How to Live With Less and Tread Lightly on the Planet

How to Live With Less and Tread Lightly on the Planet

Reduce Your Consumption

The first step to living with less is to reduce your consumption. Here are some ways I’ve been able to cut back:

  • Audit your belongings. Go through your home and take stock of what you actually use on a regular basis. Donate or sell items you no longer need. This helps clear both physical and mental clutter.

  • Avoid impulse purchases. I ask myself if I really need an item before buying it. Waiting 24 hours before making a purchase helps me determine if it’s a want or a need.

  • Unsubscribe from marketing emails. The less marketing messages you receive, the fewer temptations you have to buy. I cleared out my inbox and now only subscribe to essential services.

  • Shop secondhand first. Whether it’s clothes, furniture, or electronics, I always check secondhand stores before buying new. There are so many quality pre-owned items if you take the time to look.

  • Borrow instead of buying. For items you rarely use like specialty cooking gadgets or tools, consider borrowing from a friend, neighbor, or community tool library. No need to buy something that will sit unused most of the time.

  • Make things last. With proper care and maintenance, items like clothes and electronics can have much longer lifespans. I’ve saved money by keeping possessions in good condition and repairing them when needed.

Reduce Energy Use

One of the best ways to tread lighter on the planet is to reduce your energy use at home. A few steps I take:

  • Lower the thermostat. I keep my home at 68°F in winter. Throwing on a sweater allows me to keep the temperature low. I also make sure to turn down the heat when leaving the house for extended periods.

  • Unplug devices when not in use. Electronics like laptops, televisions, and phone chargers draw power even when switched off. I unplug them when not in use to eliminate “idle charge.”

  • Use cold water for laundry. I switch my laundry settings to use cold water instead of hot. This one change has saved a significant amount of energy.

  • Install LED light bulbs. Switching out old bulbs to LEDs has made a big difference. Although more expensive upfront, they use a fraction of the energy and last much longer.

  • Seal air leaks. I used caulk and weather strips to seal leaks around windows and doors. Stopping drafts keeps the cold air out during winter and hot air out during summer, decreasing energy usage.

Choose Sustainable Transportation

The transportation decisions I make have a major impact on my energy usage. Here’s how I get around with less:

  • Walk and bike more. If it’s under two miles, I walk or bike instead of driving. This covers most of my errands around town. I enjoy being outside and save gas.

  • Use public transportation. For longer commutes, I take the bus or train. My city offers pretty good public transportation coverage so this is convenient for me.

  • Combine trips. I plan my schedule so I can complete multiple errands in one trip. Less time in the car means less fuel burned.

  • Maintain your vehicle. I follow the manufacturer’s schedule for regular maintenance like oil changes. Properly inflated tires, new air filters, and engine tune-ups help maximize fuel efficiency.

  • Drive efficiently. I take it easy on acceleration and braking to optimize fuel economy. Cruising at moderate speeds instead of racing saves gas too. Following these simple driving habits really adds up over time.

Eat Sustainably

What we choose to eat has environmental impacts as well. I try to make sustainable food choices like:

  • Eating less meat and dairy. Reducing my consumption even by just having a couple meatless days per week makes a difference. I’m trying out more plant-based sources of protein like beans, lentils, and tofu.

  • Shopping at farmer’s markets. Buying local food from nearby farms cuts down on emissions from long distance transport. I’ve discovered amazing produce at my weekly market.

  • Considering portion sizes. I take a reasonable portion to avoid excess waste from overeating. Finishing leftovers instead of having them spoil also reduces food waste.

  • Growing my own food. I have a small patio veggie garden that produces tomatoes, greens, and herbs during the summer. Plus, homegrown tastes amazing!

  • Composting. I collect food scraps and yard waste for composting instead of sending them to the landfill. Compost enriches my garden soil. Closing the loop from table scraps to garden is very satisfying.

Be Mindful of Waste

Living lightly also means being very mindful of waste and disposing of it thoughtfully. I try to follow the mantra “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.”

  • Refuse unnecessary products like single-use plastics. I bring my own bags and coffee cup.

  • Reduce waste by buying in bulk, avoiding excess packaging, and purchasing durable goods.

  • Reuse items as much as possible. I donate or sell anything in good shape rather than throwing it out.

  • Recycle carefully. I follow local guidelines on cleaning, sorting, and preparing materials. Ensuring recyclables aren’t contaminated improves chances they get recycled.

  • Compost food scraps and yard waste to reduce methane emissions from landfills. My city offers curbside composting which makes it very convenient.

Make Environmentally-Conscious Choices

Besides consumption habits, other lifestyle choices can reduce your impact:

  • Live in a smaller space. Heating and cooling larger homes requires more energy. Downsizing to an eco-friendly apartment has significantly cut my energy bills.

  • Use eco-friendly products. I look for non-toxic cleaners, natural personal care items, recycled paper, and other green goods. Supporting these makes wider adoption more likely.

  • Conserve water. I take short showers, turn off the faucet when brushing my teeth, and collect cold water before it warms up to use on plants. Saving water saves the energy required to heat it up.

  • Invest sustainably. I research companies’ environmental records before investing. Putting money toward earth-friendly businesses incentivizes them and pressures others to follow suit.

  • Get involved locally. I stay engaged in my community by volunteering on “green teams” through work, school, and local non-profits. Small consistent actions by many add up to real change.

Final Thoughts

Living with less and treading lightly is an ongoing process of learning and adjusting old habits. But the more I do, the more fulfilling and natural it feels. Sustainable living benefits both myself and the planet. With some thoughtfulness and commitment, we can all find ways to cut back and make more eco-conscious choices in our daily lives. Small steps go a long way when multiplied by 7 billion people. What will you do today?