18 Zero-Waste Experts Share Their Top Tips For Living Sustainably
Living sustainably isn’t easy, if it was issues surrounding waste and pollution wouldn’t be as rife as they are.
However, there ARE people out there who are able to live with minimal impact and with sustainability front of mind. I decided to gather 18 of them and ask them one question.
“What are your top tips for living more sustainably?”
Let me tell you, the 22 responses from these 18 experts are nothing short of amazing.
I listed all of them below.
1. Consume less
Megean Weldon is a zero-waste advocate and blogger based in Kansas City, US. Megean blogs all things sustainable living on Zero waste nerd. You can find Megean on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
I love when people ask me what's one or two things they could do to make a serious impact on their overall environmental footprint.
It seems that there are more "eco-tips" out there than days of the year so living environmentally conscious can appear to be completely overwhelming.
I truly feel that our singular biggest problem is over consumption.
If we all chose to buy less, limit purchases that were non-essential and learned to make do, we not only save a lot of money, but we also help contribute to many other things.
Less consumption means fewer resources being used and as a result, we reduce air pollution and trash caused from that consumption.
2. Audit your daily habits
Zoe Morrison is a passionate zero-waste writer, speaker and author who has been blogging about living zero-waste since 2011. You can find Zoe’s blog at eco thrifty living and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Pay attention to your daily habits and the things you see around you and question them.
- What do you spend your money on?
- What goes in your bin at the end of the day?
- Do you waste food, or electricity?
- Do you shop more than you need to?
- What could be better in your workplace, or community?
In every area of your life there is an opportunity to do things in a more eco-friendly way. It is exciting because the genuinely eco friendly alternatives are often better for you and can save money.
3. Be solution focused
Zoe has another suggestion to be solution orientated:
Spend minimal time on the problems and focus on solutions.
Don’t take everything on, just concentrate on the things that you can do. There are so many solutions needed and everyone can help to solve them!
4. Opt for plastic-free cleaning
Erin Rhoads is author of Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less and a zero-waste blogger at therogueginger. You can find Erin on Instagram and Facebook.
Brightly coloured synthetic cleaning cloths and brushes are made of plastic release plastic microfibres into our oceans and will never break down.
Instead opt for upcycled cotton towels and shirts as cleaning cloths and choose other natural options that can break down in your compost.
More great plastic-free cleaning utensils include scouring pads made from coconut husks and wooden-handled brushes with replaceable heads.
Liquid soap washes are mostly water and a lot of plastic packaging.
Replace the liquid face wash, hand wash, body wash, with a simple unpackaged bar of soap or one that comes in paper/cardboard.
This simple swap will save three plastic bottles.
5. Tackle food waste head on
Cadie Piecuch is a lifestyle blogger with a focus on wellness, beauty and sustainable living. You can find Cadie’s blog over on naturallycadie and on Instagram.
As we know, one of the biggest global contributors to climate change, is the way we eat!
Data states that “food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
And for me, one of the best things I can do is be mindful of my consumption!
So, What can we do? Well there are a variety of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint by way of diet. Here are my top 4 suggestions:
- Cut out or cut down on meat. This helps reduce methane gas release, cutting down on forests for crops and land, and for the good of a lot of reasons environmental wise, and health wise, animals are living beings and the way they are treated, needs to stop!
- Reduce waste by buying only what you need and make sure to eat your leftovers.
- Compost compost compost! Another great way to reduce methane release.
- Eat local & organic. No toxins in our food and soils here plus the carbon footprint of travel is eliminated when food is bought locally.
6. Embrace the imperfections
Jen Gale is a passionate sustainability advocate and found of Sustainablish, you can read about Jen’s efforts over here. Follow Jen on Facebook, Pinstagram and Instagram.
Living more sustainably is a journey, rather than a destination, so embrace the imperfections.
There is no such thing as ‘perfectly eco’ - it will depend on your circumstances, your challenges, your budget and lots more.
But any step in the right direction is fabulous, no matter how small. Work out what works for you, and for your family, don’t compare your efforts to other peoples, and make a start!
Also, keep a track of the changes you make.
I often talk to my audience about creating a ‘ta-da list’ rather than a ‘to-do list’.
It’s all too easy to beat ourselves up for all the things we haven’t done yet, quickly forgetting all the amazing changes we’ve already made.
Brainstorm all the awesome eco stuff you’ve already done, no matter how small, and then stick your list up somewhere you can see it and add to it easily.
7. Spend wisely
For us, the now famous quote by Anna Lappe is a huge part of living sustainably:
“Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want”.
Doing a little audit to uncover exactly where your money goes each month helps to truly understand what you're "investing in".
Every $ makes a difference so consider whether the organisations you support are aligned to your values.
Electricity providers, fashion brands, banks and even to your daily coffee brand can play a part in making a better future.
Can you make some little (and perhaps some big) switches that could have that beautiful compounding effect on real change?
