Easy Ways to Have A Lower Impact Home
Over the past few years, I have tried to create a lower impact home. If you are wondering what the term “lower impact” means (no, it is not referring to water aerobics), it just means that something has a lower impact on climate change compared to other more popular alternatives. Trial and error led many of my sustainable efforts to be thrown to the wind. However, a few of my experiments worked out and are now staples in our home.
The ideas I share below help reduce my contribution to climate change while also helping shift consumer demand towards more sustainable goods. (If you are looking for another big-impact way to shape carbon policy, check out post on a 5 minute way you can fight climate change.) Some days, it feels good to make changes in an area I have control over, because global climate change can be a daunting problem to tackle on a week day afternoon.
So, here are some of my favorite swaps. Nothing is sponsored, just solid products I rely on and wanted to share. If you have more low impact home ideas, please comment!
This Leaping Bunny Certified laundry detergent linked here from The Good Fill, avoids the carbon footprint of hauling heavy liquid based detergents around. It is also packaged in a compostable bag, reducing waste at home.
I substitute wool dryer balls for dryer sheets for my laundry. They are reusable, don’t leach chemicals (for those of us with sensitive skin), lower drying time (cutting energy requirements), and are compostable at end of life (I have been using mine for 2 years and they are still going strong).
Paper towels require tons of water, energy and trees to produce. By using cloth towels again and again (and making them from clothes and linens on their last leg), I cut back on my impact on the earth. If you do use recycled paper towels though, don’t forget you can compost them!
By composting my leftover bits and scraps, I let them decompose aerobically. This means they release CO2 instead of methane, which is produced when food decomposes anaerobically in a landfill. Why does this matter? Methane is a significantly more potent green house gas, meaning it traps more energy in our atmosphere contributing to climate change at a faster rate than CO2 .
Since I live in Chicago, I compost through a service that picks up my compost every couple of weeks. When I had a bit of land, I was able to do it in my backyard. A little web research should help you find opportunities in your area for composting.
Beeswax wraps are an easy swap for plastic wrap and tin foil (which we were using a lot of before). You just warm the wrap in your hand to shape it around bowls, fruits and veggies, muffins, or whatever you need to store. I make my own wraps on the cheap (you can find instructions in my post) and they are readily available for purchase as well.
This Leaping Bunny Certified dish detergent only takes 1 tablespoon of powder for a whole load. It comes in a compostable bag and is affordable! A total victory in my book.
Cut down on junk mail
If you are in the US, you can add your name to the Do Not Mail list to fight the onslaught of undesired mail. I tried many junk mail apps that didn’t work, but after I added my name to that list, I saw a big reduction. It takes 1 minute to fill out the form and then your mailbox can live a happy, low-mail life.
Recycled or Non-tree Printing Paper
I try to stay as paperless as possible. However there are times in everyone’s life when you have to print labels, confirmation emails, make copies, etc. and you need paper. So for when your occasional printing need arises, opt for using recycled printer paper (readily available) or paper made from sugar cane.
I have also cut down on my need for paper copies for work and in my own life with the Genius Scan app. It is a free way to make an electronic PDF copy of documents, passports, or whatever you need! I am able to store copies of documents securely in the cloud without toting around folders of paper now.
By picking recycled toilet paper over non-recycled, you reduce logging, protect endangered species, use 1/4 the water, and avoid harvesting thousands of acres of forests. This all reduces the impact on climate change and ocean acidification . As an added bonus, the company Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits to build toilets in the developing world (as a public health fanatic, that is a HUGE plus for me). If you want to try them out, my referral link should score you $10 off your first box.
Bidets use significantly less water than what is required to produce toilet paper. They also avoid the deforestation and energy required to produce toilet paper . I was overjoyed to get my Tushy bidet for my last birthday (because that is every woman’s birthday wish) and successfully installed it myself in 10 minutes. It is easily removable too for all you fellow renters. And if you doubters need a more humorous path to be convinced, I highly recommend this video.
I use reusable rounds instead of cotton balls for removing makeup, toning my face, etc. Cotton requires a ton of water and pesticides to grow, so this is an easy way to cut down on demand. I do still use cotton balls for removing nail polish, but a couple a month is way better than a couple a day!