While living more sustainably is something we should all strive for, it can sometimes feel intimidating and unrealistic. We think we have to go full-on “zero-waste” in order to make a difference—or spend half our paycheck on pricey “eco-friendly” products. Truly, though, even the smallest changes add up when it comes to being more mindful of our impact on the planet—and there are a number of seriously simple tweaks we can make to our daily routines that go a long way. Consider the following adjustments to make your routine more Earth-friendly every single day.
1. Unplug the coffee maker after using it
Okay, this one really goes for any electronic device you use throughout the day, but chances are the coffee maker is one of the first plug-in gadgets that touches your daily routine. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDS), most electronic devices continue to utilize electricity even when turned off, which is a bigger deal than you might think considering the average American home has a whopping 65 of these devices plugged in around the clock. Nationwide, this adds up to $19 billion of wasted energy each year (about $165 per household).
Please, take half a second to unplug your coffee maker (and your phone charger, and your nightlight) when you’re not using it before rushing onto the next to-do.
2. Rethink your supplement routine
With all sorts of companies making significant efforts to waste less, utilize renewable energy sources, and support causes that promote a more sustainable future for the planet, it’s never been easier to vote with your dollars in pretty much every purchase you make. And while there’s lots of attention put on the food and clothing brands that are doing it right (and that aren’t), there’s another category of companies many people rely on daily worth considering, too: the brands behind the vitamins you pop before heading out the door.
One quick way to gauge whether your usual supplement manufacturer is nourishing you with the planet in mind: Check whether they’re a Certified B Corp, as brands given this certification must meet vigorous standards regarding their social and environmental impact. The next time you shop with The Vitamin Shoppe, look for the Earthy-Friendly Brand badge, which indicates that a brand is not only a Certified B Corp but also taking measures to fight pollution by using post-consumer recycled solutions (read: more sustainable packaging!). A few big names that make the list: Garden of Life, OLLY, Orgain, New Chapter, Plant People, Charlotte’s Web, Prima, and Comvita. Garden of Life, for example, uses traceable and organic ingredients, utilizes vegetable-based ink and recycled (and recyclable packaging), and is certified carbon-neutral.
3. Swap the Meat on your lunch salad for beans
“The average adult in the U.S. eats nearly 200 pounds of meat and fish each year compared to just 10 pounds of beans. This kind of diet is extremely resource-intensive,” says Ryan D. Andrews, M.S., M.A., R.D., C.S.C.S., author of Swole Planet: Building a Better Body and a Better Earth. “Eating fewer animal products may be the single most important step we can take with our diet for a sustainable future. Some food groups to consider eating more of with less meat on the menu: legumes, tubers, roots, and seeds.”
The next time you throw together your favorite lunchtime salad or stop at the salad bar on a busy day, top your greens and veggies with beans instead of animal protein.
4. Say “no thanks” to single-use items offered to you…
Whether you’re picking up dinner or stopping for a mid-afternoon coffee, a super-simple way to make supporting your favorite local spots more Earth-friendly is to kindly decline single-use items like plastic straws and utensils, excessive packaging, and the like, suggests sustainability coach Georgina Caro.
5. …And whip out your reusable utensils
Of course, once you’ve politely turned down the plastic cutlery when grabbing takeout for a meal on the run, you still need something to eat your food with. Keeping reusable items (think a set of silverware from home, a stainless steel straw, and even a cloth napkin) in your bag, car, or work desk can help you avoid contributing more plastic to landfills. And if you still haven’t gotten on the reusable water bottle bandwagon, there’s no time like the present, suggests Caro. (FYI: Most coffee shops will also not only make your daily order for you in your reusable mug but they’ll also give you a discount for saving them the cup.)
6. Cook double (or triple) portions
“Of all food produced, about a third is wasted,” Andrews says. “This is not only a colossal waste of resources (i.e., water, land, energy), but food sent to the landfill breaks down and generates greenhouse gases.” His recommendations for cutting down on how much food ends up in your garbage? Planning your meals and embracing leftovers. So, the next time you whip up your family’s go-to recipes, make enough to use up all of whatever perishable ingredients you purchased and freeze the extra servings to whip out in a pinch later.
7. Ditch the cotton balls and single-use face wipes
If you use a cotton ball or wipe to remove makeup or cleanse your face at the end of the day, consider switching to reusable pads or rounds, recommends professional makeup artist Vivi Mintara, founder of Eye Makeup Lab. Many of these reusable pads come in sets of 20-plus pads plus a laundry bag, so you don’t have to worry about washing them too often—or losing any in the process.
8. Think twice before throwing clothing in the hamper
If you automatically chuck whatever you’ve worn into the hamper at the end of the day, think twice next time. “Washing and drying our clothes consumes a lot of energy, and contributes to the wear and tear of our garments (leading us to buy more clothes),” explains Elizabeth Joy, founder of Conscious Life & Style. “For items like jeans or sweaters, it is actually recommended that you go as long as possible between washes!” Of course, no one is suggesting you re-wear clothing that’s truly dirty—but if your outfit still feels about as fresh as it did when you left the house in the morning, wearing it again before washing is the move.