Intermediate tips: becoming more sustainable doesn't mean changing your life

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

10 simple ways to become a little more sustainable without changing your life that much

If you're stumbling upon this post and haven't checkout out my beginner tips, go check out those first.

Or, maybe you don't need to learn the basics anymore and you're ready to dive right into some intermediate tips. Some of these might require you to change your life a little but this is nothing major.

Like I said before, when people are new to the zero waste/low waste movement, they are intimidated. I know I was. I started following people who have been doing this for 5+ years and keep all their trash in a mason jar and only shop at bulk stores and ride a bike to work. I thought that the little changes I was making was inadequate compared to them. But, just like any other life journey, we are all in different places working at our own pace. Don't feel discouraged.

I like to think that even though my changes are small compared to some that there are still people who look up to me and are inspired by me just as I look up to those who are doing more than I am. I am not currently in a place right now where I can ride a bike to work and there are no bulk stores near me. These little things get me down but I just try to think of new ways I can help minimize my environmental impact as well as clean up after others.

One of the biggest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to cut out meat and other animal products. But, the same as above applies to this: we are all on our own journey's working at our own paces. I get flustered sometimes that I am not 100% vegan. I begin to think that I am not doing enough for the Earth. But the same goes as with my physical waste, I am just not in a place right now where I can go 100% vegan without it being extremely inconvenient. I eat 99% vegan at home (the only exception is chocolate and I buy vegan when possible). When I go out, I do my best. Above all, I refuse meat. If I order a salad or a wrap that seems vegan but comes with ranch or cheese, I am not going to waste food. The same goes with airplane food. I would rather consume animal products than throw away perfectly good food.

Going vegan and zero waste is not a race. Every little thing you do does have a positive impact!

Without further ado, here are 10 intermediate level things you can do to live more sustainably:

1. Pick up your trash:

Well, maybe not your trash, but you can take a walk and pick up litter or organize a beach/park/city clean up. This can be easy. Just advertise in your work place or on a Facebook group and you and your group can focus on one area say once a month. A few hours out of your month to help beautify your cities and beaches isn't so bad.

2. Try a vegan/vegetarian diet:

Reduce your meat intake/animal products in general. I am not 100% vegan so it would be silly of me to ask you to go vegan. I have cut out meat entirely and the only time I consume animal products is when I go out and that is still rarely. Most of the time, they don't speak English or have ingredients lists so I just assume that most products are not vegan. You can even try vegan-uary or meatless Monday's to give it a try. You don't have to quit cold turkey.

3. Shop second hand:

Consumerism is one of the leading causes of green house gases. Before buying something brand new, try a thrift store, Facebook marketplace or another online second hand site, or even check with a friend or family member! This also tends to be cheaper and therefore save you money.

4. Quit buying so much:

I think minimalism goes along well with zero waste. The more you buy, the more increase in demand you make and more emissions go along with the production and shipment of those items. Ask yourself before you buy something "do I really need this?" If you absolutely have to buy new, try to buy from a sustainable company.

5. Keep the A/C and heat off:

If it is cool out in spring or fall, open your windows and turn your AC off. This will reduce your energy bill as well as the amount of coal that has to be burned. Also, any time of year is a great time to open your windows during the day so you don't have to turn on lights (in our house, we don't turn the lights on until sundown!)

Water bottle holder I purchased from a local artist

6. Shop local:

Shop at farmers markets, bakeries, from local artisans, etc. This local food is usually the freshest and probably has less chemicals involved. You are also helping to support a small business instead of a large corporation and this also cuts down on emissions from transporting the produce and other goods.

7. Meal prep to reduce food waste:

Growing up, we would just kind of buy whatever sounded good, make a meal each night which always had leftovers, and we would always throw away so much food from all the uneaten leftovers. Leftovers, randoms dips and dressings, produce, etc would get throw out every week. Once I got my own place, I new that I couldn't do that. So, we plan five meals for dinners, pack leftovers for lunch, and buy a few breakfast and snack items each week. We also shop weekly so we don't have to buy (and potentially waste) as much at one time.

8. Vote with your dollar:

"Boycott" unsustainable/unethical brands. Buy items that come in glass, paper, metal, or naked as opposed to plastic. This may cost a little bit more depending on what is available to you but the more that companies see that consumers don't want their plastic wrapped items, the less that they will produce plastic. Companies will adapt to what their customers want in order to make more money, so prove to companies what you want by voting with your dollar.

9. Offset your carbon emissions:

After you fly, you can donate money to carbon offset programs. These programs aim to reduce the amount of future emissions by planting trees and other things that will protect the Earth. Sure, not flying is the best option here, but that is not possible for everyone, so do what you can.

10. Do your own research:

Research about the current state of our planet (which also happens to be the name a beautiful documentary on Netflix), what you can do, how you can improve your neighborhood or workplace, what companies you should boycott, what companies you should invest in, and the list goes on. Don't just take my word or another's word for it. Research for yourself and find your passion for saving the Earth. The more I learn, the more I want to share and educate and help.

I love this planet that we call home. There is no other known planet out there with the same, perfect conditions suitable for life. We must preserve our home; there is no where else for humans to survive.

I want to show this world to my children and grandchildren and not just photos and have to say "wow, I remember when it looked like that."

While we as consumers do not have the greatest impact from our changes (as opposed to huge corporations taking action), our actions do add up. I like to think to myself, imagine if my friends started using reusables and they inspired their friends and family members to do the same, and they in turn inspired more friends and family members to do the same. It would go on and on and eventually we could all be avoiding plastic.

While some of these ways to reduce your impact may require you to change your life a little, it surely does help (hey, and you might save some money). I hope this inspires you to take more action in your life.

Now that you've gotten your intermediate tips down, check out these advanced tips for more ways on how to live sustainably (click here).

"The smallest changes make the biggest impact when multiplied"

-Emma Dendler

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Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! 

My name is Emma. I am a 20-year-old new to this sustainable lifestyle. I am here to give you my tips as I learn them and help beginners begin their sustainable life...


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