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12 sustainability tips you can use year-round from NPR listeners

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In celebration of Earth Day, Life Kit asked our audience to share their sustainability hacks – what small (or big) acts do you take in your life to center the longevity of our planet? Your responses ranged from creatively repurposing plastic bags to giving up driving altogether!

We're sharing some of the most useful and actionable tips we received. We hope they inspire you.


These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Bike to work: I bicycle commute to work and have for over forty years. Over 100,000 miles not sitting in a car. — Wendell Wallace

Make creative storage: I re-use my pickle jars to sort and store my screws, nails, batteries and miscellaneous art supplies. It keeps my brain happy because everything has a place and my wallet happy because I don't buy expensive sorters. — Tara DeVeau

Reuse your napkin: I collect cloth napkins at thrift shops, and that is all we use for meals. I have lots of them, and I wash them weekly. — Linda S. Mueller

Sip from metal: We use metal straws that go in the dishwasher and make ice water taste extra cold. — Heather Austin

Plant native: I purchase native plants! These are plants that are well adapted to my area, and require less water and fertilizer. Plus, I get to see beautiful butterflies, birds and other pollinators. I don't have to purchase bird seed because these plants already feed critters of all kinds. — Shari Walton

Conserve water: In the morning, while I am waiting for the hot water so I can do the dishes, I catch all the cooler water in a 2-gallon bucket to water my plants or give to my animals. I also use a rinsing bowl for the dishes instead of running water. — Karna Cronn

Go vegetarian: I have not eaten meat since 1971. — Ellen Silver

Make food last: I am able to store vegetables like lettuce, chard, carrots, celery, cabbage, bell pepper and zucchini in my refrigerator for several weeks at a time. I wrap the produce in paper towels and then store the wrapped items in plastic bags recycled from the produce section of the grocery store. This controls the humidity so things don't dry out or get mushy from too much moisture. — Margaret Bell

Get your own water bottle: I try to avoid drinking from a plastic water bottle. I always carry my own steel water bottle. — Charlie Schwartz

Repurpose clothes: When my jeans are completely worn out, I cut them into strips. I use the strips to tie up tomatoes and other plants in the garden. The fabric is soft on the vines and strong enough for stability. — Sarahjane Velick

Ditch the car: I realize not everyone's lifestyle or location can accommodate it, but I sold my car five years ago. My husband and I both rely on public transportation. We also walk and use ride shares. Being car-free is a big change in my lifestyle, but I've enjoyed adjusting to the discomfort these past five years. Some benefits to it: no car payment, car insurance, parking fees or insane gas prices. I also get more exercise and see more of my neighborhood than I ever would have otherwise. — Denise Denault

Keep those plastic bags: All the bags that cannot be recycled at the local grocery store (think chip bags, etc.) are put to good use cleaning out our two litter boxes. This way, even though the bags are still going in the garbage, they are getting a second use. — Jennie Kuepper


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Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Life Kit