These days, more and more people are interested in living a sustainable lifestyle. But what does that actually mean? And how do you learn how to live sustainably while also saving money? Well, you're in luck because that's what this article is all about.
We've rounded up the best tips and sustainable living ideas for you to try. But first, let's discuss the meaning of sustainable living!
What’s the meaning of sustainable living?
Sustainable living is all about making the conscious decision to be more intentional with your actions and money in a way that benefits people and the planet.
It doesn't require drastic changes overnight. Rather, it's about choosing a few small sustainable living ideas you can implement into your life right now.
How to live sustainably: Getting started
So, how do you actually live a sustainable life? The key is to take it one step at a time.
For example, maybe you focus on cutting down your food waste first. Once you’ve got a handle on that, maybe you move on to reducing energy consumption at home.
After that, maybe you focus on replacing disposable items with reusable ones. It’s tiny actions that add up over time that make the biggest difference in the long run.
What are the benefits of living sustainably?
So, why should you put some of these sustainable living ideas into practice? We’ll give you three good reasons:
It helps protect the planet
The biggest benefit of learning how to live sustainably is that it’s good for the environment. It decreases greenhouse emissions, leads to less pollution, protects non-renewable resources, and helps ensure future generations can enjoy our planet too.
It can improve your health
But the benefits of living sustainably extend far beyond the obvious one of helping the environment. It’s also great for your health too!
When you live a sustainable life, you feel a natural tug to eat healthier, put fewer harmful chemicals in your body, and improve your wellbeing. In other words, it helps you slow down and be more mindful of how you move throughout life.
It’s good for your wallet
There’s also a very tangible benefit to learning how to live sustainably — it’s good for your wallet. When you reduce food waste, bring a reusable water bottle to work, and cut down on your consumption, you’re going to save a lot of money along the way.
17 Sustainable living ideas and examples
The good news is, there are so many ways to live sustainably! We’ve listed a few examples of sustainable living below.
Choose whichever ones resonate with you the most and start implementing them into your life now. Remember, it’s all about small changes. You can also get inspired by our favorite sustainable living quotes and top books on sustainable living!
1. Use less water
Cutting down on your water consumption is one of the best ways to live sustainably. Not only does it help conserve our water supply, but it also reduces your energy consumption and utility bills.
Some easy ways to conserve water around your house are to:
- Turn off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth (or really anytime you’re not using the water).
- Take shorter showers.
- Only run the dishwasher or washing machine when there's a full load.
- Fix any leaky pipes as soon as you notice them.
2. Drive less
This tip varies based on where you live. If it’s pretty rural and public transportation isn’t an option, you may have no choice but to drive.
However, if you live in an area where you can walk or bike to nearby destinations or use public transportation, it’s a great way to live sustainably. It's also an excellent way to reduce auto expenses from gas and wear and tear on your car!
3. Recycle and compost as much as possible
Many communities have recycling programs that are easy to use. Exact specifications on what you can recycle vary, but most programs accept paper, plastic, metal, and glass products — as long as they’re all clean and over three inches in size.
Composting is also a great way to “recycle” your food scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials that can’t be recycled through traditional methods.
With composting, you essentially break down those items into fertilizer that can then be used to enrich the soil. For tips on how to compost at home, check out this guide from the EPA.
4. Replace your disposables with reusables
Have you ever stopped to think about all of the disposable items you have to keep restocking your home with each month? Things like:
- Paper or styrofoam plates
- Water bottles and plastic cups
- Plastic cutlery
- Paper towels
- Shopping bags
- Coffee filters
- Face wipes
Not only do these items take up a ton of space in your home and add massive amounts of garbage to the landfill, but they also have to be repurchased over and over again. In other words, they’re bad for the environment and bad for your wallet.
Switching to reusables can be a great way to adopt a low-waste lifestyle and cut down on the clutter. You may pay more for them up front, but the long-term savings could be huge because you’ll never have to buy them again.
5. Bring your own bags to the grocery store
You likely have a ton of reusable bags lying around your house that you’ve collected from events and stores over the years. Why not take them with you to the grocery store?
It may feel a little awkward at first bringing outside bags into the grocery store, especially if no one else is really doing it. But boy, it’s a game-changer!
