10 Easy Ways to Be Sustainable in Everyday Life

Ready to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle? These are my favorite ways to be sustainable in everyday life (and they range from small changes to major overhauls)!

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With all of the new eco friendly products on the market and vegan, zero waste, and green lifestyles, it’s natural to wonder how to be sustainable in everyday life.

Like, what does that even mean anymore?!

And can you live sustainably on a budget?

Let’s break down what sustainable living means first.

Sustainable living asks us to think of future generations.

We are trying to find ways to limit the natural resources we use and the waste we create to ensure that all humans alive now and all humans alive in the future will live safe, healthy lives.

To live sustainably means that you are mindful of the natural resources you use and you make efforts to ensure any waste you create can break down appropriately to go back to the earth.

The concept of sustainability can become more complex and nuanced especially when you apply it to industries.

how to be sustainable in everyday life

Examples of Sustainability in Everyday Life

  • Carry a reusable stainless steel water bottle
  • Use a cloth bag instead of plastic
  • Bring your own produce bags to the store or market
  • Switch to LED light bulbs
  • Shop for Fair Trade or organic food
  • Use public transportation, walk, or bike when possible

These ideas are not brand new, right? You likely use some of these already!

How many earths do you need?

Sustainable living does not have to be hard, but it is a broad concept that has implications in many parts of life.

The thing I want you to know if your effort be more sustainable at home is this.

The typical American lifestyle is not environmentally sustainable.

If all people around the globe lived the way many Americans do, we would deplete our natural resources, emit even more greenhouse gases, and have even more of a trash problem than we do.

Before we get into that, have you checked your carbon footprint?

There is a free online tool that allows you to see how many earths it would take if everyone lived just like you.

Yes, earths.

Because right now, many Americans are using more than their fair share of resources.

Take a few minutes to look at that tool to see how sustainable your life is.

how to be sustainable in everyday life

My own experience with the footprint calculator

I took a college course a few years ago that asked us to use this calculator. At the time, I was managing a farmers market and eating basically only locally grown food. We cooked from scratch and rarely dined out. We always shopped used first.

No matter how I tweaked the tool, I could never get down to just 1 earth. It always said I would need 3.2 earths and that by April 23rd each year, I’d use up my share of natural resources. This is called your Overshoot Day.


Even if YOU change every single thing in your life, you will never get down to 1 earth on your own because the greatest causes of climate change come from rich countries, governments, and corporations.

  • Did you know that 25% of all greenhouse emissions since 1751 came from the United States? (source)
  • 70% of all greenhouse emissions from the last 20 years come from just 100 fossil fuel producers. (source)
  • The richest 10% of people use 20 times more energy than the poorest 10%. (source)

Learn more about how corporations cause climate change and the projects that will heal the planet.

Does this mean it’s not your problem? I think it’s important to work on both fronts: at home and on a larger scale. I try to control what I can at home (without losing my mind) and push for broader changes.

10 Ways to Be Sustainable in Everyday Life

1. Switch to renewable energy

Most greenhouse emissions come from fossil fuels. Many power companies have optional green energy programs you can use to get natural gas from methane harvested from landfills, wind energy, solar, hydroelectric, or more.

These programs can cost a few extra dollars per month or require more investment. Check out your energy company website to see what they can do!

For example, I use a company called Puget Sound Energy. They showed me a breakdown of how my electricity is generated. They offer voluntary participation in renewable energy programs including solar and also sell carbon offsets for gas users!

I participate in a program with them called Green Power, which switches my electricity sources to a blend of renewable energy sources generated in my region. For about $4 more per month, I can ensure that fossil fuels are not part of my fuel mix.

I’ve found this to be one of the easiest ways to reduce my environmental impact for minimal cost. Although there are pros and cons to all types of energy, this is a great way to divest from oil and gas for about the cost of one cup of coffee per month.

how to live sustainable at home

2. Minimize fossil fuel usage & gas emissions

The most unsustainable thing I do is drive my car. I have a Ford Escape that gets about 25-27 miles per gallon. Based on how my community is set up, there is not a lot of public transportation available and I commute by myself to my workplace.

To reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you could carpool, look for bus services, or if you are close to work or shops, you could walk/bike.

You can also pay to offset your carbon emissions using organizations like Cool Effect or Sterling Planet.

