26 Eco-Friendly Ideas for Home
Twenty-six eco-friendly ideas for home. Arbitrary number? Not at all! We’re all about small steps here. After all, if you’re a little bit better to the Earth today than you were yesterday, that’s progress. So here’s a plan that lays out one step you can take every couple weeks. Get used to them. Make them habits. Then slowly (or with increasing frequency) add more. There will always be work to do, but the hardest part is making that first change.
Besides starting with the first thing first, this isn’t a step-by-step list. Find what works for you in any given time and dive in. These ideas are loosely divided by area of your home, and while many of these things have no cost, some have a modest buy-in. Opt for a spend-y item every couple weeks to give yourself time to decide if it’ll work for you before adding on. Okay, let’s get started!
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General Eco-Friendly Ideas for Home
1. Do not throw anything away! (Just know what you have)
That’s good news, right? You know how when you start a new “thing” and step 1 is always buy all the gear? Not this time. A key component to living more sustainably is to slow down your refuse and purchases. So don’t jump in and decide to pitch everything you’ve been using and re-stock your home with things you don’t even know if you’ll like or use.
Just take an inventory of what you have. Chances are, you know your home’s pain points when it comes to sustainable practices.
For me, it was plastic bags (both the kinds that all the groceries go into, the produce bags, and the endless Ziplocs). Over the years, I’d accumulated reusable bags, I just never remembered to (re)use them. So I gathered them up and shoved them in the trunk. First step: check.
My second biggie was the myriad of cleaning products I had amassed over the years. I didn’t even know what half those things did. But I did know they all came in plastic bottles, and that was something I’d like to cut back. So I sorted through them, vowed not to buy anymore (even when I was in the cleaning aisle, thinking “Do we need glass cleaner? I remember wondering this the last time I was here, and don’t think I bought any” only to get home to realize I did buy the glass cleaner that last time, and actually, we didn’t need it then, either. And I guess that’s why we had 3 full bottles of electric blue liquid under the kitchen sink.)
I digress. Anyway, I finally learned what I had, used them, then re-used the bottles when I made my own cleaning products.
Did this happen in a week or two? Of course not. But it started building the foundation of more mindfulness in our household waste. So take a look around. Where do you want to start? Great, you’re ready to go.
2. Read a Book About Sustainability
I can’t help it – I’m a librarian! If we’re talking eco-friendly ideas for home, you can start at your own bookshelf! There are lots of books about sustainability that will not only teach you, but also allow you to find your own eco-vibe. From a less stuff perspective, I can tell you that my Kindle Paperwhite is probably one item I would run into a burning building to save, and it keeps me from having so. many. books. on my shelves.
And, cheap plug: check these out from your local public library! If you really just need your own book, or you’d like to give the gift of sustainability to your nearest and dearest, check out book reviews on Judgement-Free Green, and purchase from our shop on Bookshop.org!
3. Turn Off Your Lights!
Another short and sweet one. What’s the electricity equivalent of Were you born in a barn? Whatever it is, turn off your lights when you leave a room!
Of course, there’s a little more to it. When you were implored to turn off the lights as a child, those were likely the traditional incandescent bulbs, and your parents were right. They cost much more to operate each year than energy-efficient bulbs, and only lasted about 1,000 hours. Today, your best bet is to buy LED lightbulbs. These do cost a bit more upfront but use the least amount of energy. They’ll also last for upwards of 25,000 hours. (Nearly three straight years. I was wondering too.)
So, turn those lights off AND switch to a more energy efficient bulb, and you’ll be saving money and energy. Energy.gov has more information if you’d like to dig deeper on the difference between lightbulbs. It’s a good idea to read through this – the lighting aisle at the hardware store can be overwhelming.
4. Have One Plant-Based Day a Week
We are meat eaters in this house. Sometimes, I get a wild hair and decide I’ll quit for good, then visions of jerky whisk me back to reality. But the truth is, the meat industry is rough on the planet. According to Greenpeace:
The livestock sector — raising cows, pigs and chickens — generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks and automobiles combined. Cattle ranchers have clear cut millions of square kilometers of forests for grazing pastures, decimating natural “carbon sinks.”
