Recent environmental reports have revealed just how dire the trajectory of climatic change has become for humans. Now more than ever, individuals are wondering how to live sustainably while maintaining a semblance of normalcy and functionality in their lives.
At Gingerhill, we strive to implement communal and sustainable practices that nourish the land and the bodies that inhabit it while producing minimal waste. But you don’t have to move to a sustainable community in Hawaii to reduce your carbon footprint and start living an eco-friendly existence. If you’re wondering how to live sustainably in the context in which you already live, try making these seven critical changes.
Use Castile Soap
All resources on how to live sustainably will suggest reducing your use of products that contain toxic pollutants. Most shampoos, conditioners, and cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that gradually poison the human body and contaminate the environment. While there exist many eco-friendly substitutes for these types of products, they can be incredibly expensive. Plus, they typically still come in plastic packaging that only exacerbates landfill inundation.
Castile soap is an excellent eco-friendly alternative to toxic cosmetics and cleaners. These soaps are made from plant-based oils, like coconut oil and hemp oil. They also typically contain essential oils for freshness.
Castile soap can be used as shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, laundry detergent, pet wash, deodorant, a bath soak, or a household cleaner. Thus, using castile soap also saves you both time in the grocery store and space in your bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
Choose Natural or DIY Cosmetic Products
Castile soap isn’t the only natural alternative to chemical-ridden cosmetic products. In fact, a lot of the items in your pantry can actually double as cosmetic products. Try making facemasks out of oatmeal; hair masks out of avocado and egg; clarifying hair rinses out of vinegar; facial scrubs out of sugar, honey, and coconut oil; or facial peels out of green papaya.
Essential oils also function as excellent alternatives to an array of beauty products. Try swapping out your toxic perfumes for therapeutic, stress relieving, energizing essential oils. Lavender and citrus are excellent choices. You can blend baking soda, coconut oil, and tea tree oil to make a natural, anti-microbial deodorant or toothpaste as well. (Just be sure not to swallow the tea tree oil.)
Try Natural Cleaning Solutions
If you’re wondering how to live sustainably and still keep your home presentable, you need not worry. As cleaning companies are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprints, several eco-friendly cleaning products are popping up in grocery stores. However, like eco-friendly cosmetics, these products cater to the green bourgeois demographic and are thus unaffordable for many.
Instead of purchasing expensive cleaners, try using natural cleaners. Baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar can all be used for cleaning purposes. Using natural products in a re-usable spray bottle goes a step beyond purchasing eco-friendly products because it cuts down on plastic waste.
BYUO (Bring Your Own Utensils)
Picture all of the plastic utensils you have used in your lifetime piled in a heap. Now multiply that size heap by 7 billion, and you will start to get an idea of just how bad using plastic utensils can be for the planet. Using metal utensils, too, has a detrimental environmental impact, as restaurants dictate they must be cleaned (which requires water) and sanitized (which requires bleach) after every use.
One of the easiest tips on how to live sustainably is to bring utensils with you when you go out to eat. Metal or wooden options are the most durable and eco-friendly. Bringing chopsticks instead of standard American utensils may have health benefits as well as environmental ones, as they help you slow down when you’re eating.
You can take it a step further by bringing your own glass takeout container and asking for drinks in your own glass or metal bottle. Be sure to select bottles and containers free of BPA and other environmentally harmful chemicals.
Make Smart Purchasing Decisions
There are a few small adjustments you can make to your grocery list that will yield a significant environmental impact over time. First, try to purchase as little plastic as possible. Buy the peanut butter sold in a glass jar instead of a plastic one. You can save glass jars to use as water bottles or pencil/toothbrush holders. You can also use them for food storage, potting plants, and more!
Put fruits and vegetables in reusable bags instead of plastic ones. Purchase products with a positive environmental impact, like unpackaged, organic produce, and avoid ecologically destructive meats and dairy.
Instead of purchasing new pots and pans, choose used ones. Oftentimes used cookware is perfectly functional, rejected only for its lack of aesthetic appeal. Doing so is not only better for the environment; it’s better for your wallet. Make a commitment to yourself to always check your local thrift store before purchasing a brand new product of any sort.
What you buy can be just as important as what you choose not to buy. For instance, you can forego your typical purchase of paper towels and sponges and start using rags for cleaning instead. Select paper bags instead of plastic and reuse them as shopping bags and trash can liners. The best advice on how to live sustainably involves combining several small adjustments for one significant reduction in your carbon footprint.
Buy Used Clothing
Most people don’t realize just how environmentally impactful fabric production can be. Producing just one, conventional cotton t-shirt requires 700 gallons of water and the use of cancer-causing chemicals. Polyester takes 200 years to break down in a landfill. Even clothing that is allegedly eco-friendly, like that made from bamboo, is incredibly chemically intensive.
You can reduce your carbon footprint and renounce your support for these harmful industries by buying used clothing. If more people bought used clothing, general demand for harmful products like polyester would drop dramatically.
If you must purchase new clothing, choose fabrics that are environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial. Linen and hemp are the best options, as they are both anti-microbial, biodegradable and require minimal water and chemical use for their production. Hemp is particularly notable as a sustainable fabric, as every part of the plant can be used to enhance human and environmental health.
Minimize Your Use of Water
What is the best advice on how to live sustainably and ethically? Reduce your water consumption. Clean, drinkable water is a limited resource, and one we should be more mindful in consuming. Reducing your water waste is just as important as, if not more important than, conserving water.
There are several things you can do to curb your use of fresh, clean water. Put a timer on your showers and do your best to be in and out in 5 minutes. Instead of letting the water run while you do dishes, fill your sink for washing and rinsing. Instead of watering indoor and outdoor plants with fresh water, leave out buckets or watering cans when it rains, and save the rainwater for watering plants. If you really want to go above and beyond, install a water catchment and purification system that can transform rainwater to clean, drinkable water.