Find the most sustainable, eco-friendly home practices to incorporate into your daily life. These easy and affordable ways to greener living will leave you feeling more at peace.
Eco-friendly living is something I try to incorporate into our home life. As someone who is passionate about the environment, it’s important to be aware of what I’m consuming. Additionally, it’s important to know how I’m consuming and the effects of my consumption on the world around me.
It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our home that I realized how much energy and resources a home uses up. However, there are a few ways to remedy this. After a bit of practice, most of these have become second nature to me. They only take a few extra seconds out of my day and help me create less waste.
Plus, most of them are saving me money. Especially when you add everything up over the course of a year.
Creating an eco-friendly home has been a fun challenge for me, and I am always striving to do better. I don’t claim to be zero waste, but I do love getting inspiration from that community. So please, if you think to yourself That is isn’t enough. then just know that I realize that already… But it’s not about being perfect. Small changes do add up over time. Habits matter.
What is an eco-friendly home?
An eco-friendly home is a home that is resourceful. It runs in a way that creates less waste–of food, energy, and other resources, whether natural or manmade. It shows respect toward the environment, the health of its inhabitants and those around them, and strives to be more efficient with energy. Most eco-friendly homes also use non-toxic methods and materials, too.
Now, we don’t exactly have a solar-powered roof or drive electric cars or anything like that, BUT we have made a lot of other small changes that matter.
That being said, I would love a solar-powered roof someday, so if you ever need a gift idea for me…
Why strive for an eco-friendly home?
Every day, consumers produce more and more waste. Many of us don’t think of where our trash ends up very often, though. Out of sight, out of mind.
In reality, trash gets sent to areas of the world where it piles up until it begins polluting the world around us. This hasn’t happened overnight either. It’s been happening for years.
Many manufactured materials won’t break down even after many, many years. Many of them will sit there forever. Eventually, we will run out of space.
But before that happens, plastics with carcinogenic chemicals will leach into our water; our ozone layer will thin, affecting skin cancer rates and killing much-needed plant life; forests and wildlife will decline along with many of our resources, including food, water, and shelter. It affects not only the environment in which we live but also our long-term health.
This has already started happening, in fact.
(The science of it is far out of my scope of expertise, so if you need a source for more detailed information, I’d encourage you to visit this website about how waste affects our world.)
The reason I felt so compelled to start reducing our waste is because of the drastic effects it can have on our lives. Plus, I want to set a good example for others.
I could complain about corporations or the government not doing enough, but that does not empower me. We vote with our dollar every single day, so why not start there?
Not only that, but both individuals and companies need to take responsibility for the future of our world. If enough people start changing their habits and make small changes to be less wasteful, it will add up. That’s not to say that it is only our responsibility, but right now it’s all that I, myself, can do.
So I am going to try to do better instead of solely blaming it on the corporations/government (though they are part of the issue). That’s another topic for another day. For that reason, I am focusing on what we can do on an individual level to start initiating change in our everyday living routines at home.
Eco-Friendly Home Ideas
Shop for secondhand decor and clothes
This is one I’m still easing into. It’s sometimes easier with decor because I’m so picky and actually prefer a lot of old, antique pieces in my home. Other times I’m impatient and feel the need to get a room completed, so if I find a sale I go for it. Thankfully summer garage sales will be coming up, so I have no excuses for not buying secondhand.I love thrifting and perusing antique stores for decor. Never know what I will find.
Clothes are a little harder for me to find secondhand. I’ve used an online thrift store before but it was hit or miss. They weren’t very size inclusive, so the clothes weren’t very fashionable even when they had size large or extra large available. I sometimes think my curvy body type makes it harder for me to find the right brands. This makes it harder when both size and brand come into play at secondhand shops. I plan on hitting up some thrift stores this fall for some cozy, oversized sweaters, though. Wish me luck on this pursuit!
Even if you can’t go all in on this, it’s nice to at least get some or half of your decor/clothes secondhand. Just creating that habit helps shape future shopping habits.
Give the gift of experience instead of material goods
I love gift giving, and I especially love giving experiences as gifts. It’s a gift that truly creates memories. I sometimes prefer this route instead of gifting material goods that are often forgotten and tossed aside quickly.
This is especially true with kids. Their tastes are always changing as they grow and sometimes they’re overwhelmed with so much stuff that they either forget about it or become uninterested quickly. Luckily, there are so many fun outings and tickets that can be purchased for fun days out. I find this same thing applies to adults, too. Never met a person who would turn down a free dinner, concert tickets, or another fun outing.
