Easy Ways to Make Life More Sustainable

How high schoolers can be more eco-friendly and protective of the environment


Coffee with a sustainable paper straw. Photo/ Kate McLellan

In today’s society, it is a common misconception that the average person cannot help change the world. With the environmental movement on the rise, simple changes in one’s daily routine can truly make a difference. While high end makeup
brands like Glossier and Clinique may be enticing, they use unnecessary packaging and often times are not cruelty free. Certain companies such as Ilia and Axiology use recycled aluminum for packaging. Another popular option is Elate cosmetics, which—along with Antonym—uses bamboo packaging. Elate also offers refills and is vegan and cruelty free. Unlike companies such as Benefit, Olay and Bobbi Brown that test on animals, Urban Decay, Tarte and LUSH are more ethical and eco-friendly.

A recent study done by National Geographic concluded that 40% of plastic is discarded after only being used once. Single use resealable bags contribute a lot to this waste; furthermore, the average US family uses 500 Ziploc bags every year. One easy option is to reuse plastic bags; however, it can be made even easier by buying snack and sandwich bags from companies such as LunchSkins and Art of Lunch. Instead of buying many boxes of plastic bags, a few of these dishwasher safe fabric bags will do the trick— it is also cheaper in the long run.

An additional cause of plastic waste is plastic water bottles. Yes, sometimes it is easier to grab a plastic water bottle before running out of the house in the morning, but this just contributes to the plastic problem. It may seem as though throwing a water bottle in the recycling bin will be sufficient; nevertheless, most plastic ends up being landfilled where it takes up to 1000 years to decompose. In fact, 60 million water bottles are put in landfills a day. Reusable water bottles are a better option to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Certain brands keep your water cold for the whole day.

In addition to using reusable, paper coffee cups, many restaurants and cafes have recently stopped using plastic straws in drinks. A popular alternative to plastic straws is the metal straw. There are many straw material options to opt for rather than plastic ranging from paper, bamboo, papaya leaf, wheat, and ever straw straws. Caffè Nero, an eco-friendly coffee shop, uses reusable paper cups and paper straws. They also reuse coffee ground waste and promote sustainable livelihoods for their farmers.

Conserving energy is another great way to live sustainably and also cut down the electric bill. Although light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs have a higher shelf price than compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), LEDs use less electricity and last much longer than CFLs. A long, hot shower can be very relaxing, but it is not worth the negative effects. Hot water uses a lot of energy, so by cutting down shower time the energy used by the water heater is reduced.

Using bar soap instead of liquid soap is another way to be more eco-friendly in the bathroom. Liquid soap tends to come with more packaging, while bar soap uses minimal amounts of paper and plastic. Likewise, swapping a plastic toothbrush for bamboo toothbrush helps reduce plastic waste. Bamboo is biodegradable and recyclable, so it is a great alternative to plastic.

There are so many options to improve the sustainability of our lives—every choice we make to be more eco-friendly could drastically help our environment. It can even be as easy as using a reusable water bottle or a metal straw.