A couple of weeks ago, while my cousin Josh and I were out grabbing a couple of coffees in two of my many reusable coffee cups, we got talking about sustainability and how we’re both consciously trying to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I haven’t been a complete slacker in the environmental department but there is definitely way more I could be doing. So, slowly but surely, I’m changing some habits in an effort to lower my impact on Mother Earth.

In the last year or so, I’ve really gone off shopping. Accumulating things has started to feel crass. However, there’s still a part of me that likes to shop. (There’s just something irresistible about shiny new stuff!) To reconcile these two perspectives, I’m trying to get most (not all) of my retail therapy by spending money on things that make me happy without compromising the greater good.

Already an environmental trailblazer?

If so, hats off to you and carry on! In fact, hats off to anyone for any actions taken in this regard. If you are like me, though, and you’ve been doing the bare minimum – you know, a bit of recycling, re-purposing and composting but not a whole lot more – keep reading for easy steps towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

When certain parts of your lifestyle work against the environment, it’s easy to think, why bother making itty bitty changes? If I’m going to keep using Nespresso pods and drive my car when I could ride my bike, are my actions really that meaningful? I believe so, yes.

I know my coffee machine creates waste but here’s the thing; I could use that machine AND stick to the eco-un-friendly alternatives of the items below, OR I can keep using it and make 10 small changes that offset its impact, and then some. Furthermore, the wee changes I make may encourage others to do the same. Further-further-more, once these changes have become second nature to me, chances are good that I’ll introduce some new ones — like reserve my Nespresso machine for special occasions (or let it go altogether – eek!), or maybe take my bike out of the shed (maybe), or use rags instead of toilet paper (never).

– Wanna up your eco game? Check out the Package Free Shop –

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Change begins with me – and you.

So, here you have’em. A few of the purchases I’ve made to support a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Some I picked up in my neighbourhood; some I bought online. While I always look local first and suggest you do the same, I realize that living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is easier when you’re just a few clicks away, so wherever possible I’ve included Amazon links to all of the products (not necessarily the brands) that I talk about below.

1. Reusable metal straws

You can pick up a pack of eight reusable metal straws for as little as $9.99 online. I don’t use them myself but my teenager has always been partial to drinking through one for whatever reason. I’ll be honest, she found the sensation a bit weird to begin with. They’re cold and hard and they clink against your teeth. That said, she’s down with leading a more eco-friendly lifestyle and has made the switch. Bye-bye plastic.

2. Collapsible silicone coffee cup

As mentioned earlier, I have more than a handful of eco-friendly travel cups. Some are more ‘comfortable’ than others. Some fit in the cupholder of my car, some don’t. One is purple with stick-on crystals. What I found, however, was that I’d head out with no intention of grabbing a coffee, and then 3 pm hits and I’m forced to grab a coffee in a paper cup. Enter Stojo and the marvellous collapsible silicone coffee cup.

This eco-cup folds up so small, I can throw it in any purse and always have it on hand, just in case I need a caffeine hit. Since buying this cup in mid-November while visiting the UK, I have not purchased a single cup of coffee in a paper cup. Winning!

P.S. I also now keep a couple of regular reusable cups in my car for spontaneous ‘grab and gab’ coffee outings with friends.

3. Foldable shopping bags

My husband shops a lot and often comes home with heavy-duty reusable bags. The problem is, these bags are bulky so I don’t tend to take them with me when I’m out for a stroll.  Consequently, spontaneous grocery visits were resulting in me bringing home plastic bag after plastic bag. Even though I repurpose these in my trash can, eventually supply outweighs demand and I’m forced to recycle a bunch. So, I bought myself some reusable shopping bags. They fold up nicely. I carry a couple in my purse at all times and leave a few by the front door for when I know I’m off to do a heavy shop. Since buying them, I haven’t come home with a single plastic bag – not even the little ones you put your fresh fruit and veg in (keep reading).

P.S. In hindsight, I’m thinking string shopping bags would have been a more sustainable option. (I’m pretty sure mine are nylon.) Still, they’re strong, carrots don’t poke through the holes, and any positive change is better than no change.

