Life

15 Ways To Make Your Home More Sustainable

This Earth Day offers a unique opportunity for all of us. As we’re confined to our homes, limited to a world barely beyond our own neighborhoods, conversations about sustainable living can start, quite literally, in our own backyards. Figuring out ways to make your home more sustainable can seem daunting. Where do you start? What do you prioritize? And how much good can you actually do on your own? According to Valentino Vettori, founder of Arcadia Earth, when it comes to living sustainably, the most important thing is your mindset. “When you find that you can empower [yourself], you’re going to find solutions in everything,” Vettori tells Bustle.

Arcadia Earth, an immersive pop-up museum in New York founded by Vettori, combines art installations and climate change education to change the way you see sustainability. Using augmented reality, interactive exhibits, and visually stunning art pieces, Arcadia Earth takes you to corners of the world you’d otherwise likely never be able to see. Explore the depths of the ocean. Stand atop waterfalls. Walk through lush forests, all while learning about the impact of global warming along the way.

Arcadia Earth is breathtaking, almost (ironically) otherworldly. It’s strange to explain pollution, something ugly in many senses of the word, in terms of beauty, but Vettori says that’s kind of the point. Years ago, inspired by environmentalist and author Paul Hawken, Vettori says he “made a vow... to focus on positive messaging” about global warming. That vow comes through clearly in exhibits like a cave made of 44,000 plastic bags, meant to represent the number of bags people in New York state went through in one minute prior to the plastic bag ban.

While the museum is temporarily closed right now, Vettori and his team are helping bring a little bit of its beauty to our homes. The Arcadia Earth app has a new series of augmented reality-activated imagery that turns your living room into an underwater ecosystem. Just hold your phone up to one of the activating tiles, like the image below, and you’ll see animated turtles and fish swimming around your home while learning the ways we're negatively impacting the ocean.

As you bring Arcadia Earth’s art experience into your homes, you can also bring their mission into your lives as well. Below, you'll find 15 ways to make your home more sustainable this Earth Day and beyond.

1
Eat Less Meat
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Beef farming has a larger global water footprint than dairy, pig, and chicken farming, according to a 2011 study published in the scientific journal Ecosystems. While you don't need to switch to a plant-based diet entirely, eating less meat and being more conscious of the meat you consume could cut your carbon footprint in half, according to Arcadia Earth.

2
Donate Old And Unwanted Clothing

In the United States, 24.5 billion pounds of clothes end up in landfills every year, according to Arcadia Earth. While spring cleaning this year, make a pile of clothes you plan to take to your local second-hand store when they're open again. Have items too worn to donate? Repurpose them as dish rags and cleaning towels.

3
Shop Responsibly

Shopping less altogether will help reduce fashion waste, but you likely can't avoid shopping entirely. Arcadia Earth recommends adding the DoneGood plugin into your browser, which will help you find ethical and sustainable alternatives as you shop online. You can also support initiatives that counter fast fashion like Project CeCe, a search engine making it easier for people to find sustainably made clothing.

4
Use Green Cleaning Products

As you're looking for ways to keep your home sanitary, turn to eco-friendly cleaning options. Sites like OceanSaver are making more sustainable household cleaners to prevent the amount of chemicals and plastic we're putting back into the earth. One ingredient to avoid? Palm oil. Its consumption causes major deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and displacement of indigenous people, and it's in half of all supermarket products, per Rainforest Rescue. Check out the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide app to check the cleaning products you currently use.

5
Use Fewer One-Use Products
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As we grow more conscious about our straw use, we can also start looking at the insidious ways single-use items have crept into our daily routines. As Arcadia Earth mentions, the average life of a disposable face wipe is just 10 seconds, but once thrown away, that wipe takes up to 100 years to breakdown. Give reusable wipes like the ones from Croon to replace your disposable one. When you order takeout, Vettori recommends doing something as simple as letting the restaurant know you don’t need plastic utensils.

6
Unplug Electronics Not In Use

Energy waste is one of the most sneaky contributors to overall pollution. According to Arcadia Earth, 75% of our electricity use in U.S. homes happens while the product is turned off and unused. Start by unplugging appliances that aren't in use. Then check out the free Energy Cost app to see what items in your home are consuming the most energy.

7
Consolidate Online Orders

As Arcadia Earth points out, package deliveries on their own account for over 19 million metric tons of carbon a year. As we're relying more heavily on online shopping and at-home deliveries, try to order as much as you can in one go.

8
Enroll In An Energy-Saving Program

In addition to unplugging unused electronics, check out energy-saving programs like those provided by Con Edison. It'll help reduce the energy we expend, something Americans in particular need. The U.S makes up 4.5% of the global population but is responsible for about 18% of world's energy usage, according to the American Geosciences Institute. In other words, people in the U.S. use 400% more energy than other citizens around the world.

9
Go Paperless

We're all sick of getting unnecessary bills and letters in the mail that are duplicates to emails. The U.S. alone consumes 68 million trees each year in order produce paper and paper products, according to Arcadia Earth. Switch to paperless bills for your bank and credit cards and check out PaperKarma to help you unsubscribe from other unwanted mail.

10
Ditch Plastic Bags For Reusable Ones
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Plastic bag bans — which help to reduce our plastic waste altogether — are being challenged in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak. While experts say the chance of COVID-19 transmission on reusable bags may be low, make sure you're properly cleaning your reusable bags if you bring them to the grocery store.

11
Reduce Food Waste

Environmentalist Paul Hawken said reducing food waste is one of the top three solutions to help reverse global warming in a 2017 presentation for Reinvent's tech innovation conference. Up to 133 billion pounds of food is wasted in the U.S. alone every single year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Be conscious of how much you're buying and don't make more than you can safely store in reusable containers. Vettori even mentions putting the ends of produce like onions, lettuce, lettuce in water to regrow your veggies.

12
Start Composting

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that food scraps make up 20-30% of our overall waste. Rather than chucking your potato skins in the trash, Vettori recommends composting as a way to minimize food waste. Check out ways to start composting and tips for keeping your compost bin from stinking up your home.

13
Change Out Your Light Bulbs

Switching to LED light bulbs reduces your energy uses while still keeping your space bright, per the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In turn, it reduces your carbon footprint, as well as your energy bill. LED lights use 75% less energy than incandescent lights, and widespread use of LEDs by 2027 could collectively save us over $30 billion in electricity bills.

14
Support Global Sustainability Efforts

You can add your voice to the countless organizations combating climate change. Donate to food organizations supporting sustainable living. Support the education of girls around the world — a factor environmentalist Hawken notes is one of the most important solutions to help reverse global warming. Vote for local and federal representatives who support green policies. Even something as simple as switching to Ecoasia, a search engine that donates 80% of its ad revenue profits to planting trees. You can add to the over 88 million trees that have planted to date.

15
Get Others Involved

“You’ve got to collectively focus on what can be done,” Vettori says. Sharing information contributes to more widespread education, one of the most crucial steps to effectively enacting sustainable living solutions.

Lest you think you alone can't make a difference, look to the recent satellite imagery of the Earth which shows a visible decrease in air pollution. Experts from NASA have noted that this is the first time they’ve ever seen such a dramatic drop in air pollution. Of course, conditions are extreme right now. Social distancing isn't a sustainable way to live. However, it demonstrates how individual action can make for collective impact. Change, even seemingly small change, can make a difference when we're all working toward the same goal.