To live sustainably means that you are mindful of the natural resources you use and you make efforts to ensure any waste you create can break down appropriately to go back to the earth.

sustainable living tips food waste

3. Reduce your food waste

Food waste is its own massive and important issue. The main thing to know is that about half of all the food produced in the US is wasted. 40% of that waste comes from us as individuals and another 40% comes from the retail food system (grocery stores). (Source)

It is vital that we manage food waste in our own homes and push for changes in grocery practices.

Teach yourself how to meal plan, eat your leftovers, and learn my favorite frugal food hacks to make the most of all your food scraps!

4. Shop locally for food

If you can shop at local farms at all, you’ll be preserving farmland, reducing the fuel used to transport and cool the produce, and supporting local businesses.

Since the produce is so close to you, it will also be fresher and likely more nutritious. (Source)

Scour your area for local farms, farmers markets, co-ops, and bulk stores. Find local food near you.

Worried about how to eat locally-grown food on a budget? I’ve shared my favorite tips for how to afford local produce on a budget after years of managing a local farmers’ market.

Can I eat meat and live a sustainable lifestyle?

This is a controversial topic and everyone has different perspectives on meat consumption. A lot of zero-waste folks eat a plant-based diet or eat less meat to reduce their carbon footprint.

Personally, I believe that there are sustainable, regenerative ways to incorporate animals in small-scale agricultural systems. I eat meat that is grass-fed and pasture-raised from a local family farm, and I know that they use sustainable land management practices.

  • I always recommend buying the very best quality animal products you can afford. Look for regenerative agriculture when at all possible.
  • If you do eat meat, try stretching it with vegetables, beans, or grains and use any bones or off-cuts to make stock.
  • Try eating offal and off-cuts to make use of the whole animal. (I love using tallow and lard in the kitchen, too).

5. Start composting

If at all possible, try starting a compost bin if at all possible. There are so many ways to do this and even if you’re apartment homesteading, you can find a composting routine that works for you.

In this post, I’ve explained how to use a kitchen compost bin and offered an overview of the most convenient composting setups.

how to live sustainably tips

6. Make your home appliances more efficient

There is a balance between keeping older appliances in good working order and upgrading to more efficient ones that use less water and energy to work. This is a great way to reduce your energy consumption while still enjoying some creature comforts.

Check the ENERGY STAR website for rebates for upgrading to more water and energy-efficient appliances.

There are also ways to work with what you have to make them a little more efficient!

  • Did you know you can add a plastic half-gallon full of water to your toilet tank to make it use less water per flush?
  • There are also special showerheads that minimize the water you use. Some can even pause the flow of water without turning the shower off – perfect for shaving!
  • Using cold water instead of hot will reduce the energy needed to heat the water.
  • Set your refrigerator between 35-38 degrees to save electricity.
  • Opt for using smaller kitchen appliances like toaster ovens and microwaves instead of the oven.
  • Cover pots and pans to conserve energy.

Here are some more strategies to save energy in the kitchen!

sustainable living ideas shop secondhand

7. Shop secondhand first

One of my favorite eco-friendly practices is shopping secondhand! This means making your thrift store, charity shop, or local Facebook Marketplace your friend.

Buying used bypasses conventional stores completely. Instead of requiring the resources, fuel, and labor that go into creating a new item, you’re benefiting from the materials and work that went into an older one.

This is my favorite tip to live sustainably on a budget. There are used versions of everything out there, and many of them are totally unused in the original box!

tips on sustainable living

8. Avoid plastics and petrochemicals

We need to start shifting away from nonrenewable resources like fossil fuels. There are bio plastics and fuels, but those are not necessarily more sustainable for the planet.

Only 9% of all plastic produced ever gets recycled, meaning almost every piece of plastic you’ve ever recycled is in a landfill.

Plastic also breaks down into microplastics which pollute waterways, animals, and even our own bodies. (source)

The first time I learned this and walked into a Target, I was knocked flat. I imagined almost all of the stuff in that store stuck in a landfill. I felt sick.

Instead, opt for natural, renewable, or easily recyclable materials when possible. Look for organic cotton, hemp, linen, glass, bamboo or other woods, metal, or paper.

