As headlines about extreme weather and climate change continue to dominate the news, many of us are taking a closer look at our family’s daily habits. From the meat-heavy meals we share with our partners to the countless plastic products we buy for our kids, it’s safe to say that we could all stand to be a little more eco-friendly. Of course, knowing you want to become a more sustainable family and following through with it are two very different things.
The secret to making your family more eco-friendly? Start small. Making simple lifestyle changes — like using reusable bowl covers instead of plastic wrap — will go a long way in reducing your impact on Mother Earth.
Not sure where to start? Here are some easy ways to embrace green living and lower your family’s carbon footprint.
Install a low-flow showerhead
If you aren’t already using a low-flow showerhead, you may want to consider making the switch. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, switching to a low-flow showerhead can help the average family save a whopping 2,700 gallons of water per year. Low-flow showerheads are also good for your wallet. In fact, if every family in the United States installed a low-flow showerhead, we could collectively save $2.9 billion in water utility bills annually!
Ditch disposables in the bathroom
Ideally, you want to ditch disposable items in every part of your home. But to make things a little easier, consider tackling the bathroom first. Keep plastic tampon applicators out of oceans by switching to an infinitely reusable menstrual cup. Eliminate single-use cotton rounds by picking up a pack of reusable cotton rounds that you can easily pop in the wash.
Still, brushing your teeth with plastic toothbrushes? Say no to plastic waste and purchase bamboo toothbrushes for the whole family.
Cut back on red meat
Did you know that almost 30 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is used to raise livestock? While all meat consumption is detrimental to the environment on some level, red meat, in particular, is terrible for Mother Earth because it requires more land and water. (Cows also produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.)
So, how can your family help? Swearing off red meat — or, at least, cutting back the amount you normally eat — is one critical step. If you want to go the extra mile, take meat off the menu altogether and try to incorporate more plant-based recipes into your family’s meal planning.
Choose energy-efficient appliances
Using things until they break down is usually beneficial for the environment, but appliances are the exception to the rule. Old appliances are huge energy hogs in comparison to new appliances, which often have high-performance features that use less energy.
Switching to energy-efficient appliances is an easy way to reduce your family’s energy usage while saving money on your utility bill. In fact, swapping your old refrigerator for an energy-efficient model could save you more than $200 over the product’s 12-year lifetime. Cut expenses and greenhouse gas emissions? Sounds like a win-win to us.
Plant your own food
Commercially-grown fruits and vegetables are usually sprayed with toxic pesticides that are harmful to you and the environment. By growing your own food, you can skip the harmful chemicals and save money in the process. Plus, you’ll have fresh food right at your fingertips, which ultimately helps the environment by reducing the number of trips you need to make to the store. (It’s also a time-saver.)
Reduce plastic in the kitchen
Between the zip-top baggies, dish soap bottles, cleaning products, and plastic wrap, most kitchens are teeming with unnecessary plastic. One easy way to reduce your reliance on plastic is by swapping out your most commonly-used kitchen items with plastic-free alternatives. Instead of buying bottled soap, for example, switch to a plastic-free dish soap bar that cuts through grease without contributing to plastic waste.
Instead of packing your kids’ lunches with zip-top baggies, pack a waste-free lunch with reusable silicone bags. And if you can’t find low-waste cleaning products, consider making your own. (Bonus: DIY cleaners are non-toxic, less expensive, and safer for your kids.)
Make recycling a family habit
Teaching kids good recycling habits not only helps the environment, but it can also help your community save money. Recycling reduces the cost of handling trash, which means more resources for programs that support your local community. It’s also a great opportunity to teach your kids that not all resources are finite.
To encourage good recycling habits, try to make it fun for your kids. Play games to teach kids which items go in the recycle bin and which ones go in the trash. Let them make DIY bird feeders from empty toilet paper rolls or turn plastic bottles into planters for their seedlings. Get them hooked on recycling from an early age and they’ll carry the habit with them into adulthood.
Shop at second-hand clothing stores
Fast fashion retailers take trendy clothing from the catwalk and transfer them to clothing stores at breakneck speed, often creating dirty emissions and excessive waste in the process. Instead of contributing to this problem, take the family thrift shopping instead. Shopping at thrift stores is easy on the wallet, and it helps the environment by diverting perfectly good items from landfills.
Not a fan of traditional thrift shopping? Online resale and consignment stores such as ThredUp, Depop and TheRealReal make it easy to shop sustainably.
If you can’t tackle everything on this list, don’t beat yourself up over it. Remember, the ultimate goal is progress — not perfection. Even small changes can make a big difference, so do what you can!