Looking to make your diet and kitchen more environmentally sustainable? Here's 27 ridiculously easy ways to live sustainably when it's comes to food and drink. Whether you're just starting out on your sustainability journey or have been making changes for awhile, there's something for everyone to work towards in this list.
I know a lot of people are looking to live more sustainably in 2020 but sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Most of the messaging I see is preaching to "do everything at once" and I'm not sure that's realistic. But "do something" is.
And we can all do something, right? Living sustainably isn't about giving up everything you love or even about making large sacrifices. Most of the things we do that aren't so environmentally sound can be replaced by a more sustainable alternative that's the same or similar, easy to change and cost effective.
If you've been on the sustainability path for awhile you may have already crossed quite a few things off this list. But if being more environmentally conscious is something you're just starting that's ok too.
Here's 27 ridiculously easy ways to live more sustainably when it comes to food and drink that you can start working towards today...
1. Use reusable shopping bags
Here in Australia our grocery stores no longer use single use plastic bags, but the more expensive plastic bags that are touted for their ability to be used more than once are just as bad.
Invest in some durable shopping bags and keep them in the car. The habit of grabbing them out when you get to the store will soon become second nature.
On the off chance you do your whole shop and realise you've forgotten them, just put all your groceries back in your trolley and put them in bags when you get back to the car.
2. Stop using plastic and paper coffee cups
Can we all just agree to ditch these disposable cups once and for all? Buy your own reusable cup and take it everywhere with you. Forget your cup? Sit down and enjoy your coffee from a mug.
The place you go doesn't have that option? Walk out and find another shop that does.
3. Save your jars, and use them to store food
So much of our ready-made food items come in glass jars that can be reused many times. Things like jams, salsa, pasta sauce... the list goes on. Give them a wash and use them to store foods in rather than plastic.
I like to store things like rice, pasta, nuts etc in my repurposed jars.
4. Shop for bulk items
This goes hand in hand with the jars above. Find a local bulk food store and buy your essentials from there. You can take your own jars or containers, weigh them first then fill them up.
This reduces packaging, but it's also generally a lot cheaper too!
5. Freeze leftovers you won't eat
This seems like a no brainer but so many of us still end up cleaning out a fridge filled with spoiled leftovers at the end of the week. When you make up a large portion of food that you won't be able to eat, freeze some for later.
You can then pull it out for an easy work lunch or no fuss dinner. Your future self will thank you!
6. Have a no grocery challenge to use up your food
Sarah from Yes and Yes was recently on the Cook It Real Good Podcast chatting about her no grocery challenge. The idea is to set yourself the challenge once a month to go without your regular weekly grocery shop and get creative with what you have at home.
Of course you can do this on a smaller scale, even just going from two grocery shops a week to one. You'll save time and money while also reducing food waste!
7. Freeze your bananas
We all know the feeling of buying a bunch of bananas that are green one day, then spotty and overripe the next. Whatever you do, don't leave those bananas on the counter to wither away!
There's a whole host of ways you can use your ripe bananas, like making buttermilk banana bread. But if you don't have time for baking, just freeze them! Check out this post for easy tips on How to Freeze Bananas, as well as a bunch of delicious recipes to use them in (hello smoothies!).
Take this even further by freezing any fresh fruits and vegetables you won't use in time.
8. Get a compost bin
Keep your kitchen scraps from chopping up veggies and fruit and use them for compost!
Compost bins are gaining popularity and you can now buy very inexpensive bins that are the size of small buckets. These can be kept indoors and are great for apartments.
If you don't have a garden to repurpose the compost you may be able to find a local garden or council collection point you can drop it off too.
9. Moderate your meat
It's hard to ignore the environmental impact that is caused by excessive meat consumption. While I still eat meat, it's something I'm focused on moderating as much as possible.
What works for me is having 2-3 meat meals a week, and supplementing the rest with plant-based. You can figure out what is realistic and works for you. It might be starting with a Meatless Monday, or having a "No Meat after 5pm" rule.
10. Buy food that is in season
Eating food that is in season is great for your food budget as it's generally a lot cheaper, not to mention it's a great way to support local farmers.
But there's environmental reasons at hand here too. Reducing the demand for out of season produce also reduces the need for excessive transportation and means less refrigeration.
11. Start your own garden
You don't have to grow a whole vegetable patch to get benefits out of having your own garden. Do you regularly buy fresh herbs only to throw most of the bag away? Start there! Get a pot of your favourites and you'll always have fresh herbs on hand.
12. Eat less processed and packaged foods
Reducing your amount of junk food consumption is good for the environment, your wallet and your waist. Make your own snacks out of fresh ingredients - like chocolate coconut slice, quick and easy guacamole or sweet and salty kale chips.
