Sustainable living at home – focus on progress, not perfection

Does eco-friendly living and a sustainable lifestyle sound time-consuming, expensive, or a bit “preachy” and pretentious? 

If so, then you are listening to the wrong people.

A greener way of living can save you money. And it is not that hard or even inconvenient.

Today, I live a more sustainable lifestyle than I did four years ago. It saves me money and provides numerous health benefits – and self-interest has been a great motivator.

The key is to focus on progress and forget about perfection. I have discovered that gradually introducing greener options is good for my home, my wallet, and the environment.

I am saving money, eating well, and feeling good. Self-interest is a powerful catalyst. 

It is all about the journey and understanding how small changes to your daily routines can have a big impact.  

This article is a living document, and I will be adding to the list. I am yet to write about my Nibe pump and a few other goodies.

My Steps To A Money-Saving More Sustainable Lifestyle

Here, I list some of the changes I have made to introduce a more sustainable lifestyle.

Your journey will differ, but hopefully, you can find some ideas and inspiration.

1. Start a Kitchen Herb Garden

Starting a kitchen herb garden is not difficult, expensive, or time-consuming.

I have published several guides on how to grow herbs indoors, and you do not need much to get started.

  • Seeds
  • A container
  • Potting soil
  • Water

Focus on the herbs you use the most and take it from there. Mint, basil, rosemary, and chives are good for beginners. 

Basil Palla Compatto plant in a pot
Basil Palla Compatto

But there is no need to stop there. 

Find a sunny windowsill or balcony spot to place your containers. Ensure your herbs receive plenty of sunlight, water them regularly, and watch them grow. Harvest continuously to promote further growth.

The benefits for you are twofold: you always have fresh herbs for cooking, and there is no need to spend your hard-earned money on buying herbs at the grocery store.

The environment will thank you as the herbs you use do not need to be transported to a store and do not come packaged in plastic.

2. Grow Vegetables at Home

You do not need a lot of space to grow vegetables at home. Container gardening, vertical gardening, hydroponic kits, buckets, and window boxes are all good alternatives. 

Start with vegetables that thrive in small spaces, like cherry tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, or spinach.

Harvested garden vegetables
Harvested garden vegetables

If you have a garden, start an in-ground garden bed, use containers, or build a raised garden bed from scrap wood. Restaurants and school kitchens are great places to ask for buckets made from food-safe plastic. 

Tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, potatoes, and leafy greens are good for beginners. 

Use your space wisely; combine vining plants like cucumbers and beans with ground-covering crops like potatoes and leafy greens. 

Growing vegetables at home saves money and promotes a healthier lifestyle. And by reducing your reliance on store-bought produce, you help reduce transportation-related carbon emissions.

3. Start Composting

Composting is nothing more than turning kitchen scraps into compost for your garden. You reduce the amount of waste from your household while producing one of the best organic materials to enrich your soil naturally.

Garden waste is compost food
Food for compost

It does not have to be complicated to get started:

  • You need a compost bin or an area in your garden to create a compost pile. 
  • Collect kitchen scraps and refuse, such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells, but avoid meat and dairy products. 
  • Mix the kitchen refuse with garden waste like leaves and grass clippings, and let nature work its magic.
  • Give it a few months, and you will have nutrient-rich compost to improve your garden soil.

There are several benefits to compositing, including:

  • Reduces the amount of household waste sent to landfills
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers as you enrich your soil naturally
  • You save money not having to buy compost and fertilizers.

4. Buy a metal water bottle instead of plastic

Sometimes, we need to buy something because it makes sense in the long run. Buying a metal water bottle is one of those purchases. 

Having a refillable water bottle reduces the use of plastic and saves you money in the long run. 

Cutting down or eliminating the need to buy overpriced water bottles made from plastic is good for your wallet and the environment. 

5. Install a Smart Flow Shower Head

I hesitated to install lower-flow shower heads as I assumed it would mean less than satisfactory water pressure.

And then, I realized that water pressure and flow are not necessarily the same thing. Thank you, Frank. [1]

To make a long story short, shower head diameter plays a big part in managing water pressure. 

And it does make sense; think of a garden hose. Now, cover half the opening with your finger. You now have the same water flow but higher water pressure.

I replaced our 30 cm / 12 inch rainfall shower head with a 10 cm / 4 inch slow flow shower head.

Today, we use less water, and the water pressure has actually increased.

My water bill is lower, but from a money-saving perspective, it was even better for the energy bill as we use now less heated water. 

