Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Combat Food Waste by Embracing Ugly Produce

According to The Food and Agriculture Organization, we waste 1.3 billion tons of food each year. Research reveals that the bins of most households are filled with rotten foods and food waste. But what about those that weren’t spoiled and in perfectly excellent condition? Though the exact numbers aren’t yet known, thousands of fruits and veggies are thrown away just because they lack the ‘aesthetic appeal.’

Interestingly, we expect to be greeted by shiny, uniform shaped produce—fruits and vegetables that look precisely like supermodels! Often ‘supposedly dreadful’ delicious and nutritious veggies and fruits aren’t accepted by supermarkets. In fact, farmers do away with them only because their skin is slightly blemished, they have scabs, or have an unusual shape.

These stats are especially saddening when you note that the United Nations has estimated that one in nine people around the world don’t have access to adequate food. What’s worse is that more and more people are dying from hunger every day. Though diseases like AIDs and malaria still prevail, food waste is at its highest and nearly 1/3 of the food that is being produced is thrown away. This means we aren’t just wasting food, but also other resources like land, water, and soil that were used to grow and nurture it.

However, there’s still light at the end of the tunnel because for the last two years, supermarkets throughout North America and Europe are running campaigns where they sell ‘ugly’ produce and even encourage people to buy it. But before we get into that, let’s take a brief look at the consequences of wasting so much food in the first place.

variety of pumpkins
Photo by Pexels

Implications of Wasting Food

Produced but uneaten food takes almost 1.4 billion hectares of land, which is around 30 percent of the world’s total agricultural land. Fifty-two percent of the wastage occurs even before it is processed, distributed, or consumed. This means that a lot of the fruits and vegetables are thrown out during production and post-harvest handling. And the biggest reason for this is because the food isn’t “pretty enough.”

Loss of Biodiversity

Farming and agriculture take up a lot of land. But because the earth is only so big, farmers are now looking to maximize their agricultural land. They’re doing this by invading wild areas, which are more fertile, and this, in turn, leads to lost biodiversity. To find more fertile land, practices such as deforestation are destroying the habitats of mammals, fish, and birds. Use of pesticides for crop production has also significantly contributed to chemical pollution in water and the atmosphere.

Heightened Carbon Footprint

Food wastage has been found to be the third top greenhouse gas emitter after the United States and China. The food that is produced but not eaten has a carbon footprint of around 3.3 billion tons. The food waste that fills American landfills is a significant source of methane, which is 21 percent more likely to cause global warming as compared to carbon.

Water Wastage

 Twenty-five percent of all freshwater is being used to produce the food that is being grown and then thrown out. The blue water footprint of wasted food comes up to around 250 cubic kilometers—equivalent to the water discharge of Russia’s Volga River.

Why You Should Embrace Ugly Produce

After all these statistics and findings, it only makes sense to stop wasting food by not consuming perfectly good food. But what are the benefits of doing this? Here’s a list of reasons why you should seriously start thinking about buying those bags of ugly produce.

You Can Save Money

To decrease food wastage and encourage buyers to buy imperfect vegetables and fruits, local and large supermarket chains are offering discounted rates. So, if you were initially purchasing a bag of oranges for $4.00, you can now buy one with slightly blemished oranges for as low as $2.00. This way, you won’t just be saving food, but also your hard-earned money.

You Can Boost Nutrition

Contrary to common belief, fruits and vegetables that have scabs or bumps on them aren’t spoiled, but instead are filled with antioxidants. According to research, ugly apples have been found to possess a sweeter taste and have higher antioxidant content as compared to others. The researcher behind the experiment believes that this is because of stress and the apple’s defense mechanism.

When non-organic vegetables are sprayed with pesticides or other chemical compounds, they don’t need to fight things off on their own, thus there’s much less production of antioxidants. So, if you want to get the best nutritional food, opt for that ugly produce.

You Can Contribute to the Environment

It may not seem like much because you’re the only one who is buying this ugly produce, but the truth is that you’ll be contributing to saving the environment. Besides, the word is now getting out quicker than ever about food waste and its consequences, so more and more people are joining the bandwagon. Buying produce that was initially thrown out will make you feel good about what you’re doing because you’ll know that you’re doing a good thing.

