100+ Positive Changes to Live More Sustainably, Healthy and Happy

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For the first two and a half decades of my life, I fit in with a fairly typical American lifestyle. But in 2011 I learned that my life was destroying the world I loved. I wanted to live in a manner that didn’t destroy the earth, other people and other species. I desired to live free of lies and corruption. I wanted to be able to feel good about my life. In order to live the way I truly wanted, I realized that I had to radically transform my life. That’s exactly what I set out to do.

In 2015 I outlined my timeline of transformation. I explained that by making at least one positive change each week for two years I was able to drastically change my life in a fairly short period of time. Today I am excited to be publishing the first 100+ changes that I made and that you can make too. Nearly every change I’ve listed is one that I have experience with first hand. I have focused primarily on changes that are readily accessible to most of us and don’t require a large amount of money or resources to do, although I have included some in here that require more money or resources to achieve. I encourage you to focus on the changes that you can make, not the ones you can’t. Also, some of these changes are quite extreme. I encourage you to start small where you can and grow from there. Not all of these will match your ideals. Of course, we’re not going to agree on every facet of life. Use this as a guideline, not a rigorous set of rules. 

Some of the suggestions have links. You can click on those for more details. I have written these suggestions out into about ten sections. At the end of most of these sections, I have included guides that I have written that have even more suggestions, more detail on the changes you can make and resources. I encourage you to pick at least one change to make today and to commit to making that one. Then chose another and make that change. Keep that up until you become the change that you wish to see in the world!

Feel free to print this guide and keep it close to you as a positive reminder. 


Food

-Eat locally produced food. Farmers markets, food co-ops, and independent local stores are great places to start.

-Eat whole and minimally processed foods, rather than foods with long, difficult to understand ingredient lists.

-Purchase unpackaged and minimally packaged foods and ditch the packaging that creates garbage.

-Shop in the bulk section of stores and bring your own reusable containers. (Here is a guide and map to find bulk sections near you.)

-Put your produce in reusable bags (or no bags at all when not needed) and ditch the single-use produce bags.

-Carry reusable shopping bags and ditch single-use plastic and paper bags (this can be done for all shopping, not just groceries).

-Eat sustainably produced food. “Organic” is one commonly known term, but organic is not a guarantee of sustainability. Get to know the grower and learn about how they work with the land.

-Eat more fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and avoid industrially produced meat, dairy and eggs.

-Source meat, dairy, eggs and animal foods from regenerative agriculture and ethical, more sustainable sources.

-Eat your food and don’t waste it.

Compost, or feed uneaten food to animals. 

-Cook meals with friends and family more often and eat out less (eating alone is fine too of course).

-Make meals in large quantities that can be eaten many times, saving energy and time. Making meals for a whole family, home or community is more efficient than each individual preparing as well.

-When eating out, support restaurants with ethical, sustainable practices (same as outlined for personal above).

-Carry reusable dishes, utensils, straws, etc. so that you don’t use disposables and create trash when you eat out.

-Carry a reusable to-go container and take any uneaten food home with you to eat. Eat your leftovers. (You can also use a reusable container to take your food scraps to compost if the restaurant doesn’t compost).

Grow some of your own food. Even in small places such as a patio, balcony or windowsill a meaningful amount of food can be grown

-Join a community garden.

Learn foraging and eat the foods that are growing freely and abundantly all around you. Many of the “weeds” we pull from our yards and gardens are both nutritious and delicious.

Learn to make your own foods such as bread, nut milks and ferments.

-Buy the food that is reduced-priced at the store that would otherwise go to waste.

-Learn “food common sense” and apply those skills, rather than tossing food based on it’s “suggested sell-by date.”

-Do not segregate foods based on shape, color, size or minor blemishes. Embrace the imperfections of food.

-Dumpster dive and eat food that was being wasted. (See my guide to dumpster diving.)

-Drinking etiquette: Enjoy drinks on tap rather than in bottles or cans. Seek out locally made drinks. Pass on the straw or napkin. Ask for a reusable glass or carry your own.

-Restaurant etiquette: Ask for no disposables including napkins, wrappers, straws, decorative toothpicks, etc. and for food and drinks to be served in reusable dishes. Bring your own when needed or find restaurants that support low-waste eating.

Simplify and declutter the kitchen by ditching all the unneeded gadgets and the microwave.

For more suggestions and details on food click here.

See: Solutions to the Food Waste Fiasco for details on food waste.

Read my story of transitioning my diet from junk food to a planet-friendly diet.


Water

Use water consciously and appreciate it. Simply turn off the water when it’s not in use, such as when brushing your teeth.

-Grow food, not lawns. Turn your yard into a garden!

-Practice edible landscaping, plant native plants that require minimal or no watering.

-Harvest rainwater.

-Don’t wash cars, driveways, sidewalks, houses etc. with water (or do it when its raining). Use dry methods of cleaning.

-If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.

-Switch faucets and shower heads to low flow. Faucets cost a few dollars, screw on and off easily and save thousands of gallons of water.

-Switch appliances and toilets to low flow.

-When washing dishes have a water basin system to wash multiple dishes with the same water.

-Put a brick or bottle of sand in your toilet tank to reduce the volume of water used with each flush.

-Install greywater reuse systems. This could be as simple as a bucket to collect your shower and bath water, or rerouting your plumbing from your shower, sinks and laundry to water your landscape.

For more suggestions and details see my guide to using water wisely.


Energy

-Design your house to use passive heating and cooling.

-Reduce usage of heating and air conditioning. Put on more clothes or blankets when cold and take clothes off when hot.

-Switch lightbulbs to more energy-efficient LED or CFL bulbs.

-Remove some bulbs from fixtures that use multiple bulbs, but don’t need them all.

-Unplug everything when not in use or put in a power strip that has an off switch. Many electronics draw electricity even while off.

-Turn any electronic items off when not in use.

-Reduce the number of electronic items that you own and use.

-Use natural lighting when possible and keep the lights off. Overcome the habit of turning on lights when not needed.

-Switch to alternative energy or join a renewable energy co-op or find a renewable energy provider.

For more suggestions and details see my guide to using energy wisely.


Waste

-Reduce. Simply ask yourself if you really need something and if it’s going to bring value to your life.

-Reuse. Avoid all single-use items and focus on items that are long term reusable.

-Recycle. Make sure that what you are recycling is not just “wish-cycling” and can actually be recycled. (The 3 R’s are in order of Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Recycling is the last option.)

-Repair items that are damaged or broken rather than dumping them and getting new ones.

-Refuse the freebies and junk you don’t need by voicing a polite “no, thank you.”

-Compost everything that can be composted including paper, cardboard, napkins, paper towels, plant matter, all food scraps, hair and fingernail clippings.

-Use glass and metal storage containers and beeswax wraps for food and ditch the plastic wrap, tin foil and plastic bags.

-Use reusable cloth towels and ditch paper towels and napkins. While out, carry a hand towel to avoid paper towels and napkins.

-Use a handkerchief and ditch the disposable tissues.

-Use reusable dishes and utensils, and ditch the disposables (even for parties and picnics).

-Ditch disposable garbage bags (the less trash you make the easier this will become).

-Drink tap water and ditch the plastic bottles. If your tap water is not safe for drinking, install a water filter and purifier.

-Use reusable cloth pads or a menstrual cup rather than disposable tampons and pads.

-Change to a compost toilet. You can also keep the flush-toilet and use the compost toilet as much as possible.

-Switch from disposable toilet paper to water, growing your own, washable cloth and other methods. See my guide with ten alternative methods.

-Recycle and dispose of batteries and electronics properly. Find a place that recycles them or an electronics recycling drive.

-End your junk mail. See a guide for that here.

For more suggestions and details see my guide to reducing your waste.

See also my guide on how to utilize wasted resources.


Transportation

Reduce flying or if flying is not needed, stop flying altogether.

-Walk, ride a bike, run, skateboard, unicycle, tricycle, scooter (any human-powered method) and reduce driving in fossil fuel-powered vehicles (including electric cars powered by unsustainable electricity sources).

-Get a quality bike with a bike rack and panniers so that you can conveniently run errands by bicycle.

-Get a public transportation pass to reduce costs vs. individual tickets if you’ll use it enough.

-Join a car share program, especially an electric car share program if accessible.

-Carpool and strive to drive in full cars, rather than alone.

-Design your life so that you are near work, school, etc., so you don’t have to spend your precious time commuting.

-If you are a household with multiple cars, downsize to fewer cars.

Sell your car and go car free.

See my guide on how to move around more sustainably.


Finances

Switch your money from the big banks to a local credit union.

-Divest from all investments that support destructive industries and cause injustice and inequality.

-Invest in local, sustainable businesses and nonprofits to help the positive alternatives grow.

-Pay with cash and ditch the credit cards.

-Commit to donating a percentage of your income to environmental nonprofits. Joining 1% for the Planet is an easy way to commit to this.

-Reduce your bills.

-Live within your means. Don’t overextend yourself financially.

-Trade, barter, skill-exchange and create community and relationships to reduce money usage.

-If you run a business, transition your business to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Become a Certified B Corporation and join 1% for the planet.

Quit a job that doesn’t serve you or the earth and work for a company with environmental ethics.

-Commit to voluntary simplicity. Don’t pay federal income taxes as long as a large portion is going to war and police brutality.


Natural Hygiene and Cleaning

-Simplify and downsize your cosmetic, hygiene, and personal care products down to just what your body really needs.

-Ditch the toxic products you put on your body and replace them with natural solutions.

-Use essential oils rather than chemical and fossil fuel-based perfume and cologne.

-Make your own natural care items such as toothpaste and body moisturizer.

-Practice holistic healthcare and herbal remedies over using pharmaceuticals.

Reduce alcohol and drug usage that doesn’t serve you well.

-Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products. You can even make some yourself, such as vinegar.

-Ditch the chemical air fresheners and scented candles and use natural methods.

-Switch to refillable products including soap, personal body care items, household cleaning products and refill them at a refill location.

Grow your own toilet paper, use a bidet, bum gun or kettle and ditch the toilet paper.

See my natural personal hygiene blog.


Clothing and Laundry

-Wear natural fiber clothing (wool, hemp, linen, etc.) and transition away from plastic clothes (polyester, nylon, etc).

-Simplify your wardrobe and own as much clothing as really serves you.

-Donate clothes that you no longer wear, do not throw them away. If they can’t be donated, find a recycling program.

-Purchase secondhand clothing and avoid buying new clothes.

-Choose clothing that is easy to wash and does not need dry cleaning or special cleaning. This also applies to bedding and towels.

-Repair clothes as needed. Sew, stitch, mend, and patch fabrics. Resole shoes.

-Wear clothes multiple times before washing, especially pants, sweatshirts, etc.

-Wash your clothes in full loads with cold water.

-Use a biodegradable, non-toxic soap or soap nuts.

-Hang dry your clothes. With minimal space you can use a folding clothes rack.

-If using a dryer replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls.

-Use washable cloth diapers rather than disposable diapers.

Embrace that there is only one you and break free from social norms that require you to dress differently for many different occasions. This will allow you to drastically reduce clothing needs.

See my guide to earth friendly laundry.


Shopping and Stuff

-Support local, small businesses with ethical and sustainable practices. Ditch the big box stores and online giants.

-Buy used items whenever possible. Locally you can find secondhand shops, yard sales and use websites like craigslist and eBay and groups like “Buy Nothing New.”

-Invest in quality items that last, rather than cheap items that break and need to be replaced.

-Take care of your stuff. Stuff will last longer by using it correctly and maintaining it as needed.

-Be grateful. The more grateful you are for the basics, the less you’ll feel a need to buy things.

Downsize and declutter your home and your life.

-Donate unneeded items and find homes for them. Don’t send them to the landfill.

See my guide on How to Cause Less Destruction when Buying Stuff.

See my guide on how to downsize your life.


Travel

-Explore the lands nearby you and enjoy trips in your region.

-Go on long cycling and hiking trips rather than traveling via fossil fuel powered transport.

Minimize flying. Take trains and buses when possible.

-When you do fly, offset the carbon using the Gold Standard of carbon offsets and consider 3x (or even 10x) offsetting your carbon.

Stay with people and not chain hotels. If using a hotel choose local sustainably run options. Find local hosts via websites like couchsurfing.com.

-Immerse with the community and avoid tourist traps and consumeristic holidays.

Pass on the cruises. Cruise ships are one of the most destructive ways to travel.

See my guide on how to reduce your impact traveling.


More

-If having a pet doesn’t serve your best interest (or their best interest) then do not get a pet, or if you have a pet already do not get another pet after the one you have passes.

-If having pets, adopt and don’t support unnecessary animal breeding.

-Treat your pet like an animal, not an accessory. They don’t need all the plastic toys and accessories.

-Compost, bury, or put your pet waste in a biogas system and don’t put it into the landfill. (Composting dog or cat poop must be done separately from your compost for your food garden) Also, use repurposed paper to pick up poop rather than plastic bags.

-Exercise naturally and through your daily life and cancel your gym membership (which burns energy and money).

-Do your best to treat humans and animals well.

-Focus your life on relationships, connection, experiences, activities, health and happiness rather than material possessions and financial wealth.

-Spend more time outside and in nature.

-Change what you are watching and reading. Educate yourself on how your actions affect other people with quality, healthy content. See my suggestion of books and films.

-Choose to not have children if it doesn’t serve your highest purpose. See Why I got a Vasectomy at Age 25

-Practice transparency in all areas of your life.

-Seek truth and aim to reduce your delusions.

-Take time off the internet and cellphone. See my guide for balance with online connection


Make a difference in your community

-Volunteer with environmental nonprofits and get involved with your community.

-Pick up trash and leave every place better than you found it.

-Practice leave no trace principals.

-Create a “library of things” in your community to share resources with your community. Or simply share with your neighbors.

-Organize a repair fair or repair cafe.

-Start a community compost program to help your neighbors compost and create quality soil.

-Initiate a fruit tree gleaning program and share the food with people who don’t have access to healthy, local food.

-Start a food rescue program and distribute food from grocery stores that would go to waste to people in need of food.

-Host clothing swaps with friends so none of you have to buy new clothes, while still having a refreshing change in wardrobe.

-Organize a skill-exchange or time bank in your community.

More resources:

See My House Guide to Sustainable, Simple, and Healthy Living which includes a video tour of my apartment in 2013.

My Personal Guide to Happiness, Health, and Freedom

20 Sustainable Businesses You Can Start Today

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