kitchen items stacked on a counter

10 home items to help you live more sustainably

LIVE greener | 17 MIN READ | 2019-04-12

Living sustainably can mean different things to different people. It can mean commuting to reduce one’s carbon footprint, avoiding plastic to help protect our oceans, or practicing minimalism and reusing materials more often. Whatever living sustainably means to you, this list of 10 home items should help you be more successful in living a greener life.

Here’s our quick list – read on for details about why each item for your home is more eco-friendly, and where you can buy the best ones:

1. Mason jars
2. Water filters
3. Coffee presses or pour-overs
4. Reusable straws
5. Cotton mesh bags
6. Eco food containers
7. Organic cotton dish towels
8. Stainless steel clips
9. Reusable face and makeup wipes
10. A shower timer

1. Mason jars

food on kitchen counter in mason jars

Mason jars are great for so many reasons – and when it comes to reducing food packaging waste, they’re the perfect solution. How do they help? Simple. Use them (or any glass jars) over and over again to store food, so you can shop in bulk and save both packaging waste and money. Not only do they help as ways to reduce waste, these inexpensive little jars can help reduce your carbon footprint too, since buying in bulk typically means fewer trips to the grocery store. 

Here’s how you can live more sustainably using mason jars: 

First, purchase several sizes of jars. Why not add your own DIY glass jar labels? It’ll make them super cute in your kitchen or pantry!

o Check out these reusable glass jars with sealable lids for storing food in your kitchen. They have a tight seal, perfect for storing soups and home made sauces. 

o Canadian Tire also carries mason jars of all shapes and sizes at good prices that work perfectly for food storage in your kitchen. 

Start shopping in bulk! Before you do, use up what you already have, and when you run out, start hitting up your local bulk food store for all of your cooking needs. If you’d prefer to go to Costco or the grocery store to pick-up the larger sizes of your favourite ingredients, bring them home, fill what can fit in your labelled jar, and stow the bags in lower cupboards in your cabinets for refilling later.

Lastly, display your glass jars in your upper cupboards or on your countertop for easy access and a kitchen décor that’s right on trend. 

o Tip: You can store all sorts of things in glass jars – like pasta, coffee, quinoa, baking ingredients, cereal, nuts, tea – the options are truly endless. If you need ideas for glass jar organization or what foods to store in your glass storage jars, Pinterest has you covered.

Did you know: You can bring your own containers to most bulk food stores to fill, rather than using the little plastic bags that they provide? It’s simple. Bring your containers to the cashier to pre-weigh them and write the weight on the containers with washable marker, then shop away!

2. Water filters

Soma water filter on coffee table in living room

Image Credit: The Gadget Flow

Have you ever considered using a water filter instead of drinking from plastic water bottles every day? Let’s rethink this for a moment. Not only do they have a negative impact on the environment, they also cost a lot to produce, both money- and water-wise. 

Instead, try using a water filter. This plant-based water filter actually filters your water through coconut shell carbon and plant-based casing that removes chlorine, with a pitcher made of shatter-proof, BPA-free plastic. Really, any water filter is better than using plastic water bottles, but we thought we’d recommend a sustainable (and pretty) one. Making this change will not only save you money in the long run (buying water bottles adds up over time), but also is much more eco-friendly.

• Fact 1: It takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount actually contained in a bottle. Learn more about why we should take notice, with tons of fresh water-related issues around the world happening right now.

Fact 2: Plastic doesn’t go away because it never, ever breaks down. Check out this TEDx Talk by nine year-old Molly Steer summarizing why. Pretty amazing!

Fact 3: Over 1 million sea birds and 100,000 mammals die annually from ingesting or becoming trapped in plastic waste. 

Did you know: In 2017, 19% of Canadians drank bottled water as the main type of drinking water at home? Toronto alone consumes over 100 million bottles per year. Time to invest in a water filter!

