Recently, the weather has been beautiful and the trees and flowers are out in full bloom. Mother Nature is putting on quite the show after the winter we had, the one that seemed like it was never going to end. Now that we’re in the heart of spring, everyone’s spending time outdoors. For that reason, I’ve found myself evaluating some of the ways I interact with the natural world around me. I’ve seen others doing the same and I think it’s incredibly important: acknowledging the substantial impact human beings have had on the environment.
There are small, simple steps that each and everyone of us can take to live more sustainably. An issue this large won’t be solved overnight. Instead, we have to do what we can to be more environmentally conscious. A little action can go a long way in this case. That being said, I’m creating a set of goals for myself as we move into the summer. It’ll take a little bit of effort, but it’s certainly mangable. If you’re willing to do the same, consider some of the strategies below, and leave a comment letting me know what strategies you employ to live more sustainably.
IN YOUR KITCHEN//
First, when stocking your kitchen, it’s important to remember reusable grocery bags. Plastic contributes a huge amount to our waste, especially those small plastic bags we are often forced to grab in the produce aisle. Instead, keep bags in your car so you don’t have to worry about remembering them.
Speaking of produce, did you know that food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20-30% of what we throw away? This statistic could be eliminated if we simply composted natural matter and waste. Putting aside a bucket or investing in a small composting bin can make a huge impact. Then, you can either create a pile in your yard, or purchase a bin like this one from Amazon, that composts the organic material right into fertilizer, which you can put back into your garden.
Composting is a valuable strategy, and it becomes much easier when you eat a plant based diet. Now, I’m not a vegetarian, or vegan, or anything for that matter. I eat chicken and fish and the occasional burger. However, it seems that more and more research is emerging- not only on the health benefits of a plant based diet, but also on the environmental benefits. That being said, I want to make a conscious effort to eat plant based meals at least half the time throughout the week.
Finally, when all your cooking and eating is done, you need a clean kitchen. Using homemade or all natural cleaning products can benefit your home and the environment. There are so many chemicals in everyday household cleaners and we’re allowing those chemicals in an environment where we spend a great deal of time. Some natural brands I’ve been hearing amazing things about are Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, and Planet Inc. If you’re looking for more, check out Thrive Market for an impressive selection.
IN YOUR BATHROOM//
Similar to cleaning products, using natural beauty products lessens your impact on the environment. Organic, wholesome ingredients benefit your skin and hair while also preventing chemicals from entering any discarded bath water. A lot of people live unaware that our shampoos and conditioners contain microplastics that wash down our shower drains. Now, I’m still on the hunt for the best natural shampoos, conditioners, and face washes, but as soon as I find them, I’ll be letting you all know here.
Now this next strategy falls into the ‘we don’t really talk about it’ category, and that’s using a menstrual cup. In 2010, Slate estimated that the average woman will use 250-300 pounds of products, applicators, and wrappers in a lifetime. These products, which take forever to breakdown, sit in our landfills. The impact of this is catastrophic. However, using a menstrual cup cuts down on this completely. If you curious, read this article to explore more.
Another bathroom process, shaving, can have a minimal impact as long as you shave smart. Invest in a metal razor and long lasting blades and don’t ever leave the water running. Plastic razor blades are too frequently used and discarded. Or, if you want, for-go shaving completely. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for that commitment, but I know people who’ve done it, and are perfectly happy with it.
Finally, installing a low-flow shower head can drastically reduce the amount of water you use when showering. Even if you make an effort to shorten the time you stand under the stream, excess water is being washed down the drain. Save yourself the water bill, and save the earth while you’re at it.
IN YOUR CLOSET//
In the past, I’ve been a bit of a shopaholic- purchasing new items right and left while cleaning out and donating old purchases just as quick. While this isn’t the best system, there is one part of it I find highly beneficial. Donating old clothes that are still in good condition means less fabrics, especially synthetic, are sitting and decomposing in our environment.
Subsequently, shopping second hand lessens consumer impact. Plenty of clothing nowadays is produced to then be turned around and throw away. However, long lasting pieces will withstand the test of time, and a lot of these can be found at second hand or vintage shops. Paying attention to what fabrics are used (and choosing natural ones!) makes all the difference.
Now, what do you do when clothes are in your closet? Surprisingly, washing items in cold water makes a huge difference. Less dye will bleed, less fabric will disintegrate, and less energy will be used. Furthermore, line drying means you don’t need to power up your dryer. It’s also worth checking up on how frequently you really do need to wash certain items of clothes. Depending, jeans and pants can go a few wears before being washed.
OUT AND ABOUT//
One of the hardest areas to implement sustainable changes is out and about. However, one of my favorite eco-friendly strategies, riding your bike, can make a huge impact. If you live in a little city or town, it can be incredibly easy to hop on and ride around, rather than starting up your car and putting those terrible carbon dioxide fumes out into the atmosphere.
Now, here’s something I’m sure you’ve been hearing. Say no to straws! I’m not about to show you a slew of pictures where straws are being pulled out of sea turtles’ noses, because if you’ve already seen them, you know how traumatic they are. That being said, it is so, so important to try your best to remember this. Straws make up a huge percentage of plastic waste, especially that which falls into our oceans. Instead, say no, and use a reusable straw. These ones from Amazon come with a nice little pack, making storage in your purse or backpack easy.
Similarly, carrying a reusable water bottle and tumblr makes such a big difference! Whether you’re going out for coffee or simply staying hydrated, avoiding plastic cups, bottles, and especially styrofoam, is of huge benefit to the environment. Hyrdoflask is by far my favorite brand, since it keeps things ice cold, or boiling hot, for hours on end. They’re a little pricey, but they will last, which makes them worth the purchase.
Finally, there is a great importance in shopping locally. Whether you’re supporting small businesses, farms, or retailers, you’re also supporting goods that create less of an impact in the environment because often, these products aren’t shipped as far. When you can, check out farmers markets, flea markets, craft shows, and art shows.
I hope some of these sustainability strategies seem accessible. If you give them a try- let me know!