“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”Chief Seattle
Hello and welcome to a blog post dedicated to our planet! Sustainability and making more eco-friendly choices has been something I’m trying to become more and more aware of. For years, I’ve felt that internal ping that I should do better with my habits, but, let’s be honest, it’s hard to sacrifice and give up comfort and convenience when you’re used to a certain way of life. Trust me, I get it. Nevertheless, I want to make an effort. I know often times I’ll fail or come up short, however, I want to become more and more aware of what choices I’m making and how they impact things beyond me.
I know it’s easy to feel like you as one person can’t make much of a difference. I’ve been there. Now imagine if there’s a hundred or a thousand or a million people feeling like they should do something, but opting not to because they believe they alone can’t change anything. What if they each said, “Screw it! I’m going to try anyway. Maybe it’ll help, maybe it won’t, but dammit I’m going to give it a shot.” Now we have progress. So if you feel that internal push to care, please actively do so.
Reusable water bottles. Switching to a reusable water bottle is one of the ways I can easily tell I’ve made a positive impact. I hardly ever use a plastic water bottle these days, unless I’ve run out of water in my reusable water bottle and that’s the only option presently available. I understand that reusable water bottles may not be cheap, but making the investment into a reusable water bottle and a filter for your water is going to save you from spending money on endless amounts of plastic water bottles. Here’s the honest part, though. Manufacturing those reusable water bottles does release pollutants into the air. However, so do plastic water bottles that often don’t end up recycled. Here’s the tradeoff: have pollutants released for a water bottle you purchase once (assuming you don’t purchase several to use as accessories to match your outfits) or have pollutants released for endless production of plastic water bottles that either don’t end up recycled or still create some pollution in the process of being recycled.
Reusable straws. This is another area where I can feel an actual impact. I used to have a smoothie nearly every morning and I’d grab a plastic straw out of a box of them where more were unusable than usable. Then one day I saw some reusable straws at Target that came with a cleaning brush. Sold. Sure, I still use plastic straws if I happen to get a drink from a fast food place, which is fairly rare for me. But I haven’t used a straw for a drink I’ve made at home in 2 or 3 years. Washing a straw is really no different or time consuming than washing any other dish. There’s also a company called FinalStraw that sells portable and reusable straws that come with a cleaning brush. You can check out their products here.
Reduce water use. Sure, you can redo your landscaping and plant drought-tolerant plants, but let’s be a little more realistic here. Try to reduce the amount of water used to wash dishes, shut off the water while you brush your teeth, and take shorter showers. Shorter showers is a real work in progress for me. However, I used to waste a ton of water when washing dishes, which I’ve actively worked to reduce. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but I think it’s important to celebrate the little progress especially with things that are habitual and toe that comfort/convenience line.
Reusable bags. Whether it’s reusing a plastic bag a million times or using a nifty tote, it decreases waste. Reusable produce bags are also an option to reduce plastic waste. This is an area I really need to work on personally.
Clothing. Where to begin… Rather than releasing 2-4 seasonal collections a year, some fashion brands are releasing as many as 52 micro-season collections a year. Yes, one a week. This not only pushes the consumer to buy more for fear of being out of style, but it also produces more clothing and, therefore, more waste. On top of that, many fabrics are synthetic. I’m looking at you polyester, nylon, spandex, chiffon, and others. These not only require several chemicals to produce, but they also release microplastics into the water when washed. If possible, try to look for clothing made from cotton, linen, bamboo, silk, or wool. It’s also great to make the effort to shop for organic cotton, but that’s a story for another time. Every small effort counts. Another option is to create a capsule wardrobe that is versatile and decreases or eliminates the need to purchase additional clothing. This is something I’m working towards and, let me tell you, in the early stages of this process, it makes getting dressed a lot easier with less options.
Eat less meat, particularly beef. Not only do cows produce methane with their gas, which happens to be more detrimental to the environment than carbon dioxide, but they also require a lot of space to raise. From the amount of corn needed to be grown to feed them, which I personally don’t feel they were created to eat, to the deforestation being done to make room for cattle grazing and production, it’s not the best meat option for the environment. I used to be a huge steak and potatoes girl, but these days a steak I’d have finished in one meal in the past will most likely take me three or more to consume. My current goal is to go vegetarian, with the possible exception of hunted meat, if I have access to it, by 2023.
