacks that can build up your home without breaking down the planet.
Electricity saves time and effort and in today’s fast-paced world, it has become a default. Powering off is undoubtedly good for the environment and can save you money on your electricity bill, too! Here are some low effort ways to cut down on your daily electrical use:
Hanging clothes up to dry adds half of a step to the dreaded laundry process but the benefits are substantial. Installing a drying rack in your laundry space serves as a great reminder.
My dad has taught me many things in life—one is how to keep my heater and air conditioner happy. Based on the season, opening and closing your window treatments can really cut back the workload for these appliances. Closing your blinds to limit the amount of direct sunlight during the warmer months keeps your home cooler and opening your blinds to allow as much direct sunlight as possible in the colder months heats it naturally.
We put our lights to work multiple times a day. By switching out your five most-used bulbs with ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR (like LEDs), you can save $75 a year. Don’t feel like you have to sacrifice the glow of your traditional incandescents—there are several options to choose from! You can review some here. And don’t forget to use your dimmers to save even more energy!
When shopping for home goods, before you click “add to cart,” try to find the answers to the following questions:
Not everything we bring home is going to be 10/10 in regard to sustainable practices and that is OK! Putting any effort toward implementing more sustainable practices is better than doing nothing at all. Do what you can to purchase products that don’t have to travel far, are made of natural fibers without chemicals, are sourced from sustainable forests, and are made in humane facilities.
Water is such a valuable resource that many of us take for granted. By using water wisely we are supporting an entire ecosystem. Here are some easy ways to limit the amount of water waste:
Social media is already a part of most of our daily routines, for better or for worse. One benefit of being online is that we have easy access to social networks and, as a result, it’s easier than ever to shop for used goods!
Facebook has its own marketplace full of goodies, all in one easy-to-shop spot, and Instagram’s vintage community is ever-growing. By following accounts that sell previously-owned items, you aren’t only helping the planet, you are often helping small businesses. Carousel + Folk and Haus Theory are a couple of my favorite local vintage shops with a killer online presence.
Everyone knows using reusable grocery bags is a good practice, but the key is remembering to use them! Invest in some good looking totes that you are proud to hang in plain sight. I fall victim to “out of sight, out of mind” so hanging my favorite reusable bag by the door is a great (and stylish) reminder to grab it when I’m heading to the store. Check out this French Market Bag from Golden Rule Gallery! (Editor’s Note: Some stores and governors are banning the use of reusable bags to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, although opinions are mixed on how plausible it is that the virus will spread in this manner. Follow guidelines and use your best judgment during these times, and if you do use reusable bags, consider washing them after each use!)
There have been many times I found myself looking at my Ziploc Bags and thinking, “Once this box runs out I will find an alternative.” Then, I’d be out and about and absentmindedly pick up another box because I couldn’t remember how many I had left.
Recently, I finally broke the cycle! I picked up some Stasher Bags to use as an alternative to single-use plastic bags. Other reusable kitchen products worth purchasing are Bee’s Wrap (a reusable food wrap), mesh produce bags, silicone baking cups, and cloth napkins and towels.
According to by HumanKind, a personal care brand, 28,000 tons of single-use plastic are disposed into our oceans every day. This is obviously a gigantic issue, and doing your part to decrease the amount of single-use plastics in your home has never been easier. Consider purchasing refillable home and self-care products like candles from Siblings, hand and dish soap from Grove Collaborative, and body wash, shampoo, and conditioner bars from by Humankind.
Composting can be intimidating to start but once you do it, it becomes second nature. Using food scraps to feed plants is truly the definition of the circle of life. Composting is a 100% natural alternative to garden fertilizer and can be made within your own home. Otherwise, composting and leaving it for your city to dispose of is equally as helpful to the planet. If you are interested in learning more, you can research your city’s organics recycling program (Minneapolis residents can find more info here) or check out compostnow.org.
Bringing something new home is always exciting, especially when you’re replacing a well-loved item. Out with the old, in with the new! But before you escort your used goods to the garbage, stop and evaluate their potential. They may no longer serve you, but could they serve others? If so, find a local organization to donate to (if not now, once donation centers are open again) or post images online to sell.
If the item has seen better days and would no longer serve others, ask yourself if it can be broken down. Is there hardware that can be saved, sold, or donated? Are there parts that can be recycled instead of trashing it as a whole? These little things take a bit more effort but make a positive impact.
Outside of work, Zoe is usually browsing the floral department of a grocery store, planning a weekend getaway, or hosting all of her dear friends for dinner and board games. She lives in NE Minneapolis with her husband and their rescue pup, Cooper. Follow her on Instagram @zoeduellman.
BY Zoe Duellman - April 22, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.