Sustainable Efforts You Can Start Today

by Marian Mejia
November 10, 2020
hands holding seedling

Regardless of how seemingly big or small, your actions to help and protect the planet can make a difference. The choices you make today create ripples that will impact our world for following days to come. Living sustainably can be challenging for some more than others, and it’s important to understand that, but it’s not impossible for everyone to contribute to needed change. Below are eleven free to low-cost sustainable efforts that you can start today to begin your positive influence on people and our planet.

Join an environmental organization

One way to involve yourself in a more environmentally-forward lifestyle, is joining or keeping up with an environmental organization. Finding one or multiple organizations that are right for you, can be a resource for you to learn, educate, take action, and advocate for a sustainable future for all. There’s a Sonoma County directory you can search through or check out this list of organizations. You can get familiar with your community and research for any environmental organizations in your area, too.

Make tote bags out of old t-shirts

You don’t need to purchase a reusable tote bag in order to save on grocery bag waste. If you have old t-shirts you no longer need or want, you can make them into your own unique reusable bags.

Limit energy and water use

Remember to turn off any lights or unplug electronics you don’t need and are not using. You can try air drying laundry or washing clothes in cold water to conserve energy as well. Some ways to save water are turning off your faucet unless actively in use, shortening your showers if you’re able to, and even not flushing your toilet every time you pee. There are other tips that can help reduce your energy and water consumption, but starting with simple choices can help lead to bigger impact.

Switch to a reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle will keep you hydrated, and prevent more plastic from entering our waste streams and environment. If you have a resealable glass bottle or jar, you can repurpose it to be used as a reusable bottle too.

Shop at thrift stores

The fast fashion industry accounts for ten percent of global carbon emissions and creates 92 million tonnes of waste per year. Shopping at thrifts stores or secondhand is a cheaper and more sustainable way to curate your wardrobe. Not only can you shop for clothes, but you can purchase products like furniture and home goods from a thrift store or secondhand as well.

Limit meat and dairy consumption

You can reduce your carbon footprint by not eating meat and/or dairy for even at least one meal, or one day out of the week. Check out a carbon footprint calculator to figure out what other mindful food decisions you’re able to make.

Start a compost bin

By composting at home, you can mitigate against excessive household food waste, while creating nutrients to support soil health and plant growth. You can purchase a compost bin from the store, make one for no more than ten dollars, or research bin ideas that fit your own budget and space.

Use reusable towels and napkins

If you have scrap fabrics or old clothes, you can use them as--or make them into--reusable towels, napkins, and rags. It can be as simple as using the fabric or clothes as is, just cutting them into desired shapes and sizes, or sewing them together.

Donate to local shelters

Instead of donating clothes and other items to thrift stores like Goodwill, who usually have extra products, you can research or contact local women and family shelters to see if they are in need of donations. This helps ensure that items will be put to good use, and aren’t at risk of going straight to the landfill. You can find shelters in your state and city using the Homeless Shelter Directory.

Try ecobricking

Ecobricking is essentially creating plastic building blocks by filling and compacting plastic bottles with clean and dry plastic, and other non-biodegradable products. These bottle bricks can be used as infrastructure for homes and gardens, or even be used for art. It’s a creative way to keep your waste from polluting the environment, and utilizing it in a more useful and beneficial way. If you don’t have a purpose for ecobricks, you can donate them to an organization or community near you.

Stay informed and connected

One of the most important efforts you can make towards living more sustainably and contributing to the protection of our environment, is continuously educating yourself and connecting with others. Knowledge is power, and through your own research and learning from others, it can help inform your decisions--and other people’s--and bring the positive and impactful actions we need for a sustainable future. You can stay informed and connected with SSU’s sustainable efforts by following SustainableSSU’s initiatives on social media--on Facebook (soon Instagram and Twitter) and visiting this website frequently. We’ll be highlighting some of the active work happening at SSU as we fulfill our responsibilities to the Second Nature Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Stay tuned for events, including Earth Week coming this Spring, where you can be actively--even if virtually -- involved.

Marian Mejia
Marian Mejia, the current Communications assistant at Sustainable SSU, is a graduating senior in the Geography, Environment, and Planning department with a focus in Society, Environment, and Development. She can be contacted at