Growing up on the west coast of Canada with an environmentally conscious family, there were many sustainable household habits that were engrained into me.
My hand instinctively reaches up to the light switch as I leave a room, a needlessly flowing tap or leaky faucet makes my eyes shift nervously, looking for an non-awkward moment to shut it off, and sorting my waste is a no-brainer. Although it took many reminders (gentle, yet constant nagging—shout out dad!), and I admit my “slip-ups” in my teenage years could undoubtedly be attributed to laziness, I do my best every day to lessen my impact as I am hopeful that we can work to preserve the Earth for many years to come.
After almost a decade of having not lived in my parent‘s home, I realize that these are the sorts of habits we can no longer take for granted. Although the following household tips may seem insignificant when we compare our impact to that of the crude oil industry and other big consumers, a collective and conscious effort can be our daily gift to the planet. The following are some of my impact-reducing habits that do not require too much effort or overall lifestyle change.
Here are some easy ones to start you off-
Tip: if you find yourself wanting to practice sustainability at home but you forget, write little post-it notes.
• Shut off the lights when you’re not in the room. Of course you may risk the argument of lights being more efficient when you’re not flicking them on and off, but easily bust that myth with our friends at Mythbusters!
• Turn off the tap when water is not in use. Lets not waste one of Earth’s most precious resources; turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, etc.
• Put on a sweater before turning up the heat, or take a layer off before turning on the AC. Make sure the windows are shut- having windows open while either of these are on is inefficient.
• Look into your local waste service provider and ensure you are set up to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill. With a little practice, putting each piece of waste in its proper spot will come naturally. To take it one step further and to save yourself from rummaging through the trash after a party, have your waste system clearly labeled and easy to follow. This way, guests will see how great you are at labelling and will be able to put their waste in the proper spot, making the end of the party easier for you to clean-up.
• As household items run out, make the switch to energy efficient bulbs, earth friendly cleaning products, and other items with longevity. Lightbulbs have come a long way and the new ones will reduce waste and save you money! Switching to Earth friendly products means less chemicals are being created to go into the product, as well as our environment. If appliances break, check efficiency ratings before you buy and ask the store if they have a recycling program.
• Keep food organized to reduce spoilage and waste, whether that’s on the shelves or in the fridge! This has been my new year’s resolution for the past couple years and I am still trying to find a system that works for me. I find that when the fridge is clean and organized, I can see what I have to eat easier, I am more encouraged to cook, and food will last longer in the fridge. I try to pull to the front food that I know will expire soon, and I do smaller, but more frequent grocery shops. Although this is slightly more time consuming, I don’t need to come up with a detailed meal-plan and can go along with spontaneous cravings! I think many of us buy groceries with the good intention to cook for ourselves and end up feeling social and going out for dinner. I try to combat this by inviting friends over and cooking them a meal and getting to relax at home.
• And the one that started it all: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE—and now we should add REPURPOSE. Repurposing is the most efficient of the 4-R’s as there is no energy used in the breaking down of the product, and recreation. The internet has so many crafty and creative answers for when you are left with mesh fruit bag to a tire inner tube. Could you store leftovers in a container rather than pull plastic over it? Can the tin foil be reused for another meal? Save your bulk foods or produce bags for the next shopping trip! Consumer countries such as Canada produce an enormous amount of waste every year. Throwing stuff away not only wastes resources but also takes up valuable land or get unfairly shipped to lesser developed countries. Think about what goes into your garbage and if you can recycle it or eliminate it altogether.
Sustainability in the home doesn’t require major life changes, however, it does require practice. Have your household act as a team and challenge yourselves to start conserving energy and resources. Not only will the Earth thank you, but so will your wallet!
By Sarah Brigel
For the month of September, the Environment articles will themed around our monthly event: The Sustainable Life: A How-To Series. These articles are intended to offer a guideline- a 101 of sorts- to help people integrate sustainability into their lives.
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.