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22 ways to be more eco-friendly

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Please note: this is a non-profit article. No compensations are acquired from promoting the below brands and products.

The Great Barrier Reef is dying, the polar caps are melting, the ocean is full of plastic, animals are going extinct, and we will eventually run out of natural ressources.

From deforestation to purchasing a product in-store, many human activities impact the health of the planet. We live in a time where we're continuously busy and rushing, and convenience is often beneficial for our lifestyles. Bottles of water when you're on the run, single-use plastic coffee pods for when you sleep in a tad too late, plastic grocery bags because they're slightly cheaper to produce... these are three of thousands of examples that increase our ecological and carbon footprint; they make our everyday lives easier but, it takes a toll on our oceans, wildlife, air, soil, and health.

What's the difference between carbon footprint and ecological footprint?

An ecological footprint compares the number of natural resources a person or community consumes with how fast nature can replenish those resources. A carbon footprint takes into consideration one's ecological footprint but focuses on the greenhouse gases during human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Why should I reduce my carbon footprint?

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and four other gases (listed below) are known as greenhouse gases. These trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, the same way a greenhouse traps in warm air. To create a visual, imagine being all snuggled up into a nice, warm blanket. You're trapping in heat and preventing it from escaping and this is the same case for greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases absorb heat from sun rays but trap heat and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere. This causes the temperature of the planet to rise- the more greenhouse gases emitted, the higher the temperature rises.

Here is a list of greenhouse gases:

  • Carbon dioxide

  • Methane

  • Nitrous oxide

  • Sulphur hexafluoride

  • Perfluorocarbons

  • Hydrofluorocarbons

  • Nitrogen trifluoride

Did you know we need the greenhouse effect in order to live on Earth? Thanks to the Earth being able to trap in warm air, we can grow food and live life as we know it. In other words, the planet's greenhouse effect is how we're able to sustain life on Earth. If there were no greenhouse effect, the planet's average temperature would be a chilly -18°C (0°F).

Unfortunately, humans have amplified the greenhouse effect and have released an astronomical amount of gases. The temperature of the planet has now risen above its normal 15°C - a temperature humans have never experienced before. These greenhouse gases mainly derive from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and intensive agriculture.

This global human-induced greenhouse has resulted in worldwide climate change that is causing a rise in sea levels, ocean acidification, heavy rains, and storms. It's also causing more natural disasters, wildfires, extinction of animal species, and permafrost melting.

Pexels: @jplenio

Why should I reduce my ecological footprint?

A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states we have destroyed more than one-third of the Earth's natural resources in only thirty years. We're consuming more quickly than we're replenishing ressources. By 2030, we will need the equivalent of two planets to provide the ressources for our consumption. Nature is having an extremely difficult time keeping up with our demands. It's up to us to help it.

Little changes can have big impacts. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), if every person in the United States dedicated one day per week to a vegetarian diet, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road. This would cut down carbon emissions by 4.5 percent (in the US alone)!

How can I be more eco-friendly?

There are reusable alternatives to nearly every single-use product you can purchase. Not only are reusable options better for the environment, but they're also better for your bank account. That parchment paper you keep having to buy because you run out every few weeks? You won't have to keep spending money on that if you invest in a reusable silicone baking sheet!

Here are quick and easy ways to reduce your environmental impact:

1. Decrease your water consumption

While reducing your water consumption helps conserve water, it also helps preserve the environment. Using a smaller amount of water results in less energy spent on delivering it to homes, businesses, farms, communities, and more.

Take shorter showers

Cutting down your shower time by only two minutes can help save approximately 3,650 gallons of water yearly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if each U.S. resident decreased their shower time by one minute, it would save roughly 250,000 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of water per year!

Invest in a low-flow showerhead Did you know that a standard showerhead delivers between 5 and 8 gallons of water per minute? A low-flow showerhead only uses between 1.6-2.5 gallons of water per minute, making it a very eco-friendly option. These can be purchased at the hardware store, or even online.

Turn off the faucet While the Earth is made up of 70% water, only 0.3% of it is available for human consumption. The rest is in oceans, glaciers, soil, and floating in the atmosphere. Turning off the faucet when you can is another fantastic way to reduce your water demand and conserve this vital natural resource.

Turn off the faucet when you are:

  • Shaving

  • Brushing your teeth

  • Lathering up with soap in the shower

  • Washing your hands

  • Washing dishes

1. Be mindful when grocery shopping

There are many ways you can be more eco-friendly when grocery shopping. A reminder is to avoid packaging, especially plastic, as much as you can. The goal is to reduce waste!

