30 Sustainable Actions You Can Do Right Now
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this month, we are giving you 30 sustainability tips – to try each day in April.
Follow along with us on social media and use the #30EcoWays to share what sustainable actions you’re taking.
It’s easy to live more sustainably during this 30-day plan!
30 Ways to Live More Sustainably
Tip #1: Learn How to Properly Recycle Plastic
If you’re accumulating more plastic right than usual now, forgive yourself during this weird time. The good news is that the majority of your household plastic containers like plastics like beverage containers, shampoo, detergent bottles, spray pumps, and buckets all can be recycled. Download our FREE downloadable recyclable guide to see everything that can go in your single-stream curbside bin.
Tip #2: Donate Food with your Phone
Apps like Food Connect and Philly Food Rescue aim to tackle concerns about food insecurity by partnering with restaurants, food retailers, grocery stores, and caterers who want to donate their surplus food to those in need. Now with the implementation of social distancing, Food Rescue lets restaurants and suppliers schedule curbside pick-ups with Food Connect drivers to those in need. Check out these apps and find out how to get involved or spread the word to connect those to important resources!
Tip #3: Start Planting!
During this stressful time, we are also in a time of something brighter — gardening season. A variety of veggies — beets, carrots, radishes, peas, spinach, kale, and collards — can all be planted now for a quarantine-friendly activity. If you don’t have access to a yard or garden space, you can plant greens and herbs in a container. You can upcycle milk cartons as containers by tipping them on their side and filling them with soil.
Tip #4: Free Compost
Do you want to use compost for your Spring plantings? Although it’s temporarily closed due to quarantine, the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center at 3850 Ford Road offers free leaf compost, mulch, wood chips, and more. In the meantime, DIY and start a composting bin! You can start a pile if you have yard space or invest in a compact worm bin in your home. Visit our previous post for more information.
Tip #5: Save Money at the Gym and #OptOutside
Use nature as a peaceful refuge during this time, and make sure to maintain your social distancing. It’s important to note that some parks and hiking trails (like the Appalachian Trail) are asking people to stay away for safety reasons!
Good trails and spots right in the city for biking include the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Fairmount Park, and Martin Luther King Jr Drive.
Tip #6: Get a FREE Water Barrel
Did you know that the Philadelphia Water Department offers rain barrels for FREE with no added cost for installation through their Rain Check program? Rain barrels save water that you can use to clean outside or water your plants. Participants are only required to attend a workshop before they get the barrel installed. The barrels are low maintenance and you can find the action steps on their site. (Note that the Rain Check workshops are on hold for the time being, but it’s a great mission to add to your post-quarantine to-do list.
If you want to go beyond the rain barrel, the Rain Check program also provides opportunities to take on projects like rain gardens, downspout planters, and permeable paving.
Tip #7: Support your Local Farms
You already know that we are BIG fans of buying foods locally from farmers markets, and our local farms need our support now more than ever. So what can you do? First, you should check the new safety guidelines that have been put in place at your farmers markets. Many farmers markets remain open.
Other options for purchasing food are now available. You can order fresh food online and select a pick-up/delivery option through sites like Philly Food Works, Farm to City, and you can also place online orders for the Reading Terminal Market and South 9th Street Italian Market! Check our previous post about farmers markets for more information.
Tip #8: Get a FREE Recycling Bin
No better time to start recycling than the present! During this time, you may find yourself accumulating a ton of recyclable materials. Well, we have some good news! If you don’t already own a recycling bin, you can get one for free at the Philadelphia sanitation centers! Use our downloadable recycling guide to avoid contamination and wish-cycling.
Tip #9: Remember to Turn the Lights Off at Home
Save energy while staying at home! Here’s an easy tip to remember: if you are leaving a room for 15 minutes or more, turn the lights off. Not only will you reduce electricity usage, but you will save lots of money on electricity bills and extend the life of your light bulbs.
Tip #10: Ways to Stay Cool without AC
As the weather starts to warm up, think about ways you can cool down your home without using air conditioning. Keep your blinds closed to prevent unwanted heat that enters through your windows. Make sure to seasonally switch out your bedding out for something lighter like cotton when it gets warm.
Remember to let the air in. During warmer months, temperatures drop at nights so crack open your windows before you go to bed.
Tip #11: How to Make Your Daily Cup of Joe more Sustainable
We can’t live without coffee, but there are ways to enjoy it without harming the environment. It is important to buy coffee that is both organic and fair trade. Also, look for shade-grown and Bird-Friendly coffee. Most of the time, large parts of the forest are cut down in order to grow coffee fast and cheap. Shade-grown coffee is cultivated underneath trees and preserves habitats for migratory birds on coffee farms.
