The Couch Potato’s Guide To An Easy Sustainable Lifestyle
Creating your best sustainable lifestyle presents a path to a design-driven, impeccably stylish, and satisfying existence. You can do it easily and conveniently without stress or confusion by following a few principles.
For years, as the creator of Lazy Environmentalist, I’ve been pondering both personally and professionally how to minimize my environmental impact through minimal effort. I have zero inclination to change my personal behavior as much as I know we are in a deep planetary crisis, particularly when it comes to climate change.
The solutions are out there for people like us; people who care about the planet but aren’t willing to part with the comforts of modern life. I’ve learned that the solutions on many levels can change our lives for the better.
Quickly about me in case this is your first visit here. I wrote my first guide to stylish sustainable living in 2007. That’s the same year I appeared on The Martha Stewart Show for Earth Day.
In 2008, I turned The Lazy Environmentalist into a primetime reality TV show on Sundance Channel. We ran for two seasons, garnered awards along the way, and helped bring sustainable living into the homes of families. Here’s an interview I gave on Morning Joe to talk about it.
I recently founded a modern design eco-friendly furniture company to introduce more beautiful options for consumers. I happen to believe that exceptionally designed sustainable living is the greatest and most urgent opportunity of the 21st century.
A Sustainable Living Roadmap
So, with all the prelude out of the way, how can you start living a delightful sustainable lifestyle right away and trust that you’re on the right path?
In my view, sustainable living entails five key principles. They’re all pretty obvious. Discovering how to apply them in ways that are easy, require zero sacrifices, and get you excited is where Lazy Environmentalist comes in.
Also, the important thing to realize is that they are all-encompassing. They represent the entirety of your environmental impact on the planet. Therefore, they also represent your entire environmental opportunity to create a sustainable lifestyle that you love
Here they are:
1. Minimize Waste
2. Minimize Energy From Fossil Fuels
3. Maximize Renewable Energy
4. Eat Sustainably
5: Consuming Sustainable Products
I’m working on a more pithy way to describe them (if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear), but what I like about this approach is that it really is just about practicing five pretty easy to remember principles. There’s no mystery. I promise that you don’t need a decoder ring and a map to know what sustainable living is all about.
Here’s an explanation of the concepts and three examples for each of them, so you can see how they can apply to own your life.
5 principles to creating your sustainable lifestyle
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1. Minimize WASTE
Think about your trash for a second. I know, yuck. But do it anyway. All of it. Include the stuff you toss in the recycling bin. Garbage represents one of the most colossal failures of modern civilization.
Why do we design products that create waste?
Ever stop to think about it? How can a civilization capable of sending humans into space be incapable of enjoying ice cream without leaving behind an empty and useless ice cream carton?
Ahh, you say, but at least we can recycle that carton into something else, something once again useful. The problem is:
1) You can’t; ice cream cartons are not recyclable in most places in the U.S. since they are made with paper but also have a plastic lining.
2) Even if they were recyclable, the U.S. recycling rate is rather dismal. When it comes to plastics only about 8% get recycled.
The problem with waste is that it’s precisely that — waste. We extract natural resources from the earth and burn fossil fuels to make it. What a waste!
Consuming in ways that vastly minimize waste (even the potentially recyclable stuff) is a magnificent sustainable living opportunity.
The great news? Designers and entrepreneurs are coming to the rescue. They are designing the waste out of consumer products.
This is where our sustainable living journey begins. Your packaging, wrappers, coffee cups, even your toothpaste tube are relics of outdated design thinking.
3 modern Life Examples / Opportunities To Eliminate Waste
1. Blueland refillable Cleaners
Blueland is a leader of an all-new generation of naturally-derived, non-toxic, cleaning product brands that eliminate plastic waste.
They rely on highly concentrated tablets of cleaning ingredients and reusable refillable bottles. Drop in a tablet, add water, and presto! Trash is vastly reduced using this easy and delightful cleaning system. Carbon emissions are reduced too. Why? Because shipping tiny, lightweight cleaning tablets is vastly more energy-efficient than shipping heavy bottles pre-filled with the cleaning solution (most of which is water anyway).
Try them out individually or create a “set it and forget it” subscription so your cleaners regularly and conveniently arrive on your doorstep. Or try all the products together with Blueland’s Clean Suite and rapidly transition to a sustainable cleaning routine.
EXPLORE: The Clean Suite by Blueland – $83
2. Ethique plastic-free Bath & Body care
We’ve all used a soap bar. Ever use a shampoo bar? Ethique is a bath & body brand declaring that you can enjoy a lush, wonderful personal hygiene experience while dramatically cutting down on waste.