Bring your own reusable produce and grocery bags

Reusable bags have become more and more common, but not common enough. A plastic grocery bag is used for an average of twelve minutes before it's thrown away. It then sits in a landfill or floats in oceans for hundreds of years. What's even worst is that they break down into microplastics, which have dire consequences for marine life.

Regardless of if you place your produce in a plastic bag, you're going to have to wash it. Supermarket produce ranks as one of the dirtiest surfaces in 12 places you go all the time. Fruits and vegetables have already been touched by numerous hands including farmers, warehouse workers, grocery store staff members, and other consumers. It's also been in contact with conveyer belts, boxes, and other surfaces.

Pexels: @cottonbro

With that being said, skip the plastic produce bags! Some great alternatives are to place your produce directly in your cart or to invest in cotton or mesh reusable produce bags. Once you get home, let your produce soak in a clean sink with a veggie wash or lukewarm water and vinegar for 15-20 minutes. This will help remove dirt, germs, and other possible pathogens.

Choose glass jars instead of plastic jars

Some companies offer sustainable packaging for their products. Food products in glass containers can more often be found in the health food section of the grocery store, or in a health food store. Have a browse, you'd be surprised! What's great about glass jars is that once the product is finished, you can wash and reuse it for your personal goods, including bulk food shopping.

Purchase bulk items instead of pre-packaged items

Buying bulk is more cost-effective and, when you bring in your own jars, it's extremely eco-friendly. The price of packaged foods includes a cost to cover the packaging while bulk items do not. You're simply paying for the product. Many grocery stores and health food stores offer a bulk foods section. Another option is to source out a bulk foods shop in your area.

3. Switch your personal care products to eco-friendly ones

Personal care products can be terrible for the environment in different ways. If your products are unnatural and filled with chemicals, preservatives, and additives, they're creating toxicity in the air, soil, and water. If it's packaged in unsustainable packaging such as plastic, it's contributing to the world's plastic crisis.

Pexels: @karolina-grabowska

Most, if not all, of your personal care products, have an eco-friendly option. Instead of toxic and unsustainable products, switch to:

4. Reduce electricity usage

Decreasing your energy consumption decreases the number of toxic fumes released by power plants. It reduces your ecological footprint by conserving natural resources.

Turn off or unplug objects when not in use

Even when not in use, your objects are still using electricity. For example, that constantly lit-up light on your coffee machine is continuously generating power. Some easy items to unplug when not in-use are small appliances like your toaster, juicer, coffee machine, and blender. Consider also unplugging chargers when you aren't using them.

Turn off lights

We have this wonderful, natural, and free powerful source of light called the sun! When not necessary, turn off the lights in your home and use natural light instead. Natural light has also been proven to enhance your mood, energy, productivity, and health.

Lower the thermostat by 2 degrees

This is a great way to help save energy, money, and the environment. the World Wildlife Fund recommends setting your thermostat to 68°F while you're at home and lowering it when you're away. As well as reducing your ecological footprint, this action will help you save 5-15% on your annual electricity bill.

5. Reduce your meat consumption

Because cows generate methane through their digestion and waste, the beef and dairy industry is one of the top contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are also released during animal agriculture. Practices contributing to the release of these gases include high-energy feed, fueling factory farms, processing and packaging, deforestation, feed crop cultivation, and desertification.

Great steps to cease or reduce your consumption of animal products are:

  • Choose a minimum of 1 day per week that is plant-based

  • Have fun and get creative with whole foods

  • Shop for healthy meat alternatives

  • Switch up your takeout to be from a plant-based restaurant

6. Eco-friendly laundry

Use cold water

Did you know that 80-90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes into heating the water? To decrease this outrageous and unnecessary energy consumption, simply use cold water or, if your machine has it, the "eco" mode.

Use non-toxic detergent

To decrease the number of chemicals that enter waterways, use natural and non-toxic laundry detergent. To be even more environmentally-friendly, did you know there is such thing as laundry detergent sheets? Using laundry sheets as oppose to detergent in a bottle eliminates that plastic waste caused by the bottle. Hello Good Juju makes wonderful laundry detergent sheets that are safe on all machines including HE, as well as safe for hand-washing and septic systems. Each sheet contains the necessary amount of soap for one load and it dissolves completely in both hot and cold water, with no residue! With these, you can also say goodbye to bulky detergent bottles taking up too much space. They're worth checking out!

Natural detergent is also much better for your clothes. It helps reduce the wear and tear of fibres, decreases colour fading, keeping your clothes looking newer for longer.

Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets

Your best option is to air-dry your clothes. If you're unable to, instead of using dryer sheets, make the switch to dryer balls. These will reduce the amount of time it takes for your clothes to dry, saving you energy and money. They also help reduce static, something dryer sheets cannot. On average, dryer balls last about 1000 loads (2-3 years).

