10 Super Simple Ways to Decrease Your Daily Environmental Footprint

Our health and the health of the planet go hand-in-hand.

This is not my belief — this is a fact. There are countless studies documenting the connection between poor health and living in polluted areas.

I mean, just think about it for a moment: how can we be truly healthy breathing polluted air, drinking contaminated water, and eating foods grown in nutritionally-deplete soil? We can’t! (Our livers and kidneys are hardworking little-engines-that-could, but they can only handle so much.)

So I believe we should all be mindful of the impact we have and do our part to reduce our environmental footprint as best as we can (not to mention the fact that we do share this planet with other living beings who would be very appreciative if we did!).

Especially since decreasing our environmental footprint is really not all that difficult… in fact, it can be pretty simple. Nope, no need to go off the grid! Just start small with some of these suggestions. But by all means, do feel free to get carried away 😉

BONUS: Some of these tips will also save you some money (yay!) and reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals (woo hoo!).


10 Super Simple Ways to Decrease Your Daily Environmental Footprint:

1. Use reusable shopping bags — and not just at the grocery store.

I always carry around one of my Baggu shopping bags. They conveniently come in a little storage pouch, and fold up to be very small. That being said, they’re also very strong and hold a considerable amount! I’ve had mine for over 5 years now and they’re still going strong.

decrease your environmental footprint - reusable bagsAt first, it may feel odd using a reusable bag when out shopping for non-grocery items. But you’ll get over it! Really, no one cares. If anything they’ll be thinking, “Oh I should really start doing that too.”

2. Use reusable produce bags.

Time and time again, I see people at the grocery store filling their reusable shopping bags with… plastic produce bags! Isn’t it ironic… dontcha think? A little too ironic. Yeah I really do think. (OK enough Alanis.)

So up your plastic-free game by using reusable produce bags too.

3. Invest in a quality water filter and glass water bottle.

Here’s the thing about bottled water: most of it is just plain ol tap water packaged in little plastic bottles that not only pollute the earth, but also leach chemicals into said water… eventually ending up in your body! Now I understand that most of us don’t have access to quality drinking water, which is why many individuals choose bottled water. I for one live in a city that loads its water supply up with fluoride.

The best solution for the planet, your personal health, and your bank account: investing in a quality water filter and glass water bottle.

I personally own and recommend Berkey water filters. I have the Big Berkey and my sister (who has a larger family with two little ones) has the Royal Berkey. If you’re looking for a whole house water filtration system or an under-the-sink system that doesn’t take up any counter space, Aquasana is a great choice.

4. Let an all-natural all-purpose cleaner do it all for you.

A natural all-purpose cleaner can be used for ALL of your household cleaning needs. Nope, you really don’t need an individual kitchen counter cleaner and bathroom counter cleaner and toilet cleaner and tub cleaner and and AND. More than anything, careful marketing has made us think we need a million different, toxic-chemical-filled cleaners.

There are a few different DIY cleaner recipes that I really enjoy. My favorite is the DIY all-natural citrus zest all-purpose cleaner. For a tougher clean (as with the kitchen sink or bathtub) sprinkle some baking soda on the surface beforehand to help scrub away grime.

decrease your environmental footprint - dryer balls5. Use wool dryer balls to reduce drying time and energy.

A clothes dryer accounts for 12% of electricity use in a typical household!

It’s estimated that wool dryer balls can reduce drying time by up to 30%! This can add up to significant energy cuts.

6. Make a mason jar your new BFF.

I use a mason jar for just about everything: for drinks, taking food to work (they don’t leak), storing leftovers, storing dry goods purchased in bulk, and for DIY projects.

These multi-purpose jars are just so handy! I recommend getting a set of pint-sized jars (16 oz) and half-pint-sized jars (8 oz).