What More Can You Do

There's a lot that you can do other than buying deformed vegetables and fruits to slow down the vicious cycle food wastage. Here are a few things you can get started with.

Avoid Over Shopping

One of the biggest reasons so much food is being wasted is because we’re buying more than we need. Though this might seem like a simple problem to tackle, the truth is that it’s a lot harder than it sounds. The best way to shop smart is to make a list of items that you actually need. Instead of buying produce to last two weeks, only purchase the items you need for a week. If you don’t plan to cook for 2 or 3 days, buy limited quantities. Simply put, instead of buying a lot at once and letting it go rotten in the crisper, opt for a lesser amount of fruits and veggies you’ll actually use.

Don’t Fill Up the Plate

It’s happening everywhere around the world; we’re taking too much food on our plates and then throwing it away. It’s not just restaurants that throw away tons of uneaten food, but households as well. So, once you’ve made it a point not to buy too much food, you also need to be careful about serving size. If you have a family, urge them to take smaller portions so you can store the leftovers and have them at another time.

Know Where to Store

Not every fruit or vegetable belongs in the fridge. There are plenty that will stay fresh if they’re kept outside the crisper and in a favorable temperature. So, don’t just stash everything in the fridge, but be mindful of where they should be ideally stored.

Start Composting

The best way to reduce your food waste is to get into composting. If you’ve used the peels to make a stock, don’t just throw them away but turn them into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. However, remember that you don’t necessarily need a composting bin because there’re a lot of other simple techniques to compost, as well.

According to the USDA, food waste is the single biggest source of waste in municipal landfills and a major contributor of methane (a greenhouse gas). It is a real problem and not consuming ugly produce is a substantial contributing factor that can be brought to a stop if the right steps are taken. Perhaps the best thing to do at this point is to start reintroducing the ugly produce into the consumer market.

3 Ways to Make Eco-Friendly Changes When Shopping for Everyday Items

Whether you’re attempting to be more conscious about the products you bring into your home or if you are just taking the first steps to reduce your footprint, here’s how you can make eco-friendly choices every day.

reusable shopping tote
Photo by Shutterstock

Think Reusable

How many of the everyday items you use are a one-time use? Those items, such as paper towels, contribute to unnecessary waste. In the U.S. alone we use 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, according to The Paperless Project. If every American household used just three less paper towel rolls annually it would save 120,00 tons of waste and a whopping $4.1 million in landfill dump fees.

Other one-time use offenders are single-use coffee cups, the types you get from your favorite drive-thru coffee shop, and the plastic pods you use at home in your high-tech coffeemaker or espresso machine. Sure, you already know that plastic bottles are not a sustainable choice, but it’s high-time you eliminate other single-use items around the home, too, and opt for reusable versions.

Research Eco-Friendly Brands

It’s not always easy to find a truly eco-friendly brand. Today’s marketing ploys will have you thinking some brands are an eco-friendly choice by using buzzwords like “green” or “natural” on their packaging. But don’t be duped. Do a little research into these claims by visiting the product pages of your favorite household items. These product pages typically list any environmental initiatives established by the company or brand, ingredients of products and partnership affiliations with green companies. You may find that some of your favorite cleaning supplies fall short on their green promises, or you could be pleasantly surprised by an online home furnishings retailer and their offering of eco-conscious goods, such as energy-efficient light fixtures, during the course of your own research.

Avoid Mass-Produced Products

Mass production is a massive energy suck. The effects of mass consumption has left our oceans littered with plastic and our overstuffed landfills brimming with discarded items like clothing. Fast-fashion (think Zara and H&M), for example, has been a major contributor to mass production-caused pollution. When making purchases, try to go straight to the source, it’s the easiest way to cut your carbon footprint. Online shops, like Etsy, are a direct line to artisans and makers from all over the globe. Plus, when shopping on the site, you can narrow down your search results to find suppliers who use reclaimed or organic materials.

But mass production isn’t just limited to items like clothing. It spans throughout food, too. Next time you’re at your local grocery store, shop around the center aisles. The middle aisles are riddled with packaged and commonly unhealthy food items that contribute to mass consumption-related waste and pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency cites that food waste accounts for 20 percent of what’s tossed into landfills, tipping the scales at a shocking 35 million tons in the year 2012, the year with the most recent statistics, reports NPR. Do your part to end food waste by shopping locally and only purchasing what you need. Frequent farmer’s markets and local grocers, as these purveyors often have the freshest and most sustainable goods.