3. Coffee press or pour-over, and reusable coffee filters

girl in kitchen pouring coffee into a mug

Coffee – what a beautiful thing. If we told you that you can make coffee at home taste better and have a lesser impact on the environment, would you be up for a little change? Depending on what type of coffee maker you use, swapping it out for a coffee press or pour-over is likely a more eco-friendly way to drink coffee.

Let’s take into consideration a standard (some might call this “old school”) coffee maker and a coffee pod machine: 

These both plug into the wall and use electricity – and one must remember to unplug them after use, or they will continue to suck energy (yes, even when they’re turned off). 

In addition, most coffee pods are made of plastic. The demand for these has increased significantly (apparently more than 38% of Canadian households own one), which is producing a ton of garbage and plastic waste every day. 

While many coffee pod machines on the market are doing their best to create biodegradable pods and lower the amount of waste they produce, there is actually a better, cheaper, more eco-friendly solution. And that would be doing it the French way – using a coffee press. French coffee presses and pour-overs use electricity only because water needs to be boiled, aside from that, you could have a perfectly energy-free coffee drinking experience!

Here’s how:

1. Grind your beans with a manual coffee grinder. This saves energy and works your muscles (and wakes you up in the morning, in addition to the coffee) – win, win!

2. Use the more energy efficient way to boil water with an electric kettle. 

a. Apparently, the most energy efficient way to boil water is with an induction stove (something to aspire to!)

b. The second best way is with an electric kettle at about 80% energy efficient, versus an electric stovetop, which is about 70% energy efficient.

3. For a French press – no need to use a filter, so you’re already making your coffee in an eco-friendly way!

4. For a pour-over – try using a reusable coffee filter (make sure they’re BPA-free), rather than the paper ones that are thrown out after each use. You’ll save you money in the long-run, and you’ll waste less paper. 

Another plus, French presses and pour-overs are almost always less expensive than your typical coffee machine. So you can spend less, save more, and have a lesser impact on the environment when you make your cup of Joe in the morning (and afternoon, and sometimes evening… we understand). Oh, and don't forget to compost your coffee grinds!

4. Reusable straws 

pink donut on plate with drink with reusable straw in it

Image Credit: EXstrawCo on Etsy

Stock up on reusable straws – and say no to plastic ones! Most of us don’t actually need to use straws, yet everywhere we go, there they are. 

New York Magazine put together a list of the best reusable straws on the market, and there are some great options (including straws that come with their own brush to clean the insides of them!). If you’re a straw person, check out some of these to carry around with you when you go out. Let’s make reusable straws a trend!

After some research, NY Times Magazine found that the best reusable straw is made of soft silicone – they don’t get hot if you’re drinking coffee, they’re flexible, dishwasher-safe, and silicone’s durability lasts forever, but if you want to throw the straw away, you can simply burn it. The Koffie Straw as an example, actually turns into 100% biodegradable ash when burned. How cool is that?

We also found these foldable straws (that come with a case) online at the Package Free Shop. They’re BPA-free and made with stainless steel and food grade silicone. They’re also dishwasher safe, so they can get nice and clean when you’re done with them!

5. Cotton mesh bags 

Lemons in a reusable white bag

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

To ensure you’re using less single-use plastic bags, pick up some reusable bags to keep in your home and car – like this organic cotton one. The mesh material makes it easy to keep on your person when you’re out and about. Whether you’re carrying gym gear, books, your lunch to work or school, or need to pick-up vegetables at your local market, you’ll have this on you – which means you won’t need to ask for or use plastic bags.

Check out string bags from the Package Free Shop. They’re made with organic cotton, are 100% compostable, and are shipped to your home with little-to-no packaging (and zero plastic)!

o Or support local artisans and small businesses by purchasing cotton mesh bags on Etsy, there are lots of different colours, shapes and styles to choose from! 

Fact: Shoppers worldwide are using around 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. That’s about one million bags every minute around the world (!), and that number is rising.

