With rising temperatures, rampant wildfires – and the extinction of our world’s flora and fauna – we are globally witnessing the affects of the climate crisis, in real time. Although much of the environmental progress required begs for structural change on a macro level (for starters, less deforestation and better waste management) we all have the responsibility to be kinder to the planet, by means of keeping it inhabitable for future generations above all.
Low-impact living is an intervention into the effects that modern human life and industrialization has had on the health of our planet. By making adjustments to our personal care, home life, and public behaviours – we can gradually incorporate better sustainable habits into our lives. This can best be done through remembering the Rs of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, and repurpose.
Considering the resurgence of single-use plastic during our current public health crisis, more stringent changes like zero-waste might not be as attainable — though that’s an admirable and dedicated lifestyle. Low-impact living is about embracing efficiency over personal convenience — notably reducing our overall consumption and finding comfort in reuse. It also includes (but not limited to) supporting brands that are moving towards a more circular economy. Here are some simple lifestyle tips for reducing one’s carbon footprint at home:
Many changes within the home can be made by simply reducing our consumption of single-use plastic. Options like no-tube toothpaste and reusable cutlery can reduce the amount of waste that accumulates from high-use products. For things you purchase frequently, I recommend looking for refillable alternatives. I’ve noticed a rise in companies who make cleaning or bath products (like Bathing Culture) offering refills at local shops or through the mail.
You could also reduce your home’s energy output through efforts like unplugging unused electronics and hanging clothes to dry.
There are plenty of items that households can run through and discard quickly without ever considering alternatives. Paper and plastic goods seem to be top offenders. I recently came across these Unpaper Towels and appreciated how novel and useful the concept was. Wherever you can, swap disposable products for reusable alternatives — i.e. cloth shopping bags instead of plastic ones or investing in a water filter rather than buying bottled water. Now, if you’ve already accumulated a stack of plastic bags or bottles, find meaningful ways to reuse them around the home instead of throwing them away once the pile overflows.
Truthfully, a lot of responsibility here falls on manufacturers, but if our demand is necessitating the supply, we’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
When shopping for new beauty products or home goods, look for brands and retailers that provide simple recyclable packaging (bonus if they offer instructions on how to best recycle their containers once the products run out). It’s very helpful to get familiar with your local recycling process. We can easily get swayed into thinking that items are inherently recyclable based on their material of origin (or even because they’re made of recycled matter) but the truth is not all locales recycle the same way.
For harder to recycle materials, find a drop-off location — many big-box retailers like Target or chain grocery stores have bins to collect items like plastic bags, batteries, and more. Once again, the best suggestion here is to reduce the consumption of non-recyclable goods.
This is one of the lesser talked about Rs of recycling — but it’s really where things should start. Personally, I find it very tedious and wasteful when shipments arrive with excess packaging like copious amounts of shredded paper or a box that’s way too large. When possible, review your shipping options during an online order to consolidate the amount of packages that’ll arrive. This will prevent items arriving one by one in separate packages — even if that means it will take a little longer for the package to arrive. Another way to alleviate this is to shop local and reduce the carbon emissions from consistent shipping.
This next tip probably goes without saying, but try to refuse the plastic straws and cutlery when ordering takeout, especially if you’ll be eating at home and you already have silverware.
I enjoy shiny new things as much as the rest of us, but when it comes to our closets, it’s not always feasible (or required) to buy a new look for every occasion or celebration. There are plenty of ways to get creative with our personal aesthetics and be eco-friendly in the process. If you’re handy with sewing, you can upcycle and create unique pieces from what you already have and mend repairs to extend the life cycle of your clothing. Even simple no-sew hacks like tying a garment a new way (or wearing clothing longer in between washes) go a long way.
But if you’re really bored with your closet, I suggest hosting a friendly clothing swap — maybe even making it a seasonal occurrence. What’s old is always new again. I’m also hopeful that this swapping concept could also be applied to produce — especially for those with access to food subscriptions or community supported agriculture (CSA). Instead of letting surplus fruits and veggies go to waste, why not trade with friends or cook a potluck? Consider composting as well!