10 Green Living Habits That I've Embraced Over the Past Year

Some are new, some are old, but all are now firmly entrenched.

chickpea stew and rice
Leftovers always get eaten.

Getty Images / Basak Gurbuz Derman

After a year of pandemic living, my house has become more familiar than ever. And that's really saying something, considering that I've always worked from home and thought I knew what "spending a lot of time at home" meant. Turns out, I didn't—until I literally had nowhere else to go.

So perhaps it's no surprise that I've developed new habits over the past year while entrenching others. With more free time on my hands (thanks to fewer extra-curriculars and social obligations), there has been a shift in how I handle certain chores around the house. I'm happy to say that most have become more eco-friendly (other than my new potato chip addiction), so I thought I'd share the list with readers to see if anyone else has had similar revelations.

1. There are no uneaten leftovers. Ever.

Food waste has pretty much disappeared in the house. While creating leftovers was always a challenge—my family of five inhales all the food I prepare unless I hide it—whatever might be left over is immediately inhaled for lunch the following day. This is a very good thing.

2. Hanging up laundry is a highlight of my day.

When I wake up to sunshine, one of my first thoughts is how delightful it will be to stand on the back deck and hang out a load of clean-smelling wet laundry while feeling a warm breeze on my face. I look forward to it almost as much as my second coffee (and the third). Taking it down and folding it is another matter; I enlist the children for that. 

3. Cleaning with eco-friendly products is fun.

I used to hate cleaning the house and would avoid doing it. Now I can't not do it every Saturday morning, mainly because the house has gotten so dirty from all five of us being in it 24/7. I enjoy using the various eco-friendly products I've acquired over the past year—namely, Branch Basics' amazing concentrate that does everything imaginable, as well as Dr. Bronner's hemp-citrus Castile soap.

4. Cooking from scratch is no big deal.

I've always been a fairly serious home cook, but it wasn't until the pandemic that I started making slower-process items like ice cream, yogurt, bagels, homemade croissants, and fermented vegetables on a regular basis. 

Even though we're home all week, I still try to batch-cook on weekends to take the pressure off the weekdays; they're exhausting enough, working full-time and homeschooling three kids, that I appreciate any pre-cooking I've managed to do.

5. Shampoo bars can't be beat.

Regular readers will know that I've been singing the praises of shampoo bars for a while, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that my love for them felt truly solidified. I had to use some liquid shampoo in a pinch and it was annoying. I had little control over the amount that poured out and I kept having to add it to my hair to get the right sudsy consistency. It made me realize just how easy bars are to use. I'm never going back.

6. Online thrift shopping is addictive.

I used to thrift only at physical stores, but now that they're closed here in Ontario, I've turned to apps like Poshmark and thredUP to make necessary purchases. I have discovered how great they are for higher-value outerwear, in particular—items that don't typically show up in shops and that I probably would've bought new in the past. Now it's the first place I look whenever my kids outgrow something. 

Local auction sites, Facebook marketplace, and Buy Nothing Groups are great for housewares, like used pure wool rugs, abandoned houseplants, and patio furniture. 

7. I don't need many clothes.

It's amazing how few indoor clothes I wear now that I have next to no social outings. Every day I wear similar versions of the same outfit—leggings, wool socks, a t-shirt, comfy sweatshirt. It seems pointless to put on anything other than that because no one sees me in person except my family. This will have a lasting effect on how I build my wardrobe.

8. I'm doing No Mow May.

I hadn't heard of No Mow May until a friend posted it on her social media feed and informed me that it is indeed a "thing." The idea is not to mow your lawn for all of May in order to help those early-season pollinators who need it more than ever due to limited resources at this time of year. I'm more than happy to take up that challenge while combining it with my children's homeschooled education, as they can now go out and observe pollinators in action for their natural science class. Furthermore, I think we're all beyond caring about superficial things like perfectly manicured lawns, right?

9. Never underestimate the versatility of the Great Outdoors.

We've always been an outdoorsy family, but I haven't appreciated my yard so much until this year. My kids obviously use it for playing, but it's also a reading space, an eating spot, a lounging corner, a classroom, a socializing zone, a warming center, a growing region, and an office. Most of what we do inside we also do outside, weather permitting, and it helps us to stay sane.

10. We eat far more vegetarian and vegan food.

My family still eats some locally-raised meat, purchased directly from friends who are farmers, but having the extra time to prepare meals has made cooking plant-based mains much easier. I use my pressure cooker often to prepare beans and I've discovered the wonder of cutting ground meat 50/50 with ground soy protein. Nobody can tell the difference.

Have you perfected, established, or developed any new green living habits over the past year?