8. Get outside
Emma is co-author of The Spirit Almanac and senior sustainability editor at mindbodygreen. You can find Emma on linked.in or Instagram.
Get outside more.
Nature (that doesn't need to mean a pristine park; a line of trees near your house will do) is dynamic and engaging, and it reminds us of the world that exists beyond our screens.
I believe that we fight harder for places we feel connected to, and getting outside can fuel more effective climate action as much as it can restore mental health.
Heading out with the intention of finding beauty in the mundane or spotting a critter I've never noticed before helps me better tune into my natural surroundings.
I've found that there's always something new peeking out, even though I live in the heart of NYC.
10. Repair items first
Together, Maša and Michael post a range of plant based recipes as well as posts on living sustainably on The Minimalist Vegan. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook.
One of the key contributors to waste is regularly replacing the things we own. To combat this challenge, try to extend the life cycle of every physical good you possess.
We suggest you create a simple list of go-to repairers who have specific skills to repair your things. Examples include computer technicians, shoe repairers, repair cafe's, woodworkers, electricians and much more.
If you have a unique skill to repair certain goods, you could offer up your services in exchange to get help from others—elevating your local community to think more sustainably.
11. Be mindful of what you allow in your house
Think twice before accepting free or cheap stuff. These items will take valuable physical (and mental) space in your life. Are they really worth it?
You could also decide to get rid of junk mail once and for all.
And that means taking the time to unsubscribe from mailing lists, contacting companies so they stop sending you unwanted promotional mail. It’s a pain but it’s worth it.
Throwing junk mail in the recycling bin is not a solution, it’s even an invitation to send more! I have a great actionable post to get rid of junk mail for good here.
This rule can mean something totally different to you. You could decide to never allow plastic into your house, or disposables, or sugar! Your house, your rules!
12. Shop your house
Chloe had another great tip:
You would be surprised at how many times I thought I needed something new to fix a problem / fill a void only to realize that the solution was right in front of my eyes!
This happened to me a couple times with organizing.
Has anyone else binge watched The Home Edit series on Netflix and felt the urge to run to The Container Store to buy all the clear bins?
I stopped for a second, took a couple deep breaths and remembered Mari Kondo’s thrifty philosophy.
There is no need to buy things to store more things.
First, maybe consider a little decluttering session. Second, use what you already have.
I like to reuse shoe boxes, plant pots, glass jars and other household items and give them a new function according to my needs.
This tip works for clothing - Can you try to style the same 10 pieces of clothing in 10 different ways? (see my 10x10 challenges) - for house cleaning - use the white vinegar in your kitchen to make a natural all-purpose cleaner. Choose your own adventure!
Just remember, the idea is for you to take simple steps and build from there. There will be setbacks, nobody’s perfect, enjoy the process.
13. Use an eat me first bin
Graydon is the founder of popular instagram page reducewastenow, he also sells zero-waste products on his website of the same name.
For someone who wants to start living more sustainably, I’d recommend they start simple and focus on reducing food waste.
One of the best ways that I’ve found to reduce food waste is to keep an “Eat Me First” bin in the fridge.
An Eat Me First bin is a bin that you place about-to-expire food in, like leftovers or week old veggies, so you don’t forget about the food and find it at the back of your fridge in a few months.
A lot of the time, you can find a suitable container the right size just laying around your home.
Some great containers are: small storage boxes, organisation baskets, large reusable containers, and even a large cooking bowl!
14. Conduct a trash audit
Ariana is a natural beauty and zero-waste blogger over on greenify-me where she posts regularly about all things sustainability and green beauty. You can find Ariana on Twitter and Instagram.
My biggest tip is to look in your garbage pail and get to know your trash.
In other words, do a trash audit!
What are you throwing away the most of? Is it food packaging, disposable coffee cups, plastic utensils?
Whatever it is, that's what you need to find zero waste alternatives for. In my case, I noticed a lot of food scraps and food packaging in my trash can.
So I started composting and shopping plastic-free at my local farmers market using tote bags and reusable produce bags.
Just being observant about your waste can help you get started on making some big impactful changes.
15. Preparation is key
Another bonus tip from Ariana:
A lot of waste tends to get created when we're thrown off guard or underprepared.
Making sure to pack a reusable water bottle, keeping a reusable utensil set on you, or stashing reusable bags in your car can make all the difference. Plan ahead so you won't have to accept plastic waste no matter where you end up.
Here are some of my favorite swaps that will have you prepared for anything.
16. Keep sustainability front of mind
Holly is the founder of elemental impact, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing regenerative operating practices to the corporate community. You can follow elemental impact on Twitter and Facebook.
AWARENESS is key to creating a sustainable lifestyle.
Simple everyday examples include:
- Separating plastic and paper packaging components prior to recycling.
- Telling the server “no straw please” when ordering a beverage.
