Most of us would like to be greener, but sometimes it seems like such a huge effort to transform our homes and lifestyles into the ultimate temples of green, zero waste, carbon neutral, uber healthiness. Because it seems like such a huge feat, many people simply don’t bother making any changes. So we’ve compiled a list of 50 simple things that you can do to go a little greener. Remember, every small change you make for the better helps the planet and your health – and most of them will save you money, too.
Aside from saving energy, lots of these simple things involve repurposing – which is so much better for your pocket and the environment than recycling.
1. Switch to a renewable Energy Supplier
A simple change, particularly if you use a decent comparison website that does a lot of the hard work for you. By switching to a supplier that uses renewable or sustainable energy reduces the demand for precious fossil fuels, reduces environmental damage, and ensures that every unit of energy you use is greener. Plus, many companies offer deals and incentives to get you to switch to green energy, so you’ll likely save money, too.
2. Invest in a Solar Charger
A decent solar charger allows you to charge all your mobile devices without using your household energy. It’s free, green, and sustainable. And they’re super simple to use. Obviously, you can use these chargers while you’re out and about, but you can also use them at home by setting them up on a sunny window sill.
3. Choose Reusable Grocery Bags Made From Natural Materials.
Of course, any reusable grocery bag is better than the millions of disposable ones that end up in landfill each year, but there’s different levels of “better”. Choose a bag made from natural materials, preferably organic ones. Good quality organic cotton and hessian grocery bags are strong and hardwearing and are usually machine-washable. Plastic or synthetic grocery bags may be reusable, but if they break they are more challenging to fix, and their construction seriously harms the environment as the processes result in toxic byproducts. Additionally, eventually your bag will break and need replacing. If you have a plastic one, it’ll sit in landfill for centuries, but if you’ve got a natural fabric one, if you really can’t fix it up, when you dispose of it, it’ll biodegrade.
4. Turn Juice or Milk Cartons & Plastic Bottles into Bird Feeders
A super simple way to repurpose juice cartons, milk cartons, or plastic bottles is to turn them into bird feeders. If you’ve got kids, this is a great to get them involved in, too. All you need is a juice carton, some string, a twig or a thin dowel rod, a pair of scissors, something to decorate with (if you’re concerned about the aesthetics), and some bird food.
5. Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Did you know that demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil per year, in the US alone? That’s a shocking figure! That same amount of oil could power 190,000 homes every year. You can help combat this by purchasing a reusable stainless steel water bottle. Does one of these cost more than a single bottle of water? Yes, but long term, it saves you a huge amount of money. If, for example, you were to consume the equivalent of the recommended eight glasses of water in the form of bottled water, you’d spend $1400 per year per person. The same amount of tap water costs an average of just $49 per year – plus the cost of the reusable bottle. That’s an amazing saving!
6. Get an Insulated Travel Mug
Most of us like to take a coffee with us from time to time. Seems harmless enough to grab a takeout coffee from your favorite chain and dispose of the cup when you’ve finished, right? Alarmingly, Americans purchase an estimated 14.4 billion coffees in disposable cups each year. That’s 900 million pounds of waste each year that ends up in landfill. Staggeringly, this is enough disposable cups to wrap around the planet 55 times. So, we strongly advise getting yourself an insulated travel mug and brewing up at home before you leave. It’ll save you money as well as helping the planet. Most coffee shops will also serve your takeout coffee in your travel mug if you just ask. Some even give you a discount on your coffee when you bring your own mug. Whether you choose to brew at home or get your mug filled at your favorite coffee shop, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by, on average, 65lbs per year.
7. Avoid Disposable Tableware
Yes, disposable plates, cups, and cutlery make cleaning up after parties super easy, but it’s terrible for the environment. If you really don’t want to use china or stoneware because, for example, you’ve got young kids, go for reusable plastic tableware that you can simply wash and reuse.