13. Buy fruit and vegetables in their original form
Supermarkets have tried to cater to our desire for more convenience over the years by cutting up fruits and vegetables and covering them in plastic. It's now bordering on the ridiculous - with even avocados being halved and wrapped in plastic!
Unless you are someone who truly cannot cut up your own fruit and vegetables, seek out your fruit and veg in its original form. It'll stay fresher longer, and you can always spend the time chopping them all up for the week and storing them in glass containers if you'd like.
14. Bring your own takeaway containers
Do you constantly have food leftover after eating out and ask for doggy bag? Save the plastic and bring your own container instead.
You can take this further too by bringing a glass jar to the ice-cream store for your ice-cream instead of their plastic cup. Or you know... choose the waffle cone. You do you!
15. Say no to straws
It's great to see how many businesses are moving away from plastic straws and using either paper straws or no straws at all. If you can't live without straws, consider investing in some stainless steel straws. I bought a pack recently for under $5.
16. Use bees wax wrap instead of plastic wrap
Beeswax wraps are great to use in place of plastic wrap and are fairly inexpensive when you factor in the life you get from them vs a pack of plastic wrap.
But you don't have to buy these wraps to reduce plastic wrap usage. Use bowls that have lids to store food or transfer food to glass storage containers.
17. Use silicone baking mats instead of baking /parchment paper
Once you try silicone mats you'll never want to use baking paper again. They are oven safe and are so durable. I've had a few I bought from Aldi last year (I believe they were $5) and they still look good as new. You should be able to pick them up in any kitchenware stores or head to Amazon.
18. Say no to disposable cutlery
This takes a little thought before eating out but can easily be avoided with some pre-planning. I personally keep a set of cutlery in my handbag for times when I need them, but you could just as easily keep it in your car or in the office.
19. Make your own stock
Did you know you can make your own vegetable stock with kitchen scraps? It's so easy to do - just throw everything in the slow cooker and let it do it's thing.
20. Use natural cleaning products
Find cleaning products that are safe, biodegradable, non-toxic and made with sustainable packaging. OR make your own. I have a few stainless steel spray bottles that I fill with equal parts white vinegar and water. It's a great all-purpose cleaner and cheap too.
21. Use reusable dish cloths
Reduce the need for paper towels by getting a bunch of inexpensive but effective microfibre cloths for the kitchen (and the rest of the house too). Throw them in the wash and reuse.
22. Ditch the plastic produce bags
You can buy light material produce bags made of netting or muslin, but for most things why bother using a produce bag at all?
23. Drink beer? Find a local brewery and reuse your bottles
Have a local microbrewery near you? Find out how you can buy their beer from the source. Many smaller breweries allow you to bring your own bottles to fill, and they are even cheaper than your local liquor store!
24. Make your own fizzy drinks
Love seltzer or sparkling water? Make your own. Soda streams or the like are again, inexpensive, and when you tally up the costs of boxes and boxes of cans as compared to the initial outlay, you're on top!
25. Buy your own water bottle and take it everywhere
This seems obvious and yet we still use so many plastic water bottles! Invest in a good stainless steel drink bottle, fill it up at home and take it with you everywhere.
If you aren't a fan of tap water you may want to get a brita or a tap filter too.
26. Buy kitchen products that last
It can be tempting to buy the $1 plastic spatula on sale at Walmart but if it breaks in a few months it isn't worth it. Reduce waste, cost and frustration by buying products that last.
I'm as frugal as they come, so trust me when I say this doesn't need to be an exercise in spending hundreds of dollars. The next time something breaks, find the best replacement you can afford that will last.
27. Rethink your coffee pods
Nespresso and Keurig (among others) single-use coffee pods cause a staggering amount of waste every year, and many are not recyclable. Nespresso now have a recycling program where they will dispose of and repurpose used pods if you drop the off at a collection point, or mail them in, which is worth looking into if you're a Nespresso user.
There are also reusable pods that are being sold now that can be refilled with coffee beans at home which could be a great investment.
Don't have a coffee machine at home yet? Buy one that doesn't use pods at all!
BONUS - 28. Vote with your dollars
I know I said it was 27 things but here's one last one we can all do more of - vote with your dollars.
Businesses will ultimately only change when their bottom line is being affected. Spend your money with businesses that are doing the right thing and being more sustainable themselves.
Now it's over to you - what are some things you're doing at the moment to live more sustainably? Are there some things I've missed in this list that you think should be added? Drop me a comment below - I'd love to chat more with you about this topic!