- Purchasing products made from recycled content (preferably post-consumer content).
- Using recyclable packaging (no sparkles!) for gift wrapping, and noticing how others incorporate sustainable best practices into their lives.
17. Start slow
Bryanna blogs on theecological where she documents her green journey and shared tips a long the way. You can follow Bryanna on Twitter and Instagram.
Living sustainably doesn't need to happen overnight, and in fact I find it helps to take it slow when starting out!
My number one tip is to set a goal and work on that one issue until it feels like a new normal.
Phase out your old routine, repurpose or upcycle one piece, swap in ethical products as you finish the old ones, show support to small eco-conscious business instead of massive corporations - whatever your aim is, take time to really embrace it and to make sure you don't get overwhelmed.
By transitioning at a slower pace, you have time to let your goal become a lifelong change rather than a short term fad, plus taking it one step at a time really helps your wallet when incorporating planet friendly staples.
If and when it does come time to buy just do some quick checks based on your personal guidelines.
For example, if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint you can search for pre-loved products locally, or look into where the new product is made, where it is shipping from, and where the raw materials are sourced.
And remember, it isn't a matter of who is 'greenest' – just do your best and keep at it one goal at a time!
18. Eat sustainably
Amruta has 13 years of experience working as a professor of sustainability and is founder of Sustainability Tribe.You can follow Sustainability tribe on Twitter and Instagram.
I always suggest starting with simple lifestyle changes which have a higher impact on climate change.
My first recommendation is to choose sustainable food.
Reduce red meat, processed food. Instead opt for more plant based, local, seasonal and fresh food.
Try to have a few vegan days if you can’t make the switch. This way you don’t just help the environment but also improve your health.
Secondly reduce food waste by avoiding purchasing excess food and finding the right way to store food to make it last longer any food waste you do generate can be composted.
19. Think before buying
Frances is half of ourecofriendlylife along with partner Moe. Together they post about their journey to sustainable living as they renovate their homestead in France. You can follow them on Instagram.
Make conscious purchases as much as you can!
For example, if you go to buy something:
- first consider if it's something you really need or want.
- If it is, can you buy it second hand first?
- Is there an option to hire, or borrow from a friend if it's not something you're going to need for a long time?
- If the only option is to buy new, support small, ethical, sustainable businesses who put the planet and people first. They are often more expensive, but you typically buy less and it lasts for longer, too. By buying consciously we can vote with our money for the sort of future we want!
20. Buy less new stuff
Elena is a journalist and founder of greenlivinguk, a platform advocating sustainable living and zero-waste lifestyle choices. You can follow Elena or Pinterest and Instagram.
The media bombard us constantly about having more material things, working longer hours to earn more money to buy more clothes, more gadgets, more accessories, and more.
One wonders, though, why should we thrive for money? Why is our primary goal in life is to make more money? Why is it never enough?
Everything we ever need has already been made.
So before you use the ‘one click’ buying option, look in your cupboards, your shed and your garage. If you definitely need to purchase something, look at second hand options, rent or borrow from friends, family or your local council lending tool banks.
21. Start at home
David Lamont is founder of plasticfreehome, a blog focused on reducing the impact of plastic at home and living more sustainably.
Our advice is always to narrow things down in one of two easy ways:
- Select a point in your daily routine or
- Select a room in your house
- Remember to only order replacement products once you’ve used and exhausted those you already have at home, whatever they are.
Then, spend time exploring and hopefully getting used to those new products, which may in some cases take at least a few weeks.
Be sure that they are right for you and products that you are happy to stick with in the longer term.
If not, go back a step and consider the alternative options.
If there are barriers, for example the swaps are difficult to find, less affordable to you or you simply don’t like them as much, you may be less likely to stick to the changes you have made.
So take time to get this crucial step right in order to make long-term changes that have the most impact.
22. Again, focus on food waste!
Gittemary is a zero-waste and plastic-free living advocate who hosts lectures, classes and talks on living more sustainably. You can follow Gittemary on Instagram and Youtube.
A lot of our daily impact comes from the food we eat (and don't eat) so a good tip, if you want to kickstart your sustainability journey, is looking at what we put on our plate.
Substituting meat and dairy for plant-based alternatives, even just a few times a week can have a massive impact, going removing animal products completely from your diet can help reduce your annual emissions by up to 50%.
Furthermore, looking at how much food we throw out because we let it go bad or just don't know what to do with it, is also a good starting point.
I like to keep my leftovers furthest in the front in the fridge so I don't forget about them, and I always incorporate large parts of veggies that we usually throw away, like for broccoli stalk sauce, spinach stem stir fry, and kitchen scrap broth.
What an amazing collection of useful advice! Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to living more sustainably or a zero-waste pro there’s some actionable tips in there for everyone.
What’s your favourite tip for living sustainably?
Share your tip below and let us know.
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved before showing up.