With all the reports coming out about the effects of climate change, a lot of people are looking to live more sustainable, eco-friendly lives (us, included). And since the most recent one by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that sea levels are rising at even faster rates and that extreme weather events could be a yearly occurrence by 2050, there's even more cause to start making more lifestyle changes now.
The thing is, you don't have to live off the grid to be more sustainable. In fact, your life doesn't even have to look all that different. Especially now, when there are so many brands that are offering eco-friendly products at affordable prices. The trick to living a more environmentally conscious life is to start slow and take it one step at a time, according to Kira Cahill and Olivia Dahan, co-founders of eco-lifestyle company Bold Box.
"Starting an eco-friendly lifestyle is like anything, going to the gym, changing your eating habits, etc.," Cahill says. "We've found that in order to keep a sustainable life, you have to make one swap at a time and find what works for you. It can be overwhelming going zero to a 100."
To help you get started, or provide some more ideas if you're already trying to live sustainably, we rounded up 21 swaps to make (with some help from Cahill and Dahan).
In the Kitchen
"Let's start with coffee! If you use a Keurig, invest in reusable eco-cups," Dahan says. "They are made of stainless steel and can be washed and used repeatedly. Obviously the most eco-friendly option is a French press, but these reusable cups are an easy intro item."
Instead of reaching for a box of plastic sandwich bags, get Stasher bags (or any type of reusable option). You can use them to pack lunches or snacks and to store food in the fridge or freezer.
Ditch the plastic for glass or stainless steel. I love my set of meal prep containers because I can also pop them in the microwave and dishwasher; plus, I find they're much more durable than the plastic kinds.
Natural and reusable beeswax wraps are a great alternative to plastic wrap or foil. Just wash in cool water with mild soap and let dry.
Trash bags are necessary, but why not buy compostable bags? Many reviewers wrote that these are sturdy, but warned to keep in mind that since they're compostable, the bags start to disintegrate after they've been sitting around for a while with damp food.
Bamboo is biodegradable, dissolvable, and compostable, so they are a good option if you can't say bye to paper towels. At the same time, you can stock up on more dishtowels so you don't have to rely too much on the bamboo versions.
A reusable tote is always good to have on hand. Make it a point to bring some with you the next time you go shopping. I like to keep a few in my car and one in my everyday handbag so I'm always prepared.
In the Bathroom
"Switching to eco-friendly toilet paper is also an easy swap. Large stores like Target now sell bamboo toilet paper or 100% recycled toilet paper," says Cahill.
Reduce your water consumption by switching to a low-flow shower head. This one is under $10 and has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon.
Bar soap comes with less packaging than its liquid counterparts. But if you want to stick with liquid, get a refillable dispenser to avoid waste.
Dahan counts her bamboo toothbrush as one of her favorite sustainable home products. This particular one is biodegradable and made with BPA-free nylon bristles.
This is one change I'm planning on making now. I use and throw away two cotton rounds a day, and when you think about how many that means in a year, that's quite a lot. These come with a laundry bag so you can throw them in the washer with ease.
This one both Cahill and Dahan say people forget about. "Traditional air fresheners can have toxic side effects over time and are generally not eco-friendly. So instead we use and absolutely LOVE essential oil diffusers," says Cahill.
For the Laundry Room
When you wash synthetic clothes, tiny plastic particles are released into our washing machines, and then waterways. The Guppyfriend washing bag will filter out the microfibers—just put your clothes in and throw in the machine.
For Your Bedroom
Think sustainable if it's time to upgrade your bedding. A lot of companies like Buffy and Coyuchi make their sheets and comforters from recycled, plant-based, or organic materials. Buffy's is made from eucalyptus fabric, and each comforter is said to keep 50 bottles out of landfills. Coyuchi has an eco-friendly subscription service in which you get towels, sheets, and duvets every six, 12, or 24 months—the company will renew, upcycle, or recycle your returned items so they don't end up in landfills.
For Your Home Tech
Save energy and limit your carbon footprint with a smart thermostat. The Nest thermostat is a popular option that connects Wi-Fi so you can control with your phone and Amazon Alexa.
Skip throwing away your batteries and get rechargeable versions. They'll save you money, too.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, energy-efficient light bulbs use 25% to 80% less energy than regular light bulbs, reducing the environmental impact. They last longer, too.