“Because We Don’t Have A Planet B!”
“Going green” isn’t simply a fad, it’s something that every one of us needs to embrace in one way or another!
It’s so important that we realize that throwing things “away” doesn’t really make them go away. We’re all living on an island we can’t leave, and our garbage just winds up at another part of it! But I feel you when you say, “society does not make it easy for me to be kind to the planet!” There are throw away options crammed onto every shelf of every aisle of every store, and so many products come packaged in that dreaded single-use plastic!
I am currently working towards living waste free (or at least very little), and am learning how difficult it is to avoid single use plastics and other packagings that are readily available at every turn!
Just like other valuable life skills not taught in school, it’s on us as individuals to learn and to teach how to reduce our impact on the planet through reducing how much we consume, reusing what we can, and recycling whenever possible. It’s not as simple as using the three R’s, though. As I start to record my own buying and waste habits, I am realizing just how tangled I am in the web of disposable stuff in my & my family’s everyday lives!
Have you noticed a rise in environmental issues being shared in the news lately? I personally have been becoming more and more aware of all the things in my everyday life that are single use plastic, and it makes me feel so guilty now knowing the negative effect our throw away lifestyle has had on our home (Earth)!
It’s so weird when you realize something you’ve known your whole life is a lie. Like, when I found out that new elementary school books feature dinosaurs with feathers!? Weird. Similarly, I grew up learning that if the garbage makes it in the bin, that’s a win! It didn’t go on the ground, so it’s taken care of, right? It’s so upsetting realizing how much stuff I, one person, have thrown away in my life so far, and there are 7.7 billion of us!!
Why Is Plastic Waste Still A Problem??
The rise of internet and social media over the past decade has made us a global community, which makes it easier and faster for us to share the truths of our world with everyone else. That means that when something like a giant island of plastic is seen floating in the ocean, we all know about it! But concerned environmentalists are nothing new. According to this article, people have been concerned about plastic waste since the 1960’s. So why are we still struggling with the issue? Well, one reason is because the majority of people will go for the easy route rather than the conscious one. Demand creates the need for more supply! Consequently the companies that now make their livelihood producing plastics won’t go down without a fight!
The creation of plastic and mass production changed how people live. Plastics made products that could have only been afforded by the wealthy before accessable to the masses. Plastic makes things more sanitary, and can make life much more convenient.
What Can I Do?
As one person, what can I do to reduce my waste and help save our planet?
In this article I’ll be sharing small, attainable changes you can gradually make over time to help reduce our impact on the planet. I recommend choosing just one of the ideas below and implementing it successfully for at least a week, or however long it takes for it to feel like second nature to use before adding more new things into your daily regimen. As you re-train your brain to take new action in your every day routine, it will also become the routine of your whole household. Stay strong, you may not always get full support from your family on this because change is hard, but I believe in you!
Remember not to get down on yourself if you “slip up” or don’t reach your personal goals! Just try to do better the next day!
Every Little Change Helps
First thing’s first: every little bit helps!! Don’t get discouraged for not being able to do a lot. Each small change we make in our own lives creates a ripple effect outwards into the world!
Talk About It
Talking to your kids, significant other & friends about changing their lifestyle can be hard, because you don’t want to sound like a downer, but it’s so important to spread the message! Many people want to do the right thing but are just misinformed. Tell them how happy it makes you when you make eco-conscious choices or rave about your amazing reusable or biodegradable product. This way, nobody feels shamed or annoyed at you, but the seed has been planted!
Quick & Easy Changes
Check out this list of ideas for eco-friendly alternatives! Do you use anything on this list a lot?
The first of the 3 R’s is Reduce! Do you need it, or just want it? Whether you’re grocery shopping or making a bigger one-time purchase, consider these things before you head to the store or Amazon!
Plan ahead for grocery shopping: pack reusable bags to bag groceries and produce where they won’t be forgotten, like hung by the door or in plain sight in the front seat of your car. Make a shopping list and think about where you can go to get those items bulk or in minimal packaging.
If you’re ready to “level up,” find an eco-friendly alternative to your usual product; maybe it’s got fewer harmful ingredients, maybe it’s made of bamboo instead of plastic, that sort of thing.
Take the time to find out if it can be bought locally before going online. Ordering online is convenient and Amazon does use recyclable cardboard to package items, but consider that online shopping means more vehicles on the road which leads to more air pollution. If the product was already transported to your area, it’s a waste to have another one sent in! Besides, if you can put money back into your local economy, that’s a win!
You will notice Amazon links for some items in this list- these are to give you an idea of what to look for, but I still encourage you to look local first. However, if you can’t find something local, these links are the best deal with the least amount of non-degradable packaging I could find!
Buy second hand, “gently pre-loved” items like toys, electronics and clothes. I don’t know about you, but I have always prided myself on being able to score a great deal on something used that would’ve been twice as much at the store! Places like thrift stores and consignment stores, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace and eBay are where I’ve scored most of my electronic equipment! The added benefit of being thrifty is that second hand items won’t come with the packaging.