From researching brands before you buy, avoiding mass-produced items and implementing reusable items into your everyday, there are a variety of ways that you can positively impact the environment through your daily activities.

Lauren Topor is a full-time freelance writer and alumna of Arizona State University. Her professional work has appeared in a variety of publications from lifestyle mags to business websites. Follow Lauren on Twitter @laurentopor.

Useful Reasons & Ways to Organize Your Virtual Space

In recent years I’ve came to realize that being organized and tidy can have therapeutic qualities. I’ve found that tidying my room when I wake up in the morning gets me ready for the day. Also, having an organized living space makes it easier to find things.

I’ve never thought that I’d actually enjoy tidying up, but the feeling of comfort it creates makes it well worth it. Clutter can affect mental clarity and ability to concentrate. You can get so distracted by the stuff in front of your eyes that you lose sight of what needs to be done.

Your virtual environment can get cluttered in the same way as your room. That is why it’s important to eliminate the unnecessary.

messy computer desktop
Photo via Flickr

Why You Should Declutter Your Virtual Space

• Browsing your folders won’t feel like searching for a needle in a haystack and, no, the Search function doesn’t always help.
• Your laptop, phone or tablet will probably function better
• You may have forgotten about lots of your files or bookmarks which may simply lay there without any clear purpose.
• Clutter is tiring and decluttering is easy.

Digital Spaces to Declutter

Let’s see how you can declutter your virtual space, starting right now.

If the first thing you see when your operating system starts is an endless list of folders and shortcuts, you might get slightly confused and overwhelmed without knowing it.

The bookmarks bar should include only the sites you use most frequently. Once you know the ones that would be most useful, bookmark them and create folders and subfolders to keep them organized.

Delete every app that you no longer use. You can always reinstall if you really need it, or discover that you actually use it more often than you realized.

Folders and Documents
Grab a coffee and go through all the data that you’ve stored on your hard drive, USBs, external hard drives, or cloud storage. Delete the things that you no longer use. If there are things that you’re not sure of, simply move them to an external hard drive.

Organize your folders by finding a structure and category system that works best for you. Be very clear in naming the folders and documents. Avoid vague names because you’re bound to forget their meaning in a few weeks or months.

Taking photos has become something usual and accessible to anyone. We’re no longer limited by having to carry cameras, and most people do it using their phones.

Regardless of the place that you’ve stored your photos, try keeping only the ones that you like. You would be surprised at how much free space you’ll gain and how easy it will be to find pictures when you need them.

Go heavy on the unsubscribe button and get rid of any newsletter that you don’t find interesting or is just trying to sell you stuff. Keep only the few that you know provide quality content. After you’ve eliminated unwanted subscriptions, you should organize your messages by grouping them in folders or adding tags.

Social Media
Again, unsubscribe is the magic word. It could be unfollow or unfriend, but that depends on the social media platforms you use. Your aim is to limit the amount of useless, boring, or unwanted information that you’re fed on these channels.

Each of us has our own way of using and interacting with technology. Nobody can tell you that you’re being disorganized because chaos might simply be your way of organizing things. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to try something new from time to time. If you’re one of those people into chaos, you might find that information becomes easier to go through. If you’re already an organized person, you know what I’m talking about.

Adrian Szasz is the editor-in-chief for a music production blog called Groovehunt. Organized chaos is his thing, but he’s on the right track to becoming more meticulous in organizing his life.

A Brief Guide to Green Finances

Generations of consumers are starting to look at sustainability and eco-friendly products, even if it means paying more for it. According to a global online study by Nielsen, Millennials and Generation Z are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings and products. But what about the actual money that’s fueling our spending? Can we change the way we bank and handle our finances to be as eco-friendly as what we're buying?

After all, banking and financial institutions don't exactly have a glowing reputation for being green. But there are actually ways to put your finances to good use when it comes to helping out the environment. Here’s how to start moving toward more eco-friendly finances.

eco-friendly finances
Photo by Shutterstock

Eliminate the Junk Mail

According to research collected from HubSpot, the junk mail produced in the U.S. each year weighs the same as over 15,000 military tanks. That staggering number could be reduced from opting out of paper statements and into receiving digital statements from our financial institutions. Consumers can also decline to be added to financial marketing and junk mail lists whenever possible.

