Green Hacks for Modern Life

This modern life is all about go, go, go and a constant push to accomplish more in less time. Many of today's modern conveniences end up sacrificing our ideals if we're not careful.

Here are 10 thoughtful ways to make modern life easier on the environment this year.

1. Don’t throw your electronics in the trash.

Rapidly outdated electronics are a modern-day problem indeed. Because they contain heavy metals like lead that can leach into ground water, electronics should either be donated for reuse or brought to an electronics recycling center. Your friendly neighborhood Best Buy offers this service for free, even if your outdated gadget wasn't purchased there.

But don't stop there! Learn the seven things you shouldn't throw in the trash. 

2. Love the one you’re with.

You probably already have plenty of stuff. Before you make a purchase, think about the life cycle of whatever it is you want to buy. How long will it be before you get sick of it?

Think about the life cycle of what you want to buy. How long before you get sick of it?

Get creative with alternatives. Can you borrow from family, friends or a neighbor instead? Try the NextDoor app to ask. Someone down the street from you would be happy to help.

Also consider buying used. Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and NextDoor have all made it so easy.

Take the time to enjoy the things you already have. You'll save resources, time and money. Who doesn't need more of all that?

3. Don't pay for bad stuff.

Whether it’s the chemicals in sunscreen that hurt coral reefs, the palm oil in cheap chocolate that is destroying rainforests, or the herbicides sprayed on non-organic produce, you're essentially supporting those environmental sins when you put your money behind them. Make sure your purchases are doing you and your world good, not harm.

Make sure your purchases are doing you and your world good, not harm.

Spend your money with companies and suppliers that share your values. And if you really love a company, give them a tip about what you'd like to see them improve. Does your favorite clothier make everything offshore? Is your go-to grocery store not stocking enough pastured eggs? Has your favorite restaurant gotten rid of plastic or (gasp!) styrofoam to-go containers in favor of paper yet? Give them a hint and a push in the right direction with a tactful email, social media post or review on Google Maps.

4. Say no to bottled water.

In addition to its plastic problem (see #7), our bottled water habit is a huge resource hog. Water is a heavy and bulky thing to ship and we shouldn’t be trucking it around the country when we're fortunate enough to have easy access to clean, healthy drinking water in our own homes. Invest in an at-home water filtration system if you don't trust your tap. (Do you trust the BPAs in your plastic water bottle any better?)

A couple bonus tips:

  • Did you know that you can bring an empty reusable bottle to the airport and fill it up once you’re past security?
  • Add some natural flavoring if you don’t like the taste of your tap water. It can add vitamins too!
  • Treat yourself to a gorgeous reusable glass or stainless steel bottle. Make it an accessory you're proud to use!

5. Eat more meatless meals.

Hey, we’re saying you have to go completely vegetarian. But when you look at the carbon footprint of the foods you eat, nixing a few meat-centered meals from your diet each week can really add up. So will those calories you'll save!

6. Stop phantom energy use.

Your appliances can draw electricity even when you're not using them, wasting energy and wearing out the computers inside big ticket items like your dryer. When you use a power conservation switch or an outlet timer with a countdown, you'll extend your appliances' lifespans as well as stop them from wasting power when not in use. Win-win!

7. Find ways to cut back on plastic.

You know you should. Here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Those disposable plastic utensils are washable! Keep a baggie in your lunch bag to bring them home to wash along with the rest of your flatware. Or bring a spoon and fork from your flatware set at home that you won't be tempted to toss.
  • Choose packaging with less plastic. For example, opt for the dishwasher detergent pacs in a thin plastic bag, not a thick plastic box. Get one big container of yogurt, not six little ones. You get the idea.
  • Skip plastic produce bags at the grocery store. You're going to wash your produce anyway, so what's the point of wrapping them in plastic for the next 45 minutes?
  • Choose wine with natural cork stoppers, not the fake plastic corks or twist-off caps, both of which are less sustainable.
  • Instead of using disposable razors, buy a reusable razor and replace the blade.
  • Bring your own container for leftovers when you go out to eat. Make a habit of keeping something in your car, just like you do those reusable bags (right?)
  • Choose a cake or waffle cone, not a cup and plastic spoon, when you order ice cream. You deserve it!
  • Wear less polyester. (More on that next.)

8. Put the brakes on fast fashion.

All that cheap polyester (a.k.a. plastic in fabric form) we're buying to keep up with the latest trends is actually very expensive when you look at the environmental and human rights costs. Microplastics from synthetic clothing — a.k.a. tiny fibers that come off in the wash — end up in our water supply and eventually the ocean, where it never breaks down and can't be filtered out. That ends up in your body, and science hasn't yet figured out what health problems will result, but it obviously isn't going to end well.

Up your quality, and reduce your quantity. It's time to define a signature style that doesn't rely on having an overwhelming number of pieces in your closet. Invest in well-designed pieces made of materials with staying power, like hemp, organic cotton and linen.

Also consider buying used where possible. You can get great deals on the must-have brands on sites like Poshmark, the Real Real, eBay and more, and end up with a much more unique, collected style that others will envy. When they ask where you got that, share away!

9. Hack Amazon.

No, we don't mean trying to bring their servers down. This is about finding ways to make the ultimate in convenience shopping a little greener.

Gang your Amazon (and other online purchases) together. Instead of hitting the 1-click button at every whim, load up that shopping cart over the course of a month and make one big order so that there’s fewer resources spent on cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, gas for the delivery truck, etc. Plus, by the end of the month you may decide you don't really need that random thingamabob after all.

Amazon will donate .5% of eligible purchases to a charity of your choice.

You can also save resources by opting out of the default 2-day shipping setting for Prime whenever possible. Choose no-rush shipping and let those logistics algorithms decide the most efficient way to get your package to you without burning unnecessary fossil fuels on overnight shipping. You'll get a credit to spend on Amazon movies and music!

Have you received a ridiculously over-packaged product from Amazon? Let them know you really didn't need the layer upon layer of cardboard boxes, Russian nesting doll style.

Lastly, get in the habit of shopping at Amazon Smile instead. It's the same huge selection with all the Prime benefits, but at this special URL, Amazon will donate .5% of eligible purchases to a charity of your choice (may we suggest the Rainforest Trust?). Half a percentage point may not sound like much, but if you're like most people, you spend a scary amount at this dot-com every year.

10. Be an example.

Being green wasn’t always cool. 2019 brings new environmental challenges and new ways to be eco-chic. Help make it more mainstream to protect the environment by boldly and courageously making the right decisions. Don't be shy about it! Maybe even brag a little :)