When it comes to general sustainability, odds are you’re guilty of a few infractions. Maybe you keep the water running while brushing your teeth, or maybe you’re addicted to shopping at fast-fashion stores for things you don’t really want or need. Whatever the case, you’re not alone—we all do it. The good news is that there are plenty of easy, practical habits you can adopt that’ll make a serious impact on the planet without drastically changing your lifestyle.
Here, we’ve compiled 25 simple, clever, and just plain useful tips that any lazy activist can use to do their part!
1. Take a fast fashion break. As difficult as it may be, try taking a hiatus from fast fashion for a few months and consider investing in organic and/or sustainable garments. Elizabeth L. Cline, the author of last year’s buzzy book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” keeps a running list of stylish sustainable and ethical retailers on her website, which is a good place to start.
2. Easy ways to cut down on water use: turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth; only wash full loads of laundry (in cold water—it saves energy); start to drink tap water instead of bottled; try washing dishes by hand a few days a week; scrape rather than rinse dishes before loading into the dishwasher; keep a pitcher of water in the fridge as opposed to letting the faucet run until it’s cold.
3. Ditch the coffee stirrer. According to 50 Ways to Help, Americans toss 138 billion straws and stirrers yearly. A clever alternative: put your sugar and milk in first, and then pour in the coffee, and it should be well mixed. Determined to stir your brewed-at-home coffee? Break off a piece of pasta from the cupboard. After you use it, you can dissolve it in water, or throw it away with less guilt.
4. Repair your shoes and clothes. Instead of tossing worn-in shoes, take them to a shoemaker to get them cleaned up, resoled, re-dyed, or re-heeled. Same goes for clothes—a good tailor can repair almost anything.
5. Check out Greenpeace’s Detox Fashion Manifesto. Here’s something you might want to sign as a show of support for the organization’s Detox initiative, which urges consumers to challenge brands and demand that they create fashion free of toxins. (The good news: a number of companies, including H&M and British retailer Marks & Spencer are already at work pioneering green chemistry, and phasing out some majorly harmful substances).
6. Get moving. Once the weather gets nice, commit to walking or biking to a destination at least once a week.
7. A no-brainier: Simply shut off all the lights before you leave in the morning, and unplug electrical equipment that you aren’t using during the day and while you sleep—especially your work and home computers.
8. Need to give a gift? Create unique wrapping by using glossy magazines you already have, newspaper, or brown paper grocery bags. Not only is this method environmentally friendly, but it looks way cooler than store-bought generic paper.
9. Not ready to go vegetarian? Try commiting to a meat-free diet one or two days a week to decrease the resources you use up. According to worldwildlife.org, it takes about 750 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of wheat, and it takes 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef. That’s a huge difference.
10. Start keeping your calendar digitally. It uses less paper. At work, instead of Post-it notes, try using your Smartphone’s many reminder or list-making apps.
11. Replace your lightbulbs! If every household in the United State replaced one regular lightbulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road, according to 50 Ways to Help.
12. Try buying food from local farmers or farmers’ markets at least once a month. This reduces the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.
13. Adjust the thermostat. Go a few degrees higher in the summer and a few degrees lower in the winter.
14. Invest in a reusable cup for your morning coffee, and one for the water you sip throughout the day. Same goes for bringing your own reusable grocery bag or tote to the supermarket.
15. Donate all your unwanted clothes, and consider buying secondhand for big-ticket items like bikes, stereos, computers, TVs, or other large purchases. Craigslist and Freecycle are good place to start.
16. No more wire hangers (sort of.) Since wire hangers aren’t viable for all recycling programs, ask your dry cleaner to take them back when you’re done.
17. Pay all your bills online. It’s so easy to sign up for paperless billing!
18. Look into the Slow Fashion movement. This was originally intended to reject all mass-produced fashion, but has since evolved and can be practiced by buying trend-free quality garments that will last longer and can be repairable. Of course, it also might not hurt to start implementing the movement’s biggest precept: buy fewer clothes, and less often.
19. Pour a dash of vodka into vase water. This extends the life of your flowers and plants.
20. Consider replacing your shower head with a low-flow version. It saves water, and today’s versions offer just as much pressure.