Colorado travel hiking mountains trees nature backpack trail high

3 Easy Sustainability Tips

Sustainability has been a hot topic since scientists said we have 11 years to prevent irreversible climate change damage. Plastic bags are being banned from cities across the country. Second-hand shopping has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. The majority of Americans believe that the environment is an entity that has to be protected, but how is that really happening? Not everyone has the money to contribute to the major solutions needed to create effective change—but there’s still plenty that people can do.

Taking the traditional ideologies of sustainability, here’s a list of easy ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle your life in a way that benefits the state of the environment. Because every movement starts with one.  

1. Reduce

Anna Schultz-Hands Out Window Road Trip Anna Schultz / Her Campus

Turn down your thermostat.

Add on a blanket or take off a layer, depending on the season. When you’re not home, turn it down another two degrees. This saves energy and money—a win-win. 

Carpool or take public transportation.

Many cities and towns have buses and trains that are accessible to the public for a small charge. Sure, this might not be the best option for getting around in smaller areas, but carpooling still applies there. It shares your waste and carbon emissions with your friends. 

If you’re running by your friend’s house on your way to meet for lunch, pick them up. Just that one step can minimize the global carbon footprint. Plus, a road trip always adds to the fun and adventure.

Wash your clothes in cold water. Air dry what you can.

Sure, re-wearing your clothes more often is great (tip: your jeans are durable and don’t need to be washed after every wear), but you have to wash them eventually. Not only will washing in cold water stop the risk of shrinking your clothes, but it will save on energy. So will skipping the dryer for a more natural alternative—air-drying! 

2. Reuse

Trade Joe'S Bag Groceries Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

Keep a compost bin—or contribute to compost when you can.

Sure, your apartment might not be the best place to host a compost bin, but your parent’s backyard might be. Research the materials needed and see what works best. Recycling is great, but compost can be reused in your vegetable gardens and backyards for home-grown produce and flowers. Again, a great win-win.

Make a grocery list and stick to it.

Do you ever walk into a store and walk out with 10 things you weren’t expecting? It happens to the best of us. Sometimes that’s okay, but other times it contributes to unnecessary waste. To cut down on your consumption, try making a list and sticking to it. Your budget will thank you.

Bring your own bags to the store. Bring reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers. 

Lots of cities and stores are promoting the use of reusable bags, but it doesn’t have to stop there. If you’re transporting food, you can use your own containers. Restaurants and stores will accept your glass containers and bags. All you have to do is bring them.

Stop using plastic water bottles, plates, silverware, and packaging.

It’s the same mentality. Bring your reusable mug to your favorite cafe in the morning. Fill up a reusable water bottle to carry around throughout your day and stay hydrated. It’s easier than you think—and cheaper.

Buy second-hand.

Thrift stores are growing in popularity across the country for good reason. Though some stores offer used “boutique” items, many have simple basics and quirky vintage pieces. Prices vary depending on the vibe of the shop. Apps are useful too, but sometimes the shipping can become an environmental impact as well. Make sure to check how far the seller is from your location and alternative pick-up options.

Ask for digital receipts.

It’s 2020. We don’t all need to hoard paper receipts anymore, waiting for the possibility that we may want to return an item. Many stores now offer digital receipts, so you can store your purchase history online instead. This may not seem like a lot, but consider how much you buy on a yearly basis. Yeah, it adds up.

3. Recycle

A picture of clothes on racks at a clothing store Prudence Earl

Upcycle.

The concept is simple. Take the clothes you already own and repurpose them. Add rips. Add other fabrics and designs. Cut into different shapes and sew them into different sizes. This way, your clothes grow with you and your style, rather than being thrown away.

Repurpose furniture and decorations.

It’s the same as upcycling, but with more permanent structures. If you don’t like your bureau anymore, paint it and add some new fixtures. The same with decorations. Let your possessions grow with you. 

Use old magazines to make modern collages, rather than printing fun decorations and stickers.

We all know photo-walls are all the rage, with polaroids and cute print-outs posted all over Instagram feeds. But, there is a sustainable option. Look into old magazines for pictures and prints. Use existing book pages and quotes. Make your own collage using pre-existing items. Your friends will not only be impressed with the look but your craftiness.