Their concentrated products are formulated using sustainable, biodegradable ingredients that are healthier for you and the planet and ditch the plastic packaging bottles altogether.
There are lots of products to choose from. You’ll find the entire collection on Amazon. This is an instance in which shifting your consumption can have a significant impact on your quest to live more sustainably. No sacrifice, just a simple decision to consume smarter.
EXPLORE: Shampoo Bar by Ethique – $15.99
3. Sodastream sparkling water maker
What’s a cost-saving way to kick your La Croix habit and eliminate single-use disposable cans and bottles from your life? Make your own sparkling water at home.
Sure, but isn’t it difficult and inconvenient? Not at all. SodaStream has been an industry leader for years. Today, the brand’s sparkling water and soda makers offer streamlined design and one-touch functionality.
SodaStream plans to eliminate 67 billion single-use bottles from our planet by 2025. It starts with the included refillable bottle that can displace thousands of disposable bottles and cans.
We like the SodaStream Fizzi. It represents a simple change you can make to save money, cut waste, and add design flair to your kitchen counter.
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2. MINIMIZE Energy From FOSSIL FUELS
Powering our lifestyles, from the lights in our home to the fuel in our cars, most directly causes our individual contribution to climate change. The carbon emissions (pollution caused by consuming energy from natural gas, coal, and oil) are the culprit.
There are many easy and brilliant ways to begin kicking the fossil fuel habit. The path starts with choices that more efficiently use energy and some that altogether eliminate the need for it (looking at you, bicycle).
Energy efficiency is a big deal. You’ll find that gravitating towards energy-efficient products and solutions can save you money and add more comfort and delight to your life.
Improving energy efficiency is a central and highly successful strategy to combat climate change. Energy efficiency measures in the U.S. have enabled our overall economy to grow by 30% since 2000 while keeping our energy consumption flat. Imagine how much further we can go and the gains we can make when we all get on board.
3 Modern Life Examples / Opportunities to eliminate fossil fuels
1. Sylvania smart led light bulbs
A light bulb is just a light bulb unless it throws beautiful and customizable light, can be controlled by your voice or phone, and saves you money by using a fraction of the energy of other bulbs (like incandescent bulbs, halogens, or CFLs).
Smart LED light bulbs add an element of comfort and ease to your life. Set the mood by choosing your preferred lighting color. Turn the lights on and off while lounging on your couch or in bed. Or program your lights to automatically their on/off depending on your needs.
The possibilities are plentiful and the energy and cost savings are substantial. Here’s a light bulb energy savings calculator to see just how much you’ll save depending on the cost of energy in your state.
We like Sylvania’s smart led bulbs because they’re easy to set up, on the affordable side especially for the value, and feature-rich.
2. priority bicycles Brilliant l train commuter
Bicycles are climate heroes. They are the ultimate zero emissions mode of transportation. Commuting by bike creatives obvious health and environmental benefits.
The Brilliant L Train bike from Priority Bicycles is built with sleek, urban geometry. It’s built to navigate urban environments. And it possesses two amazing features that make it a masterful commuter bike and a lazy environmentalist’s dream. They are:
1) Puncture-Proof Tires
2) Greaseless Chain
Taken together, these two innovations remove much of the anxiety and irritation of commuting by bike. You won’t have to worry about changing a flat tire, and you won’t have to worry about getting grease on your pant leg. With these two worries out of the way, all that’s left to worry about is the price.
Priority Bicycles takes care of that one too. The 7-speed Brilliant L Train sells for $650. That’s exceedingly reasonable for such a high-quality build especially when you consider that it’s made in the USA, specifically in New York City, where the city streets are the quintessential prototyping laboratory for designer and founder Dave Weiner.
3. Nest self-learning thermostat e
Regulating how warm or cool our homes are is crucial for our comfort. And we pay up for the benefit; heating and cooling are typically the primary expense on our energy bills and the primary source of our energy consumption – comprising about 50%.
That’s where a smart thermostat comes in, like the Nest Thermostat E. From an aesthetics perspective, it’s designed to blend into your home decor and feels no great need to call attention to itself though it possesses serious “home-smarts.”
Smart thermostats learn your temperature preferences, automatically adjust to them based on your home occupancy (e.g. which room you’re in), and automatically adjust to use less heating or cooling when you’re away. That’s how they save you energy and – quickly pay for themselves – without you having to lift a finger other than to install one.
Nest is one of the most trusted names in smart thermostats. The Nest Thermostat E is plenty smart and the brand’s most affordable option.
