Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that humans are kind of wasteful. #amIright ? We consume so much, and then we consume more. And a lot of that, ends up in the trash.
Though I have been working consciously for years to work on my own wasteful habits, I am not an exception to the consumption! That's something I would love to stress so much. That no one has a perfect handle on anything. It's just not possible. So here are some mini eco- resolutions we can all try out in 2016. Because every little bit does help. :)
If you have kids in your house make it a family project! It could be a roomie or husband/wife project too. The more people you have invested, the more likely you are to follow through!
Read on for an idea or two!
1) Pick One Thing to Recycle
New to recycling? It can be overwhelming at first, but it's a great, and eventually easy thing to do. It's second nature in our house now. The best way to begin, is just to pick somewhere to start. :) Pick one thing that you use frequently, and recycle that item first. Just one thing, not too bad right? Maybe it's soda cans, or water bottles, newspapers, or plastic grocery bags. Find a place to recycle it. Oftentimes schools have recycling bins in the parking lots that accept nearly every recyclable. Walmart stores often have recycling centers as well. If you choose plastic bags, you can recycle those at Target and Walmart inside of the doorway/near the customer service area.
Already Recycle? Consider thinking outside of the box. What else can you recycle? Batteries, Electronics, old cell phones, reading glasses, etc. What can you safely dispose that you hadn't thought of? Nail Polish, Light Bulbs, Paint.. Dig deeper! :)
2) Stop Using One Disposable Thing for a Month
Maybe it's paper plates, paper napkins, plastic straws, face cleaning wipes, plastic grocery bags, etc. Pick a reusable alternative. Use your real plates, invest in inexpensive cloth napkins, go straw free or use the reusable kind you get with reusable plastic tumblers, go back to using traditional face wash, use a few reusable bags at the grocery store. You don't have to be perfect with this one, but can you imagine what would happen if everyone stopped using paper plates?! So much less waste, so much money saved by consumers. Wow. Just trying this out for a month or two could show you if it is something you really need to continue using.
3) Only Purchase Things You Need or LOVE
How many of you are impulse buyers? Inexpensive DVD, bought that. Clearance Find, bought that. Scarf that you definitely don't need and are pretty sure you like, bought that too. It's SO easy to purchase things that seem like a good deal, or an opportunity that can't be missed. But can we really not afford to miss them? I've been trying for the past few years, to purchase only items that I love or need. That means books that I want to read, I probably borrow it, get it at the library, or as a free ebook. A book I know I will read again, and want to keep, I buy it. Clearance top that fits mostly ok? Pass. Trendy dress, the last one in my size... unless I try it on a and LOVE it... pass. Cute new shade of nail polish, probably pass. Do I really need another coral-y pink? Is it really that different than the 3 I have at home? Probably not. So next time you're shopping, ask yourself, "Do I need it?" "Do I LOVE it?" It can definitely change how much you consume as well as how much you spend!! Make a conscious effort to borrow, trade for, and rent/check out what you can to avoid buying, buying, buying.
4) Switch One Product When it Runs Out
For years I have been using up the last of my "normal" products (let's not be wasteful now), and swapping them for eco-friendly versions. We are to the point where we use eco-friendly ALMOST everything. I am still hunting for the right deodorant and shampoo... and we haven't used up all of the shout stain remover... but other than that... we're there. Not because we're perfect, but because we made little steps over time. Because of that, we clean without harsh chemicals, my skin is so much happier, and I don't have coughing fits while I'm cleaning! These are all great things. This is also safer for pets and kiddos! Not to mention the companies I am supporting are doing good things for the earth, use minimal / recycled packaging, and have good ethics. It's an easy way to go greener little by little.
Two Brands I Love: 100% Pure & ACURE Organics. (Click the links to read more about the products I use.)