7. Eco-friendly kitchen essentials

Remember: the goal is to decrease your ecological and carbon footprint. Fabricating items requires energy and resources. The more items purchased, the more natural resources required. While reusable items are great because they last for an extremely long time, single-use and disposable items can cause an excessive amount of waste.

Kitchen items are big contributors to our global waste problem. Some eco-friendly kitchen essentials you can make the switch to are:

8. Compost - recycle - upcycle

Compost food scraps

When food is thrown in the trash, it ends up accumulating in landfills. Once in landfills and squished between hundreds of other products with no oxygen present, the food starts to rot and release methane- a greenhouse gas. Approximately one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste.

Recycle responsibly

Getting to know the recycling rules in your area reduces waste in landfills and greenhouse gas emissions. Each region has its own set of recycling rules depending on the way its recycling facilities operate. Plastic Action Centre published that Canadians only recycle 9% of plastic waste. This is causing harm to oceans, wildlife, nature, and even our health. Are you recycling responsibly?


Upcycling involves creatively reusing and modifying items, such as old broken ones, to fabricate something new. This decreases the amount of waste as well as reduces the need for producing new items. You can upcycle absolutely anything, including clothes and furniture!

9. Choose sustainable fashion instead of fast fashion

Pexels: @mart-production

According the the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emission, which is more than all the international flights and maritime shipping combined. Agriculture machines, emissions from transport, oil-based pesticides, and pumping water to arrogate crops such as cotton contribute to an excessive amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Ways to avoid fast fashion are to:

  • Thrift or choose second-hand

  • Buy natural and / or organic materials

  • Purchase local

  • Take care of your clothes

10. Avoid plastic objects and packaging

Every single plastic packaging, object, or material that has ever been created still exists today and will reside in landfills and oceans for over 500 years.

A great start to decreasing your plastic waste is to make the switch to reusable products, such as:

Instagram: @olabamboo

11. Support local

When supporting local, the transit time from the manufacturer to the consumer is often much shorter. Do you know where your oranges come from? What about that t-shirt you purchased from a big box store? In most cases, foods, clothing items, toys, and furniture travels from a different country before it's placed on a shelf for purchase. This results in more greenhouse gases emitted, which we're trying to avoid.

Local businesses often partner up with local companies. This means you're likely supporting items farmed and created in your own country, rather than unethically mass-produced in another. Plus, local shops are unique and fun!

12. Think before spending

Thinking before purchasing an item can be just as great for your bank account as it can be an environmentally-friendly tactic. Appreciate what you have rather than thinking about what you want next and, prolonging the life of your items by taking care of them will reduce the need to purchase new items.

Questions to ask yourself when shopping:

  • Do I need this?

  • Do I only want this because it's on sale?

  • Is this an impulsive purchase?

  • Do I already have something similar?

13. Non-toxic sustainable cleaning

Most household cleaning products contain several harmful chemicals for both your health and the environment. Cleaning your home with natural cleaning products will provide better water and air quality, impacting the environment much less.

Did you know that nature provides us with all-natural and non-toxic solutions? Lavender, bamboo, eucalyptus, oregano, mint, coconut, and more plants / herbs all have cleaning superpowers! Whether they have antimicrobial properties, mold-fighting agents, disinfectants, or deodorizer abilities, natural plant cleaning products can effectively clean your home. Thanks nature!

Make the switch to:

Instagram: @cheeksahoyhandmade

14. Donate

Instead of throwing out your clothes or items in your home, donate them! While decreasing waste in landfills, something you once loved can have the chance to be loved by someone else. Donating is a great way to help your community as not everyone is able (or wants to) shop for brand new items. When there is less demand for new items, less energy is put into manufacturing them. This means fewer natural resources used, woohoo!

15. Shop from a refill store

Refilleries, or zero-waste shops, are becoming more and more popular. With the goal of reducing waste and cleaning up the planet, refilleries offer zero-waste alternatives to hundreds of products.

Kitchen essentials and personal care products, biodegradable phone cases and sunglasses, non-toxic and zero-waste cleaning solutions, natural and refillable deodorant, bulk foods and soaps and lotions, reusable paper towels and silicone muffin cups... the list goes on! With a refill store nearby, you can easily turn your lifestyle around to a super eco-friendly one.

16. If you want leather or wool, buy second-hand

It's no secret that fur, wool, mohair, angora, leather, and silk have unethical effects on animal welfare but, did you know the production of these products is also terrible for the environment? According to Peta, animal-derived leather and wool are twice as dangerous to the environment as polyurethane and polyester (types of plastic).

17. Consider sustainable transport methods

There's a big, negative impact on the environment when too many vehicles are on the road. They emit greenhouse gases into the air, contributing to our climate change problem.

