Living sustainably is becoming increasingly important, especially as EPA laws are removed and the planet becomes depleted of resources more quickly than ever. While sustainability is often associated with vegan or vegetarianism, you don’t have to change your entire lifestyle to be more healthy and sustainable. All you really need to do is be more conscious of what you’re eating, where it comes from, and where leftovers go. If you want to learn a few easy ways to make your habits better for the environment (and yourself) read on!

1. Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle

Have you ever seen those pictures of the piles of water bottles people find when they finally clean their room? That was me before I started using a reusable bottle. Every minute one million water bottles are used. More than 90% are not recycled. This isn't very sustainable. Chances are, you already have a reusable one in your house! Just fill it up in the morning and carry it with you all day. You’ll stay properly hydrated, and significantly reduce the amount of plastic going into our landfills. You can find one for around $15 at most stores, or even at the school store!

2. Grow Your Own Herbs

herb, vegetable, flowers, farmer's market, shop local, local plants, tomato plant
Sam Jesner

This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually super simple. You can purchase them at grocery stores, garden stores, and even home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Herbs can easily be grown inside, and reduce waste from regularly purchasing them at the grocery store, making them super sustainable. Just don’t forget to water them and you’re golden!

3. Compost Compost Compost!

If you take advantage of my last tip, you can use your compost as fertilizer for your herbs! Just throw in all your food waste, sprinkle some (once it’s decomposed) on top of the soil every month or so, and boom. If you live off campus, you can DIY or buy a cheap outdoor compost bin, but if you live in the dorms, you can purchase a small one for less than $20. Be sure to do some research to find one that works for your lifestyle. Goodbye smelly garbage can!

4. Make Drinks Instead of Buying Them

lemon, juice, citrus, lemonade
Jocelyn Hsu

Drinks like lemonade, iced tea, and orange juice can easily be made at home, and are often healthier than store-bought alternatives. Check out my article on drinks you can make at home for some ideas! You can put your juice in a reusable pitcher, be healthy and sustainable, and have a refreshingly delicious drink.

5. Buy Local

No matter where you live, there are plenty of places you can buy local produce and other goods from. Farmers markets and farm stands are often just a short drive away, especially in Lancaster. Prices may be a little higher, but you’ll know your money is benefitting a local farmer and contributing to sustainability.

6. Meal Prep/Eat Leftovers

Americans waste an average of one pound of food per person per day. This is waste that could easily be avoided by meal prepping, or eating leftovers. Pick one day a week and make a bunch of meals, then divvy them up in reusable containers in portions you know won’t go to waste.

7. Avoid Processed Foods

There are plenty of healthier alternatives to many processed foods you probably buy every week. Greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and product waste are just a few of the downfalls of processed foods, not to mention how unhealthy they are. Chips can be replaced with homemade tortilla chips or baked apple chips. Just slice an apple or tortilla shell to desired size and bake until golden and crispy. Sauces and salad dressings can also easily be made in your kitchen and stored to use later.

8. Buy Produce in Season

fresh produce, radishes, farmer's market, Vegetables
Kelsey Ragnini

Most produce is in peak season from the end of Spring, to early Fall. Find out what foods are in season and buy those, rather than buying out of season produce. In season produce is cheaper and lasts way longer. Buy things in bulk and freeze for later and save money and improve sustainability!

9. Make a Grocery List Every Week

This may be something you already do or find obvious, but it can really impact your wallet - and the environment. Think about what you really eat in a week, make a list, and stick to it. You can thank me later.

10. Eat Less Meat

Almost 70% of unhealthy emissions in the US come from animals. I’m not saying you should cut out meats entirely, just try to eat more lean meats or seafood, and less red meats. Not only are things like chicken and fish healthier, they’re also cheaper and better for the environment. Eating less meat is one of the biggest ways to be more healthy and sustainable and doesn't require completely changing your diet. 

As you can see, eating sustainably is a lot simpler than you’d think! Most of these suggestions are inexpensive, and won’t take much time from your busy life. Soon, you’ll be saving money, and the environment!