In honor of the annual passing of Earth Day, let's all take a moment to renew our vows to the planet. As living beings, we each have a role to play in treading lightly and tending to the earth ~ and by choosing what we consume and cultivating a conscious lifestyle, our actions have a ripple effect on the world at large. 

So whatever eco-minded habits we already have, let's take one step further and adopt new rituals that can become part of our daily lives.  The following are my personal practices and life hacks for living a low impact life, in a list that has evolved and expanded over the years. 
 

Buy Local & Package Free Food

When possible, buy local: the food is fresher and has to travel a much shorter distance to reach you. Look for CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) or farm boxes in your area that deliver fresh local produce to your home every week. If you're on O'ahu, check out Farm Link Hawaii ~ an online marketplace for local produce, pantry products staples & wellness products. We also love O'ahu Fresh for a more traditional produce box.

Opt for package-free whole foods when grocery shopping, which are better for your health and the environment. Invest in reusable produce bags (and keep them with your reusable shopping bags) so you don't have to take your produce home in those flimsy plastic ones (which ultimately end up in the trash). Purchase pantry staples (like grains & beans) from bulk grocery store bins to eliminate unnecessary packaging.  

Instead of buying condiments and ferments, do your best to prepare these at home. Ketchup, mustard, kimchi and kraut can all be easily made from scratch in your kitchen and will cost you less than their store bought counterparts! Prepare in bulk to save some extra dollars and save old glass jars for storing your delicious concoctions. 

Bring Your Reusables

Wherever you go, bring a reusable utensil set and straw so you don't need to use disposable plastic ones! This bamboo set is lightweight enough to keep in my bag at all times, and this stainless steel straw fits right into the case.

Replacing paper napkins with cloth ones is an easy way to reduce lots of waste; you can even just cut up an old sheet to quickly & cheaply make reusable napkins. I've gotten into the habit of keeping a cloth napkin on me at all times, so I never need paper ones when I leave the house either! 

Find a reusable water bottle you love and USE IT. If you're not a fan of tap water, try this charcoal 'filter' that you can throw into your bottle or pitcher -- it's made from carbonized wood. Bottled drinks that don't end up in a recycling bin are destined for a landfill (or the ocean).

If you always have a delicious drink with you, there's never a need to buy one! Try adding different kinds of fruit (fresh or frozen) to warm water with honey for a soda-like beverage. If you start buying herbs in bulk to make 'loose leaf' tea, you can skip tea bags altogether ~ just make sure you have either a bombilla straw or strainer tumbler to sip loose leaf tea on the go. 

Stash Leftovers & Reduce Food Waste 

Store food & leftovers in reusable tupperware or mason jars. A regular plate or bowl on top of a dish works perfectly well and avoids the need for plastic wrap or foil when storing food in the fridge. For a more equivalent substitute, make or purchase a few sizes of beeswax wraps ~ I love these because they are undyed and made with organic fibers.

Reduce food waste by portioning what you cook and freezing leftovers you might want to eat later. Any food waste or veggie scraps that you do have are so much better off composted than in the trash. A worm bin is super easy to set up and maintain at home, and if you garden it has the dual benefit of providing excellent nutrition for your plants! If you don't have a yard or a worm bin is inaccessible, check out this Lomi countertop composter for food waste. 

Clean Up Your Cleaning Supplies 

One of the biggest culprits of unhealthy chemicals in the home is cleaning supplies, many of which consist of harsh detergents, fragrances and preservatives that pollute the air with potentially harmful volatile compounds. 

Almost everything in your home can be cleaned with Castile soap, white vinegar, and a few other easily accessible nontoxic ingredients.  I often use Dr. Bronner’s Citrus, Peppermint or Unscented Castile soap ~ just be sure a soap does not contain fragrances or preservatives before purchase. If using a scented Castile soap, there's no need to add essential oils for the recipes below. For vinegar,  I opt for the organic option and buy it by the gallon; you can also infuse it with citrus peels for extra cleaning power & scent. 

These are my favorite cleaning solutions for around the house: 

Soap for Hands & Handwashing Dishes 
• Dilute 1 part Castile soap with one part water in a clean bottle 
• Optional: add a dropperful of mint or citrus essential oil per cup of liquid 

Laundry Detergent: 
• Add 1/4 cup or less Castile soap in detergent compartment (do not exceed machine’s fill lines)
• Add 1/3 cup or less white vinegar in the rinse or fabric softener compartment 
• Optional: add a dropperful of mint or citrus essential oil 

All Purpose Surface Cleaner: 
• Fill a clean 16 oz spray bottle with one part white vinegar & two parts water
• Add 1 tbsp of Castile soap and 1/4 tsp mint or citrus essential oil 

Window & Mirror Cleaner: 
• Mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water, or apply undiluted vinegar directly to glass
 
For dishwasher detergent, I use the Automatic Dishwasher Powder from Mama Suds because they have the cleanest formulation I've found (plus its packaged sustainably). There's also an increasing number of bulk refill stores that let you bring your own containers to stock up on eco-friendly cleaning suppliers, such as Protea Zero Waste on O'ahu!

Minimize Your Bathroom Waste 

If you're read to get next-level, adding a bidet to your bathroom setup will reduce the amount of toilet paper you use and improve personal hygiene. If you want to take it a step further, you can start using reusable cloths into the mix, like these super soft Tushy towels... or if you're not quite there yet, try this TP made out of bamboo, which takes a tiny fraction of water to produce compared to the regular stuff and is from a highly renewable resource.

One of the best reasons to be a 21st century woman is because of all the fantastic innovations in moon cycle care. I hope that we can continue to see throw-away period products replaced by safer, reusable options. I personally love these organic cotton underwear from Thinx.

Consider Your Closet 

The fashion industry produces an astounding amount of carbon emissions & waste every single year. Most people wear only a small fraction of their wardrobe ~ donate clothes collecting dust to a local charity. When shopping for new looks, scope out thrift stores (or online apps like DepopPoshmark & Mercari) for second-hand threads. Only buy new items that you're really in love with and support ethical designers & brands. Avoid synthetic fabrics derived from petroleum oil (like nylon, polyester & spandex) and go for natural fibers, which allow your skin to breathe. 

Leverage Your Purchasing Power

In general, seek out companies to buy from that have their ethics intact (and don't take shortcuts to provide quality goods). ⁣Your hard-earned dollars are one of your greatest powers ~ products & services are created for a demand, not the other way around. We are lucky to live in a world with so many choices, and to be able to make such informed choices. So take those extra moments to invest in products and companies for not only what they offer, but for the greater message they give in all that they create for the world!

This list has evolved over time, and was last updated on 4/27/22.