Lastly, as most of you probably already know, Keurig Cups are very bad for the environment. Go filter-free with a French press. Or if you already own a Keurig machine, replace the single-use brewing cups with a reusable K- cup.
Tip #12: Drink your Tap Water!
COVID-19 panic-buying has led to unnecessary stockpiling of plastic water bottles. The Philadelphia Water Department has assured Philadelphians that their tap water is safe to drink. Save your money (and room in your shopping cart) by foregoing any bottled water purchases.
Tip #13: Eat Less Meat
A simple change in your diet can really make a difference. Even if you are not ready to fully be vegetarian, try participating in Meatless Mondays. According to PETA, nearly half of the water used in the United States goes toward raising animals for food. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of meat, while only 25 gallons of water are required to grow 1 pound of wheat.
Tip #14: Subscribe to a CSA
Springtime is the best time to subscribe to a CSA! Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) is the best way to purchase locally grown, seasonal food from smaller farmers. Food subscriptions that offer home delivery or a prepaid pickup option are an easy way to get fresh food while limiting social contact. By purchasing a “share” from the farmer, you receive vegetables (and possibly other farm products such as fruit, cheeses, meats, yogurt, and more) each week throughout the farming season. To find the perfect share for you, check out our website for a list of farms local to Philadelphia. Check with local farms to see if they’re participating because pick-up sites or schedules may be closed at the moment.
Tip #15: Support Local Small Businesses
Go local – even by shopping online from local small businesses instead of defaulting to Amazon. Many restaurants are offering curbside delivery and local boutiques are using social media in order to allow for online orders. Sustainably luxe brand T Tribe is now donating 20% of gift card sales to Philabundance, a Philadelphia hunger-relief organization working in response to COVID-19. Chestnut Hill is asking for people to support their local small businesses through online ordering and gift card purchases with their #KeepItOnTheHill campaign.
Tip #16: Unplug your Appliances
While working from home, make sure you unplug any electronics not in use! Many appliances consume energy even when you’re not using them, which can cost you over $100 a year. Prevent this by directly unplugging electronics or by plugging items into a power strip and turning it off when not in use.
Tip #17: Green your Laundry Routine
Here are a few ways to green your laundry routine!
- Prioritize full loads of laundry over half loads so that you don’t waste water.
- Buy concentrated laundry detergent. Concentrated laundry detergents have reduced packaging and a smaller carbon footprint (because the more useful products can be shipped using less space and fuel). Plus, they deliver more bang for the buck.
- Wash in cold water when possible. Note that current CDC guidelines recommend washing clothes in hot water during the pandemic.
Tip #18: How to Grow Plants Indoors
Here’s a quick guide to growing plants inside that can green up your space while quarantined.
Step 1: Pick a spot with good airflow. For rooms with no windows and little airflow, choose a hardy plant (like the iron plant) that can survive in this type of environment.
Step 2: Think about the size of the space you have before buying because the plant will grow bigger!
Step 3: Remember, every plant has a slightly different care routine. Some require more or less water than others. Some veggies that will grow well indoors in a container are lettuce greens, scallions, kale, and arugula!
Tip #19: Get a FREE Tree
Now that the weather is warming up, the leaves are finally starting to return! In a city where green spaces are quickly disappearing, trees are super valuable. Did you know you can get them for FREE? You can request a free yard tree or street tree through Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation program, TreePhilly. Even though there are no plans to distribute trees this spring, TreePhilly is working on a solution and hopes to be organizing in-person pick-up events soon. UC Green, a community greening organization, is now accepting applications for free street trees in zip codes 19143, 19139, and 19104 through May 5th. Trees will be planted in November 2020. Watch for when other tree applications open up!
Tip #20: Stop Getting Junk Mail
Want to stop getting those circulars and flyers on your door? With extra time, use apps like PaperKarma to help you stop junk mail. L&I’s no circular program may be on hold right now but you can order a sticker for your door by adding yourself to L&I’S “Non-Delivery” list. You can either download a form or call L&I at 215-686-2414 to have them mail it to you.
Tip #21: Eat Less Fish
For an even more sustainable diet, try opting for one without fish. Most fisheries are already being fished at their maximum sustainable level, and some are being overexploited. If you do plan to eat fish, check with science-based sources like Seafood Watch to see if the fish you buy is being harvested sustainably. Fish farming, or aquaculture, is becoming a popular way to harvest fish, but this compromises the health of the fish and the natural environment. Groups like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea, are working to certify fish farms that adhere to environmental standards. But critics have warned that these labels still aren’t perfect and often don’t account for the full climate impacts of farmed seafood.
