According to the EPA, 665,000 tons of waste is created EVERYDAY in the US. More than half of that ends up in landfills. Anyone can help the planet and the animals we share it with. There are choices you can make everyday to make a difference so check out these tips and ideas to start doing your part.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and REFUSE: Recycling is great but it is only a band-aid to a greater problem. Refuse unnecessary items that will just create waste whenever possible, especially single use plastics . 93% of US plastic waste such as bottles, straws, and bags are not recycled, reused, or down-cycled (turned into another product). REFUSE is the most important “R” of all.
So let’s talk about how you can help –
Water Bottles: the use of plastic water bottles causes 60 million water bottles a day to be manufactured, transported and then disposed of. Almost 90% are not recycled or reused. So use a filter (if you need one) and fill a reusable water bottle. Check out these stainless steel options. ( I love mine!)
Straws: Whenever possible don’t use a straw. Straws are a huge plastic waste and are completely unnecessary. There are 500 million straws used and disposed of in the US every single day. Try using a glass or stainless straw instead and eliminate the waste of thousands of plastic ones.
Coffee Cups: Americans throw out more than 25 billion coffee cups a year. By simply bringing your own cup you can reduce your part in this astronomical number.
Paper Towels: I personally do not like paper towels and have never understood spending money on them. Everyday more than 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced in the US. Every ton includes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water. Not to mention the plastic waste each set is wrapped in when you buy it. Just don’t buy them….I promise there is life beyond paper towels. I use basic cloths to wipe up messes and clean with. I throw them in with my towels when I do laundry. No extra wash loads required.
Eating Out: Whenever you go into a restaurant and pick up a meal they feel the need to fill a plastic bag with utensils and napkins, and salt/pepper packets. You can politely tell them “no thanks” and leave with just your food. Especially if you are going home with it. You have silverware there and cloth napkins of your own. So skip the extra waste when you pick up that delicious meal.
Fruit & Veggie Bags: These are some of my favorite possessions. I love using my mesh fruit and veggie bags at the store. It is so wasteful to use a plastic bag for every single piece of produce so pick up some of these reusable bags. They are washable, durable and it just feels good to use them. There are a lot to choose from….and they are organic!
Wash in Cold: I actually wash all my clothes in cold water. I never switch it away from the cold water settings and I have done it that way for a long time. 90% of a typical washer’s energy comes from heating the water. 10% of the energy comes from the motor. So it makes perfect sense to not heat up the water and waste the energy. This is an easy switch to make, it will make a big difference and save you about $60 a year on energy costs.
Ditch the Dryer Sheet: Okay, this one is great. I grew up in a world where dryer sheets were a wonderful additive to the laundry process. But they are terrible for both your family and the planet. First, they are filled with toxic chemicals that you are lining your clothes, towels, and sheets with. Many of these chemicals have been linked to cancer. Second, they are a gigantic waste. Third, they also contain talon, which is animal fat. Gross. If you still want to have that fresh smell you can achieve it in safe, planet friendly ways. Use an unbleached sachet filled with dried lavender for a nice scent. If the static bothers you then add 1/2 cup of vinegar to your wash cycle.
Wrapping Paper: Say goodbye to the traditional wrapping paper of your gift giving life. Wrapping paper is dyed, laminated, covered in tape, and a lot of times also has additives like glitter or gold/silver on it. All of those characteristics make it non-recyclable aka a huge waste. I realize that half the fun of giving a gift is the unwrapping and surprise part so try wrapping the present in a paper bag or newspaper. You can dress it up with organic yarn or even a small cutting from a plant in your garden. You can also wrap a gift in another gift like a scarf. Save yourself money and save the planet a whole lot of waste. According to Eco-Chick.com if every American family wrapped just three gifts in reusable materials it would save enough paper to cover 48,000 football fields.
Christmas Trees: I love the holidays and I love decorating Christmas trees. A fun and very cool way to celebrate is by getting a potted tree and decorating it. After the holidays you can plant it outside and watch it grow. Christmas tree farms have the tendency to destroy ecosystems and the transportation of those trees all over the country is absurdly wasteful of energy. Try this new tradition for the holidays and save a tree.
Compost: Creating a food compost in your yard is very easy and it will reduce 1/3 of the garbage that would usually go into landfills. There are all different levels of composting and you can learn about them by clicking here. And you can compost all kinds of things like dryer lint, coffee grounds, and pencil shavings!
No More Ziplocks: Sandwich bags are another thing I haven’t bought in years. They are a waste of money and a waste to the planet. I reuse bread bags, english muffin bags, and even tortilla bags. The tortilla bags are actually my favorite because they are already a huge ziplock bag. I have wrapped up food in a bread bag and put it in the freezer and never had an issue of freezer burn. You can also purchase some really awesome reusable sandwich bags that can be washed and used over and over. So save some cash and leave plastic sandwich bags in the past.
Switch your Bulbs: This is a very obvious and simple change that most people would have hopefully already made. Fluorescent bulbs us 1/4 less energy than those silly standards bulbs. So the planet and your wallet a favor and make the switch.
Eat Less Meat: This may seem like an insane idea to some of you. As a vegetarian this one is easy for me, although there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life without chicken and hamburgers. Here’s why you should consider eating less flesh. Factory farms contribute more to greenhouse gas pollution then all modes of transportation combined. They cause devastating environmental damage wherever they are and this includes runoff that results in massive dead zones. Not to mention the huge animal welfare issue. I encourage if not beg all of you to read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. It will educate you in ways you cannot imagine and is one of the most important books I will ever read in my lifetime.
Gift Boxes: So this is just like the whole wrapping paper issue. Gift boxes are usually expensive and require you to waste more paper products, which ultimately results in more waste going into the garbage. So why not make your own gift boxes out of stuff you already have in the house? Its super easy and a very environmentally friendly way to give gifts. Click here to go to a great site I found that teaches you how to make boxes of all sizes.
Bring your own Bag: Well this one is a no brainer. At this point everyone should be using their own reusable bag when they are shopping. Estimates say that globally there are 500,000,000,000 bags used EVERY SINGLE YEAR! That averages out to about 1,000,000 plastic bags consumed and wasted every single minute. So don’t be a part of this statistic and buy your own reusable bags. You can search and even buy one from your favorite organization and support a great non-profit while making a positive difference for the planet!
Ditch the Ribbon: I just learned tonight that every single year 38,000 miles of gift ribbon is thrown away. What a huge waste and all for esthetic value. I am going to just say to stop buying ribbon and don’t worry about adding that last little touch to your gift. Let’s focus on maintaining the esthetic value of our planet instead.
Now get started on making some very easy changes in your daily life. You will become part of the solution and I promise you will feel good doing it. Its an amazing reward knowing you saved a tree, a gallon of water, or just kept that one wasteful item from the landfill.
Check back because I will add to this list regularly.