7. Buy from the bulk section at the grocery store (and don’t forget your reusable produce bags!).

Your reusable produce bags will work perfectly for items in the bulk section, too! Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dried beans, and healthy grains (like quinoa) can be purchased in most grocery stores in bulk. By using your own bag, you’re opting out of the plastic packaging that these goods are otherwise sold in. And when you get home, be sure to transfer your items to mason jars to keep them fresh!

8. Ditch the Drano and use a drain millipede instead!

I have a weird little obsession with plumbing. OK, not so much plumbing generally as keeping drains clear. Because nothing drives me mad more than a clogged drain (yucky!)… except perhaps the idea of thousands if not millions of households dumping toxic chemicals into the public water supply to unclog drains when the problem can be solved simple with a handy little reusable tool and elbow grease (grrrr).

Enter the drain millipede. I think everyone with a sink or shower should own one of these babies! Basically, just stick it down the drain, and pull it back out to either dislodge or yank out whatever was causing the backup. (Note that I occasionally also do need to use a plunger as well.) The process requires about 3 minutes of manual labor (no big sacrifice, if you ask me) and 1) will reduce your environmental footprint by eliminating your use of toxic chemical drain cleaners (and — bonus! —the plastic bottles they come in), 2) and reduce the number of toxic chemicals in your own home, 3) save yourself some money (those chemical drain cleaners can be pricey!).

9. Ditch the K-cups and tea bags.

According to The Atlantic:

“In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. Almost all of them ended up in landfills. They are not recyclable. Using them is extremely wasteful and irresponsible; they are a stupid way to make coffee that simply cannot be sustained.”

I second that sentiment! Plus, the hot water passing through these little plastic cups causes the chemicals to leach more readily, meaning they end up in your final cup of coffee. Instead, brew coffee the old-fashioned way! And have you ever had French press coffee!? OMG so delicious — you’ll never go back. (Plus if you get a French press made entirely of stainless steel and/or glass, you’ll be skipping out on the plastic parts in traditional machines.)

Tea bags are also a big source of waste: we have the paper tag, the string, the little staple, the bag itself, and then the box it all comes in (which is likely wrapped in plastic). Oy! Now you may be reading “little staple” and be saying “give me a break” but when you multiply that little staple times billions of tea bags sold each year, we’re talking about a considerable amount of unnecessary waste. So instead of bagged tea, buy bulk tea and use a single cup tea diffuser (like this stainless steel twisting tea ball) or French press (yep, it works for tea, too!) to brew your tea.

10. For the kids, invest in stainless steel straws

Kids use straws and lots of them. So instead of using plastic straws, invest in a set of stainless steel straws!


Do you have any other tips for reducing our daily environmental footprint?

Please share with us below!

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  1. My husband and I switched to glass straws about 6 months ago and we really love them for smoothies and such! It’s something small that people don’t think about but it makes a huge difference and makes me feel good that I am doing the right thing. I would also recommend cloth napkins and towels instead of the paper variety, I was appalled when I found out that they use virgin wood (ie cut down whole trees) to make them.

  2. That’s so great to hear, Crystal! And yes — cloth napkins and dish towels should totally be on the list!!

  3. Hi Nadia. I love your ideas and want to share a few of mine.
    Other ways to have smaller footprints are to use vinegar and or baking soda instead of other toxic cleaning products. I use them for all my cleaning!
    How about using a clothes line or racks to hang your clothes to dry and save on the dryer? Maybe just fluff to get wrinkles out.
    Being vegetarian, or even better, vegan are great for reducing our foot prints too!
    Just a few suggestions.
    Maureen

  4. Hey these are great! here’s a few more ideas to leave that smaller footprint!

    Hand wash dishes with homemade soap.

    Dry, wipe, and clean with a washable towel, no more paper towels!

    Switch to glass food storage containers instead of those plastic ones that inevitably leach in to your food.

    Consider/research reusable pads for the women out there

    Put a brick in your toilet tank to save on that water bill! (The brick displaces that volume where water would be and it still flushes just perfectly, just less water!)

    Switch to reusable ziplocks! Completely washable and perfect for the kids daily lunches!