We’re not advocating that everyone adopt a “meatless” diet tomorrow. But we all must develop “meat consciousness” and reduce the level of meat in our diets. Shifting to more plant-based foods is essential to combatting climate change, soil, air and water pollution, ocean dead zones, and myriad other problems caused by industrial livestock production. If we decide to eat fewer meals with meat or dairy each week, we can have a huge impact on our collective health and the health of the planet.Greenpeace
So pick one day a week where you’ll cut out meat and beef up (pun absolutely intended) the veggies instead. You’ll survive, the planet will thrive, and you may even like it!
Where to start? Check out 87 Best Vegan Recipes: Dinners, Desserts, and More for a Plant-Based Diet from Epicurious for more options than you may be able to handle.
5. Refill! Your! Water! Bottle!
Another freebie, because I KNOW we all have more stainless steel bottles and mugs than we need already. Just bring it with you and fill it up! That’s it. That’s the sustainable trick. You can do that.
6. Pick a Multi-Purpose Product
Can you honestly tell me the difference between your all-purpose kitchen spray, and the “basin, tub, and tile” number you purchase separately for the bathroom? If you can, kudos to you, smarty pants, but even you can probably stand to condense. You don’t need a different bottle of stuff for every surface in your house.
Cleaning products can be DIY’d cheaply and easily (more on that below), but they’re not the only thing that can do double duty. Here are easy eco-friendly ideas for home that’ll save you money and space:
- Use coconut oil to cook and to moisturize your skin
- Ball up two or three sheets of aluminum foil (about three square feet each) to use instead of dryer sheets. The foil balls eliminate static cling.
- Easily turn baking soda into washing soda, a powerhouse cleaner
Eco-Friendly Ideas for Shopping
7. Find a Zero-Waste Store
Shopping waste-free may be easier than you think. The website Litterless regularly updates their invaluable state-by-state Where to Shop list. While this primarily covers groceries, there are plenty of shops that offer bulk or refills of household goods, bathroom products, and skincare items.
Interested in more plastic-free bathroom products? Check out this comprehensive guide here!
My local Nashville fave The Good Fill is on there, and I really love taking my empty bottles in there and just paying by the ounce for refills on hand soap, shampoo, lotion, and more.
8. Pack Your Reusable Bags
Here is another eco-friendly ideas for home that’s completely free, assuming you inexplicably amass a similar number of reusable bags as me. Look, knowing we need to bring these into the store, and actually bringing them into the store are two totally different things. Hopefully you’re nodding a little. If you’re not, I may be the dumbest person on the planet, but getting into the habit of this was hard.
Basically, I just keep a bag of reusable bags in my trunk. Do I remember to always put them back after a trip to the grocery store? Sadly, no. BUT by just keeping them all in there, I at least have enough to get me through a couple runs, so I just have to remember to reset the whole collection less frequently.
9. Never Put One Onion in a Produce Bag Again
In my house, my husband has taken over the grocery shopping. This is a sustainable living tip for us in itself, because whenever I go I buy ridiculous ingredients in a fit of Food Network inspiration. Because we never actually need saffron, and certainly haven’t used the Truffle Olive Oil that’s been in our pantry for literal years, I lost my grocery store privileges, and that is just fine with me.
However, I quickly had to implore the family shopper to cut it out with the produce bags! I’d unpack his wares to find a single onion in a plastic produce bag. Next to two bell peppers in their own. And on and on.
It costs $0.00 to just put your produce in the basket or cart. We have these produce bags that even state the tare weight on the side. Remembering them is a little hit or miss, and loose produce is totally fine, too. Will it work for every single item? Probably not, but for the most part, you can just stop using these bags that are helpful for such a short period of time.
In order to keep everything fresh once it hits our fridge, these magic sheets last a month, and are compostable when spent!
