When I first began my vegan journey my biggest concerns were learning how to “veganize” my favorite recipes (I love to cook) and making sure vegan ice cream was available at my local grocery store. Now six years later my idea of what it is to be vegan has changed a bit. Over the years I’ve melded my passion for the outdoors, my love of animals, and my knowledge of ecology into a little mantra for my life. No one is perfect, but my ideal definition of veganism is simply to do the best you can in every way you can. Just because vegan ice cream is more sustainable doesn’t mean I should eat it with a disposable spoon or that buying tons of unecessary clothing or home decor is fine as long as it’s vegan. I believe if you can do better you should. These tips are things I have or am working on incorporating into my own life in an attempt to live a more fulfilling and sustainable life.
In the Kitchen
As soon as I was old enough to begin formulating ideas of home I was pictured abundant gardens and from scratch meals. No matter where I’ve been in life food and kitchen have always been at the center of my idea of home.
- Eat more meals from your garden, the forest, or local farmers.
- Learn to put up local food when it’s in season. Dehydrate, can, or freeze anything your family will eat.
- Stock your pantry with bulk, plant based, whole foods.
- Make it a goal to try making something yourself rather than a pre-made version each time you shop – think products like ketchup, pancake mix, taco seasoning, and even pasta.
- Make and eat more fermented food.
- Avoid heavily processed vegan cheese and meat alternatives.
- Purchase natural sweeteners like maple syrup, sorghum syrup, and agave instead of white sugar and use them sparingly.
- Use cloth bags when you go to the grocery store or farmers’ market.
- Grow your own sprouts.
- Stop buying fancy “kitchen cleaners.” Everything you need to clean can be cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, or soap and water.
- When it’s time to replace your sponges and scrub brushes opt for items made from natural materials.
- Drink more water and invest in a good water filter if you need to.
- Purchase or upcycle a metal or glass water bottle.
- Start learning about herbalism and foraging. Try to add some natural remedies to your pantry and use them throughout the year.
- Invest in glass or metal food storage containers.
- Same goes for plates, cups, and bowls. Avoid plastic wherever possible.
- Don’t use non-stick cookware. Cast iron is an awesome alternative for plant based eaters because it adds a small amount of iron to food cooked in it.
- Use cloth napkins and rags rather than paper napkins and towels. If you’re on a budget check thrift stores or it’s easy sew your own from scrap materials.
- Compost all of your scraps.
Having living spaces that are attuned to your ideals will help you feel relaxed and at home.
- Add some house plants which can help clean the air. Aloe is easy to care for and great for treating burns.
- Avoid cheap furniture made from particle board, plastic, and other cheap chemical laden materials. If you’re on a budget check thrift, antique, and salvage shops.
- Make your own pillows and cushions with natural plant materials like cotton and linen. Most store bought cushions will be made from foam and/or polyester and are laden with flame retardant chemicals.
- Choose natural elements for seasonal decorations. This summer buy or pick some fresh flowers, in the fall try real locally grown pumpkins and gourds. Baskets, driftwood, and fresh produce are all great options.
- Let in natural light and air as much as possible. Open your curtains first thing in the morning, the light will help you feel more awake. Whenever it’s warm enough open your windows and let fresh air in.
- Use candlelight in the evenings when possible. It will make your home feel cozy and get you back in touch with natural rhythms.
- Purchase candles and incense made from natural materials like soy wax.
- Minimize clutter. It has been shown to increase anxiety.
- Avoid making the TV the focal point of your living room.
- Use the AC as little as possible so your body adjusts to outdoor temperatures.
- Consider heating with wood if it’s feasible for your situation.
- Create family traditions that help you celebrate or connect with the natural world.
- If you live in a cold climate make insulated curtains to shut at night and help hold the heat in.
- Don’t wear your shoes in the house. They bring in dirt and toxins.
As someone who works from home, a small office space (just a desk really) is important to me but even if you don’t have an actual office you may be able to use some of these tips.
- Opt out of junk mail.
- Go paperless wherever possible.
- Try to have computers and other devices repaired before purchasing new.