8. Grow Your Own
Whether you’ve got 5 acres or just a sunny balcony, you can grow at least a portion of your own food. If you do it organically, it’s far better for you that regular store-bought produce. Because it goes straight from the plant to your kitchen, the food you grow is fresher and retains many more nutrients than the stuff that’s been hanging around your local store for a week or more. There’s no chemicals, either. Big bonus. It tastes better, too. And, you get a real sense of achievement from growing your own fruit and veggies. Many people find growing their own food very therapeutic. So take a break from the housework, the computer, or your tablet, and get growing!
9. Keep Chickens
Chickens, if you feed them organically, and take good care of them, provide you with glorious fresh eggs. A small flock of laying hens kept in appropriate conditions will give a whole family all the fresh eggy goodness you could wish for. They make interesting pets, too. And you can use their poop as an invaluable source of fertilizer for those veggies you plan to grow. Plus, if you let them wander over a weedy patch, they’ll clean it right up. They also eat pesky insects that damage your crops and help to aerate your lawn.
10. Keep Goats
Goats give you super healthy milk. You can turn said milk into all kinds of other tasty dairy products. Goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk and has a more interesting flavor. It’s bursting with nutrients and is often suitable for those with sensitivity to cow’s milk products. And, just like chicken poop, goat poop is an unbeatable organic fertilizer.
11. Choose Organic Cotton
Regular cotton, like the shirt you’re wearing, or your baby’s favorite cotton blankie, is grown and processed using a horde of lethal toxins, traces of which remain in the final product, however many times you wash it. They range from chemicals developed in WWII as toxic nerve agents that can damage the respiratory system, to known carcinogens. Dirty cotton accounts for a shocking 25% of the world’s insecticide use and destroys whole ecosystems, creating toxic barren wastelands. Therefore, we urge you to use your consumer power and reduce the demand for this lethal crop by choosing organic cotton. It’s much better for your health, too.
12. Get an Eco Shower Head
A good-quality eco shower head can deliver the same temperature and power as a regular shower head, but uses around 60% less water. Think of the energy and money you’re saving!
13. Spend Two Minutes Less in the Shower
Spending just two minutes less in the shower and you’ll save 10 gallons of water every day. Big savings to be made – plus you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.
14. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Making your own cleaning products is far better for your health, your bank balance, and the environment. They are easy to make, like our carpet cleaner recipe or our DIY laundry detergent, and help you to cut down on the harmful chemicals you use without thinking every day.
15. Buy Unpackaged or Bulk Goods
Buying in bulk reduces packaging, which accounts for a huge portion of the world’s waste. It’s usually less expensive, too. And it means you’ll need to shop for those items less frequently. Similarly, taking your own reusable containers and buying items loose eliminates packaging altogether, and is usually less expensive.
16. Make Your Own Skincare Products
Homemade skincare products are super easy, smell great, are really effective (if you use the right recipes), and are inexpensive. It also means you aren’t putting nasty chemicals on your skin. Making your own products ensures you aren’t inadvertently supporting companies that ruthlessly and abusively test their products on defenseless animals. It also reduces your carbon footprint and ensures there’s less demand for synthetic products that cause environmental damage.
17. Choose Organic Foods
Organic foods are better for you and the environment. They are grown without the use of chemicals and generally with proper water and land management techniques. This means that the produce you buy isn’t depleting valuable natural resources, destroying ecosystems, or killing other plants or animals. And, because there’s no chemicals, buying organic food means you aren’t contaminating your body.
18. Ditch Takeouts
Takeouts are bad for you and bad for the environment. It’s unlikely that takeout food is organic, and it’s undoubtedly got a whole host of synthetic nasties to enhance the flavor. Instead, make your own takeout. Sure, it involves a little effort, but it tastes way better and saves you a considerable amount of money. This spring roll recipe, for example, costs very little, contains no nasties, is incredibly quick and simple, and tastes so much better than takeout.
19. Don’t Buy Processed Foods
Just like takeout, processed foods contain all kinds of gross things that you really don’t want to put in your body. Remember dirty cotton? Well, when the fibers are processed, those that are too short for textile use end up in processed food – like readymade pizza – as cellulose, which is used to bulk out foods, like “high-fiber” and “low-calorie” diet foods, and is used as an “even melting agent” on some cheese-laden processed foods. Gross! o make your own. Pizza is ridiculously easy to make from scratch, and it tastes so much better. The same goes for all other processed foods – the homemade version tastes better, costs less, reduces the amount of packaging you waste, and you know exactly what’s in it.
