12 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Family’s Footprint

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There seems to be a snowball effect when you start living your life more intentionally. For me, it started with money. I was desperate to get out of debt, so I looked for as many ways as I could to reduce our expenses. Eventually, that led me to natural health. Which led me to greener living. And that left me wondering how my family of six could reduce our ecological footprint and live more sustainably.

Ecological Footprint

As I become more obsessed interested in reducing our family’s eco footprint, I find myself researching and implementing different ideas for doing so. Most things I try work, but not all are feasible for us to continue all the time (we just can’t commit to family cloth yet).

But by taking Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to heart, you can implement simple, sustainable (albeit unconventional) ways to help your family lesser their impact on the earth.

1. Plan your meals

Planning meals ahead of time not only helps you save money on groceries, but it will prevent leftovers from going bad. Plan for a week or for as far out as a month.

2. Shower less frequently

Don’t wrinkle your nose. Often, people shower (or bathe their kids) every day whether they need to or not. Before hopping in out of habit, think about whether it’s really necessary. I was able to go much longer after I started making my own shampoo because my scalp didn’t get itchy between showers.

3. Wear clothes more than once

This goes along with the showering thing. When I was in high school, wearing clothes more than once was so uncool. Now, my jeans see days of wear before they hit the washer. (When they’re clean of course.) Wash clothes only when they’re dirty to lower water and electricity usage.

4. Hang your clothes to dry

I get really excited when I see a laundry line. Silly, I know, but laundry lines make me happy. They’re so simple to use and can save tons of money. Obviously, you won’t be using as much electricity, but it will also help your clothes last longer since they’re not being pounded in the dryer.

5. Bring home less waste

Avoid food and other products with lots of packaging. Buying in bulk helps a lot since you won’t have individually wrapped things coming into your home (It’s great for your budget, too!) If eating out, take along a reusable container for leftovers so you don’t have to bring home a wasteful container from the restaurant.

6. Grow your own veggies

Many veggies are shipped long distances, using lots of fuel just to get to your grocery store. Start a simple garden to reduce dependency on grocery-store produce.

7. Make a windowsill herb garden

Most of the herbs for sale in our area come packaged in plastic boxes. Eh, no thanks. Grow some of your favorite herbs in a sunny windowsill so you can add flavor to your food without extra waste. I like basil, mint and cilantro the best.

8. Have a yard sale

You know how when you’re done decluttering, you have a ton of stuff lying around your house that you need to get rid of? Rather than throwing it away (some people do that!), have a yard sale to spare a landfill and make some money from your excess stuff. If it’s not yard sale weather, donate it to a local thrift store, list it on Freecycle, or sell items on Craigslist.

9. Use your car less

Make an effort to stay at home more and drive less. Walk, bike or use public transit if possible to reduce your contribution to air pollution. If you’re in a rural area and that’s not feasible, try to select one day for errands and group them all together.

10. Invest in reusable bags

Or make them from scrap fabric. Countless plastic bags end up in landfills each year and don’t need to be there. Either buy or make bags in different sizes and take them with you to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Make small ones to use with bulk bins and produce. (Find shopping bags online here or produce bags online here.)

11. Dress in layers

We’ve learned to do this when we play outdoor sports, but this is a simple trick that can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. When it’s cold, layer tees, long-sleeve shirts and sweaters, instead of turning up the heat. Avoid the AC with layers that you can remove (stay dressed of course).

12. Buy gently used clothing

I love used clothes and hand-me-downs. We’ve been gifted with so many over the years, that I’ve rarely had to buy clothes for my kids. And if I do, I start at a thrift store or consignment shop. Same goes for me. The trick? Look for brands that you know will last.

How have you reduced your family’s ecological footprint?


About Nina Nelson

Nina is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips.

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  1. Oxpictus says

    We retired to a remote ranch in the mountains. We live in Levis,
    T-shirts and sweatshirts. We have some good clothes for family events, and for our grandchildren’s events, but, quite frankly, we don’t give a damn about “fashion”.

    We are living a natural lifestyle, we don’t use pesticides, we feed our local wildlife, and are extremely happy.
    If I could, I would have groceries and stuff from the drugstore delivered, so we didn’t have to venture off our large ranch.

    We both had high profile positions, now, we can totally relax with our critters and nature.

    • Lorene says

      I think it’s neat when you can have a ranch with all the hard work that that entails and call it relaxing. It just shows that hard work is not the problem, it’s the “high stress, high profile jobs” that are sooooo stressful. Not everyone would see it the way you do, but I sure hear you! Enjoy your ranch and your natural life style and take good care of God’s creatures.

  2. Shannon A says

    First of all, I just discovered your blog yesterday and LOVE it! We actually made your “refrigerator pickles” last night. I am so happy to see all of the things on your list here as my husband and I do just about every one of them (except hanging our clothes to dry – so that might be our next conscious effort).

    I am going to give my hand for the first time this year at canning the veggies we’ve been growing.
    We have started home brewing beer to get our craft beer fix.
    We love to refinish furniture that we find cheap or are handed down to us.
    We compost just about EVERYTHING!

    Thanks for having such an awesome, relevant blog!

  3. Joel Zaslofsky says

    Hi Nina,

    Except for numbers 7 and 8, I already do everything else you recommend. And I recommend them all too!