5) Read Jessica Alba's Book The Honest Life
I read Jessica Alba's book, The Honest Life, a few years ago and it really opened my eyes to some things I didn't know about, but also about ways fit these things into your lifestyle. You don't have to be perfect! I felt like I learned a lot, but I was also just generally inspired by the stylish and conscious person that Jessica Alba is. I love that Alba made the book accessible to everyone, and I am SO GLAD I read it before becoming a parent. There is a treasure trove of knowledge in there on baby / kid friendly products etc. Since then, Alba has launched The Honest Company. We tried some of the products and fell in love with most of them! We now do the bundle for our home stuff, and it makes staying stocked up and getting things clean so convenient! (I'll have to blog about it sometime!) Anyway, definitely consider getting this book from your library or on your own. It's a great resource, and a fun book. Read my review of this book, here.
Other Great Books: Generation Green (this is geared toward teens, but I read it in college and think it's pretty comprehensive!), Gorgeously Green, and No More Dirty Looks. Even more suggestions here.
6) Vow Not to Use Products with Microbeads
*comic by Steve Greenberg, got via google images*
You know those body washes and hand sanitizers etc. with those teeny "cleansing beads" in them? Have you ever wondered what they were made of? I did. Turns out.... Plastic. THEY'RE MADE OF EFFING PLASTIC. Which means every time we use them they go directly into the water supply. They are ingested by fish, and other creatures, and we're eating them. That's awful, and it's so unnecessary! Normal body wash works just fine. Use a sugar, salt, coffee grounds, or other natural scrub if you want to exfoliate! Or dry brush. California has already banned microbead products, I'm pledging to too. Read more about that... here if you want to.
7) Upgrade Your Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets are filled with harmful chemicals. Plus they're disposable. I recently followed a tutorial (which is no longer online, but here is a similar one) that replaces dryer sheets, and does a great job of keeping our clothes static free, all while reducing drying time! I definitely recommend trying this DIY, and putting it into use. You'll be saving money on your energy bill, and making it to where you never need to buy dryer sheets again! Win win.
Tips: Put drops of your favorite essential oil on the dryer balls before drying to scent your clothes. If your clothing is coming out static-y, you probably need to reduce the drying time! (we always do the lowest amount, and then warm up if necessary!)
8) Go Digital / Paperless When You Can!
In addition to #3 above, I have been trying to go digital more often. I use ebooks from the library and will order an ebook rather than a new copy of a book online in most cases. I download music that I want or stream it, rather than buying a CD. Unless I really want the physical CD, which is only for my very favorite bands. Stream your shows and movies instead of buying DVDs. Get your concert, movie, and plane tickets online and put them on your phone. Select paperless billing, which saves on checks, and paper in the mail. You can even do things like magazine subscriptions online. Wherever you can, consider going digital. Those little bits of paper and other packaging definitely add up.
9) When You Want to Buy Something, Consider Buying it Used
When you do want to buy something, because you've done the process on #3 above, consider buying it used. After falling in love with a book, and knowing I'll want to read it again, I will decide I want to own it. I then either order it used on Amazon, or check out local bookstores that sell used books. If it's not there, I can wait. This also goes for DVDs, CDs, and even clothes/home items. When I am looking for a new lamp, an end table, something to spice up my wardrobe, etc. I spend an afternoon combing through local thrift stores. There are all sorts of treasures to be found there. Sometimes the finds are quirky, but sometimes I end up with the Target button up that I wanted to buy last year... but just couldn't allow myself to spend $30 on. Paying $5 for the same shirt, feels better! If you aren't into thrifting. Try things like Thred Up, Plato's Closet, and other resale/consignment stores. Amazon and local book/entertainment stores have great deals on used books, CDs, DVDs, etc.