20. Stop Using Plastic Wrap
In the US, enough plastic wrap is thrown away every year to shrink-wrap Texas! That’s a LOT of plastic wrap. It doesn’t biodegrade, either. And the environmental damage caused during production is horrific. So, save money and the planet by storing produce in glass or other reusable containers.
21. Choose Sustainable Seafood
Sustainable seafood refers to wild, responsibly fished and managed seafood. Avoid eating species like cod that are close to endangerment. Avoid farmed fish at all costs – these beasties are often fed a synthetically enhanced diet and are pumped full of antibiotics and other chemicals that you really don’t want to consume. Farmed fish also pose a serious threat to their wild counterparts, being largely responsible for the introduction of devastating disease and parasitic infestation to the wild ecosystem because of the dreadful conditions in which they are raised.
22. Reduce Plastic Consumption
Plastics are petroleum-based, and their production is harmful to the environment and consumes a huge amount of energy and precious natural resources. They aren’t biodegradable, either. They sit in landfills forever. So switch to glass or biodegradable materials. And, if you do have lots of plastic, reuse and repurpose it whenever you can.
23. Plan Meals in Advance
Creating a weekly meal planner before you do the weekly shop is a brilliant way to reduce food waste, which saves you money. In the US, 30 to 40% of all food produced is wasted. That’s truly outrageous. Think of how much you spend on food. And then you go and throw away a third of it. You may as well just throw a third of your budget straight in the trash. That’ll save all the methane emissions from the food you throw away and reduce your carbon footprint. So, plan in advance. Plan out each of your three meals and only buy what you need. Reuse leftovers, too, so you aren’t inadvertently wasting your scraps. Compost your vegetable and fruit peelings, egg shells, and coffee grounds. At first, you might find that you still have too much food or still have to throw stuff away, but as you practice this every week, you’ll get better. If you can’t eat something in time, consider donating to a local food bank who will always accept your unwanted produce.
24. Consider Secondhand Items
Instead of buying brand new, consider buying second hand. Whether it’s furniture, clothing, tableware, games, or electronics. Not only will it save you money, but buying gently used items reduces the demand for the production of new goods. And who knows? While you’re browsing through a thrift store or garage sale, you could find a hidden treasure worth a small fortune!
25. Repurpose Old Clothing
Instead of just throwing out old clothes, think about how you can repurpose it. You can easily make a green grocery bag out of an old t-shirt, for example, or make dog toys from old socks and pants. Use tights or stockings to store onions. A leg from a pair of cuffed pants makes a great holder for reusable bags. There’s so many ways to repurpose clothing, that you really shouldn’t need to throw anything away. Use them as rags, stuff them or cut into strips and braid them as dog toys. And if you really can’t think of a use, donate them to the less fortunate.
26. Upcycle Furniture and Furnishings
You can usually repair, repurpose, or upcycle furniture and furnishings. Got an old coffee table covered in stains? Sand it down, stain it, cover the top in a photo collage, and cover with waterproof varnish or a piece of tempered glass. An old vanity table that you just don’t need? Sand it, give it a shabby-chic makeover and sell it. Want a new look in the kitchen? Instead of installing brand new units, get creative and refurbish your old ones. It saves you plenty of money and, if you sell what you don’t want, you may make a few pennies, too.
27. Use Organic Fertilizer
If you’re growing your own food or pretty plants and want to give them a bit of a boost, opt for organic fertilizer. Use manure from goats, chickens, or horses, or use seaweed, coffee grounds, nettle or comfrey stew, or simply bury fresh fruit and veg peelings in the soil around the base of the plants. Free and green!
28. Use Organic Weed and Pest Control Methods
Use companion planting techniques, keep your soil healthy with regular turning, remove leaf litter every year, and practice crop rotation…. The list goes on. There’s plenty of ways to control weeds and pests without resorting to chemicals, and most of them are free. Encourage beneficial insects that eat pests. Use vinegar as weed killer, or carefully pour boiling water over them. You can even use the boiling water from cooked vegetables or pasta. Buy and release nematodes to eradicate specific pests like ants.
