50 sustainability examples in everyday life

Sustainability is a buzzword that you hear a lot, and it’s also often used by organizations like the United Nations.

We hear lots of rhetoric about moving into a “sustainable future” that will ease the man-made burden on the environment.

Experts and politicians insist that whole industries and technologies must be ready to shift in line with that objective.

But what does sustainability mean for ordinary people and how can you implement it in easy ways in your daily life?

Here’s a look!

50 sustainability examples in everyday life

Implement a few of these in your daily life and you’re already making a difference.

What’s even better is that many are win-wins in terms of saving money and living an overall more efficient life.

1) Shop less

Depending where you live and what your local resources are, some amount of shopping is likely unavoidable.

But shopping less is one of the best sustainability examples in everyday life.

What it means is basically only shopping when you need something.

Buying that extra pair of shoes that catches your eye or a new set of kitchen plates because you like their decorations is no longer something you consider.

2) Bike and walk more

Next up in sustainability examples in everyday life is cycling and walking.

Whenever possible, these alternatives are very good options for lessening our burden on the environment and output of fossil fuels.

Places such as Berlin, where my sister lives, have extensive bike lines and safe areas for cyclists in many neighborhoods, in order to make this as easy to do as possible.

3) Buy food in bulk

When possible, buy food in bulk.

Instead of buying five small plastic packs of peanuts for a snack, buy a large bag and seal what you don’t eat in a reusable container that keeps the peanuts fresh.

They’ll still taste just as good and you won’t clog the world up with more plastic.

4) Buy local

The amount of fossil fuels and man hours used to deliver food from faraway lands is immense.

It also raises the costs significantly as well as the burden from refrigeration that keeps vegetables and other products fresh for the JIT (just-in-time) delivery services that most grocery stores now use.

Instead, buy local!

If your community has a farmer’s market go check it out this weekend!

5) Use less packaging

If you pack a lunch for work or pack one for your kids, what do you use?

If the answer isn’t reusable containers of some kind, it should be.

Packaging like plastic bags or even paper bags leaves a big carbon and environmental footprint, and it’s easy to eliminate by simply buying reusable containers, preferably made out of something sustainable like recycled glass or recycled polyester.

6) Plant a garden

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If you have land in which to do it, get the soil quality tested and plant a garden.

You can grow herbs like basil and mint as well as a few vegetables and basics such as lettuce.

Not only is this one of the top sustainability examples in everyday life, it’s also delicious!

7) Recycle

Recycling has become a buzzword in environmental circles for a very good reason.

It’s extremely important and helpful!

If your community has a recycling service, try your best to follow it. If it doesn’t, think about starting one in your neighborhood.

8) Leave the lights off when possible

Many of us are accustomed to leaving lights on when we don’t have to.

The same goes for things like leaving the TV on when you’re out of the house or keeping an outdoor light on all night.

Set up a motion-activated outdoor light instead. And turn off your indoor lights when you’re not in the room or don’t need them, such as when watching TV or a film.

9) Minimize AC

Many of us are used to over-using air-conditioning if we live in hot climates.

Instead, dip a towel in cold water and drape or wrap it around you while working or sitting in your home.

10) Use your dishwasher more

Dishwashers actually use less water than running your tap to wash dishes.

Energy-efficient dishwashers use around 4 gallons for a wash, while the tap puts out 2 gallons per minute.

If you have a dishwasher, use it. Don’t think that using the tap saves water, because it doesn’t. Just make sure the dishwasher is full before running it.

11) Retrofit your house or apartment

Retrofitting is the practice of replacing outdated and wasteful things in your house or apartment with more energy-efficient green features.

For example, putting in better caulking around windows, switching lightbulbs from regular to CFL and updating your insulation.

12) Think about minimalism

Minimalism isn’t for everyone.

I myself have a habit of buying way too many clothes, for example, and I still like physical books.

Nonetheless, reduce your use of non-renewable resources like clothes, books and appliances when possible.

13) Join a community garden

If you don’t have the option to have a garden on your property or even a small one on your balcony or inside, join a community garden.

In this way you get to share a space with others and partake of the results.

You’re also likely to make a couple friends along the way who share your interest in living more sustainably.

14) Travel closer to home

If possible, travel closer to home.

