8 Tips for a More Sustainable Lifestyle
Tricks of the trade for keeping your summer green
Warmer and longer days call for lingering shopping trips at farmers markets, full Saturdays spent at the beach, pool parties, backyard barbecues and keeping the whole house open (before it gets too hot). While we enjoy more time with Mother Nature, it’s also a good time to re-evaluate our potentially not-so-sustainable habits. I consulted local blogger Kait Schulhof, founder of A Clean Bee to help me—and you—find easy ways to follow a more eco-conscious path this summer.
“It can be overwhelming to try and live a zero-waste lifestyle right off the bat,” Kait admits. “In my home, we started thinking about more sustainable efforts we could make in the kitchen and the bathrooms first. Then we moved on room by room.” That meant only purchasing necessities, looking for non-toxic items and buying some things from another person rather than running to the store for what’s new. You too can start living more environmentally friendly by adopting a few new philosophies.
Choose non-toxic cleaning agents or look for easy DIY options online. Kait wrote an entire blog post on the subject, but she swears you can give your home a thorough cleaning with nothing more than distilled white vinegar, alcohol, baking soda, dish soap, olive oil (which is great for wood furniture), coconut oil (a perfect cast-iron cleanser), essential oils and a collection of glass spray bottles.
Her ultimate all-purpose cleaner mixes 1 tablespoon dish soap with 2 cups of water and 5-10 drops of essential oils with antibacterial properties such as eucalyptus, tea tree, oregano or lavender.
Eliminate single-use helpers like paper towels. Kait prefers washable microfiber cloths (at right) to aid in her dirty work.
Buy foods without packaging.
“One of the easiest things you can do is to not put the produce you buy in plastic bags,” Kait says. Place your fruits and veggies in the reusable bags you’ve already brought with you to the supermarket or farmers market, and hand the individual items (sans bags) to the cashier to be weighed at checkout.
Reduce picnic waste.
“Purchase a set of lightweight bamboo travel utensils for every member of the family, or pack your everyday forks, spoons and knives when you dine outside,” Kait suggests. Bring cloth napkins and reusable beverage bottles, and you’ve instantly elevated your park or beach picnic.
Hot Finds for Your Sustainable Picnic
Mold these reusable storage sheets (below) to fit any container or perishable food item. Made from a cotton-hemp fabric blend infused with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil, they are antibacterial, air- and water-resistant and can be used, rinsed and reshaped for a year.
Let the kids eat from colorful bamboo sets that include a bowl, plate, cup and spoon. These items are an alternative to plastics, disposable or fragile dishes, combining biodegradable, renewable bamboo fibre with a 100% food-grade melamine binder.
Maintain rather than replace.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for having home appliances serviced and get items like shoes resoled rather than replaced, Kait advises. If you have to buy a household item new, choose energy-saving models like instant pots, low-flow showerheads, low-flush toilets and high-efficiency washing machines.
In addition to saving money, buying gently used vintage or antique furnishings also helps reduce your exposure to the harmful off-gassing and your contribution to the over-production of goods. Kait’s fave places to look include Facebook Marketplace and Chairish. Besides furniture, Kait always buys pre-owned designer clothes (online consignment shops are the best), books, baby clothes and gear, sporting goods and exercise equipment, and china, decorative plates and serveware.
Skip the charcoal.
Grills that use coals contribute to poor air quality. Propane gas or portable electric models are better.
Slather on safer sunscreen.
Not all sunscreens are good for the environment. Traditional formulations can pollute fresh water supplies. Before purchasing your next bottle or tube, consult the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment that assesses a product based on health concerns, environmental toxicity and the UVA/UVB balance.
Decorate with indoor plants.
Your painted walls, flooring, furniture, even your dry-cleaning could be off-gassing potentially harmful carcinogens such as formaldehyde into your home. Years ago, NASA ran a study to determine the best indoor plants to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen inside space stations. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum), snake plant (Sansevieria), areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), red-edge dracaena (Dracaena marginata), florist chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium), Kimberly queen fern (Nephrolepsis), Dracaena Warnekii and Dieffenbachia ‘Tropic Snow’ top the list of effective air-cleaning foliage. It’s recommended that you have one of these natural purifiers for every 100 square feet of indoor space.
Find the Perfect Spot for Your Houseplants
Get our simple test for finding out how much light each spot in your house gets, then find the perfect plants to go there. Learn more here.