You’ll be able to fit more things into fewer bags (meaning you can be a true #onetripfamily) and you won’t have to worry about the bags ripping or shredding before you get them into your house. Plus, stores like Whole Foods give you a discount for bringing your own bags.
6. Adopt a sustainable diet
A sustainable diet isn’t just about eating organic food. (There’s actually controversy on whether organic foods are actually better for the environment).
Instead, a sustainable diet is all about prioritizing foods that have a lower carbon footprint — such as plant-based items and local, seasonal goods that are also good for your health.
7. Reduce food waste as much as possible
The U.S. wastes more food than any other country in the world — to the tune of 40 million to 80 billion tons each year. That’s 30 to 40% of the total food supply!
Considering how bad food waste is for the environment — and the fact that almost 50 million Americans suffer from food insecurity — we should all play our part in reducing our food waste as much as possible. This includes:
- Shopping from a grocery list so you don’t overbuy.
- Storing food properly at home so it stays fresher longer.
- Taking home any leftovers you get from restaurants
- Eating up all leftovers in your fridge before they go bad.
8. Plant your own garden (if you want to)
When you think of examples of sustainable living, your brain may conjure up ideas of planting your own garden and living off the land. So, we're adding it to this list of sustainable living ideas.
If you have the space and know-how, planting a garden can be a great way to get in tune with nature and grow your own fruits and vegetables. You can also compost food scraps and yard clippings to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden.
9. Lower energy consumption at home
There are SO MANY ways to live sustainably while saving energy at home. Some easy wins you can make are to:
- Use energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs in your home.
- Shut down your computer at night.
- Unplug electronics when they're not in use to save energy.
- Wash your clothes using cold water.
- Air dry clothes instead of using the dryer.
And if you really want to get extreme, you can install solar panels to generate renewable energy.
10. Cut out the junk mail!
Doesn’t junk mail get under your skin? It’s such as waste of resources! Luckily, you can practice sustainable living by stopping junk mail from ever reaching your house. Follow these steps from the Federal Trade Commission to find out how to opt out of junk mail.
11. Opt for paperless billing
Another great way to cut down on mail is to opt for paperless billing whenever you can. So, if you’re constantly getting notifications in the mail from your bank, employer, or brokerage firm, see if electronic statements are an option.
12. Cut down your consumption
Cutting down your consumption is a great way how to live sustainably. We live in a fast-paced world that constantly encourages us to spend, spend, spend and go, go, go.
Need to reset your spending habits? A no-spend challenge can be a great way to reset bad patterns that could be holding you back from financial security.
13. Shop from sustainable brands
These items are made with organic materials you can wear over and over again by people who are actually paid a living wage.
So, if really want to integrate the meaning of sustainable living, shopping from sustainable brands is a great way to do it. And if you really want to be more intentional with what you buy, consider building a capsule wardrobe full of items you love.
14. Join your local library
One of the easiest ways to live sustainably is to join your local library! This is actually one of my favorite examples of sustainable living!
It’s completely free, and you can check out as many books, magazines, and movies as you’d like without having to buy them brand new. You’ll be surprised by how much money you can save just with this one small change.
15. Buy used instead of new
One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. And buying used can be a great way to save something from the landfill and save money along the way.
So, before you buy something brand new, see if you can find a similar thing second-hand. Scour Facebook Marketplace, visit your local thrift store, join a Sell and Swap group.
16. Buy sustainable gifts for loved ones
If you’re the type that usually buys gifts for friends and family on holidays, why not ditch the “usual” gift and opt for a sustainable one that’s better for the environment? You can check out 15 sustainable gift ideas here.
17. Use a sustainable bank or join a credit union
“Green” or “sustainable” banks are certified B Corporations that focus on people, the planet, and profit (the triple bottom line).
They typically invest their profits into sustainable practices, give back to the community, and embody the true meaning of sustainable living.
Take it one step at a time and find ways to live sustainably!
Living a sustainable life involves making tiny changes to your habits that can improve the planet, your health, and your wallet over time.
We’ve tried to pack this article with as many examples of sustainable living as possible. As you dig in, remember that sustainable living exists on a spectrum.
There will always be someone doing more than you, and there will always be others doing less. Just know that any small step you take toward learning how to live sustainably is a step in the right direction.