Instead of that vacation to the Grand Canyon, go on a vacation to your local park and camp!

Or better yet, stay home and just go on a virtual reality vacation (I’m just joking!)

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15) Do cold washes!

When possible, do cold washes.

The vast majority of energy you use in washing is for heating up water. Cut that out and you cut out over 90% of the energy you’re using.

Many clothes don’t require a warm or hot wash, so read tags carefully and do them by hand in cold water or in the machine on cold.

16) Dispose of disposables

So many things we use are disposable when they don’t need to be, from paper cups to lunch bags instead of lunch boxes.

One of the worst examples is bottled water: just don’t do it!

Far too many of us know the issues with buying bottled water and still do it.

17) Dial it down

When possible, put your heating down in the winter by a few degrees and let your air conditioner stay off as I advised earlier or at least not as cold.

The long-term effects of this are significant.

This is just one of the many helpful sustainability examples in everyday life.

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18) Escape the plastic world

As the band Aqua sang in their 1997 hit “Barbie Girl:”

“I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!”

Aqua was lying to you.

Plastic is not fantastic. It hurts the environment and overuse of plastic is clogging our oceans and bodies full of toxic waste.

Reduce your use of plastic bags, plastic toys and plastic everything!

You’ll find that so much of it is completely unnecessary.

19) Give junk mail the finger

Junk mail is still getting sent out to millions of people every day.

The best way to stop this is to remove yourself from the lists of anyone who wants to send it to you.

In the United States you can do that by going to www.DMAChoice.org and making a simple request to be left off all mailing lists for unsolicited physical mail.

20) Say yes to secondhand

There are so many treasures in second hand shops, often much better than you can find new!

From clothes to furniture, there are a lot of rare finds in there.

Start visiting secondhand shops before you go to the new department stores and help fill more future landfills.

21) Eat less meat

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I like meat, and I believe it’s a healthy part of a balanced diet.

The Beyond Meat products do not appeal to me and have been linked to gastrointestinal and testosterone issues.

That said, try to eat less meat, especially red meat. You can eat one steak a week instead of five and still build plenty of muscle and bone health.

22) Say no to bottled and canned drinks

If at all possible, stop consuming bottled and canned drinks.

They’re just not necessary and their packaging is so terribly bad for the environment and a sustainable future.

23) If driving is a must, try carpooling or busing!

If you can’t get around driving, try carpooling or taking the bus.

You’ll save money and lighten your carbon footprint.

24) Shorter showers

Use greywater to irrigate any garden you have and also shorten showers to three or four minutes.

This will save a ton of water!

25) Clean green

Practice green cleaning using sustainable, green products and reusable cloths.

Get away from using most cleaning products and instead look into natural cleaning solutions like vinegar, soap and baking soda.

26) How many cosmetics are crucial?

How much makeup and cosmetics do you have and how much do you really need?

Many of these products are not sourced sustainably and are bad for our health and for the earth’s health.

Take spray-on deodorant as one example. If possible, switch to something sustainable and organic!

27) Cut your cafe cup habit

Instead of grabbing a new paper cup every time you go to your favorite cafe, bring your own cup.

It’s a small step but it makes a difference.

28) Forget plastic straws (and paper straws!)

There was quite a hubbub of late about some states and countries phasing out plastic straws and replacing them with soggy paper straws.

Forget it.

Buy a metal straw instead, and use it for all your straw needs!

Problem solved.

29) Can you compost?

Composting is an excellent practice that reduces waste and helps feed into your garden.

One pound of food a day is wasted in the United States. Composting puts a big dent in that.

30) Receipt? No thanks

When possible, decline a receipt when you shop.

You can check what you spent on your credit card statement.

31) Share stuff

If possible, share items that are shareable.

Example? Umbrellas, ice scrapers for your car in the winter, and so on.

Whatever it is, share it!

32) Live closer to friends

Living closer to friends is a key part of being more sustainable.

It gives you the chance to create a more interrelated and thick network of relationships and sustainable practices, including a larger community garden.

33) Try out permaculture

Permaculture is an amazing way to care for the earth and produce healthy food that doesn’t deplete the soil.

Check out my interview with permaculture founder David Holmgren here.

34) Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season

Eating fruits and veggies that are out of season basically uses a ton of refrigeration that otherwise wouldn’t be needed.

Instead, eat fish that are in season as well as greens.

35) Pull the plug

When possible, unplug appliances you’re not using.

They often suck up energy even when they’re off.

36) Take care with coffee

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Coffee is something many of us love, but it comes in many forms.

Make sure to buy eco-friendly coffee that’s hopefully organic and fair trade.

It’s better for the economy and for workers.

37) Wipe out wet wipes and paper towels

Wet wipes and paper towels are very useful, but they are also very bad for the environment and our sewer systems.

In fact, a study by Water UK found that 90% of blocked sewer issues in the UK in 2017 were caused by people flushing wet wipes.

Instead, use wet clothes as wet wipes and dishrags instead of paper towels!

38) Try a new toothbrush

Instead of shoving a BPA-laced piece of plastic in your mouth, try an organic bamboo toothbrush.

It’s biodegradable and it doesn’t harm your body.

39) Wrap it up

Some food storage requires using wax paper, but instead of using the wasteful stuff from stores, try using beeswax wraps.

These are a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative!

40) Focus on eco-friendly fabrics

Prioritize eco-friendly fabrics when buying clothing such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, reclaimed wool and soybean fabric.

They’re comfy and good for the world!

41) Eco-friendly materials

More broadly, keep your eye out for eco-friendly materials.

For example, find sustainable paints that have low VOCs and use reclaimed rubber and cork and teak instead of other wasteful, non-renewable products.

42) Keep an eye on work power usage

If possible suggest improvements on your power usage at work, including unplugging devices at night when you go home.

They can suck up phantom power even when turned off or dormant.

43) Try new diaper ideas

Check out a landfill near you. You’ll see a lot of nasty plastic diapers festering away.

If you have a baby, try using reusable cloth diapers!

You’ll be doing the Earth a solid (pun intended).

44) Shift to digital

When possible, opt in favor of email notices, bank statements and so on, instead of paper.

Over the long run you’ll be saving a lot of trees and preventing a lot of carbon emissions.

45) Tailor time

I personally love sewing and basic repairs.

If you have clothes that need to be fixed, buy a needle and thread and stitch them back up.

46) Be deft at the deli

One thing I noticed at my local deli is the amount of plastic that’s used.

Some delicious Greek salad, vegetables and dip and deviled eggs and you’re already looking at three disposable plastic containers.

The solution? Bring your own reusable containers to the deli.

If they won’t allow that for “sanitary” reasons, have the employee use only one of their plastic containers as a scoop to empty it in your container.

47) Let the wi-fi die

Unplug your wi-fi box at night when you’re not using it.

It may take 30 seconds longer in the morning to power up to reestablish a connection, but over the long run this saves a lot of energy!

You can also unplug other devices that use phantom power when plugged in, even when they’re not running.

48) Find alternatives to cranking the thermostat

Earlier I spoke about turning down your heating and leaving off your AC or making it less cold.

One way to avoid needing a heater is just to wear more layers.

Throw on an extra thermal shirt and socks instead of running a heater or cranking central heating.

49) A final note on plastic

Earlier I talked about how bad plastic is.

It’s undoubtedly also very convenient and useful, but it’s literally a plague on the world, with the amount of plastic on the globe going from around 2 million tons per year in the 1950s to 450 million tons per year in 2015.

By 2050 we’re expected to hit 900 million tons of plastic produced per year.

It takes 400 years for plastic to compost.

Please use less plastic!

50) Think of the whole

The main key to putting these sustainability examples in everyday life into practice, is thinking of the whole.

We’re all in this together, and one step at a time we can start to make small changes that will eventually have a big impact.

As Candice Batista writes:

“Individual actions are a part of the collective, they are valuable contributions to a larger, stronger movement aimed to reduce human impact on the environment.

“Similarly, in living a sustainable lifestyle, the benefit goes beyond your own household – the community, economy, and environment thrive.”

Small steps toward a big goal

The steps above are quite small, but they work towards a big goal. As consumer patterns shift, so will production and the way people choose to live.

We have the chance to redefine what’s normal and make it count for a better future.

Related: 10 books every aspiring environmentalist should read to make a difference

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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