Tip #22: Become an Advocate for the Environment
- Find nonprofits that inspire you and donate or offer your services! What is most important to you? Preventing climate change? Protecting our oceans? Conserving wildlife? Here’s our recent post about 5 local orgs fighting climate change.
- It’s never a bad time to be an activist for our environment! If you want your voice to be heard, don’t be afraid to email government representatives about their climate change policies and provide ways for them to improve.
- There is a whole community of sustainable groups out there for you to join! You can start with something simple like attending a Green Philly event or becoming a member. Join a Facebook group like Women for a Sustainable Philadelphia or Zero Waste Philadelphia to get you started in connecting with like-minded people.
Tip #23: Create a Zero-Waste Beauty Routine
Take another step towards zero waste by replacing disposable cotton in the bathroom! According to WWF, 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of cotton, enough to make just one t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Removing cotton from your daily beauty routine reduces water and household waste. To replace single-use cotton, try using washable bamboo pads or muslin cloths instead. Choose eco-friendly products that are eco-friendly; you’ll see that many beauty products contain harmful chemicals if you flip that package over.
Another option is to make your own! (You can’t say that you don’t have time now…)
Tip #24: Preserve or Ferment your Food
Want to be less wasteful and make your food last longer? Try preserving food in salt or sugar. Both salt and sugar draw liquid out of food and prevent bacteria or mold from growing.
Try drying or dehydrating food using household dehydrators or your oven.
Pickling is another traditional way to preserve vegetables and reduce food waste. You can actually pickle almost any vegetable with some water, vinegar, spices, and veggies of choice.
Another option is canning them. Canning fresh vegetables preserves them for later use.
Tip #25: #BYO Reusable Bags
Choosing to use your own bags instead of plastic ones, and reusing packaging as many times as possible is always best for the environment. According to a recent Wired article, disposable packaging is not necessarily cleaner or more sterile than reusing packaging.
Due to the current pandemic, check with your local grocery store to see current store policy It’s important to note that it is always good practice to wash and disinfect your reusable bags after use.
Tip #26: #BYO Water Bottles
Want to go zero waste? Start forming your reusable kit. One easy start: a reusable water bottle. You’ll stay hydrated and drastically cut your plastic waste.
Here are some ways to make your switch to a reusable bottle easier:
- Find a water bottle that you love so that you WANT to use it.
- Keep a reusable bottle in your bag, car, or office.
- A few brands to consider are Hydro Flask, Swell (which is donating a bottle to healthcare professionals on the frontline of the pandemic for every bottle bought), Klean Kanteen, Nalgene, and Brita– which sells a bottle that filters your water for you. Regardless of stainless steel or glass, each will all get the job done.
Tip #27: Convert to Solar Energy
Have you considered installing solar panels? Thanks to organizations like Solarize Philly, Philadelphians can get discounted rates on solar installations. Solarize just reopened their program for Earth Day!
Homeowners interested in adopting the alternative energy source can sign up and undergo an assessment with one of PEA’s approved installers. Next, you’ll receive a project proposal. PEA’s Solarize also hosts seminars, conferences, and other educational programs on solar installation for those interested. Installations are on-hold at the moment, but you can still get the process started.
Tip #28: Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk (and BYO containers when it’s safe to do so) is not only a cost-effective way to purchase, but it’s also a way to practice more sustainability. Food and packaging account for almost 45% of American landfills.
Prepare and get supplies of what you need but don’t overbuy: panicked hoarding could create shortages in a self-fulfilling “run on the bank” scenario. You can be efficient by focusing on locally sourced food to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet.
Tip #29: Shop Vintage!
Second-hand clothing develops a recycling community and decreases the tons of water and chemicals that go into manufacturing our garments. Philly is home to lots of vintage shops you can’t miss to support.
Popular apps and websites for selling and buying clothing and accessories include Poshmark, ThredUp, The RealReal, and Vinted. Check for updates on current policies and always disinfect and clean any secondhand item you purchase!
Tip #30: Buy Used Books
Looking for your next good book? Find a used version! Not only is buying used books much more eco-friendly but used bookstores need help and support, especially those in Philly. There are also ways to donate and sell your own used books online.
If you are clearing out your bookshelves, check out the website Better World Books. They will send you a shipping label so you can mail them books to be resold on their site. Proceeds are donated to schools, libraries, and literacy programs.