It’s pretty hard to avoid the uncomfortable truth that we are doing a lot of damage to our beautiful planet. And sometimes, as individuals we can feel hopeless, believing that our small contributions aren’t enough to make a difference. But I’ve decided to believe that it’s worth trying anyway. My kids are watching me, I need to set a good example. So I rounded up 31 easy ways to live more sustainably, that are realistic for busy moms to achieve!
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Life is overwhelming.
We have to manage taking care of kids, spouses, our home, our job, be present for friends and available for family, prioritize our health, find time for self-care, find energy for causes we care about, juggle the finances and our mental health and simultaneously not totally implode.
And that’s all in one day. In the middle of a global pandemic. Gosh, are we even ok?!
I wish I had more time and energy for the causes I used to be so passionate about. I keep telling myself that this is a season, a season of caring for my young children. And when they aren’t so young, I’ll be able to pour more of myself into the issues that keep me up at night.
One of those sleep-depriving issues is the environmental impact my lifestyle has on the planet.
I’m stuck somewhere between “this issue is so huge that me deciding not to use plastic straws anymore won’t make a difference so why bother?!” and wanting to do ALL the things to lessen my family’s impact. I still haven’t figured out this whole ‘balance’ thing.
When I actually stop to take my own advice though, I realize that it IS so important to make small, manageable changes in my daily life. Because it matters. And because my kids see me do it.
So I compiled this list of easy, bite-sized steps towards a more sustainable life that I’ve either already adopted or would like to. Because maybe if you’re like me, in the midst of the overwhelm, you still want to make small changes that matter. If we all do them, they’ll grow into big changes!
(And I’m not going to be stating the obvious like use cloth grocery bags or don’t buy bottled water. You know that already. 🙂 Also, in my home province, we’ve had a municipal composting program in effect for the last 25 years. So I also can’t speak to DIY composting. But you should totally look into it if it interests you!)
Easy Ways to Live More Sustainably
One of the easiest ways to start living more sustainably is to check out this greenUP box. There are differently subscription options ranging from a one-time box purchase to a renewing yearly subscription.
Each box has a fantastic selection of items to help you transition into a more sustainable, plastic-free lifestyle. And the only thought you have to put into it is in finding the ‘buy now’ button on the website. Easy peasy for tired mama bears!
I filmed (my very first) unboxing video to show you everything I got in one box. Gosh, it was fun! And I got so many amazing products.
In my box I got:
A silicone reusable pouch
Set of reusable cutlery and straws.
Vegan, preservative-free face salve
Stainless & bamboo lunchbox
3 Mesh produce bags
Refillable lip balm
These are all full size items too, not samples. The quality is amazing and it was so fun to get this box in the mail! I highly recommend it for busy moms to start making the switch to eco-friendlier household items.
Waste-Free In the Kitchen
A few easy swaps you can make in the kitchen to help reduce plastic waste.
We purchased both the cheese wrap and cucumber hat from a local maker and use them every single day. They replace the ziploc bag or piece of foil that covers the end of a cucumber or a cheese block! This shop, Teebags, also has a variety of sizes so you can keep things like the cut end of a lemon or onion covered up.
3. Bowl Covers
This is the kind of item that you never think you’ll need. That is, until you’re mixing up a recipe that needs to be chilled and the bowl you used doesn’t have a lid. So you end up using plastic wrap. Do yourself a favour and get some bowl covers instead. You can get some fabric ones here from Teebags, or silicone ones here on Amazon.
4. Stasher Bags
Stasher bags are reusable food-grade silicone pouches that replace all the ziploc bags in your life. The small ones are great to use as snack bags tucked in a backpack or purse. The larger sizes can even be used in the freezer! They are dishwasher, freezer, microwave and oven safe. I know, I’m a little surprised too!
5. Stop using disposable paper towels/napkins
Have a selection of washable cloth napkins to use in the place of paper. It’s not the paper towel itself that’s problematic, but the plastic it comes wrapped in. We save any paper napkins that arrive with take-out orders to use for anything really greasy.
You can make your own using some old t-shirts or purchase them ready made. This shop has some pretty ones!
6. Dishwasher Detergent
I’ve seen lots of DIYs for making your own detergents, but I’ve never done it. Not yet anyway. But what we do instead is buy the dishwasher powder in a cardboard box. Instead of individually plastic wrapped pods contained in a plastic bag.
(You might wonder why I don’t have beeswax wraps on this kitchen list, but I’ve tried them and I don’t like them. So I won’t recommend them here.)
