Re-purposing, reusing, recycling . . . any way I can improve my lifestyle for the health of my family, home, land and the overall Earth — I’m on it. Maybe I’m becoming too much of a hippie, but I am always looking for ways to reduce waste and reuse what I have. It’s economical, sustainable and just makes sense. Why not get the most out of everything you have, and avoid buying new items? Do you want to reduce your own waste, but aren’t sure where to start? Below are some simple ways to be more sustainable around your own home. These are real things that we do, that work for us and are easy to do.
Ditch the Sponges – This is a great way to re-purpose old towels that may be stained or torn. I take old dish cloths and just cut them into rectangles that are about 3″ x 6″. You can cut them to whatever size you like. I tend to get about (8) cleaning cloths per old towel. I use them for everything – washing dishes, cleaning counters, wiping up messes, washing windows, dusting, you get the idea! I keep a bunch in drawer by my kitchen sink, and the rest in our linen closet, in a basket labeled for cleaning rags. Once I have used it, I just toss them in the wash with our regular towels, and we’re ready to go again!
Wash In Order – This is really easy, but not always obvious. To get the most use out of your water, wash the least dirty areas first, working your way to the dirty sections last. This way, you aren’t dumping out your mop bucket or window wash a bunch of times, and using more water.
Save the Rain – If possible, setting up a rain catch system around your property is an excellent means of being sustainable. Rain water is excellent for watering plants, washing cars, cleaning the coop, etc. Even just a simple bucket by the garden can help you to save a little water, if you can’t participate on a larger scale. Just remember with open buckets or catch systems, that open, still water will become stagnant quickly, and can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other bugs.
Please keep in mind – rain water is a form of gray water, and is not safe for human consumption. You should not use it for drinking, cooking, etc. Just think about it – the rain water runs down off of your roof, where there are bugs, pollen, dirt, bird feces, and into the gutter (who knows whats in there!) and then into your container. It is not clean water.
Shop Smart – Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping – whether this means mesh produce bags and cloth grocery bags, or even a cloth bag or a cute basket when you go to your favorite book store, craft store, or even the local hardware store! Buy in bulk when you can, and bring your own container for the item when possible, if not reusing the original container. Purchasing items in glass or biodegradable containers, as glass can be recycled, or used around the house.
Buy Local – Supporting local business is not only good for your economy, but it helps reduce your carbon footprint. You also may make new friends and connections with neighbors and local farms that enrich your shopping experience, as well as opening the door to trying new foods, or even bartering/trading for items!
Think Ahead – Pack your own lunch, coffee and water/drinks to go for the day, using your own reusable bags, cups and containers. This helps reduce waste, and keeps you eating better, too. Investing in a nice set of reusable utensils for your lunch bag is a good idea, too. I found an adorable set with a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks, that comes in a little protective sleeve, on Amazon for pretty cheap. They’re made of bamboo so they are really durable as well.
Compost – Get the most out of everything by saving your waste! Food scraps, rotten or bruised portions can all get tossed into the compost. Some of the key items that should always make it into your compost are egg shells, ground coffee and banana peels. This magical trio will help restore your soil’s calcium, potassium and nitrogen, as well as balancing the PH.
For vegetable ends and scraps that are still perfectly edible, consider making your own stock! Check out our post on DIY Stock to get started, and don’t miss out on How to Make Your Own Croutons & Breadcrumbs!
Garage Cleaning – Similar to my Ditch-the-Sponge initiative, we use stained and torn towels, rags and t-shirts around the garage for those really messy cleanups or oil-covered hands. Make sure you keep these available and obvious, so your good towels don’t make their way into the garage too, like a certain someone else’s towels, ahem.
Ladies – Ditch the Disposables – This may not be for everyone, but making the switch to cloth pads or a reusable cup for that time of the month can help both the environment, your wallet and your health. Studies have shown that the chemicals used in commercial pads and tampons can intensify period symptoms, as well as lead to other long term health issues! I made the switch to “mama cloth”, as cloth pads are sometimes known, a few years back. I was hesitant, and worried about how gross it might be, but I found it to be extremely easy, and I was impressed with how immediately my intense cramps stopped.
Cloth pads are available in a lot of really adorable and fun patterns as well, so why not add a little fun to an otherwise crummy time of the month? There are lots of brands, as well as Etsy vendors, who make great, affordable pads that work for everyone. Are you just sew-handy Still want to use tampons? Opt for an organic cotton tampon that is applicator-free for a sustainable option!
Diapers – Moving to a cloth diaper is another great way to be sustainable and make diapering more comfortable for your baby. As with commercial pads and tampons, baby diapers are bleached, dyed and carry their own chemical makeup that can irritate sensitive skin. While it may not be statistically proven (please let me know if there is a study out there!), I have noticed that diaper rash is much higher with babies and toddlers who wear the standard diaper brands. My daughter has never had diaper rash, not one bit!
Don’t want to use cloth? That’s OK! My husband couldn’t stand it, so we didn’t use them for more than a month, tops. There are a lot of really wonderful organic, unbleached diapers out there that are biodegradable! We use the Naty brand, which are amazing — totally biodegradable, non-GMO, chemical free and wonderful for leaks and overnights. The only time we have had blow out or a leaky diaper is when the diaper size was getting too small, or from our own bad timing. They’re also really cute, and I get lots of compliments on them.
So there you have it, my top 10, super easy, anyone can do it, ways to becoming more sustainable. Even on a small scale, many of these items are achievable, and the smallest change makes a difference. Using your own coffee cup every day, instead of buying out, only using sponges for really grimy jobs and using cloth for everything else. Take one step at a time – I didn’t start doing all of these at one time. We took steps, slowly converting to more sustainable methods that were easier on our wallets as well as our bodies, home and surroundings. Set a goal for yourself to tackle one item on this list, and you’ll be surprised how naturally the rest will start to fall into place!
Looking for more things to help you and your family become more sustainable? Check out my post on Household Items You Shouldn’t Be Throwing Out! for more ideas.
Do you have some more tips for ways to improve sustainability? Want to share your own success story? Leave your comments below!