10. Switch to Glass-Bottled Items
Stick around here long enough, and you’ll hear over and over again the perils of depending on single-use plastic. This includes plenty of grocery items. The next time you’re shopping, take note if the EVOO you always reach for comes in a plastic bottle. Can you swing buying the one in glass? Great! If not, no worries. Vinegars, salad dressings, condiments, beverages, dairy products, and on and on are available in glass bottles. Many stores will even credit you for bringing the bottle back the next time you shop.
These bottles are way more likely to be reused, and can be recycled if you absolutely need to. Best yet? They won’t become fish food.
11. Know Where Your Clothes Come From
The eco-friendly ideas for home don’t stop at the grocery store. Take them to your closet as well. If you’re following my advice on reading books, you’ll come across Elizabeth Kline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and follow-up The Conscious Closet. They’re two of the best, and will absolutely open your eyes to what fast fashion is doing to our planet. As you read through the latter, there are action steps for auditing your own wardrobe for fabric and origin. Learning to look for various fair trade and environmentally friendly seals on tags will ensure you’re putting your money where your mouth is.
If you don’t have time to read two whole ass books on the topic, start by shopping secondhand. Wait, wait, wait. I know. If you’ve tried this before, you may have been burnt by a giant, disorganized warehouse with a certain….smell. Baby, this is the future, and your options are now much greater, and…unscented.
ThredUp is an online secondhand store that will sell your gently-used items for you, then give you a portion of the proceeds once the sale goes through (and a two-week return period has ended). For shoppers, they add new items daily and have a great organizational system that makes shopping easy. And if you’re still a bit skittish buying used, you can filter items to only see those which still have tags on.
The Real Real is a luxury consignment site. Every item has been authenticated by their experts and is listed for a fraction of the original price. Not that fancy? I beg to differ. Buying higher quality items will put a stop to the cycle of buying cheap and often. Even with the most wholesome intentions, buying luxury items still isn’t always feasible. Until now. The Real Real gives luxury pieces at real people prices.
Saving any piece of clothing from the landfill is a win, so when we can adopt clothing that already exists in the world, rather than always need something fresh of the press, we’re helping the world. Go forth and shop with a clean conscience.
12. Find a Zero-Waste Online Store
Of course, shopping locally is the best. However, if it’s easier for you to get eco-friendly ideas for home online, we can appreciate that.
EcoRoots is a Colorado-based plastic-free shop that offers bath and body products, as well as cleaning and home care items. Plan regular stock-up buys because they’ll ship (in plastic-free, compostable, reusable packaging, of course) orders over $45 for free. Keep an eye on their website – they always have great seasonal items and holiday gift guides.
The Refill Shoppe is delightfully straightforward. Pick a product, a container, and a scent. They’ll whip it together and send it your way. They’ve got you covered for body products, home goods, and cleaning supplies. They also offer a subscription service that makes it all too easy.
If you’re just browsing for eco-friendly ideas for home, give an Earthlove Box a try. It’s a subscription service that will send you (in biodegradable packaging) full-size health and wellness items, as well as other eco-friendly products and resources.
These are just a few in a grand list of online, zero-waste convenience. There may be a store that’ll deliver for free in your area. It’s best to do a Google locally to make sure you’re not missing out!
Eco-Friendly Cleaning Tips
13. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you do not need a different product for every single thing you have to clean.
My most-used, most-reliable cleaner is a 16 oz amber spray bottle mostly filled with water and two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds. I use the Sal Suds rather than their regular Castile Soap because we have hard water, and the Sal Suds plays nicely with that. With this, I clean my quartz counters, kitchen appliances, hardwood and tile floors, and bathroom counters and sinks. It also works for any area you need to spruce up (like window sills). It really has countless uses!
If you don’t have my water woes or any of your own, regular Castile Soap is also endlessly useful and comes in many different scents. Wash yourself, your dog, your clothes, your home…honestly, it’s the hardest worker I know. Varying the measurements slightly for each use is as easy as it gets.
