A Beginners Guide to Living A More Sustainable Life

Sustainability messaging has become overwhelming. There are so many guides and best practices, it’s hard to find just one place to start so we broke down some of our favorite tips and tricks for helping sustainability become more habitual and less of a burden.

As always, remember to be kind to yourself! Understand that sustainability is a journey, no one is perfect and we can all just do the best we can within our means. 

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

It’s inevitable that we’re going to have items in our home we need to get rid of, but it’s important to recycle anything and everything we can. Sometimes people have questions about what they’re allowed to recycle or what to do with those difficult items (i.e. batteries). We broke down recycling how-tos so you can feel confident and make better decisions when it comes to recycling. 

Skip Packaged Foods 

Sometimes it’s easier to grab pre-cut fruits and vegetables, but most of the time these foods come pre-packaged. Grab the whole foods instead and save waste. Don’t forget your produce bags to avoid plastic when shopping in the produce section altogether! Also, try to buy in bulk whenever possible. Look for local Co-Op, like The Dill Pickle Food Co-Op in Logan Square, for the best bulk bins in the city!

Conserve Energy 

A few simple eco-friendly changes can also start in the home. Small changes like only turning on the heat and air when necessary and turning off lights and electronics when not in use are a great start. It’s also helpful to change all light bulbs to LED bulbs -- these are energy efficient and last longer than regular lightbulbs. 

Sign Up for Paperless Billing 

Most gas, electric, insurance and cable companies offer paperless billing. This just means you will receive your bill via email rather than in the mail. Not only will this cut down on waste, but some companies even charge you when you’re not signed up for paperless billing. Save waste and money by stopping your bills from coming in the mail. 

Eat Fewer Animal Products 

A recent article from The Guardian stated, “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth”. This doesn’t mean you have to go 100% vegan, but being mindful of your consumption of animal products can go a long way. Maybe incorporate meat-free days into your diet or try new foods and restaurants that have veggie-focus menus (hello Clever Rabbit and Bad Hunter!). When you do eat animal products, be sure you know where your meat and eggs are coming from so you can keep you and the planet safe.

Avoid Single-Use Items

We posted an article about some of our favorite products for waste reduction back in May. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much single-use plastic we consume in our daily lives. Start small with reusable water bottles and coffee tumblers and work to continue to add more reusable items to your everyday. For inspiration, we love this post from Om & The City about how to create a more sustainable kitchen.

Donate Unwanted Items 

As you start to take steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle, you may find you have a lot of unwanted items in your home. Take a look at your clothes and old electronics and determine if you can give them a second life. Donate clothes to a local Goodwill or even try making a few extra bucks by bringing them to a resale shop like ThredUp or Buffalo Exchange. Americans throw out an average of 81 pounds of clothing each year. Creating a second life for clothes now and being mindful of purchasing more sustainably in the future can make a huge difference. 

Be Mindful When Making New Purchases 

We live in a culture centered around an “I want” mentality rather than “I need”. Next time you find yourself looking to make a purchase, no matter how big or small, take a second to determine if it’s something you want or something you need. When making new purchases, do some research and find a brand that is working on creating a better tomorrow rather than creating more waste. Check out some of our favorite sustainable brands here!

Choose All-Natural Cleaning Products 

Cleaning products are filled with unwanted chemicals that can be hurting you and the environment. Some of our favorite clean cleaning brands are Dr. Bronner and Seventh Generation. You can also make your own multi-purpose cleaners at home! Check out this easy recipe for an all-purpose cleaning spray from The Spruce -- it’s easy and safe to use throughout your home.