A new year. A new you. If your 2020 resolutions included “being more sustainable,” then it’s time to take action. The good news is, being more sustainable doesn’t have to take over your whole life. There are a lot of small changes you can make to reduce your everyday waste.
At TreeBird, our mission is to make it easier for your to be more sustainable. To help you stick with your earth-related new year's resolutions, we reached out to some of our favorite sustainability experts for some simple tips and tricks.
Here’s what they said:
Be mindful of plastic
Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, which means most plastic ends up in our landfills and oceans for centuries. Take a look at the plastic lifestyle products you’re routinely buying (i.e. toothbrushes, floss, water bottles, trash bags, tampons, disposable utensils, etc) and look for earth-friendly alternatives. Living more sustainably can seem overwhelming at first, but remember: you don’t have to be perfect! Every small step you take makes a difference.
Take vacations closer to home
An often overlooked tip for decreasing your carbon footprint (and saving money) is reducing the distance to your vacation destinations. No matter where you live, there’s a good chance there are plenty of attractions and adventures within just a few hours of your hometown. Instead of flying to Hawaii or taking a luxury cruise, consider a road trip to a local hot springs, amusement park, or nearby resort.
Say goodbye to the to-go cup
I go out for iced coffee every morning before working on my website, and I always bring a tumbler with me. Reuse your tumbler, and reduce using plastic, simple.
Maintain an attitude of progress, not perfection
Aiming for a zero waste lifestyle can feel so intimidating at first, it leads to inaction. Instead, I recommend people pick one area to focus on at a time, such as using a reusable shopping bag or a stainless steel water bottle for 30 days. Once that becomes habit, take on one more change, like avoiding grocery store items with plastic packaging and focusing on package-free purchases instead. It's not enough for a few of us to live to strict sustainability rules. It's about the cumulative effect. If everyone could adopt at least one good habit, we could make quite an impact.
CEO, Plaine Products
Recycle your old appliances and consider buying second hand.
Most electric appliances take hundreds of years to decompose. If you need to throw out or replace an electrical appliance, see if the manufacturer has a buyback program or if a local thrift store will accept it. If your appliance is no longer in working condition, try handing it off to a scrap metal dealer or local recycling company.
In order to start living a more sustainable lifestyle, you first need to know what kind of impact you’re having. Completing a waste audit of your home is a great place to start. Monitor what you’re throwing away for a set period of time and then look into sustainable alternatives for those items.
Content Creator, Gypsy Soul
Rethink your dishwasher use
If your dishwasher has an "eco-dry" or "low heat dry" option, use it! We start our dishwasher (only when it's full) after dinner and run it before bed. When it's finished, we open it up and pull the racks out and let the dishes air-dry overnight.
This method uses up less energy (and money) in drying your dishes. It also prevents water spots and is better for most dishes. In the winter, you’ll love how it adds moisture to dry indoor air.
Founder, Sustainable Cooks
Cut down on plastic while grocery shopping.
Reusable bags are a must for groceries and everything else. Once you’ve got your bag covered, it’s time to up the ante and add cotton muslin produce bags, glass Mason jars and stainless steel reusable containers to your zero-waste shopping kit. These items empower you to refuse plastic produce bags as well as plastic deli and meat counter packaging.
Put your shopping bags along with these other plastic-free tools in the back of your car or your bike so you’re ready to go when your next grocery trip calls.
Sandra Ann Harris
Eat less meat
Livestock production is responsible for a significant chunk of global-warming causing greenhouse gas emissions. You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but you can add a few meatless days to your week. It's becoming easier now than ever, because so many restaurants offer plant-based options and you can find tons of really tasty vegetarian recipes online.
Eating a more plant-based diet reduces deforestation as fewer forests are clear cut for grazing, it improves water quality as enormous amounts of concentrated cow poop aren't leaking into our waterways, it saves you money at the grocery store, and it clearly and indisputably benefits your health and longevity.