    So I guess I better get started on that windowsill herb garden and yard sale, huh? 🙂

    By the way, I’d like to give a hat tip to Heidi Neubauer-Winterburn for making me aware of you and this article. I’ll be checking out more of your stuff in the future as it aligns closely with what I’m doing over at Value of Simple (and what just generally resonates with me).

  4. Nancy Cole says

    Well, 12 for 12. But, then I started back when all these 5 adults were in their 1 to 11 years of age. When I moved from upstate NY,I had to get used to no recycling. We recycled everything. Now, at 77, I have little waste, mostly the tin that is not recycled here yet. Imagine Abraham and his crowd living out of tents, moving, all the people, the animals, bet they did not have problems with waste and clutter. Anyhow, love the article. 🙂

  5. Kristi says

    IMHO – the key to all of this is to do things one at time. After living a certain way for so long, it’s hard to change overnight.

    I started with one thing: washing in cold water. Then moved to using windows to cool the air or soaking sheets in water and then hanging them from the windows for natural AC. And so on.
    If I tried to change all at once, I would be so discouraged and then feel like a failure.

    As long as you are trying and working towards a better lifestyle with your family beside you, you ARE making a difference.

  6. donna says

    We also have a bucket in the shower to catch the beginning cold water and then use it to water plants or garden. Some with kitchen sink.

  7. Marilyn Smith says

    In the past 3 months I’ve switched over to many of these practices; composting; making cleaners for clothes/dish-washing/general house cleaners/ no-poo & conditioner. Plus commiting to 3 days of non-car commuting (biking/train). I’m starting to add wild edibles to my garden for good eco balance and soil building and good eating.
    These new (really, old ways) of of living are very freeing in subtle and whole ways that are hard to believe until you start to practice them. I live & work in Silicon Valley where the pace is always super-speed and I relish the sanity and grounding these practices provide me.

  8. egmadok says

    1. Dressing in layers can make you comfortable in home when temperature is droped for 3-4C degrees than usual. this saves money for electricity or gas for heating up the house. Sleep in cold bedrooms, covered with few thick blankets. Saves more money too and its healthier.

    2. there is no need for having newest or best models of technology like ipods, smartphones, gaming-consoles…consider that older versions already have internet accses, gps, or whatever u need, basicly, phone is for texting and calling, do you really need al those unpractical apps, upgrades, and really do you really need that few MB more on your phone?

    3.clothes, or other things, buy unlabeled. its much cheaper and can be more cosy and comforable- unless you are attention-dependet and have to be full-modern.

    4. make meals at home-healthier and cheaper, dont waste money on fast food or restaurants.

    5. use bike or walk whenever you can insted of your car.

    6. exercise at home, there is a plenty on exercises on net u can use insted of wasting money on gims. proteins, food suplements.

    7. make presents/gift insted of buying. of course u spend money too, but can be much cheaper and its emotionally nicer coz u gave a lil effort to make someone happy insted of just buying somethin.

    8. less tv and computer more familiy quality time, board games, pic-nics- saves energy and builiding well realtions.

    9. plan your shoppings, buy what u really need, and check for sales and ask for discounts.

    10. drink water insted of soda or juices – cheaper and healthier.

    11. parties – drink at home, not in bars. much safer and cheaper.

    12. AC usage in cars – open window if hot, get jacket if cold-save gas. same as home.

    13. use wet joggers insted of vacum cleaners – electricity and bags savings.

    14. use your food leftovers to feed your pets.

  9. Lorene says

    In Dresden Germany where our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids lived for 4 years, they would get fined if they had too much trash in their can. (I’m not sure how they monitored that). There were big bins where you would take all your recyclables. There were different bins for plastic, glass, paper, etc.. Everything had to be sorted. You got charged at the store for bags if you didn’t bring reusable ones with you. People were very conscientious of recycling, otherwise “you paid the piper” so to speak. Things grew natural around town also (including grass and weeds). They didn’t mow ever week. It was the “ultimate recycling” town. I don’t know if all of Germany is that way or not but we could sure learn a lot from Dresden. They also still took certain bottles back to the store for soda’s, beer and things.

    Also, not bathing everyday is very good for your skin. You don’t wash all the natural oils off you skin and out of your hair every day. (Ladies, the wrinkles won’t come so early).

    I also love “hand me downs”. I get many of my clothes from thrift stores, yard sales, friends, etc. I was asked at church one time where I shopped, that I had the most beautiful wardrobe. When I told her and she was shocked.

    Also, if you do the “long form” on your taxes, it usually pays you more to donate your items than to have a yard sale. There are sites on line that will list items and what you can take off your taxes for them. It is a little time consuming but the benefits are great! I can’t think of what the site is called right now, maybe someone else knows that information.

    • Matt Jabs says

      We always use TurboTax and they have a software module called “Its Deductible” and we always found what you’ve said to be true – it’s more beneficial to donate items than to sell them. Blessings!

  10. Elaine says

    I really found this email great! I have a really neat shopping bag idea that I found on the internet. I will have to go to the thrift store to get the t-shirts because the ones I have are in good shape, not ready for the scissors! Just look up “t-shirt shopping bags to make” if you haven’t seen this idea yet.