20 Easy Sustainable Habits You Can Adopt at Home in 2021
Simple, environmentally-friendly choices to make today, from composting to energy-efficient devices, that will help to reduce your carbon emissions, plastic and food waste, and create a happy, healthy, sustainable home.
All the suffering and stress of last year aside, the silver lining of 2020 was that our planet definitely benefited.
Greatly reduced emissions, less resource consumption, a break for destinations suffering the effects of over-tourism; while probably none of us ever want to experience a pandemic in our lifetimes again, the positive environmental impact has been pretty astounding.
The time spent at home also forced many of us to examine how we live, and whether we could be doing things better. From baking our own bread to nurturing vegetable patches, or taking up new crafts, the slowing down of our lives allowed a glimpse at a simpler, less environmentally-taxing life at home.
As we emerge from the chaos and begin to rebuild our 'normal' lives again, we must take the lessons learnt and progress made, and continue to build sustainable habits for the future - and where better to practise good habits than at home?!
Here are some simple, practical choices to make today, from composting to energy-efficient devices, that will help to reduce your carbon emissions, plastic and food waste, and create a happy, healthy, sustainable home.
20 TIPS FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE HOME
SUSTAINABILITY IN THE WHOLE HOUSE
#1 GO GREEN
Creating an indoor jungle in your home is more than just an aesthetic choice: indoor plants can help to remove carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and purify the air within your home of harmful toxins and irritants.
The best part is that once you have a thriving collection of plants, you can keep propagating them over and over too, so one plant can become many throughout the house. Same goes for herbs!
#2 OPT FOR ENERGY-EFFICIENT APPLIANCES
You don't have to race out and buy a Tesla or re-do your whole home, but when it comes to investing in your next big purchase or replacing a broken appliance, look for those that have a good energy efficiency rating and/or make use of renewable energy.
From electric cars to climate-friendly TVs, solar panels and water-saving shower heads to green thermostats and lightbulbs, the choices are pretty endless. Plus if we as consumers keep purchasing them, it shows companies that we want them to continue investing in the development of these technologies for our future.
And of course, turn your lights and appliances off when you're not using them!
#3 UPCYCLE FURNITURE
Buying second-hand or upcycling furniture not only reduces the waste sent to landfill (more than 22 million pieces are sent to landfill annually in the UK alone!), but also reduces new resource consumption — and means that you'll have unique pieces with a story, rather than the same IKEA chest of drawers that everyone else has!
For inspiration for upcycling furniture, or pretty much any other creative FIY hack within your home, you can't go past the Queen of DIY/Upcycle/all things creative, Geneva Vanderzeil's, website.
IN THE HALLWAY
#4 HANG YOUR GROCERY BAGS BY THE DOOR
If your produce bags, tote bags, and food shopping containers are always in a visible place by your door (or in your car or garage!), it makes it pretty hard to forget them.
We've often got a million things going on at once, so placing your sustainable essentials in a place where you literally have to look at or step over them to leave the house takes away any excuses or overwhelm
If that doesn't work for you, another great way to remember your bags is to add them to the top of your shopping list each time you go.
IN THE KITCHEN
#5 REUSE YOUR CONTAINERS AND JARS
Pretty much every jar that's ever entered our home still lives here. Most are now full of new goodies like oats, seeds, and spices. Others are tucked on a shelf waiting for our next shop when we'll fill them up again at our local grocer.
Their potential uses are endless; use the larger jars for storing grains, flours, leftovers.. you name it. Old glass juice bottles can store homemade oat milk, sauces, nuts and seeds.
And if you’ve had no option but to buy something plastic packaged at the supermarket? Keep using that tub or tray to fill with produce next time you're at the grocers.
#6 DITCH THE SINGLE-USE FOIL, PAPER, AND TOWELS
None of these are great for the environment; they either can't be recycled to begin with, or have to be thrown in the trash once they have food waste on them anyway.