Here, we’ll make it simple for you. Check out some of our most popular cleaning posts:
- Make your own homemade degreaser
- Clean your eyeglasses the easy way
- WTF is washing soda, and how do I make it?
14. Dry Your Clothes in the Sun
Did you know your dryer is one of the biggest energy users in your home? You can eliminate much of this energy suck by kicking it old school and drying your clothes in the good ole sun.
Need some convincing on that one? Stay with me here. The sun’s UV rays will sanitize your clothes and make whites whiter. Of course, it’ll also fade many colors, so you’ll want to flip colored clothing inside out. And because we’re about baby steps here, maybe you start this one slow. Maybe one load a week gets dried outside. Or maybe just one part of your wardrobe.
In Tennessee, this idea is a non-starter during pollen season (which honestly, seemingly never ends) so I just dry clothes outside when I can, and count dryer-awareness as the win. But that once-newfound awareness pushes me to dry more items in a window using the collapsable rack I’ve been moving around since college.
And if you don’t have the space or the allergen immunity, you could at least wash your clothes in cold water – not getting the water heater involved makes for an eco-friendlier load.
Eco-Friendly Ideas for the Kitchen
15. Ditch the Plastic Wrap
If you’re like me, or every successful plastic-wrap rip, you throw away two frustrating, gnarled balls of film. But there’s an easier way!
Beeswax Wraps are a re-usable, plastic-free alternative that you wash in cool water and compost at the end of their life. Bonus points: they’re often very cute. And while they’ll cover or wrap anything, I find they work best when covering something in a clear glass canister. Otherwise, you’re playing Mystery Science Fridge 3000.
Another great option are the silicone plastic covers. They’ll stretch over anything from the cut end of an onion to jars and bowls. If you don’t need a whole set, these Food Huggers from Uncommon Goods are so cute and handy. Easy peasy, and lasts and lasts!
Finally, if you’re in the market for both covers and containers, this Pyrex set has upgraded those old school plastic lids to a fancy (and useful!) glass/silicone combo. These are a bit of a splurge, but are fore sure on my list the next time I need replacements!
16. Invest in Some Silicone Baggies
Ziploc bags may be handy in the kitchen, but the Earth hates them. Spend a little more upfront on reusable bags, and make the world happier. They will last a very long time. I can vouch for this set, but am happiest with the microwave- and dishwasher safe Stasher brand. Admittedly, reusable bags takes a couple extra steps to clean, but the planet will thank you. (Wash with soap and warm water, and place over a glass to dry thoroughly.)
Crucial update: if you need some nudging to actually wash and dry those bags, check out this Uncommon Goods kitchen dryer rack that is downright brilliant and may be the motivation you need!
17. Commit to Better Coffee
Oh, coffee. The nectar of the Morning Gods. For so many of us, it’s a necessity. So follow me to the grocery store’s coffee aisle where you’re greeted with shelves upon shelves of options. So how to choose? Well, if you’re like former me, you just scan until you see that bright SALE sticker. Even better? That beautiful BOGO.
But wait just a second. There are actually other labels you should be looking at. Most importantly, the Fair Trade label. Fair Trade is an arrangement that ensures folks like makers, farmers, and producers in developing nations are earning fair compensation for their wares and labor. So sure, this cost is generally passed to the consumer, however paying a few extra bucks to supplement the dignity of workers really should be a no-brainer. And how does this tie into a more eco-friendly lifestyle? Fair trade guidelines also outline sustainable practices that protect the earth.
This one doesn’t have to be hard. The very best thing I’ve discovered this year is Trade Coffee Co. Called “The Netflix of Coffee,” this is a subscription service that matches fair trade coffee to your tastes, delivery frequency needs, and budget. Take a quick quiz to get started. It might be a sad admission, but finding out what’s coming my way next, is just sheer excitement. I’ve never been disappointed, and best yet, the packaging is compostable!
