As I write this I am staring at a pile of garbage and recyclables the size of a medium sized toddler that my family accumulated from unpacking purchases from one trip to Costco. A seemingly endless bounty of boxes and plastic wrap waits by the door to be broken down. In the refrigerator there are individual juice boxes with small plastic straws in even smaller plastic wrapping, and there are single serve cups of yogurt. In the cabinet there are organic seaweed crisps in plastic cartons, wrapped in aluminum, and encased in more plastic wrap. It’s not good, and I am a person who carries reusable bags in lieu of plastic, and checks to see if almost anything can be purchased pre-owned instead of new. We are all at different levels of having to reduce our carbon footprint, and below are five small yet impactful ways to do so.
1. Reusable metal straws. If you’ve been on social media lately you’ve seen harrowing videos of plastic straws in the ocean. According to The Last Plastic Straw, an organization that aims to eliminate single use plastic, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day! That’s enough to wrap around the Earth 2.5 times a day! Commit to saying no to plastic straws and carry reusable stainless steel ones in your bag and you’re making a huge change.
2. Buy less meat. According to National Geographic, consuming one pound of beef gives off more carbon than burning a gallon of gasoline. Additionally, it takes 5,000 gallons of water to get a single pound of beef, making the animal agriculture industry the biggest contributor to water scarcity around the world. Many people—myself included!—do not even know this. You’d better believe my family’s meat consumption is about to drop significantly. Try making one night per week a vegetarian night, or swapping poultry or fish for your usual beef.
3. Carry a handkerchief. Not only does this feel like a throwback to a daintier and more refined time, it’s economical and Earth-conscious. No more single-use tissue packs wrapped in plastic. No need to use the scratchy public restroom paper towels (and then throw them away). Check out a thrift store (bonus points for buying recycled clothing!) for lots of inexpensive options.
4. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush. As mind-blowing as it was to discover that you’re supposed to change your toothbrush every three months, imagine how surprising it was to find out that compostable bamboo toothbrushes exist. That’s 40 fewer toothbrushes in a landfill. Boom.
5. Phase out sandwich bags. Are you guilty of storing perishable food, vitamins, batteries, snacks, and other small items in Ziploc bags? I can proudly and honestly say that I am not, because I am militant about reusable lunch boxes and stackable storage containers and vinyl makeup bags. That’s a lie; I have two large Ziploc bags for my travel beauty products, skincare, and contact lenses but they are ancient and I am reusing and reusing and reusing them until they give out.
A few more ways to live an eco-friendly lifestyle:
- Five non-toxic beauty products to try immediately
- DIY homemade non-toxic cleaner
- Five ways to prolong the shelf live of your produce
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