Instead, opt for sturdy storage containers, silicon baking mats, beeswax wraps, silicon plate and bowl covers, cloth towels, reusable sandwich and storage bags. A clean plate over leftovers also does the trick in a pinch!
#7 STORE VEGGIES IN GLASS JARS IN THE FRIDGE
This was a great tip we learned recently - rather than store your veggies in plastic bags or containers to keep them fresh, store them in glass jars to keep them healthy and fresh for longer.
Plonk dark leafy greens with stems into glass jars full of water like you would flowers in a vase to keep them vibrant, and if you're keen to prepare carrots ahead of time, you can chop them up and store them in a water-filled jar too (they don't leech nutrients into the water either, if you're worried!).
#8 BUY ORGANIC, LOCAL, SEASONAL PRODUCE
Here in Budapest, we know what's in season pretty much straight away when we go to our local fruit and veg lady. Some months sweet potato will set us back £1.50/kg, other months it skyrockets to £4.50/kg. The reason? It's no longer in season and has to be imported from abroad.
Eating organic locally-grown, seasonal food has a few benefits:
You support the local economy of workers, grocers, and food culture that surrounds it
You cut down on long carbon-intensive supply chains used to transport those out-of-season fruits and veggies across the globe on gas-guzzling trucks and flights.
Seasonal produce is harvested at when its nutrient and vitamin content is at the very highest - meaning it's flavour and health benefits are at their peak
Organic produce is the result of regenerative farming practices that heal soil and our environments
Some smaller-scale sustainable famers and cooperatives organise produce delivery boxes, which are a great way to support local and buy incredibly fresh produce.
#9 STOP WASTING FOOD
We've all been there with forgetting about food we’ve bought until a few days too late, but did you know that globally, more than a third of food produced each year is wasted? And when that happens, all the water, land, energy, and labour used to create it are wasted too. Some tips for limiting food waste are:
Have a well thought-out meal plan to ensure you only buy what’s needed
Freeze excess produce and add it to your food whilst cooking.
Old or ugly veggies still make for good soups, stews, and curries.
Compost leftover/unused food and turn it into fresh, rich food for your garden
Collect your veggie scraps, freeze them, and use them to make veggie stock every few weeks (using this recipe).
Basically, it all comes back to the idea of consuming everything mindfully and consciously, and remembering where that food on your plate originally came from.
#10 MORE PLANTS, LESS MEAT
Meat-eaters: the single easiest way to reduce your overall footprint and live more sustainably is to switch to a mostly plant-based diet and quit the factory-farmed meat.
For a more sustainable future, we should all be aiming to make meat a treat, rather than an essential food group. We went vegetarian in 2016 and it's the best decision we’ve ever made; we’re more mindful eaters, healthier, saved money, and discovered an amazing world of tastes and flavours we'd never have known about! Can’t commit to a full veggie lifestyle yet? Try to limit it to just once or twice a week.
#12 USE NATURAL CLEANING PRODUCTS
Not only does a switch to more natural cleaning products mean a toxin-free environment for you and your family, it saves harmful chemicals ending up in our oceans, where they can harm marine life too.
Whether it’s for your kitchen countertops or for the washing machine in the laundry here are plenty of natural cleaning agent brands out there these days — or make your own sprays using citrus peels and vinegar!
#13 TURN OFF THE TAP
Instead of letting the tap run the whole time you're washing your dishes or rinsing your veggies, get into the habit of turning it on and off when you actively need to use it to rinse or fill something.
Pop your veggies in a bowl filled with water to wash them, turn off the tap when you're washing pots and pans, and if you want to be super sustainable, place a large tub in the sink to catch any grey water and use it in your garden when you're done.
IN THE BATHROOM
#14 PLACE A RECYCLING BIN IN YOUR BATHROOM
The bathroom is actually one of the worst places in a house for plastic waste, between the packaging used for our products and the bins we keep there for convenience.
How many times have you finished a tub of moisturiser or shampoo bottle, and thrown it straight in your bathroom bin because it's literally right there? We’re definitely guilty of the same.
