If you’re a beginner on your eco-friendly journey, you’re likely wondering which sustainable living tips make the biggest impact. You want to make sure that the time, effort, and money you’re investing are worth it!
Well, I asked over 20 green bloggers which sustainable living tips actually matter when you’re transitioning to an eco-friendly or zero waste lifestyle. Looking back now, it’s easier to notice the simple changes that led to the greatest results.
These sustainable living bloggers were asked to answer one of these two questions:
- Which sustainable baby step made the biggest difference?
- Looking back, what was a moment that made you realize you needed to change?
Keep scrolling to learn about the changes & moments that shifted these sustainable living bloggers’ lives! Find their favorite sustainable living tips to develop a sustainable lifestyle that sticks!
What is sustainable living?
The goal of sustainable living is to reduce the amount of resources you use and the waste your produce to ensure that the earth can provide for everyone.
Essentially, you’re trying to heal and preserve the earth so that future generations can live safe, healthy lives.
Sustainable living is the umbrella that fits over zero waste, low waste, low impact, plastic-free, and eco-friendly lifestyles. They all focus on specific parts of the sustainability umbrella and often have many overlaps.
Learn more sustainable living tips:
Because there are so many different types of sustainable living, I wanted to simplify the process by asking over 20 sustainable living bloggers to share their tips for beginners.
Which sustainable living tips make the biggest difference?
Learn from people who live and breathe sustainability every day! Jumpstart your own sustainable lifestyle using the sustainable living tips that helped them get where they are now.
Pay attention to the little things
It may sound simple, but the biggest small step I took was to actively NOTICE things.
From noticing what was in my shopping cart to assessing how much trash we generated, what the ingredients looked like in certain products, and even how we felt after eating certain foods. Once noticed, I could make a change or break a habit.
Salad dressing was one of the first to go; I’ve been making my own for decades now instead of buying it.
I also try to take a better-best attitude with things. It might not always be feasible to take the best step right away, but we can be better with less effort.
For instance, the best scenario might be that I grow my own potatoes. While waiting for that step, though, I can do *better and buy potatoes loose instead of in the plastic bag.
My suggestion for beginners who want to make their lifestyle more sustainable is to start with small steps and build on them.
Developing a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight for most of us.
Begin with things like reducing your use of single-use items, especially plastic packaging and containers, eating and drinking utensils, and even glass bottles, which take 4000 years to biodegrade.
Instead of going out and buying everything new, purchase good quality secondhand items.
Pay attention to the ingredient lists on the items you consume and reduce or eliminate your use of products that contain harmful chemicals: if we don’t buy these things manufacturers will stop making them.
Finally, support farmers who are good stewards of the earth and who use regenerative farming techniques. It’s not enough to buy organic – go and visit your local small farms, get to know the farmers who run them, and volunteer to help them if you’re able. Small farmers do a lot to support their local communities and are often the best teachers of how to transition to more sustainable practices in our day-to-day lives.
Keep up with environmental issues
If you’re short on time but want to make an impact on your carbon emissions, check out our 5 quick tips for celebrating Earth Day in under an hour. You can complete these tasks any time of the year and without even leaving your home!
The baby step that has made the biggest difference in my life (and keeps me motivated for the long haul!) is my commitment to staying up-to-date with regard to environmental issues.
When my preferred news outlets publish a piece on climate change or cover some other environmental matter I make sure to pay attention.
Sustainable living can sometimes feel pointless: do one person’s actions even matter in the grand scheme of things?
But understanding the complexities of our planet’s current problems gives me the ‘why’ behind my actions and motivates me to continuously do better.
Start with food
Look for local foods as much as you can. If you eat meat, we recommend buying pasture-raised meats grown using regenerative methods near you. You can also find bulk produce near you for all of your canning projects!
If you’re looking for a low waste source for organic pantry staples like grains, butters, oils, and more, check out our Azure Standard review to see if it would be a good solution for you.
It started with food for me. Re-thinking the types of food I consume, opting for locally grown food options whenever possible, starting with bulk bin snack foods vs packaged snack foods… all of these small steps have led to a much healthier, more sustainable, and more satisfying lifestyle for me and my family.
The very first step for me was purchasing unpackaged produce. That’s it!
Then I repurposed cloth bags for bulk bin dry goods. Then it was trying my hand at making my own condiments at home, sourcing locally grown meat at farmers markets, and growing my own herbs and select veggies at home.
One small step at a time.
I think the most impactful and simplest way you can start to live more sustainably is to reduce consumption of animal products. No, you don’t have to be vegan, vegetarian, etc.
We make at least 3 food decisions every single day; That’s a lot of opportunities to choose to eat less animal products.
