We’re drawing to the end of the year, which is a time dedicated to reflection. So we wanted to reflect on our sustainable living journey in 2022. We’re sharing everything from our lifestyle and habit changes to our simple eco-friendly swaps. Then finish by committing to new sustainable living goals for 2023.
When people hear or think of sustainable living or eco-friendly lifestyle, it’s going to mean a different thing depending on who you ask. The truth about sustainable living is that it is a series of choices someone makes every day to consistently choose options that have a positive environmental impact.
However, there is seriously no one size fits all for sustainable living. I’ll say that again. There is NO ONE WAY to live a sustainable life.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you don’t have to do it perfectly. You just need to commit to doing it over time and keep going until it’s a habit. I’ve found it’s all about mindset and progress. We all can make a radical impact on the environment through small and/or big changes to our lifestyles.
We are entirely imperfect in our ways of sustainable living. We’ve purchased things from Amazon, but also purchased items from eco-friendly online marketplaces and small businesses. For our projects, we buy wood from our local lumber store, which is not always sustainably sourced wood. We cave and buy Halloween candy at the last minute that’s not easily recyclable.
But most of the time, we are doing our best to live sustainably and try to be conscious of what we are doing.
It takes time AND repetition to form a habit
We’ve found a lot of things take no time to change or swap out with an eco-friendly product. However, even those easy swaps or less easy lifestyle changes take time to embed as a habit.
For example, remembering to add items to our shopping list before we desperately needed them, so I had time to research and order an eco-friendly item. This was sooooo hard this year! There’s not always an eco-friendly option at a store nearby, and you can’t rely on two-day shipping to get it quickly. The repetition of reminding myself to check our backstock frequently and make a list truly helped my mind and body form the habit.
Yes, if you’re in dire need of toilet paper now, it’s okay to buy non-eco-friendly toilet paper. Maybe just buy only a few though to sustain you until you can get your eco-friendly toilet paper.
In the current economy, being an eco-conscious consumer requires a little planning ahead so that you don’t get stuck buying less environmentally friendly products out of last-minute needs.
So just remember, there are so many ways to change your impact on the environment without radically changing your life. So don’t be afraid to make those small changes. But also, for those who are ready, don’t be afraid to make a radical change either.
Now with all that in mind, we wanted to share about the sustainable living changes we made in 2022 and our journey so far in hopes to inspire you and others to make those changes.
Sustainable Living Goals from 2022
When goal-setting for our sustainable living, we always try to be realistic and make them achievable. We want to stick to them and be able to sustain it as a family. There were a ton of other eco-friendly and sustainable choices made this year, but these were the main goals we set out to achieve this year. That said, I’m excited to say that we achieved or made progress on all of our goals for 2022!
Goal 1 – Grow more of our own food this year
We did this in big strides this year! Firstly, we designed and built our terraced garden beds in our front yard as it’s truly the only place that gets decent sun. Then I planted a ton and maintained it throughout the growing season. I’ll be honest, I’ve never grown a full garden before, just small stuff in containers. It was work, but oh so fulfilling, giving me fresh produce and making me slow down to enjoy nature and life.
We harvested a ton of tomatoes and herbs, some peppers, potatoes, swiss chard, carrots, and a little bit of lettuce and kale (not the best at growing leafy greens yet!). By far, the strawberry plants were my toddler’s favorite! One of the best things about the garden beyond the food itself was teaching and having my child help in the garden. He would point out the bees and tell me that they were pollinating the baby plants. It got us outside every day and he would eat food out there that he never eats when I cook. The toddler LOVES fresh basil and would regularly consume it when in the garden.
I also loved that we did have an overabundance sometimes, which we then shared with our neighbors and friends. The most surprising thing was this garden was a conversation starter with anyone who walked by. Everyone would want to talk about what we were growing and how we built it. The toddler would literally drag people walking over to show them the basil.
This goal of growing more food turned into growing our community as well, which was such an unexpected happy surprise.
Goal 2 – Swap out our personal care products for eco-friendly options
We did this with a lot of items! We had some items stockpiled already, so we haven’t fully swapped everything. It’s a slow progression of switching as the most sustainable thing is to use up what you already have. Hopefully, everything will be swapped this next year! Below in the overall list, I share the brands and items we swapped. Maybe you should try a few this year!
Goal 3 – Build a rain barrel system to collect stormwater
Another goal accomplished this year! We designed and built our own stacked rain barrel system. Yes, STACKED. We love to engineer and maximize our space and collection, so we designed a larger stacked system. We are able to collect more than enough rainwater from our roof to water our backyard plants, trees, and garden in containers on the deck.
