5 Simple Swaps to Make for More Sustainable Living

When it comes to sustainable living, I'm finding so much of it is about habits.

Just like with simple living, it's about changing your mindset from the norm, from what you've been taught, and therefore what's easy, to what is better for everyone in the long run.


Unfortunately, most of the American economy isn't designed to support sustainability. Our consumption habits alone are terrible for the environment, but the way many things are produced negatively impact it as well.

It might seem like sustainability is difficult or time consuming, but there are some simple swaps you can make to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way — that will also save money!


Did you know that 3,000 tons of paper waste is produced every day? While the environmental impact of paper waste isn't quite the same as plastic, it's still a lot, and the cost of paper towels and napkins can add up super quick.

One way to reduce your waste in that area is by swapping out your paper towels and napkins for cloth ones. They don't have to be the fancy schmancy ones you used at your grandma's during Thanksgiving that made you feel terrible for spilling anything on. You can purchase ones specifically designed to be reusable, or create your own from things like old shirts.

Keep them in a container by the sink or wherever you normally store your paper towels, and designate a similar container or bin to throw used ones in. When you do your laundry each week, simply toss the rags and napkins into the wash and you're good to go.

If the idea of cloth rags seems a little gross to you, consider swapping your paper towels for bamboo resuable ones. One sheet can be washed up to 100 times and one roll replaces 286 rolls of paper towels.


The bathroom is hands down one of the most wasteful spots in a home. In addition to the countless plastic bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, you also have toilet paper and items like cotton balls or rounds. 

Now, don't worry. I'm not suggesting you reuse toilet paper or anything (though you can get TP made from recycled paper), but have you ever thought about cotton balls or rounds? I don't know about you, but I go through a lot of those each week, and the cost of those things can add up too.

Reusable cotton face rounds for things like makeup removal, applying toner, or just washing your face can go a long way in reducing the waste produced in your bathroom from week to week.


It probably goes without saying that plastic is terrible for the environment and the use of plastic bags are one of the biggest culprits.

Unfortunately, plastic bags are everywhere — the grocery store, the drug store, and pretty much anywhere else you may shop. And while you may reuse those plastic bags once or twice after you bring them home, they will still ultimately wind up in a landfill incapable of biodegrading.

Instead of using plastic bags every time you go to the store, consider picking up a few reusable ones that you designate for shopping. (This one is my current favorite...and it's 50% off!) Keep them in your car or on a hook by the door so you remember to grab them on your way out and fill those up, instead of using multiple plastic bags each time you shop.

Most reusable bags can be purchased for a few dollars, and in addition to saving the environment, you'll likely save a little cash in the long run too. Stores in some cities like DC are now charging for the use of plastic bags and even more stores will offer a small discount for bringing your own bag.

Another form of plastic bag we often forget about is the sandwich or snack bag, but if you're anything like I used to be, you go through a couple a day in an attempt to bring your own lunch instead of eating out every day. Instead of tossing multiple bags a day, you can get reusable sandwich bags that will definitely save you money in the long run, because those sandwich/snack bags can add up quick!


Plastic consumption comes in all shapes and sizes and aside from plastic bags, you probably most often use it when you eat out. Whether it's a straw, utensils, or both, it's easy to forget how much those disposable utensils can add to the plastic we dispose of each day.

To combat using plastic every time you eat out, try creating a little zero waste kit that includes a knife, spoon, fork, and reusable straw. You can throw it into a purse of a backpack (even sliding it into a side pocket so it stays out of the way), then you always have it with you whenever you need it.


Last, but certainly not least, is plastic wrap. Considering the fact that we've created enough plastic since WWII to coat the entire world in cling wrap and the fact that it's just a pain in the neck to deal with in the first place, plastic wrap is one of the best things to swap out to make your kitchen a bit more sustainable.

You can buy or make your own beeswax wrap, or purchase other reusable (and compostable) food wrap options. All of them are able to be washed for quite a while before you have to get rid of them, they drastically reduce your environmental impact (especially compostable options), and you don't have to deal with the obnoxiousness that is cling wrap that clings to everything except what you want it to cling to!

These are just a few small ways you can change your habits to live a bit more sustainably and save yourself some money in the process! What are other simple swaps you've made to live more sustainably?

Sarah Anne Hayes