40 Quick and Easy Switches for Earth Day

by - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Earth day is coming up soon and it seems that more people than ever are getting invested in the state of our world and what they can do to help. Talk of the environment is everywhere! The problem? It can be kind of vague- pictures of plants or watering cans, mentions of Leonardo DiCaprio, etc. That certainly has it's place, but it isn't all that specific, and I find specific goals make a lot more traction than abstractions.

This list isn't perscriptive; it is just a starting point for your own ideas and brainstorming. I started this blog because

1. The problems felt so big that there didn't seem to be a good place to start. The more I research, the more this feels like the opposite of the truth, because almost every decision we make in our daily lives can make a positive difference!

2. The resources for more eco-friendly living and shopping seemed scattered or overly radical, and in the end, if we all do a little, it can do just as much as one person doing a lot. So I want you to feel validated and empowered to keep trying, not to feel discouraged that you aren't doing every thing you could. Maybe someday, but trying now matters.

So here are 50 goals you could set to help clean up this world.  Pick 1. Feeling ambitions? Pick two. Take on choices you can sustain and let it grow!

1. Skip the plastic straw- The worst kind of trash that pollutes the water and hurts the sea life in it. They are also completely unnecessary if you aren't a toddler. Just say "No straws, please" when you are ordering your drink.

fish body pillow

daffins chocolate chicken as an airplane snack

wall-e stuffie from goodwill

2. Get Less, Get it Used, Get it Local- Just buy less. So simple, but we all have way more stuff than we need! Yes that toy looks great- don't buy it. Yes, that top is on sale- don't buy it. Just buy less. And when you do need something, try to find it used. If you can't, find it as locally (or made in the US) as possible. You can do it- choices are available! We waste excessive, massive fuel and energy shipping stuff, most of which we don't need.

3. Go Plant Something- Cleaner air and water, better climate. Plant that herb garden you think about. Volunteer and plant a tree in a park. Nowhere to plant? Skip one meal out and donate the money to the Arbor Day Fountain or Plant a Billion Trees.

4.Small is the New Big. Less is the New More- We get the message over and over that we need the newest, biggest, best thing or we won't be happy. But who says? Change your ambitions about stuff- change the world. Pick one thing you are sure needs replaced and ask how you can make what you already have work.

5. Be Eco-Lazy- Don't run the dishwasher or laundry machine until it is totally full. It's not procrastination- it saves energy and water!

staining a secondhand table
we got this table on buy nothing for free! 
6. Join a Buy Nothing or other Local Sharing Group- Buy Nothing Project builds hyper-local communities by creating a venue where people can ask for what they need or offer what they already have, 4 babies other than our own have used our Rock n' Play. That's 4 fewer sold and 4 fewer in the landfill later. I also know ten times as many of my neighbors as I would without it. Buy Nothing is the bomb, and if your neighborhood doesn't have one, take the leap and start one.

7. Recycled Plastic- They say ours is the "plastic generation" and that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Don't add more. You can find many plastic items, from toys to watering cans to pens out of recycled plastic, so don't settle.

8. Collect Water- You can go big and get a rain barrel to catch rainwater, or you can go much smaller and put a bucket in your shower for while our water warms up. Either way, you can water your plants completely with water that would have otherwise gone to waste.

jonagold apples at seattle university district farmer's market

9. Shop the Outside Edge of the Grocery Store- The healthiest and most eco-friendly (see: way less packaging!) food all lives on the outside of your store, where they can keep things cool and not frozen. Healthier than Healthy Choice? Fresh vegetables. Healthier and way less wasteful than the devil's baby snack pouches? An orange.

big sky country road and cloud

10. Carpool, Even Once a Week- Do you have public transit nearby? Can you walk to what you need? It may seem silly in less populous areas, but even when you aren't saving time with a carpool lane, you still keep that much less junk out of the air, even if you only do it occasionally.

11. Never Just Throw Away What You Would Buy- If you will spend money on tupperware, why just throw away those plastic yogurt containers? They are the same thing! Why buy cleaning cloths if your used up clothes and towels make perfectly good rags? Try to make the most of what you already have.

