The world doesn’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly. The world needs millions of people doing it imperfectly. – Anne Marie Bonneau
Welcome to Your Eco Living Journey
So you’re here because your eyes are open to the problems that exist on our planet and you want to make lasting sustainable changes to your lifestyle to help our environment.
(If you still need more motivation, go swipe through the photos in this carousel on Instagram and read the facts about the plastic pollution in our oceans. I’ll wait…)
So you’re new to sustainable living. Where do you start? How do you start? Why is it so overwhelming and confusing?
This guide is designed to help simplify the beginning of your journey to going green.
The 5 R’s of Eco Living
I put this ‘R’ first because I think it’s the most important, especially for beginners to eco living.
Once you have the motivation to live more sustainably, the next step is developing a constant mindset of how every single item we come into contact with effects the environment. And then using that mindfulness to rethink everything that you use.
Those plastic bags you carry your groceries in? They will most likely end up floating in our oceans.
That plastic cup you get your iced coffee in? It takes 20 years to decompose.
That styrofoam cup you drink out of? It will never decompose.
Some questions to get in the habit of asking yourself whenever you buy something:
- Is this product really needed?
- Is this product made of natural and organic ingredients or materials?
- Is there a more eco-friendly alternative?
- Can I make it last longer?
- Does it have a bunch of unnecessary plastic packaging?
- How long will it take for it to decompose?
- Can I recycle it when I’m finished?
These take time to develop as habits. Be patient with yourself. You will learn as you go.
Saying ‘NO’ to wasteful items, both in public and at home, is a huge step to take on your eco living journey.
Plastic bottles were one of the first things we began to refuse in our home. We have a perfectly good water filter in our fridge, and a bunch of reusable water bottles, so why would we ever need to keep a bunch of plastic bottles in our fridge? It’s pure laziness.
Refusing wasteful items in public is where it gets real tough. It seems like no one else around even cares. So why bother? One person won’t make a difference, right?
I get asked all the time by friends, family, and random people in public where I get my reusable straws from. It’s a ripple effect.
Taking a stand on saying “NO” to wasteful items makes a lasting impression on your friends, family, and strangers. Eco living is a movement, and we are it’s ambassadors.
Start with saying ‘NO’ to simple items with easy replacements. Then continue to add more items to your “refuse” list as you grow more confident with your eco living. You will make mistakes, you will forget your reusable replacements, but you will learn as you go!
Easy items to start refusing today:
- Plastic bags. If you forget your reusable bags, buy new ones for 99 cents each. Don’t forget produce bags.
- Plastic straws. You can drink without a straw. Trust me, you’ll survive. Or bring your reusable straw.
- Plastic water bottles. You can buy inexpensive reusable bottles on Amazon. They cost the same as a case of single-use bottles so it saves you money in the long run.
- Polyester clothes. They take 500 years to decompose. As often as possible, buy cotton, linen, or pretty much anything else, which decomposes in less than 30 days.
It’s simple: how can you reduce your environmental impact?
Sometimes you simply can’t refuse an item. No one is perfect at eco living, after all. But you can significantly REDUCE how much of it that you use.
For example, did you know the outrageous environmental impact of meat production? Eliminating animal products from your diet is the single biggest change you can make to help the environment. If you didn’t know, please read this.
But maybe you aren’t ready to give up eating meat yet. Well, you can certainly reduce it. Start small with meatless Mondays. And work your way up from there.
Here are some more things you can start reducing today:
- Food waste. Plan your meals around what’s already in your fridge/pantry to avoid it going bad & ending up in the trash.
- Drive less. Walk or ride your bike, whenever possible
- Energy. Use LED light bulbs.
- Clothes. You don’t need to shop as often for new clothes. When you do, try secondhand stores. It’s amazing what you can find!
I am so proud to say that for the last year or so, the recycling bin in our home fills up, like, 10x faster than our trash bin does. And we often have to ask our neighbors to put items in their recycling bins on pick up days because ours are overflowing!
I didn’t share that to make you feel discouraged at all. We certainly aren’t perfect by any means, and it definitely didn’t happen overnight. I would love to be zero waste someday, but we just aren’t there yet on our eco living journey. And that’s perfectly okay.
Here are some tips we’ve learned to help you get better at recycling.
- Have a “donation bins” in your closet and in your garage and constantly be adding items in there that you no longer want/need. When it fills up, make a trip to your local thrift store. Don’t donate to Goodwill because they throw a lot of your stuff away.
- A lot of what you buy at the store is covered in plastic that can’t get recycled. Sometimes you can buy the exact same item in cardboard instead, which is a recyclable item.
- Make sure your recyclable items are clean, empty and dry. Otherwise they will contaminate the other items in your bin, and everything in your bin will end up in a landfill.
- Plastic grocery bags can’t go in your recycling bin. Most grocery stores will accept them and recycle them properly for you.
- When I get home from the grocery store, I empty out all the cardboard boxes right away and store those items in organizing bins or mason jars in my pantry/fridge. Then I immediately add all the cardboard to the recycling bin. I find this way easier than doing it over and over as things run out multiple times a day throughout the week.
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.
This is my favorite one. Over the last few years of my eco living journey, I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to reusing items instead of throwing them in the trash. Here are a few easy ones to start off with:
- Use your old toothbrush to scrub hard to reach areas around your house
- Clean out candles and glass jars that your food comes in, and reuse them as storage containers in your pantry or around your house
- Throw all your wine corks into a vase on your counter. It looks cool, and when it fills up, there are tons of fun projects you can use them for.
- For any grocery bags that end up in your home, reuse them in your small trash bins and for cleaning up after your dog.
- Save your produce stickers and make fun art (I’ve been saving for a few weeks and can’t wait to have enough to make something like this!)
Eco Living Is A Process. Be Patient. Be Persistent
Those are the five R’s of eco living. I hope you found it a helpful foundation to start your journey on.
Always remember: it takes time to form a new mindset and new habits. And small changes make a big difference.
Please reach out to me if you want more help. We’re in this together.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”⠀
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax⠀
Meet the Writer
Hi, I'm Teresa!
Thank you for taking the time to read my little space on the internet. I’m a digital creator, blogger & environmental advocate.