Tip: Leave one of these in your desk at work or home, by your front door, and in your purse or knapsack so you always have one handy.

Side note: These smaller, organic cotton mesh produce bags are great (and rated highly on Amazon) for use instead of vegetable and fruit bags when shopping.

They’re perfect for storing fruits and veggies at home. The porous fabric allows them to breathe and stay fresher longer by letting the natural ethylene gas escape.

6. Eco-friendly food containers 

eco-friendly food containers, food in mason jars

They call it “the Tupperware age”. Well, it’s safe to say it’s coming to an end and people are now choosing safer food storage containers (because plastic isn’t great for the environment, BPA toxins exist, and there are tons of options that last longer and work better). Yes, we’re talking about those plastic food containers that are stacked up with mismatched lids in our cupboards (we’re all guilty!). 

Why you should get rid of your old, plastic food storage containers:

Research shows that plastic leaches chemicals into our food, which can harm our health or make us sick.

o Fact 1: Plastics like Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS) exist in our plastic food containers, which are chemicals that have been linked to various health problems.

o Fact 2: Why should you avoid microwaving your food in plastic containers? The heat actually breaks down plastic over time and allows BPA toxins to leak in your foods. So, definitely avoid doing that if you can. 

o Fact 3: These chemicals are also found in canned foods, which is why you should avoid storing food in metal cans in your fridge! 

o Fact 4: Manufacturers are creating BPA-free plastic products. However, many “BPA-free” products have been replaced with BPS, which could actually be more toxic. So make sure you do you research, because BPA-free doesn’t always mean BPS-free too.

Here's what you should use instead: 

1. Safest – glass storage containers. While these are slightly more expensive than buying plastic, they have a ton of benefits.

They last longer (and don’t stain like plastic containers do).

They’re easy to wash (and you can put them in your dishwasher).

You can microwave them with the food in them, using less dishes.

Be sure to watch for inexpensive glass containers, as they might contain lead or cadmium. Make sure you buy brands that advertise as “lead-free” glass containers and if you’re unsure, try these LeadCheck swabs.

2. Safer – stainless steel. If you’re not into glass containers, these are a better option than plastic containers.

• Make sure to choose stainless steel containers that are made of high-quality, food grade stainless steel. 

Check out these airtight stainless steel containers from Amazon.

3. Other options: 

Check out these recycled bamboo and cork containers. They come in fun colours, and are made with 100% sustainable materials. 

Silicone is another great option, like eco-friendly reusable food storage bags or these cute “food huggers” silicone containers. 

Mason jars. You can always store food in these, and they look pretty when you bring your lunch to work in them, too.

Go with ceramic. Ceramic food storage containers are fridge and freezer safe, and can be microwaved or put in the oven. 

Wooden containers, like this Japanese bento box-inspired container, are BPA-, plastic-, PVC-, and phthalates-free. Definitely healthier than plastic!

7. Organic cotton dish towels 

organic cotton dish towels that say rosemary

Image Credit: EmilieTaylorLLC on Etsy

Is paper towel one of your favourite cleaning tools? Same. But one simple change that you can make to be more eco-friendly and reduce waste in the kitchen (and when cleaning in general), is to swap out your paper towel habit for dish towels. Just make sure to have a bunch on hand, so that when you’re washing some, you still have others to use. 

You can really use any type of dish towel to replace paper towel, but here are some of the best kinds:

Organic cotton dish towels: Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers. It’s important to support companies that create products using organic cotton, as chemicals in pesticides are both bad for the environment and our health.

Microfiber cloths: These have tons of benefits, like the fact that they’re super absorbent (even more so than paper towel), anti-bacterial, and can be washed over and over again, which reduces your overall waste.

Huck towels: Huck towels are super absorbent, hold up well after many washes, and are lint-free, which is helpful for window and mirror-cleaning. They’re frequently used in medical facilities because they’re so absorbent and durable, so why not clean with them too?