Casey Meehan, PhD
Sustainability and climate action coach and educator
Eat less meat by making vegetables taste better!
The trick to eating less meat is to make vegetables taste amazing. You can achieve this by using umami-rich ingredients, like ripe tomatoes, soy sauce, and sliced shiitake mushrooms to your roasted or braised veggies. Most importantly, invest in plenty of sauces to add flavor to food, so you don't miss the meat. Tasty sauces include toasted sesame oil, DIY vegan aioli, za'atar with olive oil, and homemade salad dressing.
Food Writer and Recipe Developer, GarlicDelight.com
Recycle the right way
Nearly 30% of the items Americans discarded in their recycling bins last year did not belong there. This year, focus on recycling materials with the most impact. This includes mixed paper, cardboard, metal, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. Specifically, aluminum is a material that is recycled the least but has the most value as it can be recycled infinitely and can be back on store shelves within 60 days of recycling.
Sustainability Ambassador for Republic Services, RecyclingSimplified.com
Be mindful of food waste
Approximately 40% of all food is wasted, which results in countless amounts of water, crop land and other resources that go to waste as well. To minimize food waste, we encourage the use of the whole plant - vegetable stems, leaves, and stalks that are typically not used in recipes are fantastic ingredients to keep on hand. Store them by keeping a reusable container in your freezer with unused scraps until it’s time to make a stock.
Co-founder, Pink Salt Cuisine
Consider public transportation
We’re all on the go in some form or another, so thinking about the little ways to reduce your footprint when you’re traveling can add up to a big impact. Consider slower forms of public transport like trains and buses and walking or biking whenever possible. Carpool as much as you can. Keep your car tuned and the tires inflated, map your most efficient routes, use cruise control and don’t leave your car idling—the more efficiently you run your car, the less you pollute and the more gas money you save. If you do need to fly, choose direct flights as take off and landing produce the most emissions. Always pack light to lessen your load.
Founder & CEO, SustainableTravelStore.com
Use your air conditioner wisely.
When the summer heat starts coming back, remember that each degree you adjust the thermostat increases your energy demand around 3%. Put the dial back by 3oF? That’s almost 10% less energy. (Not to mention a 10% cheaper energy bill!). Similarly, EnergyStar recommends you increase the thermostat by 4oF (12% saving) when sleeping. And if you’re away from home, they recommend a 7oF increase (21% saving). The greatest energy demand is when an air conditioner is actively cooling a room, not maintaining a temperature. So unless you’re out for 4+ hours, it’s better to keep an air conditioner running on low/eco mode – rather than always switching it on/off.
HVAC Expert at Appliance Analysts
Choose Fairtrade certified products in your purchases
A lot of our favorite stuff, like coffee, chocolate, cotton, and even bananas and flowers are produced at such a high volume and such cheap prices that almost everyone along the supply chain gets cheated: unsafe or forced labor, incredibly low and unsustainable wages, poor environmental practices; the list goes on. Every time you opt for Fairtrade products instead of conventional ones, you cast a vote for human rights, environmental support, and a brighter future. When the Fairtrade America logo appears on a product, it means farmers got a fair deal in growing their goods. When you have the option to choose Fairtrade certified products, take that opportunity to better the lives of small-scale farmers.
Account Coordinator, Fair Trade America
Start a compost pile
Composting isn’t only for people with big backyards. It can actually be done in a tiny studio apartment! A healthy compost pile breaks down your table scraps and creates fresh, nutrient-rich soil in about six weeks. You can use this soil for your potted plants or vegetable garden. It's a great way to promote sustainability by keeping food garbage out of landfills.
Off Grid Systems Designer, Maximum Off Grid
When it comes to sustainability, it’s okay to start small. In 2020, why not choose one of these simple strategies and stick with it? Be sure to let us know how you’re staying sustainable this year. We love sharing tips and tricks for a greener planet!