  5. Thanks for those amazing tips!! Some of them are no-brainers to me. Like the reusable shopping bags, in Germany you have to pay for any plastic bags in the store.
    Another great tip is ride your bike or walk instead of taking the car. Of course this depends on where you live and what you’re doing

  6. Thanks for a great post! Don’t even get me started on K-cups… such a blasted waste! Coffee is much too delicious when roasted and brewed the right way to go with any substitutions anyway. My girlfriend and I buy green coffee beans in bulk and roast a few batches at a time with a small roaster, grind it up, and use a Chemex non-electric drip with a reusable filter that’s so easy to wash out–used coffee grounds make great compost as well!

  7. That’s awesome, TJ! Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve also heard that coffee grounds can be used as a natural fertilizer in gardens!

  8. Hey, Juli! Oh how I WISH that was the case in the US as well… hopefully soon! Some cities and particular chain stores have started charging customers a plastic-bag fee.

  9. I just wanted to tell you that I really love your beautiful blog and photos…and most importantly your message!
    Keep up the awesome work, Nadia!
    xo
    Susannah

    PS. I am having Ansley do a new website for me, so don’t judge my current:)

  10. Hi, Susannah! Thanks so much for your kind words and support 🙂 I’m so happy to connect with you. Also your current site is so lovely but Ansley is great — you must be excited to see what she does with it!

  11. Great ideas. I spend a lot of time traveling third world countries and have been struggling to avoid bottled water. Any solutions that are portable?

  12. The stainless steel french press coffee maker was one of the best purchases I ever made. And I do love the wool dryer balls, however they are much too loud next to the (sleeping) baby’s room, so back to the laundry line I go (which is probably for the best). Thanks for the great list!

  13. I never thought about tea bags! I drink at least 2 cups of tea a day…yi yi yi thanks for the info I’ll be switching that! All your ideas are great – it takes no time to do these. I also am guilty of plastic bags, but there is always room for improvement. Thanks again 🙂

  14. I know, right!? With such little things like that, it’s easy to just forget all about them! Glad you found it helpful, Aqua 🙂

  15. These are ALL wonderful ideas. I recently just started getting into the “green” lifestyle after having my first child (that’ll do it for you right?) In an effort to go as green as possible I discovered this website and I am in love with it! I feel in an effort for ALL of us to be as healthy as possible this is a VERY important front in the battle for our health cuz as mentioned in this article “how can we be truly healthy breathing polluted air, drinking contaminated water, and eating foods grown in nutritionally-deplete soil? Please take some time to educate yourself on this VERY IMPORTANT topic if you have not done so already 🙂

  16. Loved all of these ideas!! We switched to microfiber clothes for all of our cleaning needs and have been really pleased. We also found cloth diapering and cloth wipes with our baby girl (5mo now) to be MUCH easier than expected and far superior to disposables having used them a few times for traveling. No blowouts! No diaper rash! No smell either! Wipes and diapers can go in the same pail with a cotton liner and everything into the wash once weekly with Charlies Soap. Massively reduces the waste and a once a week laundry load isn’t a ton of extra water.

  17. That’s awesome! We don’t have kids yet and I know I want to try cloth diapering but am definitely nervous about it… glad it hear it’s working out so well for you!

  18. Instead of the dryer, when it’s a beautiful sunny day I hang our clothes, sheets and especially towels on our clothesline. It not only saves electric and energy but our clothes smell so fresh and they actually last longer, which is a winner!

  19. If folks are committed to their Keurig, you can actually buy a reusable metal K-cup that you fill with your own coffee or loose tea – it’s a small change that has a big impact without changing one’s lifestyle too much. I actually use my coffee maker with a reusable coffee filter to make coffee or tea (with loose tea). It takes a lot less time to make tea this way than it would to boil water. Also it’s at a drinkable temperature right away and you can make large amounts from one brewing.

  20. Good tips, but what do you use for garbage bags? I sometimes buy plastic bags with my groceries and use them for garbage.