20 Sustainability Tips: How To Live More Sustainably In 2023
Sustainable lifestyle changes can be tough to stick to – and those just starting their journey are most likely sifting through mountains of depressing topics.
But becoming a sustainable person involves more than simply checking off a to-do list.
Understanding why you should change one of your habits is just as important as what you’re changing; and some of these reasons are really quite important.
These tips will cover a wide range of things – everything from your diet to choice of clothing affects how much you impact our planet.
So, here are the most essential sustainability tips:
What is a sustainable lifestyle?
A sustainable lifestyle seeks to accomplish a simple goal: live in harmony with Earth by reducing your ecological footprint through changes in your diet, energy use, and other essential daily habits. A bit unrealistic sounding, sure; but the idea is to do this as much as possible whenever you can.
Sustainability is an interesting topic, and those who aren’t informed tend to solely blame faceless corporations for our current climate crisis while ignoring any of their own responsibility. While it’s true that the fossil fuel industry has attempted to shift blame onto consumers, the concept of climate change as a collective impact makes sense the more you consider it.
Billions of humans making small decisions and changing aspects of their daily routines collectively impacts our planet and its climate – how could it not? This isn’t a new idea either; climate experts and cultural icons alike such as Paul McCartney of the Beatles have been saying so for decades:
“There must be a better way to make the things we want, a way that doesn’t spoil the sky, or the rain or the land.”
Of course, sustainability quotes and eco friendly tips alone won’t immediately change our world, but recognizing our impact as individuals and working together to secure a livable planet for future generations is no longer an alternative mindset – if you’re reading this, you have a moral obligation to reduce the harm you inflict upon our planet whether you like it or not.
20 Sustainability Tips
In no particular order of importance, I’ve written this list to be more than just bullet points of sustainable ideas without any further details. Living a sustainable lifestyle means thinking about how your choices impact other living things around you – it’s about more than just checking off a box and calling it a day.
So included with each sustainability tip is a bit of background information on why something is an issue worth bringing attention to, and some links you may find helpful if you want to do a bit more reading.
1. Switch to a plant based or vegan diet.
Learning how to go vegan is the single most impactful change you can make in your life, significantly reducing your personal emissions and overall contribution to animal cruelty. It’s easier said than done to eliminate animal products from your diet, but plant based meat brands are on the rise and today is the best time to start.
The most straightforward reason for why meat is bad for the environment is that converting calories from plant to animal energy is too inefficient to justify the costs. Another startling fact is that overfishing our oceans kills hundreds of thousands more whales and dolphins each year than the whaling industry itself.
2. Compost your food scraps and waste.
Composting any food you don’t plan on eating is the easiest way to divert organic material from rotting in landfills. This can easily be done with either a simple counter-top bucket or store bought composter; you can also set up a more substantial backyard composting system if you have the space.
Make sure you know both what can be composted and what can’t be composted before starting! Obviously not wasting food would be a more sustainable action, but composting any waste is a good second choice.
3. Grow some of your own food.
Rising food prices combined with declining fruit and vegetable quality have many scrambling to try their hand at growing some of their own produce. If you have some spare time and energy, learning how to start a garden is a rewarding and relaxing way to involve yourself in your own food production – compared to store bought produce grown via monoculture farming plantations.
Growing your own food also means that fewer emissions are spent transporting goods across the ocean to arrive at your local supermarket!
4. Buy organic and local produce.
If you don’t want to grow your own food, or simply can’t, shopping locally is the next best way to support the sustainable agriculture movement. Access to a wide variety of organic produce will depend on where you live, so it may not be possible for everyone yet.
Either way, supporting organic farms is a great way to contribute to the development of better agricultural systems that don’t rely on heavy amounts of pesticides. That’s the main reason to buy organic produce – to avoid industrial pesticides being applied to your food.
5. Calculate your carbon footprint.
It’s true that the oil industry itself originally came up with the personal carbon footprint as a marketing ploy, but this concept has led to the development of some useful tools like footprint calculators.
Calculating your energy use is an easy way for you to visualize how your lifestyle produces emissions – a good starting point when trying to find ways to be more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy has an excellent free calculator, but plenty of alternatives with different sliders and categories exist as well.
6. Find a sustainable community to join.
No matter where you live, there’s most likely a local group of individuals who get together and talk about or do sustainable activities. Without a network of like-minded individuals to socialize with, sustainability can feel a bit lonely sometimes.
If you live in the US and you’re looking to really change things up, check out our list of the greenest cities in the US. But even if you aren’t able to pick your roots up and move about, chances are you can find local events like community trash pickups or creek and river cleanups.
Here’s a short but sweet documentary I found covering the “zero waste town” of Kamikatsu, Japan back in 2015:
Don’t feel bad if your sustainable networking happens online, either. Subreddits like /r/sustainability are some of the most popular places people share eco tips and sustainability news!
7. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Focusing your brainpower on these three things is not a waste of time, but the order in which you do so matters. Consuming less is always better, reusing what you or others buy is helpful, and recycling what can’t be reused is easy in many cases.
Things get a bit blurry when it comes to plastic, however – as recycling plastic is essentially just a scam, overall. That doesn’t mean you can’t recycle plastic, but it’s an industry designed to be inefficient on purpose, and it’s worth reading up on.
8. Buy less plastic where possible.
Almost every product you use comes packaged in plastic – especially in places like the United States. It’s not just plastic trash, either; 99% of us can no longer avoid microplastics, which are the tiny pieces of plastic generated over time as plastic degrades.