However, when you do go paperless, make sure you micro-shed any remaining paperwork to protect yourself. But really there is no foolproof way to prevent identity theft, especially when going digital. That’s why an identity theft monitoring service is absolutely crucial when going green, or just taking measures to protect yourself from financial fraud.

Swipe for a Cause

Before you swipe your next credit card, take a moment to see how you can give back to the environment as you spend. For example, the Nature Conservancy reported it has received over $13 million in donations from its affiliate card released by Bank of America. The CREDO Visa card also donates hundreds of thousands of dollars a month to nonprofits like the Rainforest Action Network. So the next time you charge a purchase, think about where you want extra points and dollars to go to help an eco-friendly cause.

Look for Eco-Friendly Investments

You don't have to blindly set-up a "set it and forget it "investment strategy. Instead, you can look to eco-friendly and green investments to save for retirement while you help the environment. The Pattern Energy Group in San Francisco is working to build wind farms, including a 150-megawatt wind farm in Indiana that will sell 100 percent of energy produced to Amazon's Amazon Web Services. You can also work with a financial advisor to identify mutual funds that invest in eco-worthy companies and products that you’re proud to spend your dollars on.

Get a Green Mortgage

If you’re a homeowner, your finances are probably largely tied up in your mortgage, but you can look for ways to green your mortgage while saving on utilities by looking for eco-friendly alternatives. The Federal Housing Administration's Energy Efficient Mortgage Program can help save money and finance expenses to make your home more energy efficient. Ultimately, homeowners save money on utility bills and focus on eco-friendly and cost-effective energy improvements to free up more income for your mortgage.

Don’t let how you handle your money default to autopilot—from how you keep tabs on your financial information to how you invest your money, think about how you can improve the environment as you spend.

Susan Finch is a freelance writer living in Atlanta, and loves helping businesses improve their bottom line with compelling copy that sparks action. When she's not writing, she's traveling with her family and plotting her next creative pursuit.

First Steps Toward Sustainable Living

writing on a notebook

Photo by Getty Images/jcarillet

Statistics about New Year’s resolutions … are not so hopeful. Surveys show that only about 8 to 9 percent of people actually accomplish them. Most will drop them by February. I’ve had my fair share of failed resolutions: writing projects abandoned, workout regiments scrapped, travel plans faded after financial realities reveal themselves. So when I sat down to create my annual collection of resolutions, I didn’t want sustainable living to be on there.

I feel like if I look at this plan as a “resolution,” I might treat it like some of my failed ones and not approach it as seriously or with long-term in mind. That’s why, as we step into this new year with the hope to shrink our ecological footprint, we’re not going to see it as a resolution we’re free to take or leave without consequence. For me, I want to see this as a new way of living that will remain the rest of my life. And because this is a lifetime commitment and not just a one-year goal, I was resolute to take my time, do my research, persevere, and enjoy the journey. No matter what other resolutions you may or may not have, I hope you’re ready to jump into sustainable living with me!

This post is part of my ecological footprint and sustainable living blog series. If you need to catch up, begin with my first post, "Tracking Our Ecological Footprint."

Making Goals

This post is meant to be the stepping stone into more detailed ones for the future. So before we tackle any of the big issues, we’re first going to address exactly how we begin something as big as sustainable living.

The answer to that is: baby steps. At least that’s what I discovered for myself. When I first decided to live more waste-free, I dove into my day and tried to juggle all of the big issues at once. Suddenly, I couldn’t throw anything in the trash, couldn’t eat any meat, had to limit my water usage … And the resulting situation turned stressful because I kept getting stuck trying to check off all these things at once. Some people might not have a problem doing it that way, but for those who need to ease into this, like me, I came up with one way to get started. It’s helpful for me, and hopefully it’s helpful for you, too!

In my own life, planning for things is important. It’s the only way I managed to move out to Kansas for a new job and make it work — by making schedules, lists, and preparing what it would look like in my head. The same goes for shrinking our ecological footprint. It’s almost impossible to expect ourselves to turn everything around in a day, a week, or even a month. And if we do rush it, like other resolutions we try to rush into during the new year, we may find ourselves quitting by February because we’re not prepared.

