Eco-Laziness: The Simplest Things You Can Do to Help the Environment (that Actually Make Life Easier)

by - Sunday, April 07, 2019

A lot of people don't shift to do greener things- avoiding plastic packaging, shopping local, growing more of your own food, and more- because it just seems hard. Life is hard enough! The truth is that there are lots of things in a green lifestyle that do take more effort than just doing it the mainstream way. That isn't to say it isn't worth it, but we can each only fight so many battles at a time.

I often think of my favorite Wall-E, he is single-handedly trying to put the world back together, and he works. A lot. Alone. So much working all of the time.

The truth is that no one can do everything to help the environment- no one is saving this planet on their own. And no one solution will fit for everyone too- reusable stuff makes sense in my life because we have in home laundry, but that solution may not be workable if that isn't your situation. The idea is that we all give what we can and do what we can. We start with the stuff we are most likely to sustain. That means the easy stuff, so there is no shame in a little eco-laziness.

So I use eco-laziness with total love- this stuff still matters and it is pretty dang easy. Sometimes doing less is actually the best thing you can do.

So here are my best ideas for things you can do even when life is full, and you know you can't do much. The idea here isn't to be perfect, it's just to keep making progress. Let's do this!

1. Stop Weeding

First of all, if you are still killing weeds with Round Up, you have to stop (tell your friends- this is a big deal). I honest to goodness don't even think it matters if you care about the environment; do it for your own life and health. Round Up has been proven to cause cancer and to hurt kids' brain development. Round Up is poison to us.

But that doesn't mean you have to get down on the ground and weed every little thing either! A perfectly manicured yard is actually WORSE for the environment, and one of the best things we can do for pollinators like bees is to keep our weeds (which are often native plants) growing. Bees are in desperate need of our help; their population continues to decline, and if they go extinct, so does our food supply.

So take it easy on the weeding and say absolutely no to Round Up (scream it from the rooftops).

2. Buy your Basics in Bulk

Buying in bulk can minimize packaging waste and makes more ethical brands competitive with what you buy in stores. It also means you can buy this stuff once a year, have it delivered to your house, and not think about it again for months and months.

My favorite for this is Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. You can buy a huge box of it, and not think about it again. Most anything in bulk will use less packaging than things in smaller portions. You don't necessarily need to become a costco member, but maybe make friends with one. We buy our salt and pepper in bulk, hand soap in bulk, paper goods, and cleaning supplies. If you don't have a ton of space, just pick the things you use most (or split with friends- bulk sharing should be a real thing).

If you want more ideas of things to buy ethically, online, and in bulk, check out this blog about greening your basics.

3. Skip the Straw

It takes nearly no effort to say "No Straw Please!" and you get to feel that Earth-Saving glow all day long. It's the little victory that gets you started to a world of victories! They are not necessary for many of us, and it costs us nothing to just turn them down.

If you want more crazy easy ways to get plastic out of your life, check out this post.

4. Stop Shopping

We all shop a lot. We shop for holidays, as a pass time, as quality times with friends, it even gets called "self-care." We think of shopping as a quick and easy fix, something that saves us time, but it is actually a huge time suck in our lives! We waste so much time and energy shopping, thinking about what we will shop for, and working extra so that we can shop.

Take our wardrobes for example. We spend a lot of time and energy shopping for clothes, many of which we will only use a few times, sometimes keeping up with trends. But in the course of doing so, we buy into the myths of fast fashion, that clothes can change who we are or make us better.

We kind of know this is a lie. Have you ever bought a piece of clothing that boosted your confidence in a longterm way? Not just a quick high? Me either. So we keep shopping with the hope this dress will be the one. Instead, what we do is create an overwhelming amount of waste, textiles are the third largest source of waste in the world, and with plastics involved, things are getting really ugly. We create so much garbage, and we are putting a lot of effort into something that never really pays off like we hoped.

It's easier to just not shop. Start a list on your phone or fridge. When you feel the need to buy something, just write it there. Then only go shopping once a month or once a season. A little time can make something that felt like a need transform into something not so important. And all that effort can go into something creative, fulfilling, our social instead.

