1. Be conscious about what you’re bringing into your home
Have you ever felt like you’re drowning in packaging, takeaway containers, paperwork, junk mail, clothes, electronics and appliances, and freebies like pens, notepads, etc? And once you have no more use for them you need to find a space to store them or get rid of them?
Well, here’s a secret. To save you the trouble of dealing with all this rubbish, do not let them come into your home in the first place!
Do not be afraid to say no and refuse things you don’t want or have no need for. Next time you are at an event and you’re offered a goodie bag just say “No, thank you”. When you’re getting takeout and the shopkeeper offers you extra sauce packets and disposable cutlery just say “No, thank you”. When you’re at the mall and someone is handing you a voucher for a 50% massage discount just say “No, thank you”.
Before you purchase something or bring something into your home, make sure you are asking yourself, “Am I going to be using this on a regular basis or is it just going to take up space in my house and end up in a landfill sooner rather than later?”
2. Start bringing your reusables with you
To follow up on the previous tip about avoiding single-use items in your home, start bringing your reusables with you. I know it might be difficult to remember bringing them along especially when you’re first starting out so I would suggest coming up with a system that ensures you won’t forget. It can be that you leave your reusable kit next to the front door or you put it in your bag immediately after washing and drying your items.
What I now do is to put a basket in the back of my car with all my reusable items for any impromptu grocery shopping and takeaway trips and I leave a metal straw and spork in my day-to-day bag.
Everyone’s reusable kit will look slightly different depending on your lifestyle but what you can is to look at the items you would use most often and start with that. Once you get comfortable bringing those along you can start to expand your reusable kit.
This is such an easy way to start reducing the amount of waste you produce and the sense of satisfaction you get from cutting down on single-use items will definitely give you the momentum you need to continue with your sustainable journey.
3. Make the most out of what you already have
After reading my last tip you might be tempted to go out and buy a cute cutlery set, a sleek bento box, aesthetically pleasing produce bags, and all the reusable items you could ever need. However, the most sustainable option is, most often, the item that you already own.
Look around your house and see if there are items that you can already use instead of buying new ones. I wrap a DIY hanky I made with old pajamas around a metal fork and spoon and that’s my cutlery set. I also wash out any jars we use around the house and reuse them to store dry goods. There’s no need to go out and buy matching jars.
By using items you already have, you are avoiding consuming extra resources that go into making new products. Once your items have reached the end of their life, then you can consider buying the new, more sustainable product.
Do not make the mistake I made and get sucked into the aesthetic of a “zero-waste lifestyle”. I bought a reusable glass coffee cup when I first started on my journey because that’s what all the “cool kids have” even though I don’t drink coffee! Remember Tip Number 1, “am I going to be using this item or will it just take up space?”
4. Start transitioning to a plant-based diet
Cutting down on our meat consumption is one of the most effective ways we can reduce our carbon emissions. According to Project Drawdown, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet. (1)
Although I am not yet a vegan but would very much like to be so one day, I have significantly reduced the amount of meat and animal products I now consume. If you are not ready to become a full vegan or vegetarian yet I would not suggest cutting out meat and animal products completely as it would just cause you to resent the lifestyle and it might lead you off-track.
Just start with what you’re comfortable with. If you are not a big fan of red meat in the first place, then cut that out. If you are comfortable with being a vegan/vegetarian one day a week then start with that and once you see how easy that is you might start increasing it to two days, three days, etc.
What works for me is finding plant-based recipes that are delicious and that I love cooking and this keeps me motivated to stay plant-based. My partner and I also love going to plant-based restaurants and we always find inspiration for dishes we can cook up at home.
5. Keep educating yourself
If you have got this far in the blog, it means that you are willing to learn more about how you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle. I believe that there’s always more we can learn and more we can do in the environmentalism space.
I consume a lot of my knowledge via documentaries and podcasts as I'm time-poor and can use these platforms while doing other things. I've also attended a few courses, and this is my favourite way of learning new things.
Find a platform or resource that works for you and keep learning about new actions you can implement to help protect our environment and make the world a better place.
Always remind yourself that it’s ok if you’re still doing things that are considered “non-sustainable”. It’s not about doing sustainability perfectly but showing up every day and having the desire to want to do better each day.
6. Make the switch to non-toxic, all-natural oral care products
Most toothpaste on the market contains ingredients like SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) a foaming agent that is actually harmful, artificial sweeteners, and palm oil, which comes from cutting down forest / removing wildlife habitat. What?! Yes! All of that and more.
I love how Grin uses natural ingredients derived from plants and bee propolis and leaves out nasties such as SLS, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, artificial colours, artificial flavours, fragrance, and harsh abrasives. They are also certified palm oil-free and use glycerin and Lauryl Glucoside (derived from coconut) as a substitute.
I also like the flavour of their toothpaste. It's not as minty as regular toothpaste but still leaves your mouth with a pleasantly clean feeling (minus the watery eyes and spicy taste you get from some toothpaste ). I do still plan to continue using my DIY toothpaste, but it'll be good to back that routine up with some fluoride toothpaste a couple of times a week.
Their dental floss picks also made it really easy to floss my teeth. I'm used to using regular string floss and I can say that I can be a lot more efficient with these picks. The only downside is that they are individually packed and can only be industrially compostable. However, I'm lucky that my boyfriend lives in a suburb that collects waste for industrial composting so that is how I'm getting rid of the dental picks
Grin also has a 100% biodegradable bamboo toothbrush that’s made from sustainable bamboo. It’s been infused with premium activated charcoal which can detoxify properties for thousands of years. Another great reason to wave goodbye to your plastic toothbrush and protect our world one switch at a time!
(1) Plant-rich Diets. 2021. Retrieved from Project Draw Down: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/plant-rich-diets
About the Author
Valerie was born in Penang, Malaysia. She moved to Australia when she was 15 and now live in Perth, Western Australia. She created her Instagram account @sustainable-valerie about two years ago to share simple and easy sustainable practices. Her mission is to inspire others and show people that being more environmentally conscious isn’t that hard. Along the way, she's developed an interest in cooking and eating more plant-based meals. She love singing in the shower and I would eat anything with chocolate on it!