To begin this preparation process, I sat down and first thought about my goals for living sustainably. I managed to express them in a few measurable points:

1. Limit my meat consumption. To start, meat limited to four meals a week.

2. Reduce my water and electricity usage.

3. Recycle more, waste less. To start, reduce trash to one bag per month.

4. Cut out 80% of food waste by starting a compost and buying less.

Of course, there are many other ways to live sustainably, but these are my beginning goals, and hopefully I’ll continue with more goals as time goes on.

The Strategy

My goals are measurable, in a way, but only if I know where I’m coming from. Before I decide to tackle any of these goals, I first need to record my current lifestyle habits and do some analysis. My planned pattern of approach is to focus on one category at a time, record a week’s worth of current lifestyle habits, research what the environmental impact is, and then make baby steps each week after that to reduce my footprint. Hopefully, as one goal starts to come into focus, I can add another and another, until “juggling” these waste-reducing lifestyles feels more natural.

The first goal that I want to start on is cutting down how much meat I consume. Before I can expect to successfully cut meat, though, I need to understand how much I eat weekly, and what that means environmentally. I decided to create an Excel document that tracks each meal I eat across a day, noting which meals contain meat (this is excluding a vegan diet, so for now dairy and eggs are fair game). When I’ve flagged a meal that has meat, I need to answer a couple questions about that particular meal:

Where did this meat come from? This doesn’t mean what grocery store. It means where, exactly, as much as I can follow it. So if I bought chicken breasts, I might have bought it from Sprout’s Farmers Market, but that chicken might have been shipped in from another state, and if I can track that farm or factory down, what types of processing practices do they use for their meat animals?
Did I eat all of this meat? Silly question, but this ties into food waste. Did I not finish anything, and if so, where did it go: back in the fridge for another meal, in the trash, down the sink?
What are substitutes for this meat? It’s great to say we want to cut out meat, but at least for me, I need to find a direct substitute. That might mean tofu, beans, nuts, cooked in a way to mimic whatever dish I was eating, or transformed into another dish entirely. And it also means being conscious of the location of these substitutes — are they from the farm down the road, or across the country?

They are three simple questions, but they’re meant to get my mind thinking outside the box of how I normally see my meat. If I can track down the source, if I can see how much I eat or waste, if I can see the simple substitution possibilities, it not only educates me, but propels me to positively change how I eat.

This meat consumption sheet is one of several sheets I’ve compiled, all filed under my “Sustainability Tracker” Excel document. It breaks down my goals but also keeps them together in one big master file so I can compare across categories and track my progress. I’ll be recording my trials and errors and my expansion on this first goal for the next few weeks. This first week will just be about recording my current lifestyle, but the following weeks leading up to my next post (due during the second full week of February) will be about changing that lifestyle. And hopefully I’ll have some interesting results to share with you!

Obviously some people are much farther ahead with research and planning than I am when it comes to sustainable living. But for those who are beginners like me, I hope my blog is a source of information and encouragement for you as you start to live differently this year. Be proud of your goals and your growth, and be excited for what things will look like a year from now!

Do you have your sustainability goals lined up for this year? Depending on where we are in life, they are all going to look a little different. The important thing is to start somewhere. The Global Footprint Network has some great pages to help get you thinking about where to begin. After you’ve taken the footprint calculator test, GFN can connect you to some questions and ideas about ways to start shrinking your footprint. In the case of diet and food waste, check out some of their provided information under their Earth Overshoot Day site. It’s one of the first places I look for research and for tracking my sustainability growth, and I'll be using this resource as I progress and make new plans.

Plans for Living Sustainably


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Growing up as a big sister, I relished the perks of having a younger sibling to take under my wing — or in the crook of my arm in a wrestling match. My sister and I grew up inseparable for the most part, but sometimes I liked to push her buttons. One of the best ways to do that was to try to force her to do something she didn’t want to, like eating a new food. Usually I would say something like this:

“Maddie, I think you’d really like this watermelon. You like water, right? And you like melon. So you’d love watermelon!”