So, why should you stop using paper towel? Well, there are lots of reasons. But here are some that might really motivate you to swap disposable paper products for reusable cloths now:

You’ll save money. Think about how often you stock up on paper towel, and it’s not exactly cheap. Let’s say that you buy 12 rolls every month (and that’s a low estimate), at approximately $5 every 2 rolls (going off Amazon prices here, which are usually cheapest), that’s $30 per month and $360 per year (minimum) that you could save!

They’re bad for the environment. This one is pretty obvious, but here are some stats to help you understand why:

o Paper towels are some of the most overused and environmentally damaging products used today. 

o Approximately 17 trees and 76,000 litres of water are polluted to make one ton of paper towels (one ton of paper towels = approximately 3,000 rolls).

o It would take 51,000 trees per day to replace the number of paper towels that are thrown out every day.

Paper towel is boring. Why would you use plain white, boring paper towels when you can get creative with your reusable dish towels? Just look at all the fun options of organic dish towels on Etsy – they’re so cute and affordable!

o Plus, with cloth towels, you can assign certain colours for different cleaning purposes. That reduces the number of times you’ll need to wash them, as you’ll know what cloths are for cleaning the floors versus the countertops.

8. Stainless steel clips 

pretty desk with string lights and photos clipped on a board

Image Credit: AllTheCuteThings on Amazon

This is a pretty simple one – but when you need to keep food bags sealed (potato chips, anyone?), organize desk papers, hang laundry, or even create your own decorative photo hanging wall, use stainless steel clips instead of plastic ones.

We love these stainless steel clips from goop or these rose gold clips on Amazon, but there are lots of options out there. The main thing is to stop using so much plastic. Plus, they’re super cute. 

9. Reusable makeup (and face) wipes 

girl in bathroom putting lotion on her hands

While not everyone wears makeup, we still need to wash our faces! Many people use face wipes every day to remove makeup or freshen up after a long day. 

But do you ever think about where all those wipes end up? In landfill – and apparently, they take years to break down because they’re made from products that are not biodegradable. Plus, most of them are packaged in plastic, creating even more waste for such a small and simple thing. 

Sure, face and makeup wipes are convenient. But there are great alternatives for your face-cleaning needs. Here are a few of our (less expensive) faves:

Face Halo: Made out of non-toxic microfibers, these can replace up to 500 single-use makeup or face wipes. The best part? All you need to do is wet them with water, and they take every bit of makeup off your face (we’ve tested these, they really work). After about a week, throw it in the wash – it can be washed around 200 times before you’ll need a new one, and three come in a package for $22. 

Makeup eraser cloths: These are similar to the Face Halo, where all you need to do is dampen the cloth and it will take everything off. They say these last about 3-5 years and can stand up to 1,000 washes (for just $24). If you think about the fact that one package of face wipes is usually around $10, it’s worth it after just two packs.

Good old fashioned face cloth: If all else fails, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned face cloth. Sometimes these can be scratchy and tough on your skin, but if you use an organic cotton baby wash cloth, it’ll be softer and easier on your skin.

For more ideas, here’s a helpful list of 8 eco-friendly alternatives to makeup wipes. Why use something once to throw away when you can switch to reusable? So much better for the bank account and environment.

10. Shower timer 

Glen Agar Model Home bathroom with double sinks

Image Credit: Glen Agar's Fitzgibbon Model Home

Have you heard of a shower timer? Basically, it helps track how long you’re showering so you can set goals and use less water by taking shorter showers. It can also track how hot your showers are. That way, you can commit to taking showers that are one degree less hot for the year. You’ll save money and energy that way, and it’s better for your skin and hair, too!

Another alternative is to simply time your showers with your phone or clock, and then start setting timers so that when your time is up, it pushes you to cut it short by a few minutes. 

So there you have it, your 10 tips for day one on living more sustainably. Stay tuned for 9 more posts packed with tips and tricks for living a greener life, and let us know what you’re committing to this year to be more sustainable.