Recycle: pretty obvious that we all need to recycle as much as we can. What’s not so obvious is that whole swatches of the US still don’t have comprehensive recycling programs in place. (Like where we live now.) Do what you can- try to buy items with less packaging (like buying in bulk), and reuse items that you can’t recycle. (I’d love to hear people’s experiences with those reusable cloth produce bags!)
Growing Your Own or Eating Local: grow a vegetable and flower garden. You’ll get exercise and have your own fresh food, without driving to get it. Go to and support your local farmer’s market.
Soil: try not to import lots of outside soil, pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, etc. into your yard. (Many fertilizers have small percentages of compounds that would be considered hazardous waste outside of this use. A co-worker and I used to check the federal standards and product labels and it was shocking!) Don’t use newspaper or cardboard as mulch or in compost- you are adding dyes and other chemicals to your soil when you do this. (Use your leaves, chipped wood, or community mulch instead.)
Cars & ‘Toys’: Keep your car for more years before replacement. There’s no need to replace new cars every 3-4 years like many people do. Our cars are 10 years (110,000 miles) and 20 years (270,000 miles) old. Don’t buy ATVs, snowmobiles, boats, and other ‘big boy toys’ if you don’t use them several times a week- rent instead. (We had neighbors that bought every vehicle toy under the sun- it eventually caught up with them and they lost their house and other properties as a result.) Or better yet, enjoy nature and the outdoors under your own steam (my preference)!
Diapers: if you have an infant, use cloth diapers while at home or day care. (They will also end up being the best cloths for use around the home. Our supply lasted as work cloths for over 10 years after our son stopped needing them.)
Blowing your nose: use cloth handkerchiefs instead of paper facial tissues.
Coffee or tea: Use coffee or tea presses to stop using paper filters. Due to climate change the coffee plant is slowly on the way out– look at changing over to other beverages (that can maybe be grown near you).
Clothes– wash clothing in cold water as much as you can. Use concentrated laundry soap to cut down on packaging, and experiment with using less soap than the package says. Line dry when bugs and weather permit. Wear out your clothes before you buy new ones, and buy used- sorry ‘vintage’- clothes.
Books: consider buying new books electronically. They are the same price as a bound paper book, but you don’t have the same physical storage or resource usage issues with a digital book. (Hopefully we will be able to buy “used’ digital books soon.)
Pet food: our cat had much of his arthritis resolved with a change of diet. The food we use is about twice the cost of the cheap stuff, but he only needs to eat about ½ as much of the better food. (And of course, has less feces which makes litter last longer when we are traveling and he uses a litter box.) A better diet can also mean less or no dependence on drugs. (Unless you like the idea of daily medicating your cat 😉 .)
Diet: ditto on the better diet for us humans, too. If you cut out high sugar, extra carbs, bad fats, and processed foods you will find most items in supermarkets no longer apply (or appeal) anymore. You’ll also see a reduction in packaging you have to throw away or recycle, and better health.
Plant Trees: lots of people have problems with air pollution, and stay inside as a result. Plant trees to help air quality and to give yourself pleasant places to visit outside! (Native trees can be transplanted when they are small, and they’ll have a better chance of survival and with less added resources.)
Incense: many brands of incense use artificial fragrances, burning agents, and are from doubtful sources. I make some of my own incense as a result. I love the smell of real white sage- but it only grows in certain areas and conditions. So I grow other types of sage and various plants to use as incense on charcoal.
Body Products: as with incense, many body products use artificial fragrances and doubtful chemicals. Try mixing your own oils, conditioners, etc. and/or use natural products. Find unscented products and add your own essential oils to add scent. (In public use discretion when using scented body products; what smells great to you may be another’s – or your future self’s- allergy or sensitivity.)
Lighting: Change out light bulbs to low power usage LEDs and CFs. Turn off lights when you are not in the room. Install motion sensors for outside porch or flood lights. Use solar lights in your garden or yard.
