More than a year ago, my boyfriend and I downsized from a two-bedroom apartment to a 140-square-foot camper trailer. We had always thought of ourselves as environmentally conscious people, but after a few weeks living in a small space, we realized that we could start making a difference by taking eco-friendly steps to reflect that. You may think that you are just one person, but everyone plays a role in preserving our planet.
1. Reduce Water Use
Did you know that each time you wash your clothes, you are using around 40 gallons? Or that the shower you just took might have used around 17 gallons? There are more than 100 ways to conserve water, but you can start by going longer between laundry days, taking fewer or shorter showers and turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
2. Be Your Own Chef
It can be discouraging when you open the fridge and see a bunch of vegetables that are going to spoil if you don’t use them soon. Instead of throwing them away, try tossing them into a salad or using them in a soup or stew. If you are eating a whole chicken, save the bones when you’re finished and make your own version of bone broth. If you want to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store, make of list of things you eat and see if you can grow them in your backyard.
3. BYOC: Bring Your Own Container
The EPA says we generate about 80 million tons of waste from packaging and containers every year. Don’t believe them? Take a look at your recycling and trash. Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce the amount of packaging that is going into landfills. Bring your own containers (mason jars work great) and fill up on the items you need. Download the app Bulk to help find stores with package-free aisles. And when you go out to eat, instead of asking for a to-go box, bring your own container instead.
4. Compost Your Trash
When you were looking at your trash to see how much packaging you used, did you also notice all the food waste you’re throwing away? Apple cores, eggshells and banana peels are all examples of food waste that can be composted. You can also replace your toilet with a composting one. Composting not only helps eliminate waste, it also turns your waste into a useful product that you can use in your garden. Here’s some ways to get started.
5. Eco-Friendly Toiletries
You can make some of the products you use on a daily basis from items that are, most likely, already in your kitchen. Besides saving money, you are also controlling what goes on your skin. If you’re not feeling too crafty, buy biodegradable products instead of those with powerful chemicals. Take a look at the list of ingredients and see if they are words you can understand.
6. Reuse Your Kitchenware
Have you ever been to a party where you write your name on your cup and that’s your cup the rest of the night? This is a similar idea. You can use a cup more than once before deciding it needs to be washed. By using less items, you reduce the amount of water you are using to wash them.
7. Control Your Clutter
Simplifying your life means more money and time. Don’t let your things determine your happiness. Instead, save the money you would spend on things and spend that on experiences. When you downsize it can be tempting to fill that extra space you now have with new things. Instead, give yourself a limit on the number of items you own. Hate moving? This will make it less stressful. Here are some ways to get started.
8. Energy Efficiency
There are several easy ways to save money on your utility bills while reducing your impact on climate change. Close the doors of rooms you’re not using to conserve heat, open blinds during the day to use sunlight instead of indoor light and put on more layers instead of turning up the thermostat.
9. Bike Instead of Drive
Bike to Work Day doesn’t have to be once a year. If biking to work isn’t an option, talk to your coworkers about carpooling to the office. You can also check out the app Nextdoor to start a discussion with your neighbors about organizing a ride share.
10. Disconnect to Connect
Americans spend 11 out of their 18 waking hours in front of screens. What about you? Do you stare at a screen while you’re at work? It can be hard to disconnect when our lives revolve around it. Plan a backpacking trip and get away from places where you might have service. Spend a night in a tent under the stars instead of city lights. Spending time in nature helps us remember why we care about it in the first place. Here’s some more reasons to head to the woods.
Words by Kathleen Morton
Kathleen trades time between a vintage camper trailer and a cabin in the mountains. You can check out more of her adventures over on Instagram and read stories of others living smaller, alternative lifestyles on her blog, Tiny House Tiny Footprint.