20 Eco Swaps to Make Before It’s Too Late

using a cloth shopping bag

We have one planet that we get to call home, so it’s critical that we take care of it. But with the growing piles of plastic and garbage and the constant depletion of natural resources, caring for the Earth is a never-ending challenge.

The good news is that there are simple things people can do every day that can significantly impact the environment. If you’re wondering what you can do to help the planet, consider these 20 swaps for living a more eco-friendly life.

1. Plant A Vegetable Garden

eco swaps for a sustainable life - plant a veggie garden
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one-third of U.S.-produced food is never eaten, which wastes the food and the resources used to produce it. Growing and harvesting your own veggies, fruit, and herbs decreases the likelihood of produce ending up in the trash. It also reduces carbon emissions and plastic packaging.

2. Use Reusable Shopping Bags

eco swaps for a sustainable life - cloth bag
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Bring a reusable tote when you shop instead of using plastic bags. A canvas tote you use multiple times means fewer plastic bags decomposing for over 20 years in landfills (or ending up in the ocean). Plus, it reduces the number of plastic bags manufacturers must produce (and the resources used to make them).

3. Embrace Secondhand Shopping

buy second hand
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The more items people buy, the more items companies make, leading to increased production costs, emissions, and, eventually, waste. Instead of purchasing clothing, furniture, and other things brand new, consider second-hand options. Thrift stores, online marketplaces, consignment shops, and flea markets are all excellent places to find gently-used, quality pieces that save you money and help save the planet.

4. Give Gifts Of Experience Instead Of Stuff

give experiences instead of things
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Another way to reduce the amount of stuff that ends up in the garbage heap is to buy experiences instead of things. When you shop for the perfect gift for a friend or family member, think about things people can do instead of things they can own. Some examples of gift experiences are museum passes, movie tickets, and restaurant gift cards.

5. Go To The Library Or Read E-Books

eco swaps for a sustainable life - library
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If you love to read, an easy eco-friendly swap is to choose ebooks over actual books. But we get it. For avid book lovers, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands. However, that doesn’t mean you need to buy brand-new. Instead, visit your local library to find your next novel.

6. Use Cloth Napkins, Rags And Microfiber Mop Pads Instead Of Disposable Options

eco swaps for a sustainable life - cloth napkins
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Limiting what ends up in your trash is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Therefore, instead of using products like paper towels, disposable mop pads, and similar items, opt for washable, reusable ones.

7. Open Windows On Cool Days

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Reduce your utility bills and energy consumption by opening your windows on pleasant days instead of running your HVAC system. The fresh air is good for your health and your mood. Plus, running your AC or furnace less frequently can help lengthen your unit’s lifespan.

8. Always Turn Out The Lights When Leaving A Room

turn off the lights
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Another simple way to reduce energy usage is to turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. Remember to flip the switch, even if you know you’re returning to the room in a few minutes. Get everyone in the household on board, and remind them to double-check lights and ceiling fans before leaving.

9. Stay Aware Of How Much Water You Use

turn off the tap
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Fresh water is a limited resource, so it’s important to be intentional when you use it. For example, letting the water run the whole time you brush your teeth is unnecessary. Long, hot showers are undeniably a great way to unwind, but try not to make them a habit. Also, address any leaking appliances or plumbing fixtures immediately.

10. Use Bars Instead Of Jars For Shampoo, Conditioner And Body Wash

eco swaps for a sustainable life - bars instead of bottles
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To help reduce waste, opt for cleansers that don’t come in plastic bottles. Shampoo, conditioner, and soap all come in bar form. Try these instead of buying the typical bottled versions.

11. Get A Reusable Water Bottle

eco swaps for a sustainable life - use a water bottle
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Quit adding to the number of plastic water bottles that end up in our rivers and oceans or taking up space in landfills. One plastic water bottle takes roughly 450 years to decompose. Use a reusable water bottle instead.

12. Go Paperless

electronic bills
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Switch your preferences for all your banking statements, bills, insurance documents, and anything else you can to electronic communication. Going paperless means fewer trees need to come down. Another way to reduce your paper trail is to remove your name from mailing lists that send out catalogs and junk mail. Your local post office can point you in the right direction.

13. Opt For Timeless Fashion Choices

timeless instead of fast fashion
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Clothing companies constantly change trends because that’s how they make money. When something goes out of style it encourages you to buy the next trend. But fast fashion wreaks havoc on the environment. Choose classic, timeless pieces that remain on-trend for years to come, and limit the number of trendy pieces you purchase.

14. Switch To LED Light Bulbs

use LED bulbs
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LED bulbs use a lot less energy than incandescent varieties. Yes, LEDs cost more, but they also last much longer. Therefore, switching to LEDs will save you money in the long run and make your home more energy-efficient.

15. Use A Facial Cleanser Instead Of Make-Up Remover Wipes

eco swaps for a sustainable life - facial cleansers
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Choose facial cleansers and liquid make-up removers instead of using wipes. Look for cleansers that come in eco-friendly packaging and don’t include ingredients harmful to the environment, like parabens and plastic microbeads.

16. Air Dry Clothes And Sheets Whenever Possible

eco swaps for a sustainable life - air dry sheets
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Unless you absolutely must use your dryer, hang clothing, towels, and bed linens and allow them to air dry. Use an outdoor clothesline or invest in an indoor drying rack. Other options are hanging items over the shower curtain rod or using regular hangers on an over-the-door or standing clothing rack.

17. Take Advantage Of Recycling Programs

eco swaps for a sustainable life - recycling program
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Research recycling programs in your area and separate your trash according to the guidelines. Some areas offer recycling pickup programs as part of your monthly garbage service. There are also specific recycling programs for specialized materials like electronics (often through local electronics stores) and medications (check with local pharmacies and hospitals).

18. Repurpose Glass Containers

eco swaps for a sustainable life - repurpose glass containers
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Instead of tossing that empty mayonnaise or jelly jar, wash it and give it a new life. Reuse glass containers for food storage, sauces, paint, craft supplies, coins, and more. Go a step further and DIY cleaning products and skincare and store your creations in repurposed glass containers.

19. Enjoy More Meat-Free Meals

eco swaps for a sustainable life - less meat
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Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains how greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production contribute to climate change. To help reduce these emissions, add a few meatless meals to your diet. Try a Meatless Monday, a Tofu Tuesday, or a Fresh Veggie Friday.

20. Switch To A Bamboo Toothbrush

use a bamboo toothbrush
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When possible, choose eco-friendly materials like bamboo over plastic. For example, a bamboo toothbrush is compostable and biodegradable, so it has a much lower negative impact on the environment. Plus, bamboo is a sustainable crop. You can also find bamboo paper products, bed sheets, and more.