12. Quit Impulse Buys- You see it and want to buy it? Don't. It sounds easy, but I know it sometimes isn't. Instead, start a shopping list. When you see something you need "hey, we could use that fan!" put it on the list. You can easily check to see if there are recycled plastic ones (yes, there are) or made in America ones (yep, those too) available. You can also go to your local thrift shops and check there! A better choice is out there if you slow your roll. If an object sits on the list long enough, you know you probably didn't need it- time to move on.

13. Use a Smaller Garbage Can- It sounds crazy, but you throw out less if it accumulates quickly. Sometimes those huge cans make us numb to just how much we toss. What to do with the old can? Make it your recycling! You'll be amazed at how it makes you rethink your garbage strategies.

eat like you give a damn mug with a spoon in it

14. Bring Your Mug to Coffee- Buy a travel mug. Even better, buy an adorable, Made in America travel mug. Then stop getting those little coffee cups that are one time use instant garbage. Most places will put that coffee in your mug, and you could be saving hundreds of pieces of garbage from the landfill a year (depending on the severity of your addiction).

15. Make a List- When you leave to shop, even for groceries, have a plan in mind. This is not my strong suit, but my method of shopping ("hey, this scallop looks good! Hey I think I tried these cookies once!") makes for lots of extra waste.

16. Hello, Vintage- Fast fashion is on its way out. The perfect place to start your clothes shopping is in consignment or vintage stores. Check out Refashionista- you can do a lot with old clothes!

17. Buy Recycled Paper Towels- Why should trees come down for your messes? Try something like Seventh Generation's recycled paper towels instead, and cut down the number of trees that have to be cut down! Need more recycled paper inspiration? Check here.

18. Refurbish Old, Used Furniture- Why does anyone buy a new wood table? You can find tons of them just waiting for a new life. Beautiful, built to last way longer than the Target junk, and it often costs way less. Need a simpler goal? Slipcovers instead of a new couch.

19. Recycle- Seems obvious, but not everyone is doing it. Not available right where you live? Time to check out what your options are.

20. Switch Your Lightbulbs- This blog from Christmas looks into what would be most energy efficient and safe for lightbulbs. Worth it to make the switch.

lifefactory water and baby bottle

21. Reusable Water Bottles- Remember when people thought it was a really good idea to build houses out of asbestos? I am certain that's how we will feel avout plastic water bottles- you pay for something you can get for free, so almost cartoonishly evil companies like Nestle (I kid you not, they are really that bad) can steal it, pit it in toxic and wasteful containers, and sell them to the public. Buy one water bottle to hold all your water and kiss one time use plastic bottles off forever.

22.No More Palm Oil- Horrible for the rainforests and our planet's biodiversity, but apparently great for shampoo, because it is in so many of them. Look out for palm oil and help contain the ripping down of the rainforest.

23. Use Natural Light- Don't turn on the lights unless you actually need to. Simple and pretty!

24. Use Reusable Bags! Plastic grocery bags make no sense and create so much of that waste our children and grandchildren will be desperate to get out of the water. Animals are mistaking them for food, and they keep finding washed up whales and other animals with stomachs full of plastic bags. Is the convenience worth it? I don't think so. End the cycle now and get reusable bags. If you forget them (I get it, we all have our days) opt for paper. But no more plastic bags.

25. Skip the Plastic Produce Bags- While we are at it, you are going to wash those asparagus anyway, so just keep one reusable bag open for all of your produce (the one exception might be jalapeno), and wash it all when you get home. I promise your oranges won't get their taste on your apples. Those little plastic bags are ridiculous. If you do want to separately bag your produce, you could use something like these.

26. Stop Your Unwanted Mail- You can do this! Lots of sites and numbers will help put a stop to all of that junkmail, and that's good for your sanity and your household's overall use of paper. Save the Earth, stick it to Oriental Traders, kind of makes sense.