6. Go for Smart Menu-Based Shopping

I like cooking. And if I go to the grocery store without a plan, I buy many unnecessary items. 

But when food prices went through the roof, something had to change. 

Today, we do three things differently:

  1. We look at what we have in the fridge and cupboards before shopping.
  2. We plan what we will eat for the week ahead.
  3. We take advantage of specials at the store and buy produce that is in season.
Hot pepper plant in pot
Grow hot peppers for “heat on tap”

Knowing what we already have makes shopping easier and reduces food waste that would have fed the compost. Now, we buy a few things and make a meal using what we already have. 

Menu-based shopping and planning our meals also reduces impulse buying of good-to-have items.

But we also made it a habit to always stay on top of offers on produce that we use, which are typically expensive. We took advantage of offers on fish, eggs, chicken, and meats (no, I am not perfect) when available. 

And this is why my method is smarter than strict menu-based shopping. 

Menu-based shopping reduces food waste and better uses what we already have. Being flexible and taking advantage of specials and discounts helps save money. 

7. Cook Larger Portions

Cooking larger portions saves time on future meal preparation and reduces the need for buying lunches or takeouts. 

Making tomato sauce
Making a batch of tomato sauce

A packed lunch is an easy and direct way to save money and reduce the environmental impact of restaurant food production and packaging.

Cooking in batches allows you to use ingredients more efficiently, and it is easy to freeze leftovers for future meals.

8. Support Your Local Shops

Do we really want a world with e-commerce and mega-malls? Or are we prepared to spend a little more for a more sustainable and vibrant local community?

Consider shopping at local stores and buying locally produced goods.

It is not always easy, as it tends to be more expensive. And this is the one item on this list where I am not doing that great.

Still, local shops often source their products from nearby suppliers. And local sourcing means fewer carbon emissions from transportation and a smaller ecological footprint for the products you buy.

Find your balance and remember that your spending habits can help contribute to the livelihood of your neighbors and help maintain the unique character of your community.

8. Time Your Showers

This was a game-changer for us. 

We are a four-person household, and some of us were spending a lot of time in the shower.

Shorter showers are a direct and effective way to reduce water consumption. And as most people enjoy a warm shower, we talk about heated water.

Programmable thermostat
Programmable thermostat

I do not use a timer or a shower app to enforce the change. For us, raising awareness worked. 

But a timer can be helpful as the alarm will gently remind you that it is time to wrap up your shower. 

9. Install A Rainwater Irrigation System

Rainwater is free, and collecting it is an eco-friendly and budget-conscious way to water your garden.

Setting up a rainwater irrigation system does not have to be complicated. 

Use a rain barrel or a larger container to collect rainwater from your roof’s downspouts. Place a fine mesh or filter on the inlet to keep debris from entering the barrel.

The next step is up to you.

Connect the barrel to a hose or a drip irrigation system, or use it to fill up your watering can. Both ways work.

If you are watering your garden using tap water, it will reduce your water bill.

10. Maximize Each Harvest Season (Grow or Shop Cheaper)

Get when the going is good. Align your shopping with the seasons for cheaper and tastier produce.

Whether you are growing or buying, there is a season for most staple vegetables. Make the most of it and buy your tomatoes in summer and pumpkins in the fall.

When vegetables are in season, they taste better, and as there is more supply, you will benefit from lower prices. 

Save money by maximizing each harvest season through gardening or smart shopping.

Stock up on vegetables in season and preserve what you do not consume. Freezing, canning, pickling, or drying ensure you can access nutritious options year-round.

11. Bring Shopping Bags To The Store

This is so easy.

Where I live, we have a financial incentive as all bags need to be purchased. There is no such thing as free grocery bags. 

But even if it is free where you live, consider bringing your own reusable shopping bags to the store. 

This simple change in behavior will help reduce the need for single-use plastic bags. 

Use the bags you already have at home, or invest in a few sturdy, reusable shopping bags made from eco-friendly materials like cotton or jute. 

Keep them in your car or by the front door so you remember to bring them to the shop. 

12. Switch To Energy Efficient LED Lighting

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights have been around for a while. While more expensive to buy, they last longer and consume much less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

We are still on this journey, and each time we need to replace a bulb or lamp, we buy LED. 

LED light bulbs
LED bulbs come in different shapes and sizes

The bolder move would have been to replace all bulbs in one go. But for us, looking at the number of bulbs we have, this would have been a big investment.

And face it, not all lights are used that much.