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3. MAXIMIZE RENEWABLE ENERGY
As we minimize our reliance on fossil fuels, we can also expand our use of renewable energy to power our lifestyles.
By renewable, we mean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower that are infinite in their supply (as opposed to fossil fuels that are finite in their supply) and deliver power without creating climate-change causing carbon emissions.
Innovations in renewable energy, particularly solar energy, increasingly make this energy source convenient, cost-effective, and aesthetically attractive to choose for our homes. The same goes for solar energy generating devices that we can take with us on the go.
Solar energy is about freedom. Put it on your roof and it can free you from rising energy utility energy costs. Pair it with an electric car and it can free you from trips to the gas station. Pack it with you, and it can enable you to work and play wherever the sun is shining.
3 Modern Life Examples / Opportunities to maximize renewable energy
1. EnergySage Solar Marketplace
Many of us dream of powering our lifestyles using clean, renewable energy from the sun. But deciding whether to get solar panels can seem extremely complicated. We don’t know who to call. And if we do, can we trust them?
EnergySage is a consumer marketplace where solar providers in your area come together to bid on your business. They compete against one another to earn the opportunity to install solar on your home.
You can see all the bids in one place and decide which makes the most sense. EnergySage vets every company on its platform by reputation, experience, service, quality, and certifications. The platform walks you through each step in the process, so you can feel confident in your decision.
EXPLORE: EnergySage Solar Marketplace
2. Jackery Solar Panels and Generator
Solar energy is a uniquely qualified energy source for enabling you to live and work wherever you want. To maximize your fun and freedom turn to a portable solar system that’s powerful enough to keep your key devices operating and small enough to conveniently go wherever the road takes you.
Many companies are creating mobile solar solutions. Among them, Jackery stands out as a winner because its products are sleek, attractive, simple to use, and technically capable. It makes sense; Jackery was founded by a former battery engineer at Apple.
Solar plus battery storage is in everyone’s future. Jackery makes that future accessible today and offers numerous power generating / storage combinations. We recommend heading out with the Jackery Explorer 500 Power Generator ($499) and the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Solar Panels ($299).
EXPLORE: Jackery (on Amazon)
3. Logitech Solar Powered Keyboard
Type masterful emails and manuscripts on a keyboard that is powered solely by light. That’s the promise of this computer keyboard with built-in solar panels. Logitech makes solar keyboards for Macs and PCs.
Solar panels are becoming less expensive and more flexible, which creates opportunities for them to be directly integrated into products we use on a daily basis.
The more we do, the less dependent we become on fossil fuels.
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4. EAT SUSTAINABLY
When we think about sustainable living, what we ingest is hugely impactful. Where our food comes from, how it’s grown, and what’s actually in it are key considerations for our personal health and the planet’s health.
Localizing food choices is an excellent way to cut down the carbon emissions connected to what we eat. Opting for foods made of natural and organic ingredients helps remove synthetic chemicals from our bodies and eliminates the use of toxic pesticides and insecticides found in our soil and water.
Reducing our consumption of meat also lowers the carbon impact of our diet as does sourcing our meat and seafood from farmers committed to climate-friendly practices called regenerative farming.
Yes, it’s true that we are what we eat. And our sustainable lifestyle is what we eat too.
3 Modern Life Examples / Opportunities to Eat Sustainably
1. ThriveLot Edible Landscapes
Growing food in your own garden is as local as local gets. Start by contacting ThriveLot and let them manage the entire process for you. ThriveLot’s landscape designers and technologists are on a mission to transform traditional front and back lawns into food production wonderlands using permaculture and regenerative agriculture principles. Eat the freshest foods right out of your own self-sustaining garden, year after year, without any of the tedious labor.
ThriveLot works with varying budgets with installations for as low as $3000 and up to $100,000 for a small farm.
2. lettucegrow farmstand (Patio To Table)
On a smaller scale, but with equal consideration for convenience and aesthetics, LettuceGrow offers self-growing gardening vessels that marry technology, simplicity, and design. The Farmstand is made from recycled milk jugs. Use it to grow over 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Start with pre-grown sprouted plants that are non-GMO and pesticide-free.
Watch them grow to harvest-ready in as little as three weeks. Place them on a terrace. Or use them indoors. Reap the benefits of growing your own food all year long, no matter your space constraints.
Farmstands range from $348 – $649. Monthly plant subscriptions start at $29.
EXPLORE: LettuceGrow Farmstand
3. CrowdCow Responsibly Grown Meat, Poultry, And Fish
All farms are not created equal. CrowdCow works with independent, family-owned farms and ranches to source sustainably grown, pasture-raised beef and meats. The company also offers a wide selection of sustainably grown seafood.