It’s such an easy way to make a positive environmental impact!
One small step that we can all take is to reduce our meat consumption.
Meat and dairy are some of the largest contributors to climate change. Why? There are a number of reasons, but the short answer is that animal-based food production is incredibly resource-intensive. For more details, see my post.
It doesn’t mean you have to go all veggie or vegan, but if your family starts with, say, Meatless Mondays, you may find that you enjoy some of those plant-based meals!
And while helping the planet, you’ll be eating healthier, too!
Investigate ingredients and make your own
Learn about our favorite zero waste cleaning swaps, including my favorite eco-friendly cleaning concentrate. Whip up a batch of my zero waste toilet cleaner recipe to scrub up more than just your toilet, too!
One thing that really helped me on my sustainable living journey was to switch to making my own cleaning products.
Most take just seconds to make using simple household ingredients, and this one change really cut down on the amount of plastic we were using.
I found it was also a great stepping stone to making wider changes – be it seeing where else we could reduce waste or make other positive changes in our lives.
For me, my interest started more from a health perspective.
I was learning about ingredients used in makeup and personal care products and the importance of using safer, cleaner, natural products (after dealing with my own health issues and wanting to heal holistically).
Then I was researching how plastic can affect our bodies, and it all sort of trickled from there!
I noticed how many products and items were single-use or packaged in plastic, even down to the fashion industry and how much waste is created from that.
Once you start realizing it, you start to find small ways here and there to make more sustainable choices!
A simple bar of soap was all it took to question what we are bringing into our homes.
It doesn’t sound like much, but in the search to find a regime to manage my young daughter’s eczema, it opened my eyes to the lack of knowledge I held over the ingredients in the products we use every single day.
It became a powerful driver to understand, at a very basic level, the use those ingredients play in our products and what good they really offer us.
All it took was reading the ingredients list on the back of a bar of soap to understand the power we hold as consumers: we have a choice over the things we accept in our life and it is a powerful thing to say no (thank you).
It started with a simple bar of soap and the desire to protect my daughter: now it influences all our choices, hopefully for the betterment of our family, our community, and ultimately our planet.
Looking back, I can see how so many different parts of my life led me to where I am right now.
However, my own health journey jumpstarted the process. I have had sensitive skin my entire life as well as itchy scalp and I’m sensitive to fragrance.
I have to research literally every product I use on my body or in my home to make sure it’s safe for my skin and won’t cause respiratory issues. It’s been such a process and I’ve spent so much money trying to find products that are safe for me.
As I continued to work on healing myself, I started cooking from scratch and working at a local farmers market. These two practices changed everything!
I became passionate about growing my own food, eating organically, working on farms and reducing the waste I created even more.
I found myself sharing what I learned with friends and family and became passionate about wanting to demystify the process of living a non-toxic lifestyle for beginners.
Now, I share my favorite sustainable living tips & experiences on Milk Glass Home and on my podcast Simple Sustainable Home!
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Shift your shopping habits
Shopping secondhand made the biggest difference for our family gaining momentum on our journey to live more sustainably.
We started by purchasing secondhand clothes and grew into obtaining more of the things we need secondhand in different parts of our lives.
Shopping secondhand helps us be more intentional about our consumption habits overall and think more critically about what we’re buying and bringing into our home in a variety of ways.
It also feels like an approachable place to start because there are so many amazing secondhand stores (and it saves money!).
Thinking before doing.
Often we purchase stuff/food without giving it much thought.
If we would give a little more thought to whether or not the items we are about to purchase are the most eco-friendly option, our lives would be much more sustainable.
For example, choosing package-free or paper packages for your food instead of the usual plastic would be a great step to living more sustainably.
Buying only what I need and shopping second hand first has made a huge difference in reducing waste in our home.
Over the last few years, people have become more aware of “fast fashion” and of how detrimental the fashion industry is to people and the planet.
But fast home design, fast furniture, fast décor – these are all huge problems too.
So the baby step I took a few years ago – and recommend others take – is to only buy things for the home that are secondhand, locally handmade, or made by a sustainable small business.
Essentially what it comes down to is conscious consumerism.
Think before you buy. If you aren’t sure how something was made try and find out. If you can’t find out then look for a better option.
It takes longer to do it this way, but that’s why it’s called slow design. And it’s worth it!
Start cooking from scratch
I can remember the day. We were at a local health food store with my daughter who was 3 at the time.
When she made a comment about carrots coming from the store in a bag I knew it was time to make a change.