This is just as true for the holidays. You can spend HOURS looking for deals, the perfect gift, and still come up feeling like you didn't do enough. If you change your approach to gifting, thinking about what you can make or what experiences you can give, you can save a lot of time. Even if you spend a bunch of time making gifts, it will still probably come out about even.

5. Run It When It's Full

I feel like we are being irresponsible or not taking care of our responsibilities if don't "keep up" with the laundry and dishes. But if I run the dishwasher or laundry machine everyday, they often aren't exactly full. Using a dishwasher is actually more efficient than the sink if it is full, but only if. So don't do those dishes until you have a whole load. It's not being lazy, it's saving the Earth!

While you are at it, switch all your washing options to cold water. Super easy, and the vast majority of the power a washer uses is just for heating the water up.

6. Just Go Outside

When parenting is rough or therapy is expensive, save yourself the hassle and money, and just go outside. Time out in natural spaces is so good for us, that around the world doctors are prescribing it for depression and physical problems. Also, it costs us nothing. You can be in most outdoor spaces like parks for free.

Start planning more picnics and fewer dinners out. Or meet a friend at the park instead of at a cafe. Enjoy all the happy things that outdoor spaces do for your brain.

If I am having a completely terrible day parenting, I will either head out with my kids and play in the backyard or I will strap them into the stroller and go for a long walk. I don't know if either counts as good parenting, but it is just the break I need.

This is perfect eco-laziness. It costs you no money, and in most places, very little effort. But time outside tends to be low impact and low waste, and the more you love nature, the more likely you are to take care of it. So being outside (hopefully for at least an hour a day) can save your life and save the world at once.

7. Don't Use Produce Bags

Remembering shopping bags can be a challenge for some of us, and even if you accidentally end up with plastic grocery bags sometimes, you can still avoid a bunch of grocery plastic by refusing to use produce bags.

Just set your fruit and veggies loose in the cart- you are going to wash them either way! And no one has ever suffered from getting their apples on their oranges.

We definitely have gotten some weird looks, but other than for delicate herbs or powerful peppers, most everything can mix with no consequences. It's just so easy. And if the cashier looks annoyed, just tell yourself that you are practicing eco-laziness (and giving them job security).

Want more ideas to be green at the grocery store? Check out this post.

8. Don't Replace Things Unless They are Really, Really Done

One of the worst trends I see right now is people who want to go green, so they throw out all of their old plastic stuff and get the pretty wood and glass options instead. Don't do it! Let eco-laziness take over here, and use whatever you already have until it is absolutely done. The real "look" of eco-friendly living is stuff that is used within an inch of it's life. Worn down and then reused for something else.

The objects in our life have two lives- a use life (when they are in use) and a waste life (when they are out of use). Natural items (plants, animals, humans, air) etc are so spectacular because they don't have waste life. As soon as something dies or rots it enriches the soil and breaks down to become something else. But much of what we buy spends more time as trash than as a useful object. The longer you can stretch out that use, the better.

What you already have is the most eco-friendly choice, because you have already paid the environmental price for its shipping, manufacturing, and packaging. Also, if something still has life in it and you send it to the landfill, you are only adding to the extreme waste humans are making on this planet.

There are a few exceptions (namely plastic-based clothing and beauty products with little plastic microbeads), but in general, your best option is ALWAYS what you already have. You will have a beautiful wood dish brush soon enough, but get every bit of life out of the plastic one first.

9. Eat Less Meat

If you are a regular meat eater, one of the easiest ways to have a huge positive impact (and save money) is to cut a bunch of meat out. Now, if this isn't in your comfort zone, it can feel intimidating at first, but if you start with recipes you already know (spaghetti, tacos, chili etc) and replace the meat with more veggies. Still feels like too much? Start by giving up beef, which is the key offender in both waste and climate change. In a few years, you will be shocked that you ate this thing that was just so bad for the Earth, so take it easy on beef now.

If you want a resource for more vegetarian recipe for beginners, we have hundreds of recipes to look at. But really, you don't have to reinvent the wheel- just start making your pizzas into veggie pizzas and brush your shoulders off. A day with less meat is a day you are saving the world.