Pop a recycling bin in your bathroom for any packaging waste and add it to your main recycling bin when full.
#15 SWITCH UP YOUR TOILETRIES
The bathroom can be one of the most wasteful, unsustainable places in the whole house.
After all, much of our essential everyday items, like toothpaste, make up, deodorants, etc aren't great for the environment, given we they're often plastic-packaged, used briefly or washed off at the end of the day, or worse, are laden with chemicals bad for us and the planet.
Opt for skincare that's as natural as possible and free from nasty chemicals or micro beads that'll end up in our waterways, and switch out your plastic-wrapped toiletries for some of the following:
#16 GIRLS, DITCH THE SINGLE-USE PERIOD PRODUCTS
Alright ladies; it's time to talk tampons and pads... or rather, about ditching them. Tampons can be resource intensive, chemical-laden and are plastic wrapped, pads are made from and wrapped in plastic, and don't even get me started on those stupid plastic applicator devices.
Ditching the single-use options for sustainable ones, like a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or period underwear (a revelation!) is a much healthier option for your body and the planet.
#17 BE MINDFUL OF YOUR SHOWERS + SINK
Just like your kitchen tap, plenty of water is wasted through your bathroom sink and shower without you even really realising it.
Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face. Time your showers for five minutes or less, and turn off the shower when shaving your legs or soaping up your hair too.
IN THE BEDROOM & WARDROBE
#18 OPT FOR SLOW, SUSTAINABLE, ETHICALLY-MADE FASHION
We all know the frustration of buying clothes from a trendy high street brand, only to have them fall apart within a few weeks. Not only is fast fashion cheaply made and poor quality, most brands have a terrible track record when it comes to labour exploitation, toxins in their clothing and wastewater, and the percentage of their clothing that ends up in landfill.
Quit the fast fashion habit and instead:
Research brands to ensure they’re sustainable and ethical. Fashion Revolution is a great starting point.
Build a minimalist wardrobe and invest in garments that will last a lifetime
Buy garments made from organic materials, like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp. Tencel is another sustainable alternative made from cellulose fibres.
Shop second-hand in thrift shops or via apps like ThredUp, DePop, and even Facebook Marketplace. Buying second-hand extends an item's lifecycle and is also a super affordable way of shopping.
#19 SWITCH TO SUSTAINABLE HOME TEXTILES
Just as with your fashion choices, the most sustainable textiles for your bedroom (and every other space in the house) are organic, ethically-produced items.
Wherever you can, opt for organic cotton, linen, bamboo, and hemp materials when it comes to your bedsheets, towels, duvet covers, etc. Often natural fibres are hypoallergenic — and also the most pleasant feeling and looking textiles to have in your home too!
IN THE GARDEN
#20 GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES
If you’re one of the lucky ones with a proper backyard (or even a decent courtyard or balcony!), creating your own veggie patch is an incredible way to grow your own fresh food, save money on buying produce, and if done organically, regenerate the soil in your little urban farm too.
From apples to leafy greens, tomatoes to artichokes, you can grow basically any vegetable you like at home yourself. If your space is limited, go for container or vertical gardens. And the best part is being able to use all that rich compost from your kitchen waste to feed all your little veggie babies!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?
Check out the following for tips on becoming a more eco-friendly, planet loving traveller (and human!) here:
SUSTAINABLE LIVING | 11 super simple tips for a more sustainable lifestyle
PLASTIC | Quit plastic for good with these 13 simple steps to a plastic-free life
ALL ABOUT CARBON | Our ultimate guide to carbon offsetting (and whether it actually does anything)
ECO ESSENTIALS | The sustainable, eco-friendly products we never leave home without!
ANIMAL KINGDOM | How you can be an animal-friendly traveller
THE POST-COVID ERA | How you can travel responsibly as the pandemic ends
DISCOVER MORE SUSTAINABLE TIPS HERE
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That, and you're officially a legend.