Cook from scratch
This is a favorite of mine. I love cooking and baking. One example I like to give about how this reduces waste is this. Imagine buying a cake at the grocery store bakery. It probably comes in a big plastic box that can’t be recycled. If you make one from scratch, you will use flour, eggs, sugar, and a small handful of other products to bake a cake.
The sack of flour comes in paper, which is compostable or recyclable; the egg shells can be composted, along with the paper carton it came in; the sugar also comes in paper which is also compostable/recyclable. And so on and so forth. These ingredients last me weeks usually. They could bake 20 cakes. That saves 20 plastic cake boxes, theoretically. Not that I eat 20 cakes that often–ha! However, you can use many of those same ingredients to make rolls, breads, tortillas, pies, cookies, and anything else with those ingredients.
This proves my point. The homemade version is almost always lower waste and way cheaper. It is more resourceful in more than one way.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Many of you may have heard this mantra before. Reduce waste as much as possible. Reuse what you can. After all your other options have run out, recycle the rest. (Just remember there are recycling guidelines–not everything is recyclable.) Then, as a last resort throw anything else in the trash.
One thing I consider when buying or using a product is to first think about the impact it will have when you get rid of it or the vessel it came in. Can it be reused? Can it be composted? Recycled? If not, it’s ending up in a landfill in a poor community somewhere…
It takes a very conscientious person to do this consistently. I get it. It’s not second nature until you practice it enough. But it’s not impossible to make this a normal habit. It’s also a great habit to use for decreasing spending money.
Use non-toxic cleaning products
An eco-friendly home would not be complete without non-toxic cleaning products in the home. This is because many chemicals typically used in the home are not healthy for the environment. Not when they’re created, used, or even thrown away and wasted.
I like to make some of my own cleaning products and invest in a small handful of cleaning products from eco-conscious companies who I share values with. Some of these companies donate portions of their profits to charities dedicated to helping the environment. Many use responsible means of creating and disposing of waste products. Lastly, these companies may use better packaging that is compostable, biodegradable or recyclable compared to their competitors.
Buy less stuff
A crazy suggestion, some would say. It is sad that so many people in the world are materialistic to some extent. We’ve been shaped by our society to value physical things highly (and to grant higher social status to those with more material things). Therefore, we may unconsciously, or consciously, place more emphasis on physical goods over other things at times. I wish this weren’t true.
Obviously, we can’t eliminate all material goods. Some things we truly do need.
But ask yourself when you’re buying it:
Is this a want or a need?
Is this just creating more waste in my life?
Will it last me a lifetime or be thrown away in weeks or months?
This is not just about consuming resources, but also about creating healthy spending habits. I’ve always thought that frugal living and being environmentally conscious go hand in hand…
When buying goods, opt for greener packaging
If you have the option, always opt for the product that creates less waste. I try to stick with this rule as long as the more eco-friendly option is affordable. For example, choose products that come in glass instead of plastic. Glass is higher-quality, which means it can be reused for other purposes and last a long time. It can also be recycled an infinite amount of times without losing its quality. So if you don’t reuse it, it’s easy to recycle. Cardboard and paper packaging are also great because they can be composted or recycled. Just try to stay away from plastics as much as possible.
I know, easier said than done–especially when it comes to groceries.
However, another way to decrease waste includes investing in reusable shopping bags. I own several of these and always have one on hand in case we stop somewhere. I just really dislike plastic shopping bags, personally. They aren’t very roomy or durable. Though if one ends up at home, I stash it away to at least reuse it for whatever I can in the future.
Reduce use of electricity
This is such a simple one for me. During work hours, set your thermostat in your home to a schedule, so it’s not running all day long. If you go out of town, remember to turn it off for the entirety of the trip. In the spring and fall, during milder climates, try to keep the heat and a/c off as much as possible and rely on fresh air. I love opening the windows for fresh air during the daytime hours.
Also, don’t forget to keep lights off when not in use. Honestly, even when I’m home all day during the day I don’t use lights. We are lucky to get so much natural lighting in our home that it’s rare to need any. Darker homes may struggle with this tip, but give it a shot if you have lots of windows.
Get a clothesline for warmer months
Okay, this is one idea I haven’t yet implemented. I really want to invest in a clothesline to dry clothes naturally outside during warm weather. I love the idea of having clothes drying in the sunshine and smelling like freshly cut grass and flowers.