10. Unpaper Towels, Cloth Napkins, and Unsponges

If you have laundry at home, it doesn't get much easier than switching out your paper basics for reusable cloth stuff. I run one load of our kitchen towels, napkins, and sponges a week, and we are back in business. Cloth Napkins are so easy that I don't really understand how paper napkins ever caught on! A few of each of these can replace hundreds of disposable ones, and so they will save you money in the end. This post has my favorite Etsy stores to buy these things from, and you can read more about kitchen towels from this post.

11. Use a Menstrual Cup

This is one purchase (a couple if you also want some reusable cloth pads or period underwear like Thinx), and you never have to run out for pads again. It is an absolute game changer; so easy, so much less waste, and you will wonder why you were messing with tampons and pads (and the HUGE amount of plastic waste that comes with them) for so long. Here's a whole post about how to change your approach to your period, if you have one.

Women who have switched swear by their menstrual cups. You can do it too.

12. Laundry Balls, Skip Dryer Sheets

This is another simple switch you basically buy once, and don't have to think about again for years. Throw them in the dryer, and they will do their thing. Even the most mainstream, non-Earthy person can embrace a dryer ball. You can read more simple laundry switches here.

13. Throw Garbage-Free Celebrations

Remember when we were kids and our parents got the plastic tableclothes and matching paper plates for our birthdays? They were so cute, but totally not necessary. And do you remember actually caring much about them? Now people are carrying that into their adult celebrations... but you can just stop!

Now, we can change our approach to celebrations, and just keep it simple. Just skip all of that and use your regular tableclothes and plates. You will spend less time doing dishes than you spent going to the store to buy that tablecloth. Skip party favors (instant garbage) and make your party no gifts. Focus on the parts of the party that are actually fun and memorable, and skip all the stuff that you buy at the store and throw away afterwards. Even better? Celebrate outside, and then you don't need much decorating at all. Keep it simple, be lazy, and just have fun!

Want more ideas for green parties? Check out this post for supplies and check for our party ideas- we have everything from backyard barbecues to wedding showers to graduation parties.

14. Shop Secondhand... Online

I'll be honest, this isn't always the easiest, but now with online spaces like Ebay and Thred Up, you can often find what you are looking for secondhand without too much time. It doesn't have the same fun as browsing through a thrift shop, but if you know exactly what you want, you can find it cheaper and in your pajamas. Even Amazon has secondhand and open box shopping options for much of what you are looking for, so stop buying new if you are buying online.

15. Join Buy Nothing or Freecycle

One of the mistakes we often make is to throw away stuff that could still be useful because we are done with it. Instead, consider joining your local Buy Nothing Group. You can post pictures of what you are getting rid of and one of your neighbors will come and get it. You can even set it on your porch and never have to talk to anyone if that is your deal. Not sure if you have a Buy Nothing group? Check this page to find yours.

16. Turn Off the Lights and Unplug What We Aren't Using

We all know this, but how many of us actually do it? If you are a creature of habit, start a new routine and you will be saving power in no time.

Ok, so what was the easiest switch you made in your journey to live a more environmentally-conscious life?

The EASIEST Things You Can Do to Help the Environment without Working Too Hard

Eco-Laziness: The Simplest Things You Can Do to Help the Environment (that Actually Make Life Easier)

Want more ideas for living greener? I have nearly an endless supply! Check out the Green Home page for lots of lists and inspiration!

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  1. WALL-E inspired me on my eco-friendly journey over a decade ago : )

    This is such a great list. And I love how you've cleverly coined it "eco-laziness" - because after all so much of consumerism and landfill waste is the product of convenience and laziness. So if we can reframe the idea of conservation a form of laziness instead of extra work, maybe we can convince more people to change their ways.

  2. Love this list! And the term eco-laziness :)

  3. Haha loving the 'eco-laziness' and totally agree with you. We can easily feel guilty about things we have around the house that may be plastic and throw out in a frenzy - same goes for fast fashion clothes - but this does more harm than good. So yes, use until you cannot use or fix or re-purpose any longer. <3

  4. I love these suggestions! I've been thinking a lot lately how the low-waste movement seems so outlandish to some people, but everyone can make a few small changes that are easy enough for ANYONE.

  5. Put a couple reusable cloth bags in your car. That way you can use them when you need to buy anything, not just at the grocery store - I use mine everywhere from the hardware store to drug store!



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