Travelling & Being Green
This simple sewing DIY is my own design. It’s awesome for keeping our toothbrushes and toothpaste organized and not inside gross, damp ziploc bags.
8. Washable shoe bags
Maybe people already do this and I’m the one who’s late to the party. But in the past, I’ve just used plastic grocery bags to store my shoes in a suitcase. Now that my province has banned plastic grocery bags, I sewed up a batch of cloth drawstring bags out of an old bedsheet to use instead.
Carry your own kit with washable cutlery and straws so when you’re out and about you don’t have to rely on single use options. I love the set I got in my greenUP box, you can see it in the video above!
Don’t buy a travel sized shampoo bottle every time you leave home. You can purchase refillable bottles, like these, and fill them from your larger bottles at home.
I’ve tried these laundry strips and I really loved them. I’d absolutely use them all the time, if they weren’t so pricey. This might be one of those changes that I just have to do because it’s worth it to the environment. But it’s hard when they are 4 times the price of a jug of detergent! I’m just trying to be honest here, I’m not doing everything perfectly. But I’m doing my best in this season of life.
You can also purchase them from well.ca if you’re in Canada. And don’t forget to go through Rakuten to get your cash back. 🙂 If you haven’t signed up for savings through Rakuten yet, use my link and get a $30 bonus when you spend $30 at participating retailers!
12. Re-think your transportation needs
We had 2 cars for a number of years. I refused to be trapped at home with 2 little toddlers and no means of going out. So while the boys were small, we needed two vehicles. But last year we decided we could manage with one. It’s certainly been an adjustment, I absolutely got used to being able to drive wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But we are making it work. If I need the car my husband can take the bus or work from home.
When we are used to our lifestyle being a certain way, it can be hard to imagine changing it. But if we are brave, and give it a try, we might just find it’s not as hard as we had made out in our heads!
13. Fix and Mend
When clothes or items get ripped, torn or break, try fixing them before tossing them out! Elbows and knees can be patched, socks and sweaters can be darned. Zippers can be replaced. Don’t give up on something just because it needs a repair!
I’ve turned several pairs of pants into shorts for my boys when they’ve destroyed the knees. 🙂
I know there are lots of recipes and ideas out there for making your own cleaning products. And in a pinch, vinegar, baking soda or lemon essential oil can really go a long way! But sometimes you don’t have time to DIY something or you’d just rather not. That’s real life.
So these refillable cleaning products are kind of a happy medium place! You get the spray bottles and some tablets to dissolve in water that creates the cleaning solution. So when you run out, you just have to purchase the tablets again and not an entirely new bottle. Beautiful waste reduction win!
I haven’t personally tried these yet, but I did a little research and Blueland seems like the company to start with. I’m hoping to get some soon and report back. 🙂
Food Shopping & Reducing Plastic Waste
It seems like almost everything at the grocery store is wrapped in plastic. It can feel very defeating. But even small changes can help.
15. Produce Bags
16. Meat Containers
I’ve never been brave enough to try, but you might be able to bring your own glass containers to your grocery store for meat and cut stuff from the deli. I should really give it a try and report back. I hate how all the meats come on a styrofoam tray AND wrapped in plastic.
17. Refuse Extra Plastic
At my grocery store, the standard practice is for the cashier to place meat packages (already wrapped in plastic) into another small plastic bag in case they leak. I always ask them not to do this and just to place all the meat in one cloth bag with no other items. The cloth bags are washable, but I still don’t want meat juice on my apples. haha
18. Buy in Bulk
I don’t have the space to shop at big bulk stores and store a lot of large items. But sometimes I’ll go to Bulk Barn for nuts or spices. Pre-covid they had a program where you could bring your own containers too. I hope that comes back.
19. Make Your Own Bread Crumbs
I don’t really eat bread, but of all the boys in my house that do eat bread, not a single one will eat the end pieces. Oy. So when the loaf is done, I take the end pieces, rip them up into small chunks and leave them in a bowl to dry out. When the bowl is full, I grind them all up in my Blendjet and store them in a jar. We use them all the time in recipes.
The only thing to watch for is if the humidity is high in the summertime, then I have to leave the crusts in a single layer to dry out and rotate them occasionally.
I also make my own oat flour. I just grind up regular quick oats to use in recipes instead of wheat flour.
Kids & Eco-Friendly Living
My number one piece of advice when it comes to kids and parenting is: Manage expectations.
This is absolutely vital for my youngest. As long as he knows what to expect, and we aren’t springing anything new on him right this minute, we avoid about 80% of meltdowns and anxiety.