This significantly cuts down on both costs and energy that standard dryers use quite a bit of. This is something I hope to implement once we get more landscaping and backyard projects done at our house. I think I’ll need a privacy fence up before I’m comfortable having our underwear hanging outside.
Reduce food waste
One way to reduce waste includes reducing food waste. Meal planning can help you avoid this dilemma. Don’t buy more than you need. If you grow food, preserve foods that are in abundance. Store leftovers properly and plan on eating them in the next few days instead of letting them go to waste. This will luckily save you money, too.
Additionally, any waste such as coffee grounds, egg shells, and fruit and vegetable scraps can be composted. This is especially helpful if you have a garden. Once these materials break down, they enrich the soil and help the ecosystem of the yard thrive.
Start gardening and sewing
One thing I like to encourage when aiming for a more eco-friendly home is to start a new hobby like gardening or sewing. Growing your own food utilizes land you already have and cuts out the middleman. No using gas to drive to the store to pick up fresh veggies in the summertime, no excess packaging because you brought the food straight inside from your backyard… no depending on the supply chain that breaks down every so often.
Additionally, sewing and gardening are such practical skills to have. Imagine having a hole in your pants and deciding to patch that up instead of throwing them away and heading to the store to spend another $30-$50 on new ones. These are essential, resourceful skills to acquire.
Our society needs to learn the “old ways” of mending things instead of replacing them. This right here eliminates so much waste.
Though you won’t catch me making an entire outfit myself, I definitely use my sewing skills every so often. And in the summer, my garden is my life. It’s a rewarding hobby that gives back and eliminates extra waste.
Start using reusable items in the kitchen
I switched to reusable beeswax wraps and ziploc bags a few years ago and love that I don’t have to ever purchase those anymore. I can easily wash them, store them away, and pull them out whenever I need them. Reuse jars by storing soups, salads, dressings, and so much more in them. I just love the old-fashioned look of them, too, if you’re worried about open-shelving aesthetics.
If you quit using paper towels, that’s easily another waste and money saver. I personally prefer real towels anyway. If I have a big mess to clean, I’ll use old rags to clean it up or use a washcloth with hot, soapy water and rinse it well before washing. If it’s just to dry my hands, I use a regular kitchen hand towel. Just be sure to switch them out daily since bacteria can harbor in these over extended periods of time.
I basically recommend stopping the use of all single-use items like this, but especially single-use plastics. They can’t be recycled and are so flimsy that no one reuses them. They just end up in landfills. Thankfully, most of these things are not necessities anyway, and modern society has just gotten too used to convenience.
Just because something is convenient or easy, doesn’t mean it’s the right or only way to do it…
I sometimes like to think of the way I live as a bit old-fashioned. Like how older generations lived: without so much convenience and a little more effort put into accomplishing household tasks.
That being said, if you’re disabled or have another special situation where you don’t have the extra time or access to incorporate some of these ideas, I’m not criticizing you.
I am really more frustrated with those who simply don’t even try to reduce their waste when they have the access and means. So please, do not take this out of context.
Simplify your beauty routine
Another way to create an eco-friendly home can include simplifying your beauty routine. Of course, I’m not saying to completely eliminate deodorant or toothpaste or any other necessities. But I think it’s safe to say some people go way overboard with multiple hair products, hair styling tools (which use electricity), make-up, etc.
Just sticking with the basics helps a lot. One way I’ve decreased my use of make-up is I don’t wear make-up every day. Even if I do wear it, it’s usually just foundation, blush, and eyebrow pencil. That way my other products last longer, so I’m going through them much less frequently. It saves me money and produces less waste over time.
Cutting down on shower times also helps. On days that I don’t wash my hair, my showers last about 2 minutes. Keep it to a minimum. A shower isn’t meant to be an entire spa hour. It’s for cleaning the body, and then you can get on with your day. Set a timer if it’s hard. Cutting down on water use and the energy it takes to heat your water can really help keep your waste in check.
Lastly, I’ve been using reusable cloth menstrual pads for years now. I spent a one-time cost of about $60 on about 12 of these and they have lasted all this time. They are very easy to clean, too. (And yes, I plan on cloth diapering once we start a family!) I have saved so much money and prevented so much excess waste from menstrual products over the last five years, plus many more, because of this.