water bottles
Environment protection

10 Ways To Start Living Ethically Today

By Natasha Wolff
water bottles

We all struggle with how to live ethically and how to make considered decisions in everyday life that are eco-friendly and sustainable. Today, we can decide to make small lifestyle changes in order to limit our carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Small things like reducing electricity use, buying sustainable and organic produce and taking public transportation as opposed to driving are easy ways to greener life and help others. It’s all about living a conscious lifestyle and making smart choices. What are some simple changes you can make in your daily life to start living more consciously? Here’s a how to.

1) Recycle

It may seem obvious but making sure to recycle paper (25 percent of our trash is paper), plastic, glass, cans, boxes and cardboard in accordance with your local laws is essential. When possible purchase goods made from recycled paper and 100 percent post consumer recycled materials —even buying vintage clothing.

Did you also know that items like batteries, paint, oil, tires and electronics need to be safely disposed of and not just chucked in the trash? Pouring paint or a harmful chemical cleanser down the drain or tossing it with your normal garbage can be dangerous for people and the environment. Additionally, look for alternative, non-hazardous products instead of those with harmful chemicals.

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2) Donate Clothing

The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles in the trash annually. Donating gently used professional work clothes to nonprofits like Dress For Success and Bottomless Closet, which help men and women trying to get back into the workforce dress the part for job interviews, is a great way to pass on clothes you’re no longer wearing. With partner charities all over the country, it’s easy to find a local drop-off.

Same goes for winter coats—most cities have coat drives at a local shelter or church for those in need. Textile recycling is another way to get rid of old clothing sustainably. Many pieces that can’t be donated second hand can be recycled and if not, turned into insulation or rags. Wearable Collections is an organization that does just this.

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3) Shop Ethically

Customers want to spend money with companies that they feel are aligned with their values and ethos. Direct-to-consumer clothing brand Everlane with its promise of “radical transparency” with regards to its sourcing and production is a great example of a do-gooding company that has resonated with customers. It’s important to spend money smartly. Being a Fair Trade Certified company and purchasing artisan-made goods are two things that consumers should be looking for.

4) Choose The Right Ingredients

It’s hard to know what ingredients are ethically sourced and even harder to avoid them all together. We are told that certain packaged goods and soda are bad because they contain processed foods, fake sugar and preservatives to extend their shelf life. Items like coffee and chocolate also raise ethical concerns due to the use of child labor needed to harvest these ingredients.

5) Get To Know What’s In Your Beauty Products

The ingredient list is paramount when you’re shopping for new products. Being aware of synthetics and chemicals like parabens, phthalates (acid), triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and propylene glycol will help you be aware of what you are putting on your skin. If you prefer to avoid these ingredients you should search for non-toxic makeup, haircare and skincare alternatives. If you have sensitive skin, watch out for ingredients like petroleum, mineral oils and fragrances, as they can cause anything from skin irritations to allergic reactions.

6) Try Cutting Out Meat

As author Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), a critic of U.S. food policies, famously said “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He and other authors such as Jonathan Safran Foer (Eating Animals) have advocated for the reduction of meat in one’s diet. Try going meat-free one day a week, a la Meatless Mondays whose goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent for our personal health and the health of the planet.

7) Eat Locally Sourced Food

Locally sourced food is more nutritious, seasonal, fresher and helps support the local economy and farmers. Whether produce purchased at a local farmers market or line-caught fish caught in local waters, try to eat only what’s fresh and produced nearby. Foods that are shipped hundreds or thousands of miles have a big carbon footprint that could easily be avoided by purchasing local and seasonal foods.

For example, don’t buy strawberries if they’re not in season locally because that means they’re likely coming from Mexico, Central America or the West Coast. Try to eat with the seasons: if you’re on the East Coast, that means root vegetables and squash in the fall, and tomatoes, corn, peaches and eggplant in the summer.

8) Practice Mindfulness

Life is busy and hectic. Practicing mindfulness can calm the body and mind and promote generate wellbeing. The idea is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations. You want to allow your mind to refocus on the present moment.

Mindful meditation is a great way to quiet the body and mind especially if you tend to worry or overthink things! This can be done at a meditation studio, via a guided meditation app like InScape or Headspace or in the quiet of your home by just closing your eyes and sitting in silence to focus on the precious present.

9) Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need

How much of what you buy do you actually need? These days we as consumers spend too much money on things we don’t need (from food to clothes to products) and much of it ends up in the garbage. More stuff doesn’t equate to more happiness. Limit you purchases to functional items, and seek durable goods in place of consumables. You can even go the opposite route and donate or get rid of more possessions you don’t have much use for.

10) Use A Water Bottle

Not only do some plastic water bottles contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA, but they also are wasteful and are polluting our oceans (the combination of UV light and the salt cause these plastics to break down and release BPA, Phthalates, PCBs and DDT into the water) and clogging up landfills for future generations. Try to use a metal, glass, recycled or reusable hard plastic bottle—especially when they’re readily available in fun colors and patterns and are lightweight enough to carry in your bag to the gym or office.