And if you’re not giving up your Keurig, that’s totally fine! Check out our post on the best biodegradable K-Cups for a greener cup of joe.
18. Make Your Own Seasonings
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you need fewer things when you’re living more sustainably. Some of those things we’re all still buying out of habit. You don’t need a pack of fajita seasoning when you already have all its components in your pantry. Among the more time-efficient eco-friendly ideas for home: whip up large batches of seasonings for which you’re regularly buying single-use packets.
This has long been a penny-pinching tip, so it may not be new news. But if it’s new to you, the internet has your back. Here are a few of my go-to sites for mixing up large batches of seasonings so you’ll always be covered:
- Spend With Pennies has great fajita and taco seasonings
- Indian Food Site has a comprehensive recipe list for DIY seasonings that will make your mouth water
- And the generic Italian Seasoning that makes anything taste better? Gimmie Some Oven’s got a great one
Save herb and spice canisters as they run out to reuse for mixtures. If you’re starting from scratch, there are some cute sets to be found.
19. Make Your Own Salad Dressings
To carry on the eco-friendly ideas for home theme in your kitchen, I ask: why buy bottle after bottle of salad dressings, when you could whip up some ranch (or whatever) from things you already have? A couple extra steps, yes, but I promise you’ll feel so good about this swap.
If you need some motivation to get more greens in, you could just put this cute and handy Orbit Oil and Vinegar set on your counter and wing it. Otherwise, check out this article for eight healthy salad dressing recipes. And in the meantime, prepare by not pitching used dressing bottles as you finish them. Clean them out and set aside for re-use.
Eco-Friendly Ideas for Your Bathroom
20. Banish the Body Wash
The goal here is steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle with eco-friendly ideas for home. One great way to know where to start is really taking an inventory of where you have too much stuff. For me, the bathroom was another hot spot. There was so much plastic in my shower, between body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face wash…you know the space. Paring down the amount of plastic in my shower was an easy place to start.
Interested in more plastic-free bathroom products? Check out this comprehensive guide here!
Bars of soap may get a bad rap, but they’ve come a long way since the gold Dial of yore. Ethique is an amazing eco-conscious brand. They’re headquartered in New Zealand, but their products are easily obtainable internationally. They have body bars that are really great, and are my go-to brand for all things bath.
Just like making your own cleaning products, you can eliminate so many trips to the body care aisle as well. Check out this post on body-wash alternatives for a few recipes for lower-waste body wash, as well as ways to kick all those plastic bottles once and for all.
21. Embrace the Bar
Speaking of the bath, just embrace all things bar. Once you’ve seen the light on how far bar soap has come, you can convert all those plastic bottles to bar options.
Interested in the best eco-friendly shampoo, conditioner, & deodorant bars? They’re included in this list of plastic-free bathroom products!
Shampoo bars, conditioner bars, even deodorant bars! (I’ll admit that deodorant bars do take some getting used to, but you’ll get there!) Just be sure the one you ultimately go with does not have palm oil listed in the ingredients. This is one product that leads to deforestation. Now go ahead, be a bar star.
Eco-Friendly Ideas for the Rest of Your World
22. Make a Compost Bin
Perhaps the composting-related eco-friendly ideas for home should have appeared earlier in this list. It’s been mentioned a lot, and may feel a bit daunting. But learning to compost is easier than it seems, and the rewards are great. Besides saving the landfill from all your food waste, the result can be a real life-giver to your garden or plants. Not a gardener? You certainly know one. This stuff is black gold. If you give your compost away to someone who grows food, I’d be willing to bet you’ll have a steady stream of gifted flowers, fruits, and veggies coming your way.
A little space is all you need to start your own pile. The DIY Network has some great explainers for getting started. You also may be surprised at some of the things you can chuck in the bin. Check out our post on weird things your composter loves.
If you’re like me and are a little wary of attracting pests while you get the hang of composting (it’s really very easy, you’ll pick it up quickly!), investing in a bin may be a better bet. This is the exact bin I’ve had for about five years, and recommend it over and over again. Putting it together was simple (at least wasn’t so terrible that I recall any details five years later) and makes turning the compost easy. There’s even a compartment that you can leave to cook, and one for fresh waste, so you’ll always have compost ready to go.
