Spring is upon us, with the whiff of warm-weather promises and a slow bloom of color onto lawns. Everyone seems to be emerging from their cocoons with wonder and excitement. We, too, find ourselves peeking at our lightweight shirts and open-toed shoes, anticipating the chance to shed our winter layers. Do you feel it in the air? The need for change, the instinct to refresh.
It’s no wonder spring cleaning is on so many minds this time of year — there’s something intoxicating about throwing open the windows and shoving out the dust of a long winter.
But let’s go beyond wiping baseboards and packing away flannel sheets. This season, let’s look at cleaning up our ecological footprint. Here are a few sustainable spring cleaning resolutions to take you to a fresher, more sustainable home.
1. Clean out your kitchen and housewares
How many of us hoard plastic bags, paper napkins and to-go containers? The clutter is reason enough to purge, but looking at how to eliminate the environmental impact is just as compelling.
First, recycle what you can of these items. This might require going to a recycling center or a centralized location that collects things like plastic grocery bags.
Then, start to reevaluate how you can keep that clutter nonexistent in the future. After all, by consistently using these items, we are producing a consumer need for them.
So try adding a reusable water bottle, a reusable tote bag and a small metal to-go container into your bag. Any time you’re tempted to buy a water bottle from the convenience store or use to-go containers at a salad bar, reach into your bag instead. By making these additions a part of your daily routine, they become second nature.
At home, switch to high-quality linen or cotton napkins. They have a sophisticated look and are better for the environment. We know a family who stitches cloth napkins out of old clothing — the ultimate reuse-recycle transformation.
Set a budget, if you’d like, and do what makes sense for you within your price point. Here are some of our sustainable home goods brands:
- Stasher sealable silicone bags
- Kleen Kanteen water bottles
- Sipwell metal straws
- Eco Lunch Boxes for meals on
- Baggu tote bags (in tons of colors and patterns!)
- Terrain cloth napkins
2. Reduce your paper trail
Annually, the average American uses more than 650 pounds of paper products a year. While it’s great that the world has become more attuned to the benefits of recycling paper, reducing the need it is an equally important step in preserving our forests and wildlife. Here are a few paper items to keep an eye on in your own daily life.
- Receipts: Each year, 10 million trees are used to create receipts in the U.S. When available, opt for an email or text receipt instead. You’ll cut down on paper consumption and keep your wallet pristinely organized.
- Notes: Instead of writing notes on paper, opt for an app on your phone. Evernote allows you to take notes on your devices (and sync them). It’s a popular and effective tool for organizing your work and personal schedules without environmental waste.
- Articles, Books & Publications: Instead of having a newspaper or magazine delivered, or purchasing one at the store, read the digital version! Almost all publications have a robust digital equivalent now, offering free content or a subscription that might be less expensive than a physical one. You can also use apps like Instapaper to save articles you find online.
And, rather than buying physical books you’ll only buy once, stop by your local library to browse the stacks. Ask librarians for their recommendations and reap the benefits of this widely available public service. Most libraries also lend e-books!
3. Incorporate more vegetarian and vegan options into your diet
As we know from numerous books and documentaries, the meat industry takes an enormous toll on the environment. We’re passionate about finding delicious vegetarian recipes that make us feel good inside and out. If you aren’t vegetarian, try instituting a Meatless Monday or cooking one new vegetarian recipe a week. We’ve gotten so much more creative with our cooking now that Meatless Mondays are on the schedule.
Here are some of our favorite vegetarian food blogs:
Farmer’s markets and local farm stands also provide satisfying ways to eat more sustainably. Plus, they’re a great excuse to get some fresh air, pet a dog and get to know your local farmers and bakers.
4. Embrace warm weather activities
Spring invites everyone back into the great outdoors to greet the world again. It’s a wonderful reason to be active and rely on our bodies instead of our cars. The more connected we are with the world around us, the more motivated we will be to create change.
Instead of meeting a friend at a restaurant, take a walk at a nearby park. Get a coffee (in your reusable mug, of course) and reconnect as you take in the world around you. Hop on your bike for date night and have a picnic near the water.
If you have a work meeting, try walking there and listening to a podcast along the way. You won’t run into unexpected traffic and you’ll gain an opportunity to re-center yourself before your meeting.
Take the stairs. Eat al fresco. Light candles on the deck during the evening. Enjoy a glass of wine in quiet, rather than defaulting to Netflix. Try going on your morning run outdoors or doing yoga in a park, rather than driving to your gym.
These small changes will affect your day in the best possible way. You’ll be energized and will make a positive impact on the environment.
5. Take a look in your closet
When you clean out your closet and swap winter clothes for warm weather ones, think sustainably and ethically. Textiles makes up almost 10% of solid waste in the U.S. Many of these discarded textiles are the result of fast-fashion trends.
As you’re surveying your wardrobe, see what items are still serving you well. What fits your lifestyle (and your body)? What do you love? What can you live without? Donate or sell the things that don’t meet your needs anymore, and allow them to take their new place in another household.
Become a master at fixing up existing clothing that you still love but may have a small flaw. Is your trench coat missing a button? Here’s a YouTube video about sewing on buttons. If your shoes have a worn tread, visit a cobbler and get them resoled. Sometimes, a simple dry cleaning or thorough hand wash can bring a dingy item back to mint condition. Taking care of your clothes and shoes extends their lifespan and cultivates a slower approach to consumption.
For items beyond repair or that aren’t in good enough shape to donate, find a textile recycling option nearby. These are often found at local farmers markets or sometimes through donation-based stores.
If you’re purchasing new clothing, choose high-quality, ethically made basics that stand the test of time and look for fun statement pieces in secondhand stores. (We’re writing a post all about standout staples for your wardrobe, so stay tuned!)
We can’t wait to incorporate these steps into our lives this season and hope you’ll take the challenge with us. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see more of the lifestyle changes we’re making this spring.