Did you know that if everyone on Earth had the carbon footprint of the average North American, we would need 4.1 Earths?
Or that the United States and Canada produce over 15 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per capita compared to the global average of 4 tons?
We think it’s high time we stray away from these statistics and wander toward more sustainable living habits. But the answer to sustainability at home doesn’t necessarily lie with expensive solar energy systems and supporting carbon offset programs (though if you have a little extra in the budget, they certainly don’t hurt!).
Curating a sustainable home is actually far simpler (and less expensive) than opting for all the trendy eco-hype and greenwashing that comes with it.
REDUCE WHAT YOU BRING INTO YOUR HOME
The single biggest thing you can do to make your home more sustainable is to redefine your purchasing and consumption habits.
Overconsumption is the single biggest sustainability issue facing the modern world, and directly feeds industries like that of fast fashion (which has the second biggest environmental impact next to coal).
Buying anything not only raises the issue of packaging waste and end-of-life disposal for you, but it also increases the demand to produce more of that product (and all the environmental impact that goes along with manufacturing).
The plastic bag around one little impulse buy may not seem like a lot, but the ripple effect can end up being massive.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it. Then ask yourself these questions:
Will you use it often enough to justify it? Do you already own something that will work? Will it last you a long time? Is there a better (i.e. more sustainable and durable) alternative still within your budget? If not, can the purchase wait until it is?
ELEVATE YOUR ECO-GAME BY UPCYCLING
One way to avoid buying is by upcycling things you already have.
There are all sorts of interesting and useful items that can be made from old socks, old clothes, old underwear and bras, and even old mattresses.
Your home itself can even benefit from the likes of insulating door jams with socks or special throw pillows made from old college t-shirts that are hiding at the back of your closet.
OPT FOR ECO FRIENDLY FASHION, FURNISHINGS, AND HOME GOODS
Let’s talk about how we curate a sustainable home when we actually NEED to buy something.
We should first look to local second-hand stores, antique shops, and online thrift stores for pre-loved items.
When you can’t find the perfect new-to-you sustainable sofa, you can still outfit your home (or yourself) more responsibly by supporting good companies, whether they be sustainable clothing brands or makers of sustainable towels, organic comforters, or eco-friendly cookware, you name it!
If you need it, there’s a good chance that there’s a company making a sustainable version.
Ask yourself: What sustainable fabrics and materials do they use? How do they ensure their supply chain is ethical or fair trade? What else are they doing to lessen their environmental impact?
And remember: less is always more; quality over quantity.
INCORPORATE ZERO WASTE PRODUCTS INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
Once you’ve filled your home with ethical home decor and sustainable furniture, keep it conscious by maintaining a conscious consumer mindset. That is, being mindful of future purchases you need to make.
One way to achieve that is to opt for everyday consumables that are ideally zero waste. In other words, products that are designed with a “cradle to cradle” philosophy, prioritizing reduced consumption and reusable goods over disposable ones.
Practicing a zero waste lifestyle isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. In fact, adopting a couple of simple zero waste tips over time will save an enormous amount of waste.
Next time you need to buy new laundry detergent, dish soap, or other household products remember there are zero waste cleaning products for every category, look for those with no packaging, or with compostable or reusable/recyclable packaging.
The same goes for personal care products such as zero waste shampoo, zero waste deodorant, and even zero waste makeup.
START COMPOSTING YOUR WASTE
The truth is, as mindfully as we might try to consume, we all produce waste. Food waste is a great example, and it’s also one of the most prevalent and preventable forms of waste in the solid waste stream.
Composting not only provides a planet-positive alternative to landfills but also has many other benefits. Start by educating yourself on what is compostable and what is not compostable, then learn about which method of composting best suits your lifestyle.
A backyard compost pile is certainly one of the easier setups, but there are also solutions for apartment composting at your disposal (pun intended).
Or, since you may already use some of your food scraps to brew kombucha at home, learn about how to brew worm tea, a concentrated liquid fertilizer yielded through composting with worms (AKA vermicomposting).
USE YOUR COMPOST TO GROW A GARDEN
Wondering what to do with all that wonderfully rich humus you’ve created in your compost bin?
Start a backyard or apartment garden of course!
Contrary to popular belief, gardening need not be reserved for those with big backyards and lots of outdoor space. You can create a fruitful green paradise in just about any living space with the right conditions.
Even simple container gardens offer a range of possibilities.
Not only can a garden provide a beautiful (and even bountiful) living space, but it can improve the air quality of your home and increase biodiversity in your backyard—not to mention all that carbon it consumes!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON CURATING A SUSTAINABLE HOME
With all the eco-anxiety of the modern age, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer gravity of what it means to truly ‘live sustainably’. In reality, a sustainable home is really just a home that tries. Small changes over time make big impacts. And voting with your dollar by supporting companies who are fighting for change on an industrial scale cannot be understated.
Your home itself probably isn’t going to make or break the health of our planet, but it can certainly set off a chain reaction that can.