Now’s the Time To Make Room in Your Home for Sustainable Habits—Here’s How

Inspired by the 2021 theme for Earth Day, “Restore our Earth," Well+Good is running a monthlong series called "Planet Hope" with expert-led content focused on food, clothing, sustainable living, and everyday activism. Check back for actionable advice for how to work each focus into your life in an ongoing, meaningful way.

The home is a critical space for being able to recharge and relax, and that's important—especially while living amid such stressful, traumatic, and isolating pandemic times. But since the home is a place where we spend a lot of our time (especially for those in lockdown), many also generate a lot of waste in this space that can and should be avoided. That's why the work we need to be doing for the planet right now starts with creating sustainable habits at home. Both our living spaces and the planet itself—our collective living space—deserve our respect and care.

Doing our individual part to take care of the planet and mitigate climate change is more important now than ever. Experts warn that within the next 30 years, we're going to see drastic effects if radical shifts aren't made. And while much change will need to happen at the policy and infrastructure level, we can each do our part to contribute on a household level.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), folks in America generate almost five pounds of trash each day, on average. Now consider that of that trash, plastic bottles require an estimated 450 years to break down and plastic bags take even longer. Also, an estimated 500 billion disposable cups are used annually, with the majority not recyclable because they’re lined with plastic.

So, where do you come in? In my low-waste journey, I've found that adopting various low-waste swaps is a helpful and effective way to get started in striking new sustainable habits at home. As a bonus, many of these swaps appeal to the planet and my finances, alike. (You read that right: Eco-friendly solutions for the home don't need to be expensive!) For instance, swapping to reusable water bottles and reusable bags are easy fixes that make a difference—and after a certain number of uses, pay for themselves.

To make a sustainable shift in your home, make a minimalist shift in your mind

To practice the mindset that will help you build habits, I encourage trying out a minimalist lifestyle. It aligns well with living low-waste and sustainably because it allows for staying true to values, saves time and money, and also reduces harmful impacts to the environment. Since owning only what you need is sustainable, I invest in high-quality products that last longer to avoid waste.

Since owning only what you need is sustainable, I invest in high-quality products that last longer to avoid waste.

I’ve also found that supporting sustainable brands removes any guesswork from focusing on my values and creating healthy habits. Too often, though, adopting a minimalist lifestyle or one aligned with a sustainability-focused intent is conflated with the idea of giving up a lifestyle you love. But actually, investing in products from companies that share your environmental ideals affords you the opposite situation: You'll be able to buy what you want and not feel stifled in the name of sustainability, use your dollars to further the efforts of sustainability-focused companies, and minimize harm to the Earth in the process.

I also encourage a clutter-free living space for your home. And to be clear, cultivating a clutter-free home doesn’t end with decluttering once. To effectively eliminate the clutter, you may need to change your organizational mindset and establish habits to reinforce the intention to stay clutter free. For example, you may eliminate a "clutter" drawer by deciding everything in your home must have a home of its own. Or, you can commit to putting your clothes away as soon as you do the laundry, so that you're less likely to misplace items and feel the need to buy new ones.

Ultimately, the less you own, the more organized and functional your home will be. Once you get into these new habits and become intentional every day, the time it takes each day to keep your home clutter-free will be minimal.

Low-waste swaps and sustainable habits at home to implement

In addition to cultivating a minimalist, clutter-free space that will better facilitate sustainable habits at home, simple swaps (like the water bottles and reusable bags mentioned above), can contribute to a home that supports the planet.

One helpful and broad rule to get you started is to shop for eco-friendly products instead of single-use, disposable products. Reusable products are made to last and are also made to keep you and your home healthy, which most disposable products can’t claim. Here are some low-waste swaps you can make today:

  • Swap plastic straws for reusable ones
  • Switch to paperless billing for bills to save paper
  • Unsubscribe from mail you don’t need, also to save paper
  • Swap paper towels for reusable cloth towels
  • DIY products such as all-purpose cleaner made from white vinegar, water, and essential oils

Practicing a minimalist mindset and taking steps to make significant swaps allows you to live out the values you hold while making a positive difference to uphold the health of the planet.

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