Compost as much as you can. Egg shells, coffee grounds, chicken, goat, horse, rabbit, and guinea pig poop all make excellent additions to the compost heap. Shredded newspaper, vegetable peelings, weeds (without their roots and seed heads), and raw fruit waste all make delightfully rich compost. It doesn’t cost a penny. All you need to do is turn the compost regularly and ideally, make your heap or place your bin in a fairly sunny spot, as heat will speed up the process.
30. Plant a Fruit or Nut Tree
Planting a tree helps to purify the air, enhance water quality, and prevent erosion. The dead leaves in the fall also make an excellent addition to the compost pile. Planting a tree also creates a beneficial wildlife haven. And, if you plant a fruit or nut tree, you’ll be able to harvest an abundance of produce every year.
31. Repurpose Anything
Literally – before you throw away or recycle anything, consider whether you can repurpose it. Got some disposable cups? Use them as seed pots. Egg cartons? Biodegradable seed trays. Empty tin cans? Cover them in something pretty, punch a few holes in them, and use them as decorative tea light holders. Soda cans? Put them on strings and hang above your crops as bird scarers. Old hose pipe? Cut a length off, slit it along one side, and use it to protect your saw blades. Got some old tires laying around? Paint them and use them as attractive planters in the garden. There’s just so many ways to repurpose so many everyday items. It saves you money, reduces your carbon footprint, and gets you closer to Zero Waste. Repurposing as much as you can is an incredibly easy and satisfying way to go green.
32. Cut Down on Paper
This is the Digital Age, after all. So why not save a few trees by cutting down on the amount of paper you use? Where possible, get your bills online or via email. If you dislike storing things online and prefer actual physical paper copies, make sure you purchase recycled paper.
33. Give Handmade Gifts
Handmade gifts are thoughtful, and you’ll often find the recipient treasures the gift because of the time and effort you’ve put in. Making gifts, from natural beauty products to a fancy box of gourmet chocolate truffles, or a stuffed bear made from baby’s first sleepsuit, saves money, reduces the demand for consumer goods, and lets you feel great. It’s green, it’s unique, and it’s inexpensive.
34. Ditch Short Car Journeys
This is an obvious but crucial one. Walk to the store or take your bike. There’s really no need, for most of us, to take the car on short journeys. Yet many of us do. It’s wasteful and lazy. Get up and walk or get on your bike. It gets you off your butt and away from the TV or the computer, saves you money, and reduces your carbon footprint.
Foraging is a brilliantly green activity. It gets you out of the house, makes an awesome family or solitary activity, and gets you free food. You can most likely forage right in your backyard. Or make a day of it and get out in the countryside and find all kinds of food all year round. You can find out all about foraging here.
36. Eat Seasonally
If you can’t forage or grow your own, you’re stuck with organic store-bought produce. Which is fine – but make the greener choice, make sure what you buy is in season.
37. Preserve Excess Food
If you’re growing your own or you find some fabulous organic produce on sale, minimize your waste, get a little greener, and preserve it. Whether you choose to can, freeze, dehydrate, or try some other preservation method, you’ll save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
38. Encourage Beneficial Insects
While some insects are intensely irritating in the garden, whether you grow fruits or flowers, other insects are of use. Ladybirds, for example, will happily feast on aphids. Bees are vital to a high percentage of pollination. Hover fly and lacewing larvae also consume large amounts of garden pests. Rove beetles and ground beetles chomp their way through an array of pesky insects, including caterpillars, leather jackets, weevils, and gall midges. Provide plenty of bright colors to attract bees, ladybugs, and hover flies. For beetles, a nice pile of damp, shady wood and leaf litter does the trick. And, of course, whatever you do, avoid pesticides, as they indiscriminately decimate all kinds of creatures, both good and bad.
