If you've ever thought about going green only to shy away from the idea because it seems daunting, you're in good company. "It's easy to assume going green is going to be expensive, difficult, and a massive change," says eco-lifestyle expert and writer, Alexandra Zissu. "But in reality, it's actually easy and can make your life simpler, as well as more fulfilling."
You might not have any doubts about the benefits of living a greener lifestyle, but if you don't know where to start, Zissu suggests starting with baby steps. "Start with something you already know and make one small change to your regular routine. For example, if you're a beauty junkie, start by swapping a few products for more sustainable versions," she says.
We're definitely on board for the smoother path to a more earth-friendly existence so we picked the brains of Zissu and a few other experts for more easy starting points. Read on to find out which changes you can make right now.
Drop the beef: “The impact of eating less meat is monumental,” says Zissu, who is neither a vegetarian or a vegan. Simply cutting your intake to two to three times per week can make a huge difference. “One of the quickest ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less meat."
Eat Organic: Switching to organic produce, especially when it comes to the dirty dozen, seems like a miniscule change but you’re actually part of a larger green community when you do. “You think you’re just buying an organic apple, but there’s an entire system at play here,” says Zissu. “The farm workers growing your food aren’t being poisoned by pesticides, the air is better off, the birds are better off, the bees are better off, and maybe you’ve helped a local farm stay in business.”
Sip from Glass: Quit the plastic water bottle habit for good. “Glass is better for your body and the earth,” says Tal Winter, co-founder of bkr. “It’s a fully recyclable material and it’s chemically inert; it doesn’t alter the taste of food or allow any unsafe chemicals to leach and make you sick.” While you’re at it, swap your old, probably pasta-stained plastic tupperware for glass, too!
Do Your Laundry in Cold Water: “Ninety percent of the energy expended doing laundry in hot water is used simply heating that water,” says Zissu, who recommends switching to cold water washing for regular weekend washing (major spring cleanouts and big messes can stick to the warm cycle).
Wash Less: Consider this permission to skip out on laundry day once in awhile. “We can all wash our clothes less and save gallons of water,” says Zissu. “Kids get their clothes really dirty, but we’re not down in the dirt or wiping our food on our pants, so we can absolutely let those jeans or that sweater skip a few cycles.”
Swap Your Detergent: A little research into your detergent can make a big difference water pollution-wise. “When you do laundry, all of that water mixed with detergent goes right back into our water system,” reminds Zissu, who suggests choosing a natural detergent free of hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Ditch the Dryer Sheets: Dryer sheets might smell nice and release the cling from our clothes, but those little sheets, even the unscented versions, are full of chemicals. So, Zissu suggests tackling any clingy issues with wool balls like these, which you can toss in your dryer and use over and over again.
Turn Down the Heat: “Turning your heat down even slightly makes a huge difference in reducing fossil fuel emissions,” says Zissu, who recommends turning it down a few degrees during the day and seeing how you feel. “At night, you should be turning it way down,” she adds, suggesting bundling up in some chic sweaters and a cozy blanket, if necessary.
Refresh the Air Around You: “Indoor air can be up to eight times more polluted than the outside air,” says Dr. Noreen Khan-Mayberry, leading environmental toxicologist and author of Talking Toxicology. And some of that indoor air can be polluted with formaldehyde, the most dangerous airborne chemical, she adds. So, open your windows up for 10 to 15 minutes per day and considering investing in an air purifier like the Rowenta Intense Pure Air ($300, amazon.com) to keep the air around you and, ultimately, outside cleaner.
Skip Chemical Cleaners: If you’ve ever been offended by the harsh smell of a cleaner, blame the harsh chemicals in the produce. “Many cleaning products contain Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), which can enter your airspace and affect your health,” says Khan-Mayberry, who suggests swapping your traditional cleaners with four parts water and one part vinegar to reduce exposure to those chemicals.
Time Your Showers: Simply shortening your shower time can dramatically reduce water waste. Zissu recommends turning it into a game. “Set your phone timer, take a regular shower and see how long it lasts. Next time, try to drop a minute, two minutes, three minutes. Challenge yourself to see how much time and, subsequently, water you can save,” she says.
Cool It on the Heat Styling: Embrace your natural hair texture a little more and skip the blow drying or straightening a few days a week. “Try straightening your hair on Monday and not doing it again until Sunday,” says Zissu. If that’s too big of an ask for a beauty queen, simply try washing your hair less. Dry shampoo is a godsend, after all.