You’ve traded plastic straws for stainless steel, you recycle on the regular, you’re stocked up on reusable grocery bags (and most of the time, you remember to bring them to the store with you). You may not be Greta Thunberg, but you’re making steps toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and that’s awesome. But figuring out where to go from here can be overwhelming—what will make an impact? What can I actually commit to doing…and stick to, six months later? Like many big projects, your best bet is to take baby steps toward your goal. Here are seven absurdly easy ways to help the environment right now.
7 Small Steps You Can Make Every Day to Help the Environment
1. cut Out Plastic Wrap
You’re down with eliminating single-use plastics, but they still come in handy when storing leftovers, particularly produce. Instead of plastic wrap, try beeswax wraps (like this $15 set). They’re a set of thin cotton cloths coated in beeswax and you can use them to cover bowls and wrap up food. The heat of your hands helps the wraps conform to the shape of the food, preventing air from getting in and after you’ve used them, you can wash and reuse ’em for up to a year.
2. add A Recycling Bin To…your Bathroom
Be honest: How often do you recycle empty shampoo bottles and makeup? If the answer is never, you’re not alone—DoSomething.org found that 50 percent of people don’t. One easy way to get started is to put a second wastebasket in your bathroom, designating it for recyclables. Beyond being convenient, it’s a visual cue to remind you not to toss those items in the trash.
3. upgrade Your Cleaning Supplies
Did you know you could use a grapefruit to scrub your tub? Or olive oil and apple cider vinegar for a great wood polish? There are plenty of all-natural ways to clean your home without resorting to harsh chemicals. And if you’re not the DIY type, you could opt for plant-based cleaners sold in sustainable (read: non-plastic) packaging. Grove Collaborative sells many of its natural cleaners in aluminum bottles or boxes, which are easier to recycle and they’re used in reusable bottles, so you’re not tossing out a spray bottle every time you run out of multi-surface cleaner.
4. choose Bee-friendly Plants
Bees and butterflies are crucial for spreading pollen, but their populations are dwindling, largely due to pesticide misuse and the destruction of their natural habitat. Give them a new place to dwell by planting cuphea, catmint or sweet alyssum in your yard. Not only do pollinators love them, these plants (and seven more, which you can find here) bloom beautifully.
5. wrap Gifts With Fabric
Wrapping paper that’s glittery, metallic or has a velvety texture can’t be recycled. This year, commit to using traditional paper or make your wrap part of the gift itself. How about a cookbook wrapped in tea towels, secured with baker’s twine? Or that necklace your sister’s been eying, tucked into a pair of mittens? ’Tis the season to get creative.
6. clean Up Your Laundry Routine
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can leave your clothes wrinkle-free and smelling great…but they’re not so great for the environment. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends against using either, due to the chemicals many brands contain. Instead, the group suggests adding half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. As a replacement for dryer sheets, try 100 percent wool dryer balls. They help lift and separate clothes, EWG explains, shortening drying time and reducing overall energy use. (If you’re ready to take things a step further, you can commit to line drying over using the dryer.)
7. finally Commit To Meatless Mondays
You’ve heard going meat-free one day a week can improve your heart health and encourage you to eat more greens, but it’s also a big deal for the planet: Making one quarter-pound beef burger requires enough water to fill 10 bathtubs (425 gallons, to be exact) and enough energy to power an iPhone for six months, according to MondayCampaigns.org. Even just cutting back one meal a week for a year can make a solid impact and doing so isn’t as labor intensive as you might think. Try one of these 40 vegetarian dinners—all of which can be made in 30 minutes or less—once a week for a month and see how you feel. You might learn you don’t miss meat all that much.