39. Make a Wildlife Haven
Create a little slice of wilderness in your growing space to attract wildlife such as hedgehogs. Make a nice wood pile from old logs and leaf litter. Let a patch of grass grow wild and scatter some wildflower seeds. Create a little “pond” from an old kid’s sandpit or paddling pool for frog and toads. It doesn’t have to be a huge area, just make sure it’s set a little aside from your main growing area and make sure you don’t disturb it. There’s a huge number of creatures that will benefit from a little wildlife haven, and they’ll help you out, too, by eating large numbers of creepy crawlies like slugs, snails, and caterpillars.
40. Encourage Birds
Many birds, like songbirds, are invaluable allies in the garden. They’ll happily consume vast numbers of insect pests. Hang out some fat balls or a bird feeder containing nuts and seeds. If you can, add a birdhouse or two to encourage small birds to come and nest.
41. Choose Energy Efficient Appliances
When it’s time to upgrade your appliances, choose energy efficient ones. They’ll save you a significant sum on your energy bills and reduce your energy consumption and your carbon footprint.
42. Check Window Seals
Before winter comes, make sure you check all your window seals. If you find any are letting air pass through, it’s time to remove the putty and replace it with fresh. This helps to insulate your home, reduces wasted energy, and helps to reduce your energy consumption.
43. Use a Draft Excluder
To prevent heat escaping under doors, get or make yourself a draft excluder. It’s easy and inexpensive, and saves you money.
44. Hang Heavy Curtains and Panels in Winter
You can easily insulate your home during the winter by hanging heavy curtains at the windows and heavy fabric panels across exterior doors. Thermal backed curtains and panels trap warm air, heating your home faster, and reducing wasted energy. You can even hang wall quilts on external walls to add further insulation.
45. Turn the Thermostat Down by One Degree
Turning the thermostat down by just 1 degree saves you 13% of your total space heating energy use every year. That’s a big saving. After all, you can always put a sweater on, or snuggle up under your favorite blanket.
46. Donate Things You Can’t Upcycle
If you just can’t think of another use for something, you have no space for it, or can’t think of how to upcycle an item, donate it. Charity shops will gladly take any items you can’t use. Some rehabilitation units, mental health charities, and a whole host of other charitable organizations will be thrilled with old, worn furniture or furnishings, as many have workshops and projects for their service users as part of their therapeutic offerings.
47. Be an Informed Consumer
Use your consumer power and shop smart. Do your research and only purchase from ethical companies that have strong eco-friendly policies ad practices, and avoid companies that test on animals, give no thought to the welfare of their workers, and engage in careless, potentially environmentally harmful practices.
48. Make-do and Mend
So you’ve got a small hole or a worn spot in your favorite pair of jeans. But do you really need to buy a new pair? We say “no.” Instead, repair the hole or cover it with a pretty patch, then you’ll have a fab pair of comfortable jeans with a fresh, unique look. Take those shoes with the worn soles to a cobbler for repair instead of buying a new pair. Walking boots letting water in? Check for holes, repair the holes, and apply a new coat of waterproofing. This will definitely save you money and cuts down on demand for new goods while reducing the amount of waste going to landfills.
49. Do You Really Need To?
Before you turn on the washing machine, the dishwasher, or even the kettle, ask yourself whether you really need to. Limit appliance use to reduce energy consumption and save money. Avoid doing half loads. Only switch the kettle on with enough water to fill the cups you need, and only when you’ll be around to pour straight away. We’re so used to using our appliances without thinking, if you stop to ask yourself whether it’s absolutely necessary, you’ll be surprised at how often the answer is “no.”
50. Buy Local Goods
Buying local goods massively reduces your carbon footprint. Choosing local produce means it’s likely fresher, too. Aside from food items, local products help to support local tradespeople, from cabinet makers and basket weavers, to artists and craftspeople. When you buy handmade items from local businesses, it’s not just greener, and it doesn’t just support your local economy, you are likely to get higher quality and more unique items than the mass-produced items you’ll find from most big box stores.
We understand that none of us can just snap our fingers and be totally green overnight. It’s unrealistic. And, if you set this “totally green” goal, when you fail, you’ll feel bad. So, instead, commit to some of the small changes listed here. Every small change you implement makes a big impact. Be the change you wish to see.