If you ask them, almost everyone will probably say that they want to make more environmentally friendly choices at home. But looking at our habits when it comes to composting and managing other types of waste, it’s clear that we’ve still got a long way to go.
So, in this article, we’ll take a bit of a different approach to learning how to be more eco-friendly at home.
In our experience, just thinking “Oh, we have to be more sustainable and be more eco-friendly” wasn’t very helpful because it’s such a big and overwhelming statement. Where do you even start?
To overcome that, we’ll take a step-by-step, room-by-room look at how to make your home more environmentally friendly. In each room, we’ll look at two main ways to reduce your carbon footprint: through the stuff you buy and use in that room; and through small adjustments in the day-to-day habits or tasks that you do in that room.
In this way, we’ll be going through a more manageable checklist of sorts—one that’ll give you actionable, small steps that you can take, starting today.
Let’s look at some small, but impactful ways to make our homes more eco-friendly and get closer to a zero waste lifestyle:
Let’s start in a less busy and more manageable room. The kitchen and bathroom will have a ton more opportunities for us to be greener, so let’s save that for later and begin with an easier one.
- Thrifted clothes
- Eco-friendly sheets
- Eco-friendly mattresses
There typically isn’t too much going on in the average bedroom, so you have a few main options for being more eco-friendly.
Other than buying used or vintage furniture (like your bed and dresser), you might want to look at the next-biggest item in your bedroom: your mattress.
Today, there are a ton of environmentally friendly mattress brands that have made it a priority to offset their carbon emissions. In fact, that’s a main point in their marketing:
|🛏️ Pro-tip: Some mattress companies market themselves as being “organic” or using organic materials—which doesn’t always mean anything when it comes to sustainability. Make sure to double-check what the actual impacts of those initiatives are.|
- Buy environmentally sustainable bedding
- Thrift, buy vintage, or upcycle clothes instead of buying new (You definitely don’t have to dive head-first into thrifting if you’re new to it. There are many great luxury consignment stores in most cities and you could always dip your toes in first and visit a few of these shops, buy from sustainable brands, or even look online for clothing swaps. Lots of great options that are better than buying from fast fashion brands!)
Next, let’s turn to the living room.
- A programmable thermostat
- Vintage / secondhand furniture
- LED light bulbs
- Upcycled décor
Again, the biggest items in the living room tend to be the same few things: the TV and furniture like couches and side tables. Try to choose TVs with the ENERGY STAR label (yes, these aren’t just for kitchen and laundry appliances!)
|📺 Pro-tip: To get the coveted ENERGY STAR label, TVs have to consume 0.5 watts or less in Sleep Mode. The “On” mode power requirements will range depending on the TV’s screen area. (A 70-inch TV will probably use more power than a 40-inch TV!)|
- Turn off the lights when you leave
- Don’t leave the TV on if you’re not watching
- Don’t use your thermostat for everything—throw on a cozy scarf or blanket in the winter, or open a window or use a portable, energy-efficient fan in the summer
Okay, let’s get into our first room with serious carbon footprint reduction potential. The kitchen is one of the biggest opportunities for making eco-friendly improvements in our homes simply because of how much waste gets created in it.
From food prep, to cleaning, to throwing away food scraps, every single thing we do in the kitchen is a chance to consciously make greener, smarter choices.
- Reusable sponges
- Swedish dishcloths
- Eco-friendly dish soap (avoid ingredients like “phosphates” and “diethanolamine”)
- Produce bags
- Reusable grocery bags
- Beeswax wrap
- Reusable water bottles
- Reusable coffee cups
- Stainless steel coffee filter (to replace disposable filters)
- Reusable straws
- Conserve sockets (which help eliminate wasted “standby” power when your plugged-in appliances aren’t being used)
- Eco-friendly dinnerware and compostable cutlery
- Bamboo utensils
For us, we found it easiest to go look at different types of tasks we do in the kitchen and how we can be more eco-friendly there (e.g. cleaning) before moving on to the next type of task (e.g. food storage).
A few changes that’ve helped us drastically cut down on garbage: switching to reusable food storage options, and using Swedish dishcloths instead of typical sponges (which can take decades and decades to decompose—if they ever do at all):
Not only are they naturally antibacterial and quick-drying, they also come in cute designs. We love that they can absorb up to 15(!) times their weight and that we can dispose of them with zero guilt in the compost after they’ve reached the end of their lifespan because they’re 100% biodegradable.
Ours is well-loved, as you can see:
Might be time to throw this one out with the compost, actually…
- Compost, compost, compost! If you have the space in your yard—and even if you don’t—compost tumblers can be a more effective option than your usual compost bins
- Reuse plastic takeout containers
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
- If you must use your dishwasher, run it when it’s
- Unplug small appliances, like electric kettles and toaster ovens, when you’re not using them
Ah, we’ve reached the bathroom—the other big eco-friendly opportunity in our homes that often goes unnoticed. Our bathrooms are another big source of waste.
And while not everyone can just switch to a composting or incinerating toilet (unless you’re living off the grid) to save on water, there are many other eco-friendly options we can choose to stock our bathrooms with.
- Eco-friendly / bamboo toothbrush
🐼 Pro-tip: What’s so great about bamboo? Bamboo has been getting more and more popular lately and you’ve probably seen a whole variety of household items (kitchen utensils and toothbrushes being the big ones) that are now made of bamboo. So what’s so eco-friendly about them? Well, other than the fact that bamboo is a renewable resource, it’s also very low-maintenance to grow. Compared to growing cotton, for example, bamboo uses much less water and fertilizer.
- Eco-friendly / zero waste laundry detergent—here are some of the best ones
- Low-flow shower-head / faucet
- Recycled toilet paper
- Eco-friendly deodorant
- Environmentally friendly soap and shampoo
- Non-disposable / non-plastic razor
- ENERGY STAR laundry appliances
- A solar water heater (learn more about these)
- Drying rack
Other than disposable razors, toothbrushes are probably one of the most thrown-out items in your bathroom. According to National Geographic, a billion plastic toothbrushes were thrown out in 2019.
The easiest thing you can do right now is probably to switch to a bamboo or eco-friendly toothbrush.
(The other culprit is disposable plastic razors—which, again, you can replace with a safety razor or another more environmentally friendly option with pretty much zero effort.)
And even though we do have a dryer in our home, we almost always use the drying rack to dry our clothes. It helps us use less electricity and save on the bill too. 🙂
- Switch out plastic soap and shampoo bottles for glass bottles — we bought some amber bottles in different sizes for both our kitchen and bathroom, and we gotta say, they look pretty nice:
- Use a drying rack instead of your laundry drying machine
- Let it mellow (from time to time)
- Turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth
- Take a shower instead of a bath (better yet, set a timer for your shower)
And last but not least, here are some things that you can do in any room in your home to make it more eco-friendly right away.
- Biodegradable trash bags / compost bins
- Solar panel system (Learn more about whether it’s worth it for you)
- Natural cleaners
- Eco-friendly hybrid or electric car
- Before you buy, think “What don’t I have to buy new?”
- Switch to solar-powered appliances and renewable energy sources (Learn more about the best solar panels for homes)
- Switch out all your lightbulbs for high-efficiency / LED lightbulbs
- Get rid of disposable wipes and use bamboo cloths or Swedish dishcloths instead
- Use rechargeable batteries