The CrowdCow team personally visits every farm to walk the fields, evaluate the growing practices, and taste the product. Your food arrives in a recyclable, compostable box and CrowdCow ensures your shipping is carbon neutral.
Order individual cuts or sign-up for a subscription. Either way, CrowdCow is committed to fair prices that enable you to buy as close-to-direct as possible from the farms and ranches that grow some of the most prized and tasty meats available. You can even shop by farm directly on the site.
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5. CONSUME SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS
We’ve covered a lot of ground. Truth is, everything you buy is an opportunity to bring your life into greater balance with nature.
When you choose sustainably made products you trigger a chain reaction of positivity that goes far beyond the eyeglasses on your face, the case protecting your phone, or the sneakers amplifying your style.
You are supporting companies building a dynamic, sustainable economy. As these companies gain customers and increase sales they expand and hire more people. Who gets these cool jobs? Who gets to show up to work every day full of pride and satisfaction knowing that their work is helping to usher in a better, cleaner, more environmentally friendly future? Why you do. And I do. And our friends and family members do.
In other words, consuming sustainable products is as much about your opportunity to live an awesome and sustainable lifestyle as it is about your opportunity to create jobs – and ultimately an entire economy – that align directly with your values about the environment and society.
Sweet, right? We think so.
What makes a product sustainable?
Sustainable products do the heavy eco-lifting for us. They are made using materials and processes that minimize their environmental impact. When you choose them over conventional choices, you are integrating those environmental benefits into your life. That’s why they are useful building blocks of your sustainable lifestyle.
At their core, sustainable products are made of environmentally friendly materials (recycled, reused, sustainably grown) or use substantially less energy/water than conventional products (our Lazy E standard is 50% less).
Materials matter a great deal. We also want products to be easily recyclable when we’re done with them. But that’s secondary. Why? Because products made with sustainable materials have already done the legwork to be eco-friendly when you purchase them.
Recyclability is crucial, but it also depends on you and me doing the right thing when it’s time to recycle. But do you know how to recycle a sofa, or a counter stool, or a credenza? I know, me neither.
3 Modern Life Examples / Opportunities to consume sustainable products
1. Nimble Mobile Phone Case From Recycled Compact Discs
Looks pretty normal, right? That’s the point of this clear, protective phone case from Nimble. But unlike other cases, this one is made from recycled compact discs (CDs).
If you’re like, what’s that? What’s a CD? CDs were what your parents used to use to listen to music before the world went digital. They’ve been dying a slow death since 2003 when Apple introduced the iTunes store online.
Instead of ending up as waste in a landfill, Nimble recycles them into cases that are scratch-resistant, antibacterial, and capable of withstanding drops up to six feet.
2. genusee eyewear from recycled plastic
Out of a crisis can be born an opportunity. Genusee makes stylish, on-trend eyewear in Flint, Michigan using recycled plastic.
Flint’s ongoing water crisis began in 2014 when its water supply was contaminated. At the height of the crisis, the city was using over 20 million water bottles a day.
Genusee’s founders committed to bringing jobs and manufacturing back to Flint while upcycling those empty single-use plastic bottles into fabulous eyewear.
It’s a remarkable story of resilience, creativity, and commitment to righting past wrongs through beauty and opportunity.
EXPLORE: Genusee Eyewear – Starting at $99
3. Allbirds Tree Dashers From Natural Materials
Most running sneakers have one thing in common: lots and lots of plastic. Yes, more than likely, your PR (personal record) was achieved while your feet were swathed in materials created from fossil fuels.
Allbirds Tree Dashers take a different approach to performance. They’re breathable and durable and rigorously tested performance. But unlike, conventional sneakers, Tree Dashes are made of natural, sustainably grown materials. Examples:
- The knitted one-piece upper is made from FSC certified eucalyptus trees.
- The midsole is made from sugarcane, a first of its kind innovation.
- The cushioned heel is made from New Zealand merino wool.
- The insole is made from castor beans.
Now get out there and win one for you and the planet.
EXPLORE: Allbirds Tree Dashers – $125
THE ROAD AHEAD
I hope you come away from this overview feeling excited about where your sustainable living journey can lead. The possibilities are truly growing by the day. We’ll help you discover them so you can live your greatest sustainable lifestyle.
A Heads Up: Our posts may contain affiliate links. We frequently write about products and services to help you shop more sustainably. It won’t cost you a penny, but we receive a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links. It helps keeps the LED lights on.
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