We moved from the city, bought acreage, began growing our own organic foods (she soon realized where carrots came from!), learned to preserved those hard earned foods, began creating our own apothecary cabinet with Mother Earth’s healing gifts, and became as self-sufficient and sustainable as we possibly could.
The journey and learning never ends and that’s what we love most about this sustainable life!
I have always been interested in living more sustainably and making food from scratch.
Once I figured out how to do one thing, I felt so encouraged to try other things.
Often, it is so easy, healthier, and cheaper to make things from scratch.
Even though I did have some failures on the way, I saw them as learning experiences but there is nothing like the pride of using something I made or eating our homemade food.
Start cooking from scratch every day!
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Produce less trash
While on a long-term trip in Asia, we realized how much trash was being discarded in certain countries.
We would go to beautiful natural landmarks, only to find them littered with trash – water bottles, food containers, plastic bags. It was heartbreaking to see.
Worst of all, a lot of the countries we visited didn’t have recycling programs or potable water, so the amount of single-use plastic trash piling up was incredible.
We knew that future generations would never be able to experience the beauty of these places if things didn’t change.
At that moment, we made a vow to ourselves to rethink our relationship with anything single-use.
Completely eliminating single use plastics is a tough task, and as much as we would love to say that we have, it just isn’t feasible. However, we are aware now of all single-use plastic out there, and we try as hard as possible to avoid it.
We bought a water filtration bottle that made any freshwater potable. No more using plastic water bottles on our travels.
We also try to either buy products that don’t have any plastic packaging, or to reuse anything that is deemed ‘single-use’ for other purposes. We use old plastic bread bags to buy produce in. When we travel, we use those plastic bags to pick up trash near oceans or natural landmarks. We would bring reusable food containers to markets to pack our food in. We always refuse plastic cutlery, instead coming with our own metal ones.
We also chose to share our journey with others, either showcasing the products we found to help us be more sustainable, or sharing our resources and knowledge with others.
The biggest hurdle many, including us, face in the beginning when it comes to reducing single use is remembering to pack in reusables when heading out to get groceries, a coffee, and food and remembering to refuse unneeded items.
It takes a while to build up this habit.
This can be done by placing your reusables by the door so you see them on the way out, cleaning and placing them back into your bag straight away, putting a reminder note on your fridge or bag, and not giving up!
This is why, along with personal reusables, we love solutions like cup libraries and swap and go reusable container systems that enable reusing instead of using disposables even if you forget.
One day I simply couldn’t wash out the Peanut Butter jar one more time. I think I would have gone mad.
Faintly remembering reading something about how plastic isn’t actually the easiest or cost-effective thing to recycle, I figured I wasn’t doing much harm, so I threw it in the trash.
Then my green-consciousness got the better of me, and I felt crazy guilty. I had ruined the environment. Like, all by myself. With that single peanut butter jar.
Now, Danielle investigates products to help you know instantly how “green” they really are!
When I first started thinking about sustainable ways our family could cut back on waste, I decided to start with food waste.
I bought a small countertop compost bin and couldn’t believe a) how quickly we were filling it up; and b) how much less often we were having to empty our trash can as a result!
We followed up by building a large compost bin out of old wooden pallets at the back of our property – and we now use the compost around the garden. It’s become a really valuable resource!
But even if you don’t have space to compost in a yard, I still believe composting is an excellent way prevent food waste from ending up in landfill. You could buy a small bokashi bin, or a machine that turns your food scraps into plant food in hours!
Chances are, you’ll never want to go back to throwing food scraps in the trash.
The baby step that our family took to reduce waste that made the biggest difference was removing the paper towel roll from the kitchen and placing a basket of unpaper towels in its place.
Until that point, I never realized how much we used paper towels for trivial things.
Now, instead of using a paper towel to wipe up messes or when we’re eating a meal, we use an unpaper towel.
Not only are we reducing waste and saving trees, but I also never have to waste money buying paper towels ever again!
A few years ago, we lost our home instantly (mudslide) and moved into a furnished three-story
In the rental house, as soon as we brought food into the tiny kitchen, garbage and recycling
started piling up quickly.
And it wasn’t easy to dispose of; I had to drag it down two flights of stairs and down the street. So, I started looking for solutions. That’s when I learned about the zero waste movement.
I also discovered that recycling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I learned it’s not a panacea for overfilled landfills because recycling materials are also piling up! Much of it can’t be sold off and never gets recycled into new materials. And then there’s the stuff that ends up in the oceans and rivers, among other places.
There is a lot that we, personally, can do to reduce both our garbage and recycling output.
Which sustainable living tips resonated with you the most?
Was there a writer you clicked with the most? Which sustainable living tips are sticking with you? Have your own easy sustainable swap to share? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments!