If you want to give your home an eco-friendly edge but don’t know where to start, look to your stuff.
The quality and volume of the things you buy — and the ways in which you organize and store those items — can have as much of an impact on your carbon footprint as using sustainable building materials or installing solar panels on your roof.
Julie Coraccio, award-winning professional eco-organizer and owner of Reawaken Your Brilliance, agrees: “Declutter[ing] and organizing can go a long way in making your home more eco-friendly.”
There are other benefits, too. Beyond reducing your waste and consumption, establishing smart home organization systems can help you save money and curb clutter.
Read on for 14 smart tips to up the green factor in every area of the home.
The Importance of Decluttering
The first step to boosting your home’s eco-friendly rating — not to mention the overall function and look of the space — is decluttering. Paring down your stuff will streamline the organization process and prevent you from buying things you don’t need, Coraccio explains.
Amy Vance, owner of Eco Modern Concierge in Houston, Texas, encourages her clients to donate as many items as possible to reduce waste. “[And] you will often find that when you are decluttering and organizing there will be a ton of items that can be recycled, whether this is paper or electronics,” she says.
As for what to purge, focus on getting rid of anything you don’t love or use on a regular basis.
“Before starting, set up bags or boxes and label them: Return, Donate, Fix, Recycle, Sell, [Store in] Another Location, and Trash,” suggests Coraccio. That will make it easier to sort and organize later, she explains.
1. Add Some Greenery
Brighten your living space by adding a few air-purifying plants to the mix.
“This is great way to improve your air quality and do something good for your body,” Vance says.
2. Repurpose Your Stuff
Before you buy new storage supplies or decorative items, get creative and figure out if you can repurpose things you already have. This will help reduce your consumption and plastic use, Coraccio says.
“[For example], you could use a bulletin board to hang jewelry as opposed to going out and buying a jewelry container,” she says.
Other ideas: Turn wine crates into makeshift bookshelves, use glass sauce jars as vases, or let shoe boxes double as storage containers.
3. Recycle Expired Beauty Products
Empty and rinse all your expired, half-full bottles of lotion and face wash, then check the labels for the recycling logo. (Pro-tip: use a beauty spatula to scoop out every last drop of product.) If you can’t recycle a particular container with your glass, aluminum, or plastic materials, drop it off at the nearest Origins store. They’ll recycle your empty beauty containers for free, no matter the brand.
4. Switch to Sustainable Products
It’s a good idea to upgrade your favorite products to more eco-friendly versions, Vance says. Instead of buying plastic toothbrushes, for example, opt for bamboo. You can also look for perfume and face cream packaged in glass bottles rather than plastic containers. Or trade in your pack of disposable razors for a metal version with replaceable heads.
At the very least, if you can’t find non-plastic versions of your stuff, buy supplies in bulk, suggests Coraccio. This saves money and reduces your use of plastic, she explains.
5. Set Up A Recycling Station
Setting up a recycling system in your home is one of the best things you can do to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle.
“[It’s] a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and save energy,” Vance says.
Check your local recycling regulations first, then make sure you have bins for paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum materials, she says.
6. Rethink Your Pantry Organization
Store half-open or close-to-expiration items front and center in your pantry or kitchen cabinets, so you know what to reach for first when you’re grabbing a snack or preparing a meal.
This one simple change will help cut down on your grocery bill and prevent food waste.
7. Buy Kitchen Essentials In Bulk
“Avoid excess packaging and buy [food] in bulk,” Coraccio suggests.
To reduce your plastic consumption, she explains, purchase spices and grains from bulk bins and nix single-serve beverages and individually packaged snacks (like juice boxes or mini bags of chips) in favor of bigger items (like a pint of juice or family-size bag of chips).
8. Build A Green Cleaning Kit
For a healthier indoor environment and fewer toxins in the air, Coraccio recommends using green cleaning products. You can make your own natural disinfectants and stain removers using basic household items like baking soda, dish soap, vinegar, lemon, and essential oils. Pour your homemade cleaning solutions in glass jars, then store them in a caddy alongside a couple wooden scrub brushes and a stack of old rags and socks for dusting.
9. Reconfigure Your Closet
Before you purchase extra plastic bins and hooks to organize your closet, Coraccio suggests getting resourceful.
“By simply adjusting shelves, hooks, [and the like], you may get the [extra] room you need instead of buying another product,” she says.
10. Use Multipurpose Furniture
Invest in furniture that has multiple uses, like a storage bench. “This reduces what you have to buy and helps keep you organized,” says Coraccio.
11. Go Paperless
Going paperless helps drastically reduce the amount of waste you produce on a regular basis, while also cutting down on paper clutter in your home. That’s a major win. To start, cancel catalog subscriptions, unsubscribe from junk mail, and sign up for electronic billing.
Next, sort through all the paper items littering your home, including expired coupons and old holiday cards. Scan anything you want to save on your computer, then recycle the rest.
12. Recycle Electronics
To reduce your waste and eliminate clutter, Vance recommends recycling any electronics or tech devices you no longer use. That includes broken devices, outdated electronics like your original iPhone or digital camera charger, as well as any items in good condition that sit unused at the back of your closet.
Donate working devices to a local organization, then take the rest of your electronics to a nearby electronics recycling center, like Best Buy.
13. Donate Magazines and Books
Coraccio recommends giving your reading material a second life by donating it to a local organization or community group. Think: a senior citizen center, after-school club, local college campus, or women’s shelter.
14. Use an App to Save Paper
“See if you can use an app to reduce the amount of paper you use,” suggests Coraccio. She recommends Evernote, Paper Karma, Dragon, or the Notes app on your phone to record your to-do list, store recipes, keep track of your schedule, and more.