After my impressive display of mental tenacity, I would dangle the food in Maddie’s face, at which point she’d turn a threatening red in her cheeks, and a fight wasn’t far behind. Nowadays, my sister is my best friend; we can laugh at those moments — and yes, we both like watermelon. But that conclusion wasn’t reached by me shoving fruit in my sister’s face. It came about after we both had the chance to try it on our own and make our own decisions.

The same, I personally found, goes for something like an ecological footprint. It wasn’t until I made it a personal experience that I could really understand it and make plans to create change — and I encourage you to do the same!

If you’re just tuning in to this blog series, you can find the first part at “Tracking Our Ecological Footprint.”

Earth Overshoot Day

Screenshot from Global Footprint Network

Analyzing the Calculator

Taking the Footprint Calculator test, to me, is a great way to make the topic of sustainable living a personal one instead of just cold numbers floating up there on the internet or in a science textbook. Because the number you see on the screen isn’t the world’s number — it’s your number. It shows what you personally contribute and take away from the planet. And with something personal like that, it has the potential to create a spark in our minds to make changes.

I hadn’t taken the calculator test since college, so I recently went back into Global Footprint Network (GFN) and answered those questions again. Presently, I have about 2.8 planets — better than my college days, but the number can improve. What I was curious about was how to raise and lower that number. What would it take to get to two planets, one planet, less than one? And what was in my ability to change? Those two questions, I found, can unfortunately have two different answers.

Thus began some trials into what it takes to shrink my footprint. The first thing I tried was to see how I could lower my number in ways that was feasible for me right now. I went back in and increased how much I recycled, lowered how much meat I ate, increased how many times I carpooled, scaled back my monthly and annual purchasing estimates …. And even then, I only got down to about 2.5 planets. That was frustrating. I tried a few more trials on the calculator, and I still couldn’t reduce the number to below two.

So I went another route. How could I just get down to one planet, in hypothetical terms? So I re-calculated: This time around, I didn’t eat any meat, didn’t drive a car, only bought local and fresh foods, lived in a free-standing house without electricity or running water, and so on. That time, the number plummeted to 0.3 planets. That was exciting to see, but more so frustrating, because that was describing a living scenario I couldn’t access.

For those of you who have taken the test, you might have noticed that your number of Earths is also accompanied by an “Earth Overshoot Day,” which is an estimated date as to when you would use up a year’s worth of the planet’s resources if everyone lived like you (see image above). Beyond that time, you would be dipping into stocks and creating emissions Earth couldn’t replenish or reduce within that year, hence overshooting and creating an overflow into the next year. That type of living isn’t sustainable.

This brings me to a point that worried me and I’m sure many others: how can we try to live waste-free lives, not overshooting on our resources, when the infrastructure of our society almost seems to be working directly against it? How we commute, how houses are built, where food comes from, what we eat, it’s all built into how we live. It’s hard, albeit at times seemingly impossible, to live any other way. And it makes it even harder to change when our schedules, financial situations, or other societal struggles keep us from living sustainably. And even if we were to reduce our planets to one or below, for some that raises the questions of health and safety. So, now what?


Photo by Karsten Wurth on Unsplash

A New Game Plan

Increasingly, people have been asking those same questions and seeking ways to live sustainably — live, not just survive. As the GFN also makes clear, steps need to be made so that people are not damaging the planet but also not damaging themselves. Countries should help those in need and provide sustainable and healthful means to live, while still honoring different cultures’ ways of life.

So yes, some of the obstacles we may encounter in this challenge may be hard to figure out, but the one thought that stood above the rest when I researched and brainstormed ways to live sustainably … is that it takes time. When shrinking our ecological footprint, sometimes it goes against the grain of what’s quickest or easiest. For example, throwing my banana peel in the trash at work might be the easiest route, but making the walk outside to put it in the compost bin is the greener option. For other things, we may know the more sustainable option but can’t make the change right now. I know an electric or hybrid car is more environmentally friendly than my gas-powered car, but I don’t have the money to make that investment. Perhaps there’s something we can’t do right this very instant, but we can plan for the future. What we drive, where we live, how far we travel…. Those are big questions and big changes, and if that’s a change that happens over time, we need to be patient, keep learning, and keep planning. And I believe that over time we can see those footprints shrink if we plan to make those investments for the future.

But some things we can change right now, so why not do it?