We replace bulbs with LEDs as they stop working, with some notable exceptions. 

  • Kitchen lights
  • Living room lights
  • Outdoor lights

These three exceptions are lights that we use a lot, and it made sense to make the change right away.

If you are wondering about the outdoor lights, we live in a four-season climate, and it gets dark here around 4 pm in winter. 

So yes, while LED bulbs have a slightly higher upfront cost, there are savings to be made. LED lights consume significantly less electricity, and the longevity reduces the frequency of future bulb replacements. 

13. Buy Used “Vintage” Furniture

Buying pre-owned furniture is a smart and sustainable way to add character, style, and function to your living space.

Many pieces of furniture are simple in construction. Fashion, styles, and fads come and go. But bookshelves, tables, and desks of drawers have not really changed that much. 

Buying used furniture is a great way to save money and be environmentally smart.

Someone else’s trash can be your treasure. 

Used furniture before restoration
Used furniture bought for next to nothing

Look online and visit local charity shops, thrift stores, and even antique shops. There are plenty of opportunities to find what you are looking for if you are open to the possibility.

Buying used furniture extends the lifespan of these items while reducing the demand for new production. It is a sustainable choice, and to make it even more attractive, it is far more budget-friendly than purchasing new pieces.

14. Restore Furniture for a New Lease on Life

My wife is the queen of restoring old and worn furniture, lamps, and other items to give them a second lease of life. 

I have watched her sand, paint, refinish, and repair old pieces of furniture into new creations that today are used in our home. 

Cupboards, dining tables, desks, side tables, lamps, and picture frames are some examples where ingenuity and some elbow grease have transformed tired-looking pieces into stunning, functional, and unique items.

Same piece of Used furniture after restoration
Same piece of furniture after restoration

So before getting rid of old furniture, ask yourself if it can be salvaged or repurposed. 

Not only does restoration save you money, but it also reduces waste and contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition, renovation can be immensely satisfying, and the process itself is an ideal way to de-stress and be creative at the same time.

And if nothing else, try giving it away. Advertise is as free to collect, and maybe it can find a new life somewhere else. 

15. Propagate More to Buy Fewer Plants

I live close to a garden center, and in spring, people flock there to buy new garden plants.

Instead of buying new plants every spring, propagate your own from cuttings.

Most plants can be propagated, and popular choices for beginners include lavender, sage, geraniums, basil, hydrangea, and cherry or common laurel.

Taking cuttings from lavender plant
Taking cuttings from lavender plant

In its simplest form, propagation is as simple as 1-2-3.

  1. Take a 20 cm / 8 inch cutting from an actively growing plant.
  2. Remove the leaves from the lower 7 cm / 3 inches of the cutting
  3. Plant it in well-draining soil and avoid soil-to-leaf contact

Now you wait, and even if you do nothing more, you can expect as many as half of the cuttings to root.

Propagation by cuttings is an eco-friendly way to expand your garden without spending much money.

Focus on progress – not perfection. 

If you only remember one thing from this article, let it be this: Focus on progress – not perfection. 

We all care about the environment and the planet we will leave behind for future generations.

Still, most of us are not ready to adopt minimalism, start cycling everywhere, or have a 100% plant-based diet. 

But it does not have to be all or nothing. 

As I said – it’s about progress, not perfection. Start gradually, making small changes along the way. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can see results. 

For me, making changes fall into three categories:

Where there is a will, there is a way.Smarter, environmentally sound sourcing.Make tools and technology work for you.

Behavior is all about deciding to do the small things that make a difference. Taking shorter showers and turning off the lights when you leave a room are two good examples.

Consumption is a bit trickier as it can come at a premium. When I studied for my diploma, we discussed the Green Price Gap at length.

Environmentally sound products are often more expensive to produce, and companies need to offset those higher costs by charging the consumer a higher price.

And this is a struggle many of us face. We know what we should do but are sometimes limited by what we feel we can afford to spend.

Again, do not let this paralyze you. Do what you can, and the rest will follow.

We should all do more. But doing something is better than doing nothing.

Investments are a whole other ball game. Here, we are talking about spending large amounts of money on producers like white goods, heaters, solar panels, and LED lighting.

I am in no position to tell anyone what to do. But for larger investments, we have decided to go with the environmentally sounder option where we can. So far, we have a new Nibe S2125-8/12 air/water heat pump and energy-efficient white goods to show for it.

Remember, every journey starts with a single step. Pick one low-hanging fruit and take it from there. 

Helpful sources:


Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.