Eat locally or seasonally. Have you ever noticed where your produce comes from? Ever lived in California where we have avocado trees and saw that the avocado in your hands came from Mexico? Or the kiwi from Ecuador? Ever have a fruit tree in your yard that had fruit on it year-round? I’m guessing probably not. If possible, buy produce from a local farmer’s market. This not only assures that your food isn’t traveling huge distances to get to you, but also helps you eat what’s actually seasonally available in your region.
Compostable vs Biodegradable. When possible, opt for something that says it’s compostable over biodegradable. Compostable means that it can break down and be put back into the soil and provide benefits. Biodegradable essentially means it can be broken down by biological processes. Some information says it has to be able to biodegrade in one year to be considered so, but I’ve also heard conflicting claims that it just has to be able to break down at some point. Could be 1 year, could be 100.
Compost. If you have a garden, know someone who does, or just want to give back to the soil, compost! Fruit and vegetable scraps (excluding garlic, onions, hot peppers, and citrus) are fair game, along with eggshells and egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, ink-free cardboard boxes, paper towels that don’t have animal products or cleaning chemicals on them, coffee filters and coffee grounds, and yard waste, assuming it’s fertilizer and pesticide free. When I began composting, it amazed me how much was able to go back to the soil instead of in a plastic trash bag and sent to a landfill where it would be blocked from contributing to the earth.
Balloons. I know big beautiful balloon displays for birthdays, baby showers, and graduations are the thing to do these days, but after a few days of deflation, they’re bound for the trash. They’re quite honestly money down the drain that stops just long enough for a celebration and some aesthetically pleasing Instagram photos. Supposedly there are biodegradable balloon options, but whether they biodegrade effectively and quickly is up for debate. I know children especially love balloons, so I personally feel like they’re something to purchase sparingly and smartly.
Books. I know it’s really tempting to buy that book on Amazon, but have you considered renting it from your local library first? I’ve been doing my best to make the effort to rent and read it before buying. If I really love the book and will want to refer to it or read it again for years to come, I’ll consider purchasing it. Otherwise, I want to reduce the number of unread or unloved books on my bookshelf and decrease the demand for books when I can easily rent them for free from the library. There’s also the option to listen to books on Audible or read them on Kindle or any other similar service or device. Libraries also have some ebooks and audiobooks available for free.
Bar soap/shampoo/conditioner. Rather than buying products that come in a plastic bottle, consider buying them in bar form. These typically come packaged in a cardboard box rather than in plastic, therefore reducing plastic waste.
Deodorant. I decided to switch to a more natural deodorant, which I’m actually very pleasantly surprised with, but I was even more happy to learn that they have a cardboard packaging option. Yes, please! In the market for a new deodorant or a lower waste one? Check out Native here.
Get informed. Possibly the most important thing to do is get informed. Once you become more aware of different problems our planet is facing and how you contribute to them, you can begin to make better choices. Some movies I feel are worth checking out are: Tapped, Strange Days, Before the Flood, Kiss the Ground (on Netflix), The Biggest Little Farm (on Hulu).
To be transparent, I haven’t made every change I listed above. We all have to start somewhere, though, and maybe where I started isn’t the place you want to start. That’s obviously perfectly fine. There are also several other ways to get involved and try to be mindful of our planet and the other animals we share it with, humans included in that. I want to be realistic and hopeful in saying that I don’t expect everyone to completely alter their life in a week, a month, or a year, but I’d love to see some real effort, big or small, from everyone to decrease our footprint. I mostly focused on waste for this post, but that isn’t the only problem. It’s just a start.
The last thing, and quite possibly the biggest thing to do, is to get outside. Get outside. Interact with nature and be in it. It’s easy to not care about something if you’ve removed yourself from it. But our windows and walls don’t change our dependence on the natural world. Please, please, get outside.