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Illustration by Joules García

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No matter what walk of life you come from, Earth is home.

When you take small steps toward sustainability in your everyday life, you’re acknowledging this truth, no matter how small the gesture.

Luckily, environmentally-friendly and sustainable options are becoming more and more widely available. This means it’s increasingly accessible to make choices that are respectful of the planet you — and all living beings — call home.

Why it matters

Locally-produced food is an important part of a sustainable food supply and has plenty of personal, community, and environmental benefits.

Many urban and suburban locations rely on food that’s transported great distances and often grown in other countries. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, these complex food supply chains can easily break down in times of upheaval.

Not only does locally grown food empower the local economy and bolster food security. It also cuts down on the emissions and fossil fuels required to transport food over immense tracts of land (and sometimes sea).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 5.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions came from supply-chain processes alone in 2019.

Contrary to popular belief, eating sustainably can actually help you save money.

How to get started

Want to shop local? Here are some great places to start.

Check out the various produce delivery services available in your area. Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods offer discounted foods that might otherwise have been thrown away.

Use the USDA Farmers Market Directory or the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market Finder to shop farmer’s markets near you.

Editor’s pick: CSA programs

Join a local community-supported agriculture (CSA) program near you. They often deliver right to your door or have convenient pickup locations. You can rely on their products to be fresh, local, and in-season.

Many CSAs offer 20-pound (9-kg) boxes of local, organic produce for about $25, or $1.25 per pound. Grocery stores can cost 2–3 times as much!

Why it matters

Bamboo is a crop used for wood, fiber, cloth, and plastics that’s fast-growing and extremely durable.

A 2022 study noted that bamboo is a low carbon substitute for plastic and paper as well as emissions-intensive materials like steel, cement, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

Hemp is another fiber crop that’s been cultivated for centuries. It’s also used to make:

  • paper
  • clothing
  • cloth
  • food for animals
  • plastic
  • nutritious food items like hemp seed, milk, protein powder, and oil

Like bamboo, hemp grows much faster than other crops, which makes it more sustainable because it requires less soil and water to produce the same yield.

The first American flag made by Betsy Ross is rumored to have been made of industrial hemp. Hemp is also the star of a 1942 World War II propaganda film urging U.S. farmers to grow as much hemp as possible.

According to a 2020 study, hemp cultivation uses a sustainable amount of water and land and requires no pesticides, making it an ideal alternative to cotton.

How to get started

In the market for bedding? Try bamboo sheets or a bamboo pillow.

Editor’s pick: Hemp for victory

Next time you’re buying new clothes, try Jungmaven hemp clothing. They offer a wide variety of apparel and home accessories for men, women, and kids.

My personal faves are their adorable and versatile jumpers, like the Sespe short romper and the button front jumper.

Why it matters

According to 2021 research, humans have produced more than 8 billion tons of plastic since the 1950s and recycled less than 10 percent of it.

The study notes that as plastic breaks down, micro and nano plastics are released directly into the air and waterways.

More than 80 percent of tap water samples worldwide contain microplastics, and they’ve even been found in the human placenta, an organ that develops inside the uterus during pregnancy.

It’s even been estimated that the average person consumes a credit card worth of plastic a week.

This is significant, because plastic has been shown to cause:

  • immune and endocrine disruption
  • cytotoxicity
  • damage to organ function
  • inflammation
  • carcinogenic effects
  • oxidative stress
  • heightened disease risks

In addition, over 40 percent of landfill waste consists of single-use plastics (SUP), like shopping bags, fast food utensils, and straws, and SUP use has doubled since 2000.

How to get started

Ready to cut down on plastic use? We’ve got you.

These Healthline Editorial picks offer great alternatives to one-time-use plastic products.

Expecting, or have littles at home? Consider outfitting your littles in reusable cloth diapers instead of disposables.

Try an all-in-one cutlery set with a fork, knife, spoon, straws, chopsticks, and napkin.

You can also go reusable in the bathroom with:

You can even ditch your plastic razor and all those replacement heads and opt for a fully metal alternative like the Leaf Razor or the Hanni Weighted Razor.

Editor’s pick: Plastic-free bath and beauty

Ethique offers a wide variety of shampoos, conditioners, lotions, serums, and more in 100 percent plastic-free packaging.