To reduce your carbon footprint, consider the following transportation methods:

  • Bicycle

  • Scooter

  • Green / electric car

  • Walking

  • Public transportation (bus, subway, tram, etc.)

  • Carpooling

18. Wrap gifts consciously

Wrapping paper is another culprit for a high amount of greenhouse gases emitted worldwide. When in landfills, it releases methane. A piece of paper (coated in plastic) that is used for a short amount of time ends up causing long-term harm to the planet.

Eco-friendly gift wrapping can be easy, fun, and cost-effective. It also makes for a more thoughtful gift!

Pexels: @gabby-k

Sustainable gift-wrapping ideas:

  • Invest in sustainable gift bags or boxes that can be re-used for many years

  • Use newspaper or old magazines instead of wrapping paper

  • Use textiles and ribbons (these can also be re-used)

  • Purchase cards from a paper shop for plastic-free cards (or make your own)

  • Decorate gifts with trimmings of plants and flowers

Don't be afraid to get creative!

19. Eco-friendly menstrual products

The majority of us have become comfortable with conventional ways to handle our monthly flow: tampons and pads. Have you ever thought about the impact of these products?

Organi Cup published that an individual goes through roughly 11,000 disposable pads and/or tampons throughout their lifetime. Now, multiply that by the number of women on the planet. In 2010, a beach clean-up in the UK came across an average of 23 pads and 9 tampon applicators per kilometre of the British coastline. In the US alone, 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 million tampons pollute landfills annually.

Cotton is a crop that requires a lot of water. That alone uses an enormous amount of energy, depleting the world even more of its natural resources. To put this into perspective, one small bud of cotton requires nearly 4 litres of water to grow.

Cotton aside, pads are made up of 90% plastic, meaning they will reside and keep accumulating in landfills and oceans over 500 years. Tampons contain chemicals like dioxin, chlorine, and rayon- these get soaked up by the earth and end up polluting waterways, soil, and the air.

For the sake of the environment (and your health), consider making the switch to:

Pexels: @shkrabaanthony

20. The 7 R's

Following the 7 R's is a fantastic way to rethink your use of natural resources. It's important to understand that natural resources are limited, therefore, we must preserve them.

  1. Rethink how you view natural resources as every choice you make has an impact

  2. Refuse to support products and companies that pose a threat to the environment

  3. Reduce the number of resources in your everyday life (water usage, energy, overall waste, etc.)

  4. Reuse products and items that you already have

  5. Repair items that no longer work or are broken

  6. Recycle responsibly: look into your town's recycling program to ensure you're recycling properly

  7. Rot, or in other words, compost!

21. Don't waste food

In Canadian households, 2.2 million tonnes of food is wasted yearly, costing Canadians $17 billion. The energy it takes to grow and cultivate food, process it in warehouses, and manufacture it into packaged foods releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and depletes the earth of natural resources. When food is thrown into landfills rather than composted, it releases methane, contributing to climate change.

Tips to stop wasting food:

  • Eat your leftovers rather than throwing them away

  • Plan your meals in advance and only purchase the items you will need

  • Check the "use by" dates of fresh foods before you purchase them

  • Freeze foods you think may go bad before you have the time to eat them

22. Plant trees

Don't worry, if you don't have the time nor the land to plant trees yourself, you can still plant trees!

Non-profit organizations like Trees For the Future plant trees on your behalf when you donate. Your donation has a direct impact on communities and the Earth and empowers farmers to help end poverty.

Trees can capture carbon and other greenhouse gases, creating a positive impact on the environment. Trees also restore biodiversity, bringing back animal and insect life to land and soil. Trees provide food to communities and offer work and income to farmers who suffer from poverty.

A big or small donation goes a long way for those in need.

Are you ready to live an eco-friendly lifestyle?

Don't be afraid to educate and influence wherever and whenever you can. Visit your local refillery and bring some friends along with you. Share with your family members your knowledge on our air pollution nightmare, and follow sustainable organizations on social media and share their posts. These are few of many ways you can help spread awareness about the environmental crisis we have caused.

Switching to environmentally-friendly habits may be not-so-perfect and overwhelming at first, but you will soon get the hang of it. The trick is to go at your own pace. Replace your products with eco-friendly and non-toxic options as they run out rather than tossing everything into the trash and purchasing a whole bunch of new products at once.

Tweak your mindset and your lifestyle habits, and share your wins with others. Everyone's zero-waste journey is different and it doesn't happen overnight. If you prefer to try a little-waste lifestyle rather than a zero-waste one, that's wonderful too! Small actions add up, and it's one more step towards a greener future.

"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." -Jane Goodall

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