Of course, we made a Hubby How To with detailed instructions and a set of DIY plans if you want to make it a goal to build a stacked rain barrel system next year!
Goal 4 – Stop purchasing and cooking beef altogether next year.
As a family, we decided to stop eating beef this year as it makes one of the largest impacts on the environment when it comes to food. Consuming less meat has been a slow progression for us, but this was a big step. I’m proud to say we achieved this goal!
We did consume beef a few times when it was served to us at someone’s home as we did not want to waste food (which can be just as harmful to the environment). We also accidentally purchased beef at least twice that we know of.
How do you accidentally purchase beef, you might ask? Well, it’s hidden in a LOT of things. Like the salami that we assumed was all pork, but actually a mix of pork and beef. That happened twice as we forgot to check the ingredients list.
Perfection isn’t important though and we don’t beat ourselves up over it. I’ll happily take the imperfection of only consuming/purchasing beef a few times this year and focus on the positive of how much our choice reduced carbon emissions.
Some people might be curious about if we missed it, and to be honest, we didn’t really miss it from our diet at all. We used plant-based alternatives like Impossible Burger (the best one in our opinion) for meals that typically used ground beef and actively meal planned to give us an abundance of options. A little planning goes a long way in not getting stuck on meals like “meat and potatoes”. It also helps that we love cooking and a variety of food. Moreover, not purchasing beef paired with our garden has saved a lot of money on groceries over the year when inflation just keeps raising costs.
Our Sustainable Living Changes This Year
To be honest, we went into 2022 with the mindset of improving our sustainable living and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. However, writing out this list kind of blew my mind on what we’ve done and been able to continue doing. We definitely didn’t wake up one day saying we were going to do all of these this year! It was just our change in mindset that led us to make more sustainable choices.
I bet you if you made a list, you’d be surprised about the number of choices you made this year that are sustainable and eco-friendly changes. So here’s our list of the sustainable living choices and changes we’ve made this year to hopefully help inspire you.
General Sustainable Choices
- Continued to reduce our food waste through Platejoy’s Meal Planning Subscription
- Chose to do more eco-friendly online shopping when possible – not perfect, but progress
- Switch to a hybrid composting system utilizing an indoor electric composter and an outdoor double-barrel composting tumbler.
- Continuing to use & maintain our solar panel system we DIY installed. See our savings after 2 years and the rest of our Going Solar Series Journey.
- Kept up our eco-friendly habits even when traveling on vacation with a kid in tow!
- Hosted an Eco-friendly Toddler Birthday Party requesting only non-physical and experience gifts and DIY all the decor.
- Provide DIY plans to help others build items themselves. These DIY plans are only provided as digital downloads to have no shipping impacts on the environment.
- Participated & advocated for systematic changes related to the environment & climate changes (Vote and use your voice!)
Lifestyle & Habit Changes
- Continued a more Flexitarian Diet (Eating no beef and less meat overall)
- Dove deep into Suburban Homesteading to be more self-sufficient
- Swapped out 1/3 of our turf lawn in the front yard to grow food in the terraced garden beds we designed and built this year.
- Collected rainwater in the stacked rain barrel system we built and used to water our garden.
- Harvested in abundance from the terraced garden beds, and our linear planters and containers on the deck.
- Learned to can and perserve our harvest – mainly tomatoes into sauce, salsa, and ketchup. We love the Presto canner we purchased and utilize it both for water canning and pressure canning. Also, a dehydrator is a staple to have now.
- Designed and built furniture we wanted this year and honed our DIY/woodworking skills
- Continued to use Ecosia Search Engine instead of Google for our internet searches – it plants trees!
- Specific trips to recycling centers to recycle non-typical curbside recycling items (paint, metal, etc). For those in the Greater Kansas City area, recyclespot.org can help you find a location to recycle almost anything!
- Was intentional when grocery shopping to reduce single-use plastic consumption – read our tips here.
- Gave more experience gifts to reduce product consumption & support local businesses
- Swapped personal care items to eco-friendly ones (already swapped some but here are the new swaps this year!)
- Pivoting head safety razor by Leaf Shave
- Solid shaving cream and shaving brush by Wismee
- Paper tube deodorant by HeyHumans
- Aluminum tube toothpaste by HeyHumans
- Lotion in aluminum container by HeyHumans
- Liquid foundation by Elate
- Zero waste mascara by River Organics
- Solid shampoo and conditioner bars by HiBar
- Solid bar soap by Dove & Grove Co.
- Paper tube lip balm by Farmstead Apothecary
- Cloth tissues instead of paper tissues
- Stopped buying soda and make homemade soda like ginger ale
- Stopped buying pre-packaged tea and make bulk iced tea from tea leaves now – check out the process
- Built DIY floating shelves to store bulk pasta, herbs, and fresh garden produce.
