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How to Be More Eco-Friendly?

Many internet blogs offer long lists of suggestions on what to do: '10 ways to be more eco-friendly,' '50 ways to be more sustainable,' etc. There’s no doubt a lot of great advice in these lists. However, I would like to approach this from a different angle – start with a simple rule of thumb first, and then move on to ideas on how to be more sustainable.

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The rule of thumb is: 'In order to be more sustainable, one needs to consciously question their choices.'

That’s it! That’s the recipe. Just every time you are planning a purchase or thinking about how to spend your time, what to eat, or where to invest, ask yourself if it is aligned with your desire to be sustainable. Include the environment in your decision-making process.

Think of it as developing a healthy habit. Just as you can train yourself to visit the gym a couple of times per week, drink more water, or reduce alcohol consumption, you can also learn to question how 'green' the item you are about to purchase is, or how eco-friendly an activity you are considering is.

What to Ask to Be More Eco-Friendly?

Here are examples of questions to ask yourself before making a purchase decision. Don't freak out; you don't need to ask all of them at once. Start with one or two:

  • Do I really need it?

  • Are there more sustainable alternatives?

  • Does it come in plastic packaging?

  • Is it made of sustainable, renewable materials?

  • Does it contain toxic ingredients that can harm me and/or other living beings?

  • Is there any greenwashing involved?

  • How am I going to dispose of what’s left of it?

  • How long can I use it, and are there alternatives that last longer?

  • Can I rent it instead of buying it?

  • Can I fix the old thing instead of buying a new one?

  • Is it produced locally, or does it require shipping?

  • How much electricity, water, fuel, or other resources does it need?

As with any habit, it takes time to settle in. You’ll find yourself constantly forgetting to do it, and that’s fine. Don't be hard on yourself; just remind yourself to ask these questions again and again, and it’ll become second nature.

Ask Eco-Conscious Questions Upfront

A very powerful technique is to start asking questions well before making a purchase. Look around and notice products that are about to run out—items you'll need to stock up on, like shampoo, trash bags, or toilet paper—and check if there's a sustainable alternative. Once you start paying attention, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you begin to notice these opportunities.

Thinking ahead and discovering eco-friendly solutions is also useful because it helps you break your habitual buying cycle. We often make repetitive purchases automatically without thinking, simply going to our usual grocery store or online platform to buy the same items. We also tend to buy many different things at once, leaving no time to compare alternatives. That’s why thinking ahead is so beneficial.

Practical Ideas on How to Be More Eco-Friendly

As promised, I’m sharing a few practical ideas for eco-friendly living. Start with them, and don’t be upset if some suggestions don’t apply to you.

  • Household. Switch to eco-friendly household supplies, such as laundry detergent, cleaners, toilet paper, or kitchen sponges.

  • Beauty. Switch to sustainable beauty and personal care products, including face tissues, shampoo, or hair brushes. Try replacing single-use products like floss picks or makeup remover pads with multi-use alternatives.

  • Shopping. Try to shop locally, use reusable shopping bags, and avoid plastic packaging. Shop more frequently but buy less at once. When buying online, try to arrange for multiple items to be delivered in one day, such as with 'Amazon Same Day Delivery.'

  • Food. Eat less meat and dairy, prefer locally produced food, choose seasonal fruits and vegetables, buy whole foods, and avoid cut fruits and vegetables (they have a short shelf life and are likely to end up as waste). Freeze what you can’t consume quickly, such as bread or cooked vegetables.

  • Compost. If you have a small garden or even a balcony, consider composting. Your plants will thank you. Alternatively, use a food recycling device like Mill to convert your food waste into chicken feed. If you don't have a use for it yourself, consider gifting it to your neighbors or a local community garden and make new friends :)

How to be more eco-friendly? Eat whole fresh local food.

  • Pet Supplies. Review your pets' items: their food, litter, shampoo, toys, etc. Some of these can likely be replaced with more eco-friendly alternatives. And please, use biodegradable poop bags.

  • Waste. We've already discussed food waste and plastic packaging. Other ways to combat waste include buying less (revisit the questions mentioned earlier), purchasing second-hand, recycling everything possible, and donating or selling clothes and other items you no longer need. If you've got your waste management in order, consider contributing to ocean or forest cleanups, and help your friends, family, office, or school to reduce waste.

  • Plastic. Eliminate it from your life as much as possible. Review all single-use plastic products you're using and ruthlessly stop using them. Make a conscious effort to avoid buying products with plastic packaging.

  • Transport. Minimize flying, use public transportation, bicycles, or even walk when possible. Consider an electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid car. Perform regular car maintenance, check tire pressure, remove excess weight from the car, turn off the engine when waiting more than one minute, and avoid sharp acceleration and braking as it increases fuel consumption.

  • Energy. Review your electricity supplier; switch to one that uses renewables. Consider installing solar panels, replace light bulbs with LED ones, and review your home appliances—some of them might be replaceable with more energy-efficient alternatives. Remember to switch off lights, the TV, and other devices when not in use. And yes, that includes the AC.

  • Cooling & Heating. Consider switching to heat pumps and insulating your house (don't forget about the doors). If possible, paint your walls and roof white. Set your thermostat a half-degree lower (or higher) than you're used to. You'll quickly adapt, and if not, just wear an extra pair of socks :) In Spain, it's common for homes not to have heating, even though temperatures can drop to 40°F (4-5°C) at night and reach 50-55°F (10-12°C) during the day in winter. People let the sun warm their homes through windows and warm up in the street at noon. No kidding.

How to be more eco-friendly? Save water.

  • Water. Be mindful of our diminishing water supply. Use less by taking shorter showers, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, reducing pressure, installing a water-efficient shower head, and setting up a greywater system.

  • Paper. Be mindful of how much you print and discard. Prefer e-books and sell or donate paper books you've bought. Opt for thinner, less white paper and choose bamboo products over wooden ones.

  • Investments. Pay attention to what your money does while you sleep. Does it support eco-friendly initiatives or the fossil fuel industry? Choose a green pension fund and bank, and consider investing in eco-friendly startups.

  • Vote. People often underestimate the power of their voice. Reclaim your power. Research candidates' programs and vote for those aligned with your environmental values.

This list isn't exhaustive. Virtually every aspect of our lives can be made more sustainable. Each sector mentioned above can be explored further, revealing more opportunities for eco-friendly living. Once you start looking for ideas, you'll begin to notice them everywhere. With every choice, you'll feel increasingly confident, empowered, and happier.


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