Living sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive–in fact, it starts with what you already have. First of all, what is sustainability? I think that if you’re here reading this blog, then you may already have an idea of what sustainability is. But for the folks in the back, sustainability means using resources at a rate that ensures that there will be enough for generations to come. So, what does it mean to live a sustainable lifestyle? Well, that answer depends on you and your current lifestyle. What is sustainable for me may not be sustainable for you. In this context, we will be talking about sustainability from a perspective of daily life. 

I think the easiest transition to a more sustainable lifestyle is starting with the things you use most frequently. Take a minute to see what you go through the most in your household. Instead of recycling that glass pasta sauce jar, you could use it to pack your lunch for the next day or to propagate plants. Choosing to buy products in glass containers is always a great option because you can repurpose the bottles and jars. They also make great vessels for low budget homemade gifts, such as a homemade sugar or coffee scrub.

Here are some examples of the most frequently used household/personal care products: 

bamboo toothbrushes


  • Cleaning products
  • Paper towels
  • Foil and plastic wrap 
  • Sponges and bottle cleaners 
  • Plastic bags 
  • Dryer sheets 

Personal care 

  • Makeup wipes 
  • Razors 
  • Loofahs 
  • Menstrual products
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste

Whatever it is that you feel would be the easiest to transition, start there. Maybe start with the top three–and get crafty! Now is the time to try out one of those tutorials that you have in your saved Instagram folder. Take that old T-shirt and repurpose it into cleaning rags or even a new 

tote bag! Here are more ideas to help get you started. Upcycling something that you already have is great because not only are you keeping it out of the landfill, you’re also giving it new life.

Now let’s talk about some zero waste swaps. (In our context, ‘zero waste’ means exactly what the name implies–producing no waste–think of it as a subcategory of living sustainably.) But before buying anything, ask yourself if this purchase is necessary. Our goal here is to adopt a ‘conscious consumerist’ mindset. As someone who has worked for a zero waste/bulk refill shop, I have found that these products are the most common to start out with: 

  • Utensil set: the first thing that you can do is just carry around a set from home. But if you want a dedicated set for on the go, then that’s okay too.
  • Stashers: alternative to ziploc bags. It definitely took me a while to build up my arsenal. But remember, baby steps…
  • Beeswax wraps: alternative to foil and plastic wrap  
  • Dyer balls: alternative to dryer sheets. They serve the same purpose as dryer sheets– they prevent static, soften fabrics, and reduce drying time (saving you $ on energy costs). Plus, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for a scent booster. 
  • Biodegradable dishwashing sponge 
  • Safety razor: great, high quality investment that will a lifetime
  • Marley’s monsters cotton rounds: alternative for disposable cotton rounds.
    • I’ve been using my set for about four years now and they’re still in great condition.
  • Makeup eraser: alternative to makeup remover wipes 
  • Bamboo toothbrush 
  • Menstrual cups: for my menstruating folx, if you vowed to yourself that you’re never gonna try these, please please please reconsider. Though, I do understand that this is one of those products that takes time to adjust to. I have been using mine for three years now, and I have saved so much money on pads and tampons! 

Note: if you are considering buying more than one of these products, I would recommend buying from one shop that carries all the products that you’re looking for. I say this because there will be less of a carbon footprint, packaging, and more money in your pocket with less that you have to spend on shipping. And not to mention that you’ll get all of your products at once rather than anxiously waiting for another product to arrive in the mail. I encourage you to check out these makers’ websites so you can look into their stories and missions!

Throughout my journey with sustainable living, one of the things that I often hear is that “those sustainable products are too expensive”. While they’re not entirely wrong, think about it like this: how many times a year do you buy a disposable razor? Think about all of the times that you’ve had to drive to the store, the packaging containing the razor itself, the contribution to landfill, etc. Let’s say you buy this razor 12 times a year for about $10 each. That’s $120 right there– excluding the time, energy, and emissions that went into that purchase. While an albatross razor or leaf razor may seem like a hefty purchase, think of it as an investment that will last you a lifetime. Not only will you be saving money in the long run, but think of all of the razors that you’re diverting from landfill (not to mention how nice it’ll look sitting in your shower or counter top). This is where the mindset shift happens. Yes, your initial purchase may seem expensive, but given how infrequent this purchase will be and how much use you will get out of it, it’ll be worth it. 

Of course, I understand that not everyone is ready to make these purchases. But when you are ready to make these investments, here are a couple of shops around the Bay Area that you can support. If accessible, I would really encourage you to check out a shop in person, as it can be quite a fun hands-on experience!

San Francisco

North Bay

East Bay

South Bay

With any new habit, it takes practice. Don’t try and commit yourself to all of these changes at once. That’s when burnout happens, and now a ‘sustainable lifestyle’ leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It’s not a race, so please don’t feel the need to compare yourself to someone else on TikTok. This is your journey, not theirs. And don’t forget to give yourself grace. It’s okay if you forgot to bring your reusable bags with you when you went to Trader Joe’s. What matters is that you’re trying and are making the conscious decision to live better for the planet. That’s all it can ask for.