Borrow or rent items like tools that you may only need once a year. Put a post on your Facebook wall, or in a group asking if anyone has the thing you need. Lots of cities have places where you can sign out tools to use for the day.
Let’s continue on with more earth-friendly ideas you can implement as soon as today!
Carbon Emissions: Traveling by car or plane creates a lot of carbon emissions, aka greenhouse gasses. The government of Canada aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17% by 2020, so we should all try to pitch in! Next time you’re planning a trip, or if you travel a lot for work, consider these options!
- Can you travel by bus or train instead of driving or flying? According to this article, traveling by train creates 50% less emissions than plane travel on trips shorter than 700km; bus is still the greenest way to travel, and single passenger vehicles are the biggest source of gas emissions.
- Check out carbon offsetting programs like Tree Canada to calculate your carbon footprint.
Other travel tips
- At a restaurant, can you bring your own containers for leftovers or take-out? Call ahead & ask!
- Say no thanks to the plastic straw – drink from the cup like a big kid or get a reusable one like this that could stay in your car, or this one that you can clip to your bag!
- For overnight trips, fill reusable travel containers with soaps and shampoos or bring soap bars, and either just pack your home toothpaste or try out these toothpaste tablets!
- Use your scarves to wrap produce and breakables when shopping – no need for anything fancy.
In The Kitchen:
- Instead of using plastic wrap, try beeswax food wrap or silicone dish covers for leftovers!
- Instead of disposable snack baggies, try silicone “ziploc” bags!
Not sure what’s right for you? Get this simple starter kit of popular eco-friendly items.
Kids’ Snacks & Treats:
- Make your own freezies, popsicles, and purees with reusable silicone forms.
- Find lookalike recipes for their favorite snack bars.
In the bathroom:
Most new bathroom items you’ll buy are made of plastics that will be used for as short as seconds before being thrown away. Bathroom products are often wrapped in plastic too, double whammy of yuck! Here are some things that have minimal to no plastic packaging, and are biodegradable as well!
- Bamboo or reusable ear swabs,
- Reusable makeup removing pads,
- Degradable or reusable femenine products: menstrual cups, period panties,
- Bamboo toothbrushes: you need a new toothbrush every 3 months; this 12 pack is enough for a family of three for the whole year!
- Shampoo, body wash, & shave cream bars instead of bottled,
- Refillable soaps,
- Instead of flushable wipes that can also clog drains, try using a DIY wipe solution on toilet paper- or check out Fohm. It’s a wet wipe solution and dispenses it as foam on your toilet paper! Fancy.
The bathroom is also where lot of water gets wasted. Consider these tips to conserve water at every bathroom break!
- If you have long hair, wash it less often. Gradually go longer and longer without washing your hair, and your scalp will produce less oils because it’s not being stripped of those oils so often.
- Make sure everyone in the household knows not to let the tap run the whole time they’re brushing their teeth or washing their hands.
- Stick to the “if it’s yellow let it mellow” rule as much as possible, and flush the toilet less often!
Most of the cleaning you need to do in your home can be accomplished with a spray bottle of vinegar & water! Vinegar works well for disinfecting as well as making glass sparkle! If you don’t love the smell, I’ve seen recipes on Pinterest where they add an essential oil like a citrus or lavendar to the solution. Baking soda is another more natural cleaner, it’s great for removing stains, deep cleaning clothes and removing odors.
Can you think of ways to reuse things before they either get put in the garbage or recycling? Even though items say they’re recyclable, it still takes a lot of energy and creates other wastes to transport, treat and convert them into new materials.
The kids can totally get into this, my little guy loves digging through stuff in the recycling bin and coming up with ways to make someting out of them!
Celebrating birthdays and holidays, and wrapping gifts, doesn’t have to mean tons of garbage! Have a great time and feel great with these alternatives to single-use plastic party items!
- Garden confetti: cut out leaves and/or flower petals using a one hole punch to make beautiful, biodegradable confetti!
- Instead of wrapping paper, wrap gifts in a pretty scarf or fabric
- Instead of tissue paper, fill gift bags with newspapers- you could paint the pages first to make them prettier!
Don’t use balloons! Reusable, and more fun options:
- paper bouquets,
- inflatable toys,
- LED string lights
See, don’t those all sound like way more fun options anyway?!
You’ve reached the end of the list, but be sure to Pin it or bookmark this article because it will be ever-growing as I receive new tips from readers (like you)!
I hope this list has given you some ideas of little ways you can make a big impact.
Please let me know what you thought of this article by commenting below!
Want to let me know of an awesome eco-friendly hack or product that I missed here?
Submit Your Tip!
Send your best earth-friendly tips, DIY’s or products that you love to be featured in my blog! Can’t wait to hear from you.
Stay awesome, fellow Earthlings!