How to Green Up Your Lifestyle During Earth Month
Individual change can be contagious, so take a moment to read what others are doing
Earth Month can motivate people to make green changes in their own lives—maybe you double-check what can really go into your recycling bin or get an induction burner so you use your gas stove less often. Whatever you do, it’s important to share those green steps with those around you, as the changes you make to better the planet help inspire others to do the same.
Here are some perspectives and advice from Sierra Club staff on recent changes they’ve made in their own lives.
Isabella Ariza Staff attorney in the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program
With more news coming out about the environmental perils of “fast fashion,” Isabella Ariza chose to green her closet.
“I've recently committed to going green on fashion,” explained Ariza. “When I want to give my closet a new life, I invite my friends over for a clothing swap (and a potluck) so that other people can give a new life to old clothes. If something doesn't fit perfectly, I either style it with a belt or ask my mom to fix it for me (until I master sewing, I rely on my mother).”
Making this fashionable change was easier than Ariza expected. “I love vintage clothes, and I'm the youngest of four—so hand-me-downs are not exactly new to my closet.”
She has advice for those who want to try something similar: “Be ready to style anything—you’ll find beauty in the most unexpected places,” said Ariza.
Emily Bosch Deputy press secretary for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign
Emily Bosch chose to create less waste in her life—and she started with ditching paper towels and single-use plastic.
“I replaced single-use paper towels with reusable ‘unpaper towels’ that are machine washable,” said Bosch. “They roll up, just like regular paper towels, and in my opinion work better than their disposable counterparts. Another swap I've made is switching from single-use, plastic ziplock bags to reusable silicone bags that are dishwasher safe.”
Bosch said these changes have been easy and cost-effective. “There is an upfront cost with all of these swaps, but I've found that over time I've saved money by not having to repurchase disposable products—so it's a win-win!”
She added that the changes have also caught her friends’ attention, spurring conversations about how they can make similar swaps in their own lives. Bosch advises looking for ways to make changes to the things you’re already doing regularly. “Those are going to make the biggest impact,” she said. “But don’t feel pressured to buy a bunch of new products all at once—making a few swaps each year will make a major impact over time.”
And here’s a bonus swap idea from Bosch: Buy shampoo and conditioner bars instead of liquid ones that come in plastic bottles.
Andrea Callan Senior manager for Sierra Club Chapter Support
Andrea Callan’s family recently joined a community compost program to help reduce food waste in their home. They’ve noticed an immediate change.
“We have noticed we only throw away about one trash bag per week now. We're reducing landfill waste and not contributing to landfill off-gassing,” said Callan. “To help us get into the habit of diverting our food scraps, we put a ‘Can you compost that?’ label on our trash can."
Callan said the decision has also led to important family conversations. “Composting has also triggered discussions in our house about food waste in general and better planning around our weekly grocery lists,” she said.
Small changes do matter, she added. “It feels rewarding to claim these changes in habits as small victories and overcome the feelings of powerlessness that come with the enormity of the challenges we face.”
Natalie Schoeppler Sierra Club associate director of email strategy
When it comes to major green changes, Natalie Schoeppler and her husband have done exactly that. They installed solar panels, an electric heat pump, and an induction stove. “It's a big financial investment up front,” said Schoeppler. “But the cost of going electric and solar balances out or saves you money in the long run, especially when you factor in rising energy costs and the environmental cost of burning dirty fuels.
"We were able to finance our solar panels so that our monthly cost is about the same as our energy bill was previously. Our monthly costs have not increased, and once we've repaid the loan, our electrical bill will be close to nothing.”
Schoeppler advises doing some serious research before making big choices like these, as it can get complicated. “Choosing to go with an induction stove was a difficult decision,” she said. “I love cooking and have always cooked on a gas range. I was personally more experienced cooking over an open fire than on a hot plate. So it was a huge change to go with induction. In the end, we decided to upgrade when we learned about the indoor pollutants released by gas stoves, and I love our new stove.”
She recommends reading reviews of companies and appliances and going with a local company in case you need service in the future.
Sarah Leighton Director of Sierra Club Maine
When Sarah Leighton and her husband built their new home, they wanted two major differences from their last home—an electric heat pump and a no–mow lawn. “Heat pumps are so much more efficient and better for the environment than the oil furnace our previous home used to be heated with,” she said. “And for our no-mow lawn, we're in the process of spreading wood chips to keep grass from growing and instead planting native plants. We’re really enjoying planning what we want to plant in our yard.”
Leighton said she used to spend so much time mowing and is now happy to redirect that attention to creating a yard with no grass. “Think of all the time and money you'll save by not mowing!” she said. “And that’s all while protecting the environment by not running your gas mower.”
Your author, Heather Moyer Content manager on Sierra Club’s Communications team
And finally, I get to share a major green change I made in my own life: My wife and I bought a used electric vehicle to replace one of our gas vehicles. So far it’s been very rewarding—we love saving money and the climate by not buying or using gas. Like the other Sierra Club staffers who’ve made major changes, my advice is to do your research. We’d been educating ourselves about electric vehicles for months leading up to our purchase of a 2012 Nissan Leaf. It’s proved to be an excellent decision. We use it for our city driving around Baltimore and rarely have to be concerned with range anxiety. The most challenging part has been setting the charging timer, but the owner’s manual helped walk us through that. We’re thrilled with our EV and recommend it to others.
So how about it—what green changes are you going to make this Earth Month?