I’ve always been into recycling and taking steps to live more sustainably, but it wasn’t until we got to Chicago, and I began to truly see the mass amount of people that live in our world. The consumption that goes on on a daily basis is crazy, and for the first time, I can feel the weight of the mark we’re leaving on the planet.
Prior to this, I assumed that anything above recycling was left for the people who lived on compounds and wanted to use their own waste as fertilizer. But, I realized that there are so many small steps I can take to reduce my impact before it gets to that. And they’re really easy ones.
I spend a lot of time in the grocery store and in the kitchen. My biggest impact is most definitely from the process of creating meals (and leaving every single light on…working on that!). While I’m still figuring out who my audience really is – we’ll call it growing pains – I’m assuming that some or most of you follow my platforms for nutrition/cooking/recipes. If that’s true, I thought it would be helpful to share these things with all of you, incase that’s where you tend to leave biggest footprint also.
Honestly, these 5 things are so easy to do, and after making the initial investment or change, you won’t even notice. Most of them make very little difference in my life, but have the potential to make a huge difference in the world.
I Stopped Buying Bottled Water
When we lived in Ohio and had all the space in the world, I regularly bought the 40 pack of Costco bottled water for $4. It was so affordable and so easy to grab a bottle before running out of the house. It’s only now I’m seeing how much waste was created from that habit. Sure, some plastic can be recycled, but for the most part, when I was bringing those bottles with me somewhere, they typically got thrown away because of the lack of recycling in public places. Even if they do get recycled, chances are, they’re still contributing to waste. Plastic water bottles are the third most common item found in oceans (see more about this here). Now, I carry a reusable bottle with me at all times. I use the Hydro Flask bottle. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s better for me. It’s free from harmful chemicals that are often used in the creation of cheap plastic bottles, and it stays cold (or hot) for up to 8 hours. It’s easy to carry and just as easy to toss in my backpack when I don’t want to carry it. If I do find myself in a situation where I need to buy a bottle of water, I always opt for the larger ones with the sport caps, and I bring it home with me to reuse it for another situation where I’ll need to throw it out, like a festival.
I Stopped Using Disposable Straws
I’m a huge fan of straws. I rarely drink anything without them. For awhile, I was buying that 200 pack of flexy straws from the Dollar Tree, and tossing them out at the end. Now, I haven’t given up my straw habit, but I have replaced them with reusable straws. To be honest, they’re so much more enjoyable than those cheap ones anyway. When I’m at home, I use these silicone milkshake straws. They’re dishwasher safe and last forever. I also have this collapsible straw that I keep with in me for when I get coffee out. Some of the local coffee shops don’t even serve their drinks with straws, so I love having it with me. And if they do offer them, I don’t have to take one.
I Stopped Using Plastic Grocery Bags
To be fair, this one was kind of forced on me. Not forced, but let’s stay strongly encouraged. Here in the city, you have to buy grocery bags, so if you don’t have your own, your bill goes up by 7 cents for every bag you take. I know, it sounds like nothing… but I grocery shop a lot. And it seems like a crazy additional expense for a terrible cause. How easy is it to keep reusable grocery bags in your trunk for when you need them? So easy. In fact, it’s so easy that I always stored mine in the trunk and had them with me every time I went to the store.. and I still didn’t use them. Embarrassing. Thankfully, those few extra pennies convinced me to do the right thing. You can grab these anywhere – grocery stores usually have their own. Trader Joes has a ton of fun packs of them, like a surprise package of different state-themes. Booths at festivals or fairs often gift them if you sign up for their newsletter, and any type of expo is a great place to collect these. If you want to buy a matching set, you can find a wide variety of options on Amazon. I like these ones.
I Started Using Bamboo Paper Towels
I’ll admit, this has probably been the hardest change for me. Mostly because my husband is not on board with this. He still loves his countertop paper towels, and I promised not to force my “hippie lifestyle” on him, so we have both of our rolls on the counter. It’s so much easier to grab his than mine. Mostly because mine aren’t all on the counter. These bamboo towels are reusable, and can be used for about 6 months. They get washed in the washer with the other towels and air-dried. They really do maintain their quality and soft texture. But they obviously can’t be put back on the roll. They’re folded into squares and set in a kitchen drawer. Isn’t it crazy how much a single extra step “inconveniences” us? It sounds silly, but I feel bothered by not being able to pull it off the roll. I’ve decided that it’s not a good enough reason to stop using them, because over all, they’re great. Their much more durable than traditional paper towels, and the cost is incredible in comparison. I know it will just be an adjustment, and before I know it, I’ll grow out of my laziness and into loving my paper towel drawer.
I Started Using Freecycle
This is the newest addition to my routine, and it’s not only incredibly good for the planet, it’s good for humankind. If you haven’t heard of Freecycle, it’s a free (duh) website where you can both list your old goods and collect someone else’s. It’s all done locally, so it gives you a chance to connect with other people, find some awesome treasures, and help someone else in need of something instead of filling the world with waste. I live in a 5 unit building, on a street with a bunch of other homes. Our back alley is lined with dumpsters. And each time I go out there, I’m amazed at the amount of stuff that’s out there. Full stereo systems, boxes of clothes, furniture, lamps… Unless someone walks by and decides to collect it for themselves, those items will all go to a landfill, where they’ll sit, forever. Aside from the environmental irresponsibility, I think we so often forget how many people go without; how many struggle to make ends meet. Isn’t it sweet to think about that couch that doesn’t fit with your decor anymore being the perfect place for a new couple to put in their first apartment? I love the idea, and I’ve already used the site a few times. If you’re worried about stranger danger, you can always do a “porch pickup”, or schedule it for when someone else is home with you.
Hopefully these 5 changes I’ve shared inspire you to examine your own habits and take a look at the small actions you can take that will lead to a big impact (in a good way this time)!