Making changes can be hard.

We human beings are creatures of habit, wearing the same clothes, treading the same paths and eating our favorite foods week after week. Disrupting these habits takes effort, and sustaining change over a long period of time (think a lifetime devoted to healthy eating rather than a three-week crash diet) can be even more challenging.

But as many a quote will tell you, getting started is the hardest part. When you have made it over that initial hump of novelty and newness and successfully summited a steep learning curve, it becomes far easier. All you have to do is keep going.

With that initial “how do I do this?!” challenge in mind, I’ve put together five no-fail tips to go green — easy changes you can make to shift your life to be more eco-friendly. I’ll also give it to you straight about just how hard they are to adopt. Taking it step by step, you’ll master all of them in no time.

Tips To Go Green

1. Refuse plastic bags

Go Green Tips: 5 No-Fail Solutions To Get You Started
Politely refuse bags for your purchases. A tip to go green that reduces unnecessary waste. Photo: Still AB / Shutterstock

We’ll start off nice and slow, with an easy-peasy change that almost everyone can make without much fuss. All you need to do is remember to politely refuse bags for your purchases. Plastic bags have become a ubiquitous symbol of pollution and waste for good reason, as the Earth Policy Institute estimates that 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year — that’s 2 million plastic bags used every minute.

This number seems staggering for good reason — it is. And you can help reduce it one bag at a time. Many times we focus on replacing plastic with reusable bags, but this tip to go green is even easier because you simply need to say no to a plastic bag whenever possible.

If you have one item, or even a small handful of purchases and are just carrying them to your car, a bag is unnecessary. For the ladies among us with giant purses to stow things or the men wearing stylish satchels with cavernous carrying power, you already have a bag. Just say no!

2. Shop secondhand

This is one of those lovely tips to go green that saves you money while also benefiting the environment. Make it a goal to head to local secondhand stores instead of the mall when you need to buy anything from new kitchenware to clothes.

Fast fashion has a terrible impact on the environment, and embracing $5 T-shirts is a lot like ordering a $5 fast food meal.

It seems like a great idea at the time, but that good feeling never lasts long. Cheap clothing is just that, cheap. It’s made with poor-quality fabric by shoddy workmanship, and it often fades, shrinks and loses shape after just a few washes. Shopping secondhand for clothing and furniture, in particular, lets you see how an item will hold up to wear and tear and allows you to equip your life with unique, great-quality pieces for a fraction of the cost.

The only challenging part of this tip to go green is finding your place. Some secondhand shoppers like the ease and quality control of a good consignment store where they rigorously pre-screen items before accepting them. Price points will be higher but so will the quality of the brands and the clothing. Others prefer the diamond-in-the-rough quality of Value Village or Goodwill. Online sites like Kijiji or Craigslist offer perfect opportunities for those looking to get used furniture, and Facebook groups are great for specific things like sportswear or baby gear.

3. Reduce consumption

Go Green Tips: 5 No-Fail Solutions To Get You Started
This tip to go green asks you to stop something instead of starting something. Photo: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

This change requires a shift in consciousness and buying behavior, but in terms of energy expenditure, it’s a tip to go green that asks you to stop something instead of starting something.

The next time you go to purchase something — even if you’ve already started to shop secondhand — think about whether you truly need it. You can determine that by asking yourself these questions:

  • How much will it cost?
  • Where will I store it?
  • How will I maintain it?
  • How long will it last?
  • How will I dispose of it when it’s outlived its purpose?

Examining your buying behavior like this and becoming a conscious consumer means you’ll be able to avoid impulse purchases, reduce clutter and really consider the life cycle of a product before you buy it. Sometimes not doing something is the best choice!

4. Make your own body products

This tip to go green seems about 10 times harder than it truly is, but I promise that once you’ve stocked your home with a few basic ingredients, making your products — from laundry soap to deodorant — is easy as pie. You can find many great recipes by searching the Earth911 archives, including recipes for:

Using nothing more than products whipped together with some combination of castile soap, borax, baking soda, coconut oil and washing soda will get you a sparkling clean house, soft skin and shiny hair. Believe it!

5. Eat less meat

I will readily admit that this is the toughest one on the list, but with great sacrifice comes great reward. Raising cattle for beef requires 160 times more land and creates more than 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions compared to crops like wheat, rice or potatoes. Choosing to give up meat — or even cut your meat consumption in half — will have a drastic reduction in the amount of waste products and pollution created by the livestock industry. And with the wealth of mouthwatering recipes online and in vegetarian cookbooks in every cuisine style, this tip to go green not only does good, it tastes good, too.

Were any of these tips to go green a surprise to you? Have ones you’d like to add? Share your thoughts with the community by leaving a comment below.

Feature image credit: Shutterstock

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.