The demands of our daily life can add up to making our eco-footprint bigger than we realize. But it is possible to make earth-friendly changes at home without taking away from the things you enjoy. We’ve gathered tips, ideas and resources to help you become more sustainable at home, whether it’s in the clothes you buy, food you eat or type of garden you plant.
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Food and drink
Being environmentally conscious in the kitchen can also help you save money – for example, using the rest of the space in your oven when you’re baking to cook vegetables that you can keep in the fridge for another meal, or throwing ingredients and leftovers into the freezer instead of the compost bin for use in other dishes. Also consider your shopping habits – look for local produce at farmers’ markets, and don’t overbuy.
Wine critic Christopher Waters writes that most winemaking regions have embraced sustainability as a major guiding principle, with South Africa standing out as one of the most exciting wine producers at the moment. Launched in 2010, the Sustainable Wine South Africa certification seal underscores a commitment to ecofriendly production methods and more. He highlights seven bottles that are ecofriendly, sustainable and real bargains.
Among the food trends this year is zero-waste (or near-zero) grocery shopping at stores where you bring in your own containers to stock up on fresh produce, condiments, spices and more. And we’re seeing more bans on single-use products such as straws and plastic grocery bags. We asked experts for advice on maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle.
Style and beauty
Many iconic brands are slowly starting to launch environmentally and socially minded measures, but shoppers also have to do their part by using their purchase power to move away from fast fashion to more sustainably produced clothes. Even the denim industry, which is hugely polluting, is starting to clean up its act. Some innovators in the Canadian textile world are building a new model for clothing production based on the idea of a fibreshed, a geographic region for textile production – think 100-mile diet, but for fabric, dye and yarn.
Montreal-based Matt & Nat is a pioneer in producing vegan leather goods, while Nominou’s athleisurewear is made of eco-minded materials including postconsumer waste (each pair of leggings repurposes seven plastic water bottles). Solutions for dealing with trash – from how to minimize it to how to use it – are driving innovation and the development of new products and materials, from skin care to eco textiles.
The founders of these Canadian beauty brands prioritize building community and sustainability as part of their product development. Many established cosmetics and skin-care lines are changing how they source ingredients and allowing consumers to keep better track of what goes on their skin. Even the sunscreen industry is pivoting as consumers demand more natural options.
Other ways to feel better about the clothes you wear:
- Sew your own: Once a commonplace skill, sewing fell by the wayside as clothes became cheaper than ever to buy. But people are once again drawn to picking up needle and thread to create custom clothing.
- Buy secondhand: The growing re-commerce (or resale commerce) market appeals to ethical consumers, bargain hunters and Marie Kondo disciples alike, not to mention shoppers out for distinctive looks.
Home and design
Green fatigue. “It’s a phrase that describes how people feel when they’re bombarded by bad news and start to shut down, or worse, give up,” says Gideon Forman, climate lead at the David Suzuki Foundation in Toronto. While combatting climate change may seem overwhelming, it turns out a lot of our efforts don’t have to be huge. For example, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, unplug your computer and TV when not using them and install a programmable thermostat.
When planning a renovation, consider un-building instead of demolition, dismantling and preserving as many reusable finishes and fixtures in the process. This circular economy eliminates waste from landfills and reduces the need to cut down new trees, mine more stone and extract other scarce resources.
Biophilic design connects to the natural world, beyond being just eco-friendly. And it’s not more expensive – elements such as green roofs might cost more up front but they save in long-term heating costs because they are more insulating.
In the bathroom, you might want to consider buying a bidet. Last year, 40 million tonnes of toilet paper was used around the world, and the industry keeps growing, year over year.
When cleaning, it’s important to know which products are most effective and which cleaners are filled with toxic chemicals. Canadian sustainability advocate Candice Batista recommends a less is more approach. “We don’t need as many cleaners as we think do and we tend to overuse most of them,” she says, offering her pick of five eco-friendly cleaners that actually do their job.
Community gardens have become a matter of great interest to gardeners, food experts and policymakers as food security becomes top of mind during the pandemic. In some coastal communities, people have turned to gardening as a way to keep busy and also to reduce pressure on their food supply chains.
Even tight, traditionally non-green spaces like condos can accommodate small gardens with new products that take care of light and water. Try container gardening on balconies with baby greens such as lettuce and spinach, or plant tomatoes, hot peppers and strawberries in containers after the threat of frost has passed.
People from millennials to boomers are growing alternative gardens that are natural, native and sustainable featuring rocks, water or indigenous plants.
- A global pandemic casts humanity’s relationship to nature in stark relief
- The air is clear. So is the reality that economic shutdown won’t save the climate
- Canada can become a leader in sustainable food production in the 21st century
- Should I feel guilty for having a child in this climate crisis?
- Earth Day at 50: A surprising success story
This guide was compiled by Sierra Bein with reports from various Globe reporters and freelancers.