Looking Ahead

For now, start thinking and getting pumped to embrace a new way of living — one that is more waste-free and fulfilling. Make this a personal experience by taking the calculator test. Note where you can start changing how you live. Set aside longer-term points to keep thinking about. This will take some time, but don’t forget to value the journey — and have some fun along the way! We don’t want this to feel forced, like someone trying to make you do something you don’t want to. We want this to be enjoyable, personal, satisfying, and beneficial.

In my next blog post, we will be discussing how we can record our present living habits and then break down some of the main categories in which we can start shrinking our ecological footprint. I’ll also be sharing my personal experiments — some successful … others not so much. In the meantime, send me your questions and comments about living sustainably at jmitchell@ogdenpubs.com. My plan is to cover some of the big topics that come with shrinking our ecological footprint, but I’m learning about this right beside you; questions and comments are welcomed, and it’s always encouraging to see other ways people are living sustainably, too!

I want to jump into different sustainable living tips and experiments, but it’s still very important to stay educated and aware of the facts and changes regarding our ecological footprints and everything connected to it. Be sure to check out the Global Footprint Network, the Environmental Protection Agency, and trustworthy articles like this one from the New York Times to get you started as you prepare to make some changes to help the planet.

Jess currently works as an editor for Mother Earth Living after she packed her bags and moved from her Pennsylvania home to Kansas. When she’s not writing and editing, she loves to snuggle up with a book and a pot of tea, embark on long hikes outdoors, read and study plays, eat too many chocolate-covered banana chips, and binge-watch animated shows and movies. And she still occasionally teases her sister. You can follow Jess on Instagram @jess_mitchell95.

5 Ways to Be More Eco-Conscious Without Drastically Changing Your Lifestyle

Many individuals don’t realize the negative impact that their everyday activities, such as cooking, doing laundry, and running errands, have on the environment. That, combined with the misconceptions surrounding the idea of eco-friendly living (it’s expensive, it’s inconvenient, it’s not my style, etc.) may be holding you back from reducing your carbon footprint.

However, there are several ways to live greener without overhauling your entire lifestyle, and these small adjustments can still make a big difference over time. If you’d like to be a little friendlier to the planet, consider putting the following tips into practice.

chopping onion
Photo by Caroline Atrwood

1. Cook Smarter

An enormous amount of energy is used while cooking. To ensure that you don’t waste energy while you cook, use a microwave instead of an oven when possible, put lids on pots and pans to heat food more quickly, and unplug small appliances when they aren’t in use. When it comes to eating, ditch the disposable dishes, utensils, and napkins and invest in reusable plates, bowls cups, silverware, and cloth napkins to reduce your trash output. You could even consider starting a compost pile to repurpose waste for your garden rather than adding to a landfill.

2. Optimize Your Laundry Routine

Laundry is another huge energy suck. To conserve energy while washing your clothes, wait to wash until you have enough for a full load, avoid using high-temperature settings, clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer, and air-dry clothing when possible. You may also consider switching to natural detergents and stain removers, which are often specifically formulated to perform well in cold water.

rustic pendant lights
Photo by Kari Shea

3. Be Conscious of Electricity Usage

Electricity usage can greatly increase the size of an individual’s eco-footprint. Take care to turn out the lights when you leave a room and replace your current bulbs with LED lights when they burn out. If you live in a deregulated market and have the option to choose your utility provider, select a company that generates energy from renewable sources. If you don’t live in a deregulated market, consider investing in or leasing a solar energy system to offset your electricity use.

4. Reduce Water Waste

Overusing water in your home means that you’re wasting the energy-intensive process of filtration. You can be more eco-friendly by taking shorter showers, installing a low-flow showerhead, turning off the water while you brush your teeth, waiting to run your dishwasher until you have a full load, being careful not to overwater your lawn and garden, and cutting back on bottled water purchases. If you live in an area where tap water isn’t the tastiest, you may want to consider investing in a water filter to purify it.

grocery carts in parking lot
Photo by Clark Young

5. Run Errands More Efficiently

Going out and about to run errands can have a significant effect on the environment. To lessen this impact, combine multiple errands into one trip, bring your own reusable shopping bags from home, and take stairs instead of the elevator when possible. Avoid excess packaging by purchasing local and buying in bulk, and recycle packaging whenever possible.

A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on BestCompany.com. You can also find her work on Twitter.