Indoor Temperatures: adjust your thermostats, and while inside wear warmer clothing in the winter and lighter clothing in the summer. Use ceiling and other fans in warm weather. Open and close your windows as necessary for temperature control.
Dwelling Renovations: put up insulated curtains, weather strip around doors and windows, and install enhanced insulation, whole house fans, low E dual+ pane windows, and solar hot water. Regularly change your air filters to use less energy.
Use Trees and Plants: shade your home to reduce air conditioning usage in the summer with trees and vines on trellises in front of windows and on awnings. (Deciduous trees can shade in the summer, and let the sun in for winter.) Plant trees for windbreaks. Plant trees for privacy instead of or in addition to fencing.(Just plant trees!)
Natural Heating: in most of our houses we’ve had a wood burning fireplace or stove for primary heat or to supplement central heating. If your power is out for extended periods you will have heat this way. (We were able to cut more than enough of our own firewood on a partially oak and ash+ treed 1 acre for emergency and decorative fires.)
Errands: Combine your errands when you drive or commute into town. (We did this when we only had 3 miles to go for most errands. Now it is either 6 or 25 miles each way and more critical.)
Don’t Waste Water: use common sense-don’t let faucets or hoses run when you aren’t using them, and turn them off when you are done. Consider using low flow toilets (your waste plumbing may affect their efficacy), and flow restrictors. (Personally, I don’t like flow restrictors, as it makes it harder to effectively use water and it puts you in the habit of running water longer. YMMV.)
Yard Water: install drip irrigation systems, and change out or reduce lawn or other vegetation so sprinklers aren’t necessary. Plant natives. Consider forgoing installing a pool unless you use it nearly daily.
Don’t Buy Packaged Water: bottled water sources are notorious for being the same as regular domestic sources. And the plastic water bottles cause huge resource use and disposal issues all across the board . Get your own bottle and use your home water while out and about. Your home water can be filtered if it really needs it, and there are filter recycling programs for some products.
Livelihood & Lifestyle: does your job or livelihood cost you in terms of lost time and money on commutes, your health, or your family and personal life? Your livelihood and lifestyle can be mutually supportive, or create an endless feedback loop of improper consumption, lack of direction, and misery. Take the time to step back and evaluate and shape your life. (Over the years I stopped the commute, left a career, and re-scaled how we live. And more changes are afoot!)
Progeny: what individual and cumulative impact will your children (if any) have? Few of us need children to work as extra farm workers, or to have many children so that some survive into adulthood. (Most people reading this are this lucky.) Consider the time and resources you will be able to gift your children with. Many people also find ways to support children without having any of their own. (Before we were married we agreed we would probably just have one child, due to our concern about the population explosion. Since my birth in the 1950s the world population has grown from about 3 billion to over 7 billion.)
Giving Things as Gifts: stop or reduce regular gift giving to friends and relatives. Make a pact with your family to not send gifts to each other for holidays, birthdays, etc. (This will be very hard for those who shop a lot. Love isn’t about things, right?) You’ll save on packaging, shipping, returns, and a lot of stress.
Reuse Things: shop at and donate to thrift stores. Reusable items in good condition should be reused rather than disposed of in a landfill. For instance- don’t buy a premade costume or pattern, thread, and cloth to make a Halloween costume, go to a thrift shop for clothing and props/accessories. Need a long sleeve shirt to wear to keep the mosquitoes off while working outside? Get a used shirt. Have larger items to give away like furniture? Consider joining your local www.freecycle.org group, where people give away and get items for free. Or sell things with local www.craiglist.org listings.
Go paperless: use online accounts for bills and notices; stop mailed paper catalogs; and use email. Mailed paper catalogs can take up to 90 days to stop. Many companies have links to request this on their webpages. There is also this service, but I don’t actually know if it has worked for me yet: https://www.catalogchoice.org/.
Vacations: camp for vacation more often. Go to local sites, and save those plane flights for the really special trips. Support non-corporate, off the beaten path attractions and lodging.