4. Reusable mesh produce bags

Yep. I got myself a few of those, too. The produce bags I bought are super lightweight and come in a little zip-lock bag so they stay nice and organized in my purse.

On the subject of produce, I’m also shopping a little more consciously. Sometimes you just want what you want or need what you need. For example, my daughter is allergic to most fruit other than berries. Unfortunately, berries come from far and away this time of year and they’re usually shipped in clamshell containers which I HATE, but the girl gets whatever fruit the girl will eat. On the flipside, when I was looking for veg for a stirfry last week, I picked up some broccoli instead of sugar snap peas. Sure, the latter would have been nice but I decided to opt for the veg that came with a single, reusable rubber band, rather than a polystyrene foam tray. Remember, we always have choices.

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5. Dryer balls

These positively delight me and positively annoy my husband. And they show up in all kinds of surprising places after laundry day! Shop around for a good deal, because prices really vary. I found this 6-pack of wool dryer balls online (for half the price they were at a local store).

One thing to keep in mind with these: besides eliminating the waste of dryer sheets, they supposedly shorten drying time. So, if you want to give the planet maximum benefit, check the settings on your dryer. Mine defaults to 40 minutes. Now that I’m using these, I manually set the dryer time to 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the load, and then check back to see if my clothing needs an extra blast.

6. Non-stick baking mats — not only for bakers!

I rarely bake, but I roast veg a lot. To ease up on clean-up, I got myself into the habit of laying aluminium foil on my trays before roasting. Guilt finally got the better of me, so I picked up a few silicone baking mats. They’re dishwasher friendly, which is a huge win for the lazy (me!), and when they do get really mucky, they’re still relatively easy to clean. Game changer!

7. Vintage clothing

Hey, so I picked up four cool pieces of clothing at a vintage store. Actually, I didn’t. I went shopping at the local thrift store and not because I’m thrifty. I just felt like adding a few fresh pieces to my wardrobe without compromising my objective to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I found four great items: a cute mini dress from a Spanish designer, a pink cashmere cardigan, a wool skirt from a brand they carry at Anthropology, and a holey black top my daughter will probably steal from me soon. Total bill: $38. If and when I get tired of them, they can go right back where they came from and that feels good.

– Michelle Butterfield shares 26 thrift store shopping tips

8. Mason jars

I just stocked up on a dozen of these and plan to grab some more so that I can stop buying beans, grains, flour, spices etc. in plastic bags and start taking advantage of my local bulk store. Hindsight is 20/20. I’m wishing now that I’d saved all those spaghetti sauce jars I recycled but I didn’t. Still, there will no doubt be more and I’ll be setting them aside for this purpose. Tip: A friend of mine recommended getting wide-mouth mason jars. They make filling and scooping a whole lot easier. Smart!

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9. Multi-purpose liquid soap

This summer I discovered Dr. Bronner’s. They have an insane range of yummy fragrant soaps that can be used for your face and body, rinsing fruit and veg, washing the dishes, and all-purpose household cleaning – windows, floor, toilets, etc. Personally, I’m nuts about their Organic Almond Oil 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap Liquid. It’s 100% vegan and biodegradable, and the packaging is made from recycled materials. Plus, because it’s so concentrated, one bottle will last you for ages. Dilute with water and keep a dispenser in the shower, by the kitchen sink, in your cleaning caddy, etc.

10. Beauty products

I’ve saved the best for last! Like I said earlier, sometimes I just want to splash some cash for the pure and shallow sake of spending, without accumulating stuff I really don’t need. A few months ago, I discovered Pure + Simple’s natural skincare products. They’re a sustainable company with a bottle return program that uses everything-free products (no parabens, petrochemicals, silicones, sulfates, dyes,  etc.). They also do amazing facials that leaving me feeling all floaty and pretty, and more satisfied than I do after a trip to the mall. Side note: I’ve also switched to Tom’s toothpaste because they have a greater environmental conscience than my previous brand. It tasted pretty blah at first, but I quickly became accustomed. Yep, I’m that adaptable.

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What small steps are you taking to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

The small changes I’ve talked about are just a spit in the bucket and I definitely plan to make more in the coming weeks and months. So please, let me and other readers know what wee gestures you’re making towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle so that we can follow your lead.

Viv for today xo

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