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store to avoid plastic bags.
  • Replace plastic bottles with reusable ones
  • Carry reusable coffee cups
  • Find plastic wrap alternatives to reduce your waste
  • Invest in high-quality reusable products, like silicone bags, to replace disposable ones
  • Try easy zero waste swaps
  • Limit single-use plastics (cutlery, to go cups, etc)
  • Use cloth rags instead of paper towels
  • Bring your own reusable containers for leftovers

Read: Which Types of Plastic Are Safe to Use? (+ Free Safe Plastic Numbers Chart)

examples of sustainability in everyday life

9. Opt out of the shopping culture

According to a study, Americans spend about $1,500 on things they don’t really need each month.

Most of this figure comes from dining out, picking up meals or coffee, using rideshare services, buying clothes, and more.

Obviously, this varies drastically from house to house. If you’re living on a tight budget, I’m sure that your numbers might be different.

But the point is that many Americans buy things they really don’t need. Most of the things sold in our stores anyway are poorly made using unsustainable materials, with little care to the worker, and little regard for the environment.

Here are some staggering statistics about American spending.

  • 96% of adults and 95% percent of teens indicated that they use retail therapy at least sometimes.
  • The average American between 18 and 65 years old has $4,717 of credit card debt.
  • 50% of online shoppers will order more than they need to hit free shipping.

The more sustainable you are, the less stuff you buy. You’ll likely look around your home to see if there is something that will make do.

If you can’t find anything, you’ll shop secondhand first. You might make some items yourself, like lotions and cleaning supplies.

You may even just decide to do without things that were never really important to you anyway.

Have you heard of a No Spend Month? I’ve created a free printable printable to help you go on a spending fast.

Buy the best quality you can afford and only buy exactly what you need.

Just remember that sustainable living is not something you can buy your way into. It’s also not going to look the same for everyone and will vary depending on who you are, your income, and your lifestyle.

You’re trying to live as a non-consumer in a shopping-obsessed world and you’ll need to be gentle with yourself.

Read: Ask Yourself These 7 Questions Before Buying New

how to improve environmental sustainability

10. Support broadscale climate change initiatives

Whether you’re looking in your local area or on a national or global level, there are things we can do to tackle climate change.

One of my favorite resources to review is Project Drawdown, which is a research-based book and website that shares a broad assortment of strategies to reach drawdown.

They define drawdown as “the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible.”

If you’re an American, you may want to look into the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which pushes for green initiatives at a federal level, like putting a price on carbon.

Be sure to look into local and state initiatives that promote sustainability, too.

ecofriendly products bamboo

How can I tell if a product is sustainable?

One thing I want to mention here is that you’re not going to be 100% sustainable right now, even if you follow all of my suggestions above.

You are still living in a hyper-consumeristic world and you need to build in some flexibility.

When you want to buy something brand new, just take a moment to reflect on the item’s full lifecycle. This process sounds complicated and can take a little time if you are a beginner, but it becomes easier as you go.

Question the item’s lifecycle

How was it made?

  • What materials were used in the process & how were they grown or derived? What sort of fuel is used to create the ingredient or product? How are the workers paid and cared for? Is the land maintained for future harvests?

How is it used?

  • This is about how the product gets into your hands and fits into your life. Where is the product sold? What are the ethics of the company selling? What sort of packaging is used? Are the materials safe for humans or animals to use? Is the product repairable?

How does it break down?

  • Is the packaging compostable or biodegradable? Is the packaging recyclable? If it is a cleaning product, is it safe for waterways and aquatic life? Can I compost the item at home? Does it break down into any harmful substances?
dealing with eco anxiety

Surviving as a Non-Consumer in a Consumerist World

Living more sustainably can feel overwhelming.

Honestly, it can be jarring to start recognizing just how unsustainable our lives really are.

After I first learned that nothing I did as an individual would ever bring my footprint calculator to say 1 earth, I was mad. I didn’t understand how I couldn’t just do my best and fix the problem.

Then I felt anxious and then I felt depressed. Hopeless. What’s the point in trying when nothing I do will ever really help the problem?

I also went through a long period of guilt. I couldn’t even walk into a store without this overwhelming anxiety about ALL THE WASTE.

Living in panic and anxiety is not helpful and did nothing but send me in a tailspin of Cheez-its and Netflix.

sustainable living tips

What helps with eco-anxiety?

You need to find your people.

You need community. This can happen online or if you have a strong local food community, you may find it at your farmers market!

This solves the issue of eating more local food, too, and you will certainly find good food when you find local farmers.

A strong community will also help you find connections for purchasing secondhand items, small businesses to support, and local organizations that support sustainable initiatives.

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