Making a conscious effort to limit or avoid plastic whenever possible is an important part of living sustainably, and we have an entire guide focusing on how to reduce your plastic use if you want more tips.
9. Support sustainable skincare brands.
Aside from microplastics, your cosmetics contain a variety of ingredients you should avoid that negatively impact the environment and your health. For example, the UV filters in sunscreen are thought to be a contributing factor to mass coral bleaching events happening across the world.
They also produce insane amounts of unnecessary plastic waste, so we’ve reviewed the best sustainable skincare brands out there already to make things easy for you.
10. Avoid fast fashion and synthetic fabrics.
Chances are, most of your favorite clothes are at least partially made from plastic; fabrics like polyester, nylon, and various other blends all originate from petroleum.
Switching to more sustainable fabrics made from materials like hemp, cotton, or even bamboo is easy once you start paying attention to the tags included on clothes – and plenty of other reasons to do this exist as well. For example, making silk fabric involves the death of millions of silkworms each year.
11. Change how you wash and dry your clothes.
This isn’t possible for everyone, but there’s a few different reasons you should change how you run your clothes through the washer and dryer. Firstly, cold water washes work just as well as hot water and should reduce your energy bill (PDF).
Second, each load of laundry you run through your washer releases hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers into the environment, although there are some kinds of filters that lower this. Third, machine drying your clothes ultimately leads to your clothes wearing out faster and shedding even more microfibers, so consider line drying instead.
12. Retrofit your home to be more efficient.
If you’re lucky enough to be a homeowner, you’re in a unique position to directly implement a ton of different sustainable habits within your home, such as:
- Installing rooftop solar panels, which have fallen in price the past decade
- Retrofitting more efficient lights, which use considerably less energy
- Buying modern, more energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators
These kinds of changes can be hard if you aren’t a homeowner. Overall, living in a smaller home or sustainable apartment is more energy efficient, so finding the smallest amount of space you can comfortably live in is a good place to start.
13. Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
Even if you don’t own your home or apartment, there are plenty of things you change immediately that add up. Shutting off and unplugging electronics you aren’t using is the perfect example of a small change you can make supporting sustainability at home – one that both reduces your energy use and the bill that comes with it.
14. Drive less, walk and cycle more.
Even if you’re completely new to the topic of sustainability, this is one of the more obvious tips on our list. Simply not driving when you don’t have to is a simple but effective change you can make in your daily routine.
Riding a bike is an excellent option, with cyclists boasting nearly 90% fewer lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in terms of city-based transportation. This can be tough in some places, as cycling infrastructure often doesn’t exist outside of more sustainable cities and countries.
15. Avoid traveling by plane when possible.
You don’t necessarily have to travel less often if you want to live sustainably – but there are a few things to keep in mind. The main issue is that travel via commercial planes accounts for nearly 3% of global emissions; a significant number that sounds like a small amount.
It’s not just an issue of CO2 either – planes emit a variety of harmful pollutants that all play a role in our changing climate. The COVID-19 pandemic recently presented researchers with a unique opportunity to study how a reduction in air travel positively impacts our climate, but things are starting to pick up again.
16. Focus your travels on ecotourism.
If you are going to travel, one way you can actively support the local economies and ecosystems you visit is by planning your trips based around ecotourism. When set up correctly, ecotourism allows travelers to financially support the communities they visit; money which can then be reinvested back into the natural wonders drawing in the crowds.
Unfortunately, sustainable tourism is an industry famous for greenwashing schemes, so be on the lookout – for example, abusive elephant sanctuaries compared to more passive whale watching expeditions that don’t end in whales being injured.
17. Embrace new and old sustainable technologies.
Promising new technologies like lab grown meat and even more tolerable ways of eating bugs and insects are now entering the scene. Embracing change is a core idea within sustainability and reconsidering common misconceptions of technologies like GMOs – which are safe for humans to eat – is going to be important going forward if we actually want meaningful change.
Of course, it’s also important to be on the lookout for obvious signs of greenwashing within new ideas and products, but not every new or old idea is something to fear.
18. Support causes you care about.
Hundreds of different environmental organizations are competing for your attention and financial support, so finding those working on issues you personally connect with is a good place to start. For example, if forests are important to you – look into those working on reducing deforestation and biodiversity loss.
If you care about human and animal rights, you could focus on the organizations working to preserve traditional ecological knowledge and wild animal cultures. These are just two examples, so check our list of organizations for more ideas.
19. Consider switching to a more sustainable career.
For those looking to start a new career or simply pivot into something more sustainable, you may want to take a look at some of the best paying jobs in energy aside from the fossil fuel industry.
Not everyone can simply change career paths, but the option does exist for those who feel like they need a change of scenery. Energy isn’t the only industry hiring, either; as careers in environmental sustainability are some of the fastest growing jobs in general right now.
20. Don’t obsess over things you can’t change.
If you’ve made it all the way down this list, I have one more piece of important advice for you: don’t lose your mind as you learn about sustainability. Once you understand how everything you do impacts the environment, it’s hard to ignore.
Obsessing over all the different ways to be more sustainable in everyday life can have the opposite effect you want – some people simply give up once they realize how deep these issues run. To avoid burnout, you’re going to have to pick and choose your sustainability efforts, at least to begin with. Over time, all the things listed in this guide become easier and easier to accomplish.
Figuring out the best ways to live more sustainably can be incredibly frustrating – but if you truly care about the natural world, your efforts are worthwhile.
A lifestyle centered around sustainability is a permanent work in progress; a journey that takes place over a lifetime and involves every aspect of our modern lives.
Do you have any green living tips you think should be added to the list?