10 Habits of Highly Sustainable People

cooking veggies by Maarten van den Heuvel
Maarten van den Heuvel

Green Americans are an active bunch. Over the years, you’ve told our staff all about the many actions you take in your daily lives, at work, and in your communities for a greener, fairer world. So many of you want to help others find their way to greener living too. In order to help you do that, we've put together this list of ten of the most high-impact actions for social justice and environmental sustainability. While these categories don’t encompass all of the things you can do to help create a better future, they are steps that will add up to a lot of change—especially when Green Americans across the country take action together. 

1. Save Water

Americans use an average of 80-100 gallons of water per day at home. With climate change causing droughts across the nation and around the world, it’s critical to save water whenever you can. And while US drinking water is safe for most people, toxic runoff from agriculture, industrial pollution, fossil fuels, and degraded lead-pipe infrastructure has put thousands of communities at risk. Take care not to toss chemicals down your drain at home, to avoid polluting local water tables, and to conserve water whenever you can

2. Go Nontoxic at Home

You’ve probably heard the statistic from the EPA about indoor air being up to ten times more polluted than outdoor air, due to the toxic chemicals often found in conventional cleaners and other products. If you haven’t yet done anything about it, make this the year to start. When you choose eco-friendly, less-toxic cleaning products, detergents, fragrances, candles, body care, and more, you keep your indoor air cleaner and make your home healthier for yourself and your family.

3. Green Your Closet

Americans buy too much clothing, and it’s glutting landfills. In addition, donated clothing often winds up being sent to developing countries, where it’s overwhelming local economies. The prescription for all this waste? Buy less, and when you do buy, buy organic and green clothing that lasts longer than flimsy “fast fashion” pieces

4. Green Your Energy Use 

If you really take advantage of all of the opportunities to amp up the energy efficiency of your home and office, it’s possible to shave your energy bill in half. And then, green the rest of your energy use to reduce your carbon footprint even more. 

5. Bank and Invest Responsibly

Your money can do good in the world, if you put it in the right places. By choosing socially responsible bank accounts and investment products, your finances can work for you and for people and the planet. Right now, more than $8.7 trillion under professional management is invested responsibly, adding up to a lot of economic power pressuring corporations to clean up their acts. 
 

6. Choose “Good Food” 

At Green America, we often use the term “good food” to refer to food that’s organic (grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that pollute the planet), planted and harvested fairly in ways that don’t exploit farmworkers, and isn’t cruel and inhumane to animals. Lately, we’ve also started including food grown using regenerative farming methods, as well. Regenerative agriculture heals the soil, so it can better act as a carbon sink. Studies like those conducted by Rodale have found that a global switch to regenerative farming could actually reverse the climate crisis. 

7. Build Green

Buildings—new and existing—have a huge impact on the environment. By implementing green features and using renewable or recycled and salvaged materials, home and building owners can greatly reduce a building’s impact on the environment and the climate. 

8. Reuse and Recycle

Reusing products instead of buying them new—whether you find innovative ways to use things you already own, or swap, buy, or barter for someone else’s items—helps save energy, curb global warming emissions, and preserve the Earth’s precious resources. Choosing reusable products instead of single-use throwaways (bottled water, anyone?) curbs waste and reduces the burden on landfills, as well. 
And, whenever possible, recycle unwanted items that can’t be reused to preserve resources. 

9. Green Your Transportation

Transportation is one of the world’s largest sources of global-warming pollution. Walk, bike, or take public transit instead of driving. You’ll cut down on air pollution and help reduce emissions that are contributing to the climate crisis. 

10. Travel Sustainably

Air travel in particular contributes to climate change, and so do all of the vehicles on roads worldwide. Whenever you can, walk, bike, or take public transportation to curb air pollution and global warming emissions. And when it’s time to go on vacation, choosing locally owned hotels, organic restaurants, and green businesses can help minimize your travel footprint.