I started off with a Discovery Pack and was immediately sold. My favorite product is the Jasmine and Ylang Ylang Solid Body Butter, and the minis make your bathroom adorable with their sweet heart-shaped bars.

Why it matters

Fast fashion is the practice of mass-producing newly-designed clothes at low cost. It relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent seasonal purchases to stay “on trend,” and short-lived use as clothing goes out of style.

According to 2020 research, the fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of waste per year and uses 79 trillion liters of water.

Not only that, but major retailers like Nike, Burberry, Cartier, H&M, and Urban Outfitters have been called out in multiple media outlets like HuffPost, Vox, and BBC, for destroying unsold inventory. This practice is used, in many cases, to artificially maintain scarcity and keep product costs high.

According to Bloomberg, this accounts for 11.3 million tons of textile waste each year, or 2,150 pieces of clothing each second.

How to get started

If that’s enough to make your blood boil, try these recycled clothing options on for size.

Check out sustainable activewear brands that use recycled materials in their clothing.

Patagonia is true to their commitment to honoring the outdoors with their Worn Wear program. Their goal is to cut down on consumption and get more use out of their high-quality gear. They even have a special category for the classic Patagonia fleece in kids’ sizes.

SUAY is creating a culture of community and reuse with their reimagined clothing line made from post-consumer waste, unsold stock, and domestically, organically grown fibers. They also offer community dye baths so you can give your old clothes a new look and say goodbye to stains on perfectly wearable clothing.

And you can recycle a lot more than clothing.

The Buy Nothing Project has its very own app for offering or asking for recycled goods locally. There are also local Buy Nothing Facebook groups you can join to score anything from furniture to appliances to baby food and more, recycled and totally free.

Editor’s pick

If thrifting and online shopping had a baby, it would be thredUP.com. It offers adorable, gently-used clothes that often have designer labels for a fraction of the cost of new. You can also send in and sell your old clothes. ThredUp will donate those that aren’t purchased.

I love thredUP because it creates a closed-loop system in my closet. I can clean out my clothes seasonally or annually, send them in to be sold, and put my earnings toward items that are “new to me.”

Plus, thredUP helps you track your impact with updates on how much energy, water, and carbon emissions you’ve saved or prevented.

Go on, get in some retail therapy.

Why it matters

If soil is nature’s lifeblood, composting is like an IV vitamin drip. It’s the process by which green waste like leaves and food scraps become nutrient-rich Earth.

Chances are you have plenty of food waste in your kitchen, and composting is another way to close the loop. On top of that, it can help enrich the soil in your garden, improve groundwater retention, and protect against erosion.

How to get started

Want to transition to a zero-waste kitchen with compost? All you really need is a container. Then let nature do the rest.

A simple stainless steel kitchen compost bin is step one. This popular option comes with a charcoal filter to keep smells at bay.

Have a large household and one little bin won’t do it? Live in an apartment? No green waste disposal?

Lomi is a hi-tech solution for those who have too much waste to realistically compost or those who find compost…well… icky.

A video on the product website shows Lomi dicing up just about anything with its spinning blades, turning it into soft, mulchy compost.

You can put a lot more into Lomi than you can in traditional compost as long as you do so in small quantities. This includes:

  • paper items like napkins, paper towels, tissue paper, or shredded brown bags
  • compostable paper plates/bowls/cups
  • very hard peels or fibrous waste (corn husk, pineapple head)
  • pistachio shells
  • soiled compostable paper towels, napkins, and tissues
  • soiled compostable paper food packaging
  • nut butters
  • plain paper documents and envelopes

Editor’s pick: Spinning compost bin

If you’re starting a compost habit, you’ll need somewhere to dump it once your bin is full. If your city offers green waste disposal, that’s the easiest way. If not, you can start a compost pile in your yard, garden, or even your balcony.

One simple way to do this is to purchase a spinning compost bin. This one from My Green Mind is made of recycled plastic.

Unlike regular compost piles, you don’t have to get out your shovel to aerate and stir your compost. Instead, you can just spin the bin and gravity does all the work.

There’s only one Earth.

Luckily, there are small steps you can take to make your love of the planet a part of your everyday life.


Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and in one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses at SimpleWildFree.com. You can find her on Instagram.