So we try to be very clear about the things we don’t want to buy or bring into our home. He was disappointed when we told him we won’t be having balloons for birthdays, but he understands and isn’t upset about it anymore.
20. No Single-Use Decor
I try really hard not to purchase any single-use, plastic decor like balloons or confetti. I’m not completely opposed to plastic decor, as long as it can be re-used for several years. Over the years I’ve made a lot of banners and decor like this easy fabric bunting.
We also don’t fill birthday treat bags with cheap plastic toys. When in doubt, I opt for edible goodies, magazines or craft supplies.
21. Normalize Second-Hand Gifts
This year I purchased several Christmas gifts for my kids from a thrift store. Some books and games that were in really good shape and the kids didn’t know the difference. Buying second-hand is an easy way to live more sustainably and is beneficial because you can avoid the extra plastic packaging that comes with new toys, you’re probably saving money and you’re saving something from unnecessarily ending up in a landfill.
Kids go through so many batteries! It’s ridiculous. It’s worth investing in some good quality, rechargeable batteries. Because even if you don’t buy your kids plastic noisy toys, someone else will. It’s inevitable.
23. Cloth Diapers
We used cloth diapers when the boys were babies. I’d absolutely recommend it even if washing them can be challenging. It’s much less wasteful, cheaper in the long run and bonus, your baby won’t have plastic rubbing against their delicate skin all day long.
(We used disposable diapers when were travelling, or when we had a sitter. You gotta do what works for you!)
There are so many crafts, gifts or decor pieces that you can fashion using items you already have around house. Get creative! And look on Pinterest, there’s literally a bajillion ideas over there.
Personal Care & Waste-Free Ideas
25. Cloth Pads or Period Underwear or Washable Cup
If you’ve never tried an alternative to disposable menstrual care products, then I know it can seem super daunting. So I recommend starting slow. Use a cloth pad or period undies on your lightest days and start developing a system for washing them. After a few months you may be ready to use them exclusively, or maybe you’ll only ever use them on light days. But every little bit helps! And you may find that you really like the money savings and not having to panic that you forgot to buy tampons in time!
I personally use both cloth pads and period underwear and I will never go back to disposable options (unless I’m travelling). I’m so much more comfortable not have yucky plastic against my body.
I’ve personally tried Thinx underwear, and they are very comfortable! My only issue is that I purchased a heavy absorbency pair and they are actually only suitable for light days. But that’s my personal experience and every body is different. I’d still recommend them, just maybe start them on a day you’ll be home so you can monitor for leaks.
I’ve used a variety of cloth pads over the years, mainly homemade ones and Hannah pads, which I do recommend. 🙂
26. Makeup Removers/Face Scrubbies
Switch up disposable makeup wipes for washable cotton rounds. I have a set that I crocheted and they are great for applying toner too! They are a quick and easy swap to help you live more sustainably.
Elate is a makeup brand that uses bamboo containers that are refillable and refill items come wrapped in seed paper instead of plastic! I love it. I’ve tried a few of their products and they are lovely. Highly recommend. They are a cosmetics company that is doing things differently and making it easier to achieve an eco-friendly lifestyle!
28. Safety Razors
My husband uses a safety razor and only has to buy replacement blades. It seems to work well for him! I’ve never personally shopped for them, so I don’t have any links to recommend. But do some research to figure out what will work for you!
We haven’t made this switch yet either, mainly because we get free toothbrushes when we go to the dentist. lol. But it would be easy enough to refuse those freebies and try bamboo toothbrushes instead.
30. Plastic-free Packaging (?)
I haven’t had much luck with toiletries packaged in cardboard style packaging. If they get wet, they warp and shred. I have a deodorant in a carton tubing and the twisty bottom fell off. So now I can’t even finish the (expensive) product I bought. That’s not super eco-friendly in my opinion. But it can still be worth trying.
31. Shampoo Bars (?)
I know a lot of lists like this will recommend switching to shampoo and conditioner bars. If you have the type of hair that can handle those bars, then by all means. I tried them once and my hair was not happy. I have wild curls that can’t handle bar shampoo. Or maybe I just haven’t found the right one.
Again, having a more sustainable lifestyle is not about doing ALL the things. It’s about doing the things that work for you and your family and that you can sustain for the long run.
This post ended up being much longer than I had planned! Turns out I had a lot to say on the subject. But I’d better stop here.
I’d love to hear what you do in your house to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Leave some tips and tricks for easy ways to live more sustainably in the comments!