27. No More "Made in China"- Could you go a week without buying anything made overseas? How about a year? Try taking the challenge or at least cut down! Made in China feels inevitable, but it rarely is, and it wastes resources, almost guarantees mistreated workers, and is not so great for our economy. You should get to travel all over the world; your stuff should be from nearby.

vegetarian meals

28. Cut Down on Your Meat- Meat, especially beef, is responsible for a shocking amount of our water and energy consumption as a country. I would never ask you to give up your hamburgers (The Boy might leave me) but maybe only once a month? Once a week? The less red meat we eat, the better we will feel, so it is a big bonus for you as well.

29. Don't Toss It- Donate It!- Just because it is junk to you doesn't mean it is to someone else! Faded toys, pilled clothes, janky old furniture- they might be just the ticket for someone else. Set a really wide net for what counts as part of your donate pile.

30. Buy One More Food Item Locally- Even better if it is something fresh and seasonal. But much like our stuff, our food is traveling way too far. Every mile it goes, someone takes it there, so whatever you can find made nearby is much better for the environment. Sometimes easier said than done, but you might by surprised at your find and you can definitely save local jobs!

31. No More Dryer Sheets- Use the 1000 times over reusable dryer balls instead. If you have toddlers, they can thank me later.

32. Switch (even partially) to Cloth Diapers- If you do one cloth diaper a day, you will save 365 diapers in a year. Multiple that by the number of years in the diaper, and you have saved 1000 diapers from going to a landfill.

purple cloth napkins

33. Cloth Napkins and Washclothes-Cut down on those paper products that work just as well in a cloth version. We use them pretty regularly at our house, but still have recycled paper napkins for company as well.

34. Write one Business a Letter- Noticed a company, restaurant, store, or business not really up to enbironmental schedules. Stand your ground and let companies know what they are doing isn't right and needs to be addressed. The more they get the feedback that you are paying attention .

35. Turn Your Computer Off at Night-One of the one's I am going to start trying. It sucks energy, you should just turn it off.

36. Pick a Environmental Organization and Donate Something- Can't afford it? Sign up for their mailing list and sign their petitions.They can use your signature as well as your money.

travel map- how far does your stuff travel?
from factcoexist.com

37. Think about How Far your Stuff Travels- Have you seen those maps that chart all the trips someone has taken in a year? Imagine that, but with every item you buy in a year. What would the map look like? Never thought about it? Check out this link.

38. Go meet your neighbors- Fostering community is good for your life, good for everyone around you, and good for the environment. The more we feel we belong to this world, the more likely we are to get involved.

39.Change your Toothbrush- No more plastic toothbrushes! Those plastic brushes are bound for the garbage as soon as you take them out of their excessive public packaging, they are already waiting for the bin. I love Preserve's recycled brushes and Tiny Yellow Bungalow's bamboo option. Simple switch, huge difference! Especially if you stick with it!

40. Travel Sustainably- Bring your own shampoo and conditioner, so you can skip those stupid tiny bottles. Buy all of your souvenirs made in the place you are at. This can be crazy to find, but I am sure you can handle it. I have faith in you.

Is this all common sense stuff? Yes, but it doesn't mean we are doing it! No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. For Earth Day, let's all admit we can do more and pick one more goal to clean this Earth up! And what a wonderful Earth it is!

Want to step up your eco-shoppung? Check out my Mega list of Lists for tons more shopping inspiration.

You May Also Like


  1. I had no idea palm oil caused so much damage. Definitely something I'll look out for.

    1. Right? It kind of sneaks by, but it does cause a lot of problems.

  2. SO many great ideas! lol bring your mug to coffee is cute. I've heard of the Buy Nothing Project, but haven't joined a group yet - it's such a brilliant idea! Thank you for the ideas

    1. Thanks Clarice! Definitely check out Buy Nothing- it is the best thing ever.

  3. Oh, what a great list! So many awesome suggestions. I try to be conscientious about my habits, but I'll admit that sometimes I forget. But that's no excuse. I'm jotting some of these done to keep them in the forefront of my mind. Some of them are so simple and easy but would probably make a big difference! Thank you.

    Imagine if we all did at least a few of these daily! What a difference we could make.

    Thanx again!

  4. Thanks Alicia! I think it would be SO tough to do all of them, but if we all did even half we could make such an amazing difference in the world!