10) Sell or Donate Your Old Stuff
Never throw things away that someone else could use. Maybe you have a mug that is really ugly, a faded rug, a book you thought was really bad... etc. Don't ever throw that stuff in the trash, there is someone who could use it. You can try to sell many old items (clothes, CDs, DVDs, books, etc.), many places will give you a chunk of store credit or cash for those things. If you don't want to go to the trouble, just throw it in a clothing bin, box it up and take it to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Donate those items to a Women's Shelter, especially things like bras that don't fit anymore, but are still in good condition. Even the Humane society takes old blankets and towels. Wouldn't you rather give that towel with a hole in it to a sweet shelter pet than the trash can? :)
11) Get One Reusable Bag
Plastic bags make a lot of waste. Even when you reuse them, they aren't good for the environment, and they aren't that useful to be honest. They tear easily, the accumulate quickly, they don't biodegrade, and sea turtles think they look like jellies. :( I mentioned above that they can be recycled, which is definitely the right choice for the ones you have used. Eliminating your usage of them, even by a little is an even better plan. Bringing your own bags to the store means you can save bags being used, you can ensure that your groceries are kept cool if necessary in an insulated bag, you can rely on your bags not to break, and you can often times get a grocery discount per bag used. I love envriosax because they are pretty and they roll up nice and small, (my review, here). Any bag will do though. I used to be really good at always having my bags with me... but I slipped a little in the past few years! I'm hoping to focus more on this again in 2016! Start with one, and work your way up! It's an easy way to make a big difference. These bags pay for themselves quickly (I haven't lost one yet in 5+ years!) and they save thousands of plastic bags over time! Plus, Target (where we often get our groceries!), offers a $0.05 discount for each bag used during a purchase.
12) Reuse Junk Mail Envelopes
When I go through our mail, so much of it is junk. Nearly half of that junk though, comes in a plain white business envelope. While I often tear these up and recycle or shred them, I recently decided to take off the envelopes/blank sided paper and keep those in a scratch paper bin. Then when I need to write a grocery list, menu, sketch something out, etc. I just pull out an old envelope or piece of paper and write away. When I'm done with the paper, I just toss it in the recycling, feeling good about using the paper twice. Same goes for post-its. I use them at work, and then I turn them over and save them in my drawer. I use the other side to make lists during the day, track progress on work tasks, and log my hours as I work. That way my post-its get twice the life they normally would! When I'm done, I toss them in the recycling or shredder as well! (yes, you can recycle post-it notes!)
+3 Bonus Ideas:
1) Have a Meatless Meal
Meat processing takes a TON of energy and water, not to mention the shipping energy to get it to your table. For this reason cutting out meat every once in a while can be a great way to be greener! Meatless Mondays are a trend right now, where people just cut out meat on Mondays. I think even one meal would be great! To do this you don't have to eat anything crazy or strange! Just think simple! Mexican food with black beans and veggies as the meat replacement, pasta with veggies in the sauce, grilled cheese, breakfast for dinner! When you think of it this way, you don't even notice that you are going without meat! I promise, my husband was a BIG carnivore and he has started saying things like, "I like this, but I don't know that it really needs meat.." - woah! A lot of meals you already love can be made meatless simply by switching the meat to veggies or beans, and chicken broth to veggie broth! Bonus? Meatless meals are almost always easier on your budget (and waistline!)!!
Check out a few of my favorites: Black Bean Corn Enchiladas, Cinnamon Vanilla Pancakes, Veggie Pot Pies, Breakfast Burritos, Belgian Waffles, Pumpkin Waffles, Easy Cheesy Potato Soup, Shell Stuffed Shells, Veggie Ravioli.
Ride with your friends or family members to your location rather than meeting them there. This saves on gas and gives you more time to connect with the ones you love! Funny things always happen in carpooling situations! Take turns driving.
3) Uplug Your Electronics When You Aren't Using Them!
Not using your blender right now? Done with your TV, DVD, game systems, for the night? Did you know that most electronics use electricity even when not in use?!?! This means that they are wasting energy AND hiking up your electrical bills! Avoiding this is simple, unplug items when they aren't in use, and utilize power strips. Plugging all of your TV related items into a power strip and turning it off at night is really quick way to be green and save green. You can save about $10 on your bill per year by doing this. It's SO easy, why wouldn't you want to save $10?!
There you have it 15 small ways to make an eco step this year! I hope you