For traditional composting, any food waste you add to the pile should be without oil. No meats or animal products, either. If you’d prefer an indoor option that will take absolutely anything, learn all about our experience with Bokashi composting here!
23. Plant an Herb Garden
Even the most rotten thumb can take a crack at planting an herb garden year-round. If you have mason or other glass jars laying around, place a thick layer of pebbles on the bottom (about 2 inches), fill with potting mix, and sow herb seeds per package directions. Seed packets can be picked up pretty cheaply at hardware or garden stores. Some public libraries will even check out seeds to you for free!
If you’ve successfully grown herbs outside and usually just wait around for them to freeze during the winter, change it up this year. You can use the above method to transplant established herb plants into mason jars or other planters for the winter.
Are you already a pretty good gardener, but looking to really up your game? The Smart Garden Grow Kit will have you cooking with fresh herbs all year round.
How exactly is this sustainable? Well, it certainly cuts out the need to buy two overpriced and overpackaged sprigs of whatever from the grocery store. Moreover, it’s beautiful, it’ll smell great, and it brings some nature inside. Look at you go.
24. BYO Utensils
It’s easy to blame all things pandemic for the increased amount of take-out, but let’s be honest. It’s always been happening. Unless your plastic utensils specifically state what type of plastic they’re made from (like that #5 stamp) on each individual piece (and they normally don’t) you can’t put them in most recyclable bins.
So this one’s free and easy: just keep utensils on you! Years ago, my workplace gave away these nested sets of a fork/knife/spoon. They’re similar to this set up, but now that I’m in the rabbit hole of portable silverware, I think this camping set is quite nice! (“I think this camping set is quite nice.” Who am I?) Either way, get yourself some and keep them in your desk at work, your car, or wherever you eat on the run.
25. Get Your Hands on a Houseplant
Listen, if you’re not a plant person yet, now is your time. You may have heard that NASA even has a list of houseplants that will clean your air! Talk about grandiose eco-friendly ideas for home. While I’m a bit dubious of this claim (if it seems to good to be true, and all that…) I know that my plants aren’t making anything worse on my eco-friendliness quest.
Plants can be obtained for relatively cheap (or free – just ask a bud for a cutting!) and are a pretty low-risk way to start bringing the outside in and cultivating a greater appreciation for the Earth. This journey can be tough. Don’t forget to treat yourself while you’re figuring it all out! Plants are one of my favorite treats. Hot tip: did you know that Estate Sales are fertile ground for picking up established, pre-loved houseplants?
26. Plan for Waste-Free Gift Wrap Holidays
The holidays bring to mind many thoughts, and I have to say that the one most prominent for me is often excess. We eat to much, drink too much, get too much, and generate so. much. waste.
One way to make your holidays more eco-friendly is opting for recyclable (or better yet, upcylced!) wrapping paper. While a lot of gift wrap can be recycled with your paper products, many of the shiny, embellished wrapping paper cannot. Wrappily is a great company that sells chic gift wrap printed on 100% recyclable newsprint. They also offer sustainable ribbon, twine, and more.
There are also more creative, cheaper ideas. Get artsy with paints or markers and design your own right over newspaper. Fabric or reusable bags also make eye-catching giftwrap.
If all else fails, just double-check that the material you’re using can be recycled. Don’t forget the tape!
Eco-Friendly Ideas for Home: Where Will You Start?
So there you go. Twenty-six eco-friendly ideas for home that you can adopt slowly for lasting change. Or cram for the exam and do them all – whatever your style. Just don’t forget the first one. You probably have what you need to start – it’s often in what you don’t need that’ll make this change its most impactful.
What changes have you made in your home that you think are most eco-friendly and sustainable? Share them below.
And need a reminder for later? Pin these eco-friendly tips for home for later!