- Buying flour, bread flour, sugar, beans in bulk and storing in food-grade 5 gallon buckets.
- Switched to Bamboo Toilet Paper by Reel
- Switch to stainless steel reusable water bottles by Klean Kanteen – our older plastic ones gave out so time to replace with a better eco option.
- Swapped cleaning products for eco-friendly or DIY ones
- Installed a heat pump system to rely less on fossil fuels and be more energy-efficient
- Used scrap wood to make DIY toys for our toddler instead of purchasing plastic ones.
- Ran the washer less often – no more diapers or potty-training saves soooo much water! Not necessarily a choice, but definitely a change this year.
- Winter clothing was all secondhand and “new to us” from a friend this year. Intend to continue to shop secondhand for the child (they grow too fast!)
- Utilized eco-friendly school supplies for our little bit of homeschooling and office work.
- Continued to do eco-friendly and zero waste crafts with the toddler.
- Gifting DIY items or buying secondhand for birthday and holiday presents – got a secondhand bike for Christmas, shhhh!
- Consciously communicating why we are doing what we do (composting, recycling, etc) to better raise an eco-consicious child and live sustainably with a kid.
Every year, our biggest impact though is being intentional with telling others about our sustainable living changes and choices. Even if they don’t make the same changes we do, it starts a conversation and gets people thinking. We share our journey and changes with others, so that they can find the right way to hopefully make some eco-conscious choices, too.
Sustainable Living Goals for 2023
Each year we grow and achieve more sustainable living items than we necessarily set goals for. It’s just kind of something that snowballs and one thing leads to another in small and big ways. This next year, we want to continue to intentionally set a few goals at the beginning of the year to hold ourselves accountable. There will be other eco-friendly and sustainable choices made, but these are our family’s main goals to achieve.
Goal 1 – Grow & Preserve More Of Our Own Food
We did a lot this year, but we want to learn how to grow more veggies/fruits and then continue learning more about canning and dehydrating to preserve our harvests and feed ourselves in the off-season. The goal would be to have more than just cans of tomato-related items next year! Additionally, working on learning and implementing more regenerative farming and permaculture to ensure we are being mindful of our impact on soil health.
Goal 2 – Bake More Bread
We made quite a bit of bread this year, but mainly pita bread and freezer rolls. We still bought pre-sliced loafs of bread. For our family, it’s not achievable to not buy store-bought bread yet, but we would like to buy less this next year. A tangible goal would be only buying bread 1-2 times a month instead of almost every week. This will help us reduce the amount plastic packaging we buy (bread is always wrapped and not always recyclable) and utilize our bulk baking supplies to the fullest.
Goal 3 – Be Intentional About DIYing Sustainably
DIY is at the core of who we are as a couple and family and a big part of Big Living Little Footprint as a business. Frequently, DIY tends to be the more sustainable solution. But that’s not always the case. After being in the construction and design industries, both the hubby and myself know that it’s one of the most wasteful industries out there. There is so much plastic waste, materials being thrown out, recycling barely happening, items made from virgin materials, and so much more.
So we are consciously setting the goal of ensuring at minimum one aspect of a project is sustainable/eco-friendly. Then share about that eco aspect and emphasize it in our posts, so we encourage and advocate for a more sustainable future in DIY and construction. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s about setting a realistic goal and small changes add up.
Goal 4 – Disconnect The House From Gas
Our goal is to electrify our household so we no longer use gas created from fossil fuels. Because we DIY installed solar panels, have an electric car, and now have a heat pump with electric backup, the only item left to convert is our hot water heater. So to reach our goal, we want to replace our gas hot water heater with an electric one.
We are always learning and trying to make better choices! Just remember sustainable living looks very different for each of us. Some things work for one person, but not another. It’s all about building better habits, doing your best, and helping push for larger systematic changes. Lastly, the most important thing is to commit to something and take action. Small changes will lead to bigger changes and actions, so just keep moving forward!
What sustainable living choices are you going to commit to this year?
Other Sustainable Living Ideas
Make sure to check out last year’s changes to get even more sustainable living ideas and inspiration! We continue to grow in our sustainable lifestyle and hope to help others as well. We share a ton every year in our Sustainable Living posts as well as our ever-growing DIY project How-Tos and ideas. Hope you’re inspired for the new year and live big while leaving a little footprint on this environment!
Hopefully, us sharing our truth about our sustainability journey encourages you, gives you hope, and inspires you! We’re just ordinary people like you. Let us know what changes you’ve made this year and your goals for next year the comments below!
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