Super easy french tips (and recipes) for living more sustainably (2024)

Though we have many efforts to be more sustainable here in America, I would have to argue that the mentality is not quite as evolved in some regions as that of the French. In my small town in Florida, for example, the city does not provide any kind of recycling service. Being from the Pacific Northwest (where recycling is also a religion), I could not comprehend this fact; I had grown up recycling every possible item, and found it impossible to throw away cardboard or plastic with all the other garbage. I went and bought several garbage bins to separate our recyclables, and we drive them to recycle stations ourselves.

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Did you know the French are famous for the ways in which they strive to live sustainably? This is something I have witnessed firsthand, in person and on social media. When I was a student living in France, for example, my host mother would not waste one iota of food- anything that was uneaten after dinner went into le frigo and she would effortlessly work it into the next evening’s dinner. Every glass jam jar was lovingly washed out and repurposed for herbs, coins, or whatever oddity she needed it for. And it was well known when France announced a ban on plastic bags in 2016. Especially during these times of pandemic, as supplies became scarce for a while, I have noticed a shift in mindset to waste less food and resources, and it has made many people refreshingly creative in the ways in which they strive to be more sustainable.

It has been interesting to watch my favorite expats in France on social media during these times as well. David Lebovitz, famous chef and blogger, has been cooking up recipes but substituting items for whatever he has in his fridge so as to use it all up. This has inspired me to do the same- whereas I would normally run to the store for some minor ingredient I didn’t have, I have been better at finding alternate ingredients from within my pantry. This has made it easier to avoid going out too much in public, and has also been a bit easier on our grocery budget. It feels like a victory when using up the food in the fridge, rather than throwing it out after it grows a layer of fuzz over two weeks.

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This has gotten me to thinking about other ways in which the French have inspired me to live sustainably as well as more simply and stylishly. Read on for some easy ways to incorporate sustainability into your daily life; you will not only feel better about being kinder to our Earth, but also feel more French in the process.

Vinaigre ménager. I learned this tip from Instagram, and it was so easy that I tried it right away. I can attest that it works amazingly! I’ve used vinegar for descaling my coffee pot (which gets a lot of use), or anything that runs water through it for use (like a steam mop or oil diffuser). I’d even heard a while ago that it works well on glass surfaces and will eliminate residue or buildup and make your glass sparkling clean. I did this on the glass surround of my fireplace in my home, to great effect, so I tried it on my frameless glass shower door next. Same outcome! There was no comparison between the magical distilled white vinegar and the usual bottle of Windex – the best part was that I already had this in my cupboard, and didn’t have to spend more money on cleaning products.

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Recently I discovered that the French use this same substance as an all-purpose cleaner. They call it vinaigre ménager (faire le ménage = to do housework, so this name refers to “housework” or “housecleaning vinegar”), And because the French are so good at making anything beautiful to the senses, they even figured out that by steeping the vinegar in citrus rinds, herbs, or oils, the pungent vinegar smell is diluted into something fresh and clean smelling. Not only is this substance eco-friendly, if you recycle an old spray bottle, Windex bottle, or use a glass bottle, you are conserving the use of plastic as well. Here is how I made mine:

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You will need:

– Empty spray bottle, as described above

– Distilled white vinegar (found at any grocery store) – you can usual equal parts water and vinegar if you like, but I made mine “neat.”

– Fragrant herbs like rosemary or lavender

– Citrus peels (I used orange peel)

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Pour vinegar or vinegar and water into a recycled bottle. Add herbs and peels and let steep for 12 – 24 hours. When cleaning, spray onto surface and let sit for about 30 seconds before wiping clean. Use on glass, tile, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, and the like! DO NOT USE on stone surfaces, as the pH level will erode the stone.

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Waste less food by using what you have before buying more. As I mentioned, it is commonplace in France to not waste consumables like food and water (indeed, the French Revolution began in part due to a shortage of bread!). This is one area I need to work on personally, as I tend to cram my fridge full of things and then am forced to discard uneaten salad, strawberries, or meat I didn’t cook in time before it went bad. Recently, not wanting to go to the store too often, and not wanting to waste the resources I already have, I have gotten more creative with my recipes and have made more of an effort to save the little bit of vegetables I may have thrown out before, and repurpose them another day. One of my favorite ways to do this is to make a fritatta for dinner, and throw in whatever random vegetables or cheeses I have in my fridge. It not only is a great way to clean out your fridge, but is a healthy meal for the family. Below is my go-to recipe for an easy fritatta, and common combinations of veggies if you want some pointers (I always add bacon or sausage, as it is a vegetarian recipe and my family is very omnivorous).

If you want to make it more French, a quiche will accomplish the same goal, but sometimes I don’t want all the (delicious) fat from the dairy and crust that a quiche entails. For an excellent quiche recipe, click here.



12 eggs

3 Tablespoons whole milk, yogurt, or cream

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (swiss, gruyère, or sharp cheddar work well)

3-5 cups sautéed or leftover vegetables of your choice (I usually use onions, peas, zucchini, or peppers, or whatever I find in my fridge)

Chopped herbs for garnish (basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.)

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Crack eggs into a medium bowl and add the dairy of your choice, the salt, and half of the cheese. Whisk the eggs until yolks have just blended with the whites. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon or sausage until browned. If cooking bacon, drain some of the fat. Throw in the vegetables (either fresh or leftover to warm them up) until soft and heated through. Season with salt, to taste.

Whisk the eggs once more and pour over vegetable mixture. Stir quickly with a spatula to distribute everything evenly across the pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cook on stovetop for another 1-2 minutes, until the outer edges of the eggs have lightened in color; transfer skillet to oven and bake for 7-14 minutes, until eggs have puffed up and look mostly cooked except for a slight jiggle in the center of the pan when you shake it. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs, slice, and serve with a salad. Voilà!

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And along the same lines of wasting less food, try shopping at your local farmer’s market whenever possible. The beautiful marchés of France are iconic for many reasons, but they also serve the concept of sustainability by using less resources to ship foods internationally, as well as boosting the local economy. Wherever you go shopping, don’t forget your reusable bags- bags of any kind are generally not provided at the marchés, as it is expected that the shopper will tote their own items. You can find some great reusable shopping totes here, and I have these reusable produce bags from Amazon– they work for multiple purposes!

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Use items with little to no packaging. Think of all the different kinds of soaps we use everyday- laundry, dishwasher, dish soap, hand soap, body wash, and on and on! All of these items generate a lot of container waste. Instead of buying plastic bottles of hand soap and the like, buy refill bags and fill up bottles you already have. Instead of using body wash in the shower, I’ve recently changed to using some delicious triple-milled soap (which France is famous for). It not only is smooth and luxurious to wash with, but it makes my shower smell divine even when not being used. And there is no container waste, which makes me feel good.

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I hope you’ll find it easy to try at least one of these tips to live a bit more sustainably. It only takes small changes in the daily routines in our lives to make a difference, and living sustainably is something I think we can all agree is an important practice in today’s world. Try these simple methods, inspired by our French kin, and not only will you feel better about your lifestyle, you will feel more French in the process. Enjoy!

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Super easy french tips (and recipes) for living more sustainably (2024)
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