- Avoid leather and plastic office furniture. Spend the extra money to get something mostly or entirely made of wood, metal, and cloth. Alternatively shop thrift stores.
- Take frequent breaks from screen time to rest your eyes and stretch.
Bedroom & Closet
Bedrooms are often neglected but you do spend a lot of your time at home in them. It’s important to keep them healthy and relaxing. Clothing, like food, is area where your purchasing choices can quickly have a big impact.
- Try to find bedding made from natural plant based materials. Organic cotton, hemp, and linen are great choices.
- Sleep in as little clothing as possible so your body can breathe.
- Keep technology out of the bedroom. Using social media or surfing the web doesn’t set you up for a good night of sleep. Especially as a vegan reading about the issues facing todays world and the species that call it home can be enough to keep you tossing and turning all night.
- Declutter your closet and donate/sell anything you don’t use.
- Buy less clothing and opt for durable, ethical, vegan options made from natural materials.
- Try to read or listen to an audiobook before bed instead of watching TV.
- Let your pet snuggle with you. They’re incredibly soothing and unless you have allergies dealing with a little pet hair is worth it.
- If possible sleep outside when you can whether it’s moving your bed onto the porch for the summer or just spending a night camped in the backyard under the stars.
Bathroom & Personal Hygiene
Products you put on your body are just as important as the food you put into it.
- Don’t use deodorant when possible and/or try making your own.
- Strive to make all the soap you purchase cruelty free and zero waste. This includes shampoo and conditioner.
- Use cotton washcloths. While plastic poofs may seem luxurious they actually hold in tons of bacteria and are of coarse an unnecessary use of harmful plastic.
- Switch to a bamboo toothbrush and a bamboo hair brush or comb.
- Ladies, switch to a menstrual cup or reusable cloth pads. They’re much better for you and the environment.
- If you use them, look for natural, vegan, and zero waste cosmetics. They are out there.
- When it’s time to replace your current one choose a bamboo toilet bowl brush.
- Use your homemade cleaning supplies to clean your bathroom.
Laundry & Miscellaneous Cleaning Supplies
For some having a clean and tidy home can be important to their mental health but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it sustainably.
- Make your own detergent or purchase a cruelty free option without added chemicals and excessive packaging.
- Line dry clothing, even in the winter.
- Don’t wash things that don’t actually need it. If you’re just going to work in the garden tomorrow no one will notice if your jeans aren’t spotless.
- Purchase well made cleaning tools (brooms, dustpans, dusters, scrub brushes, mops, and buckets). Avoid plastic and look for those made of metal and wood.
- Make your cleaning supplies easily accessible you’ll use them more. This is just another reason to purchase good ones, they’ll actually look nice in your home.
- Learn to make your own cleaning supplies from things like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Upcycle old spray bottles or purchase glass spray bottles to put them in.
One of the most important parts of your outdoor space is simply to spend time in it. However there are
- Make an outdoor “living area” so you’re encouraged to spend more time outside.
- If you have any space at all grow a garden! A few pots of cherry tomatoes can supply you all summer long.
- Add fruit trees, bushes, and perennials like asparagus and rhubarb even if you don’t think you’ll live there forever.
- Keep your garden organic.
- Learn about permaculture and implement it in your backyard.
- Grow your own mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, or oysters. It’s easier than it sounds!
- Build an earth oven and bake in it regularly.
- If you’ve got the room, the time, and the desire consider starting a micro sanctuary. There’s many “farmed” animals like chickens and ducks that end up dumped at animal shelters that are ill equipped to deal with their needs.
- Install a rain barrel and/or re-use your grey water if it’s legal in your area.
- Try making your own solar oven or dehydrator.
- Study your local plants and fungi. Learn about their edible and medicinal properties.
- Take the time to consider how any changes you make will effect the local flora and fauna.
- Build an insect hotel and plant native flowers for pollinators.
Not all of these tips will work for every person and you shouldn’t feel the need to tackle them all at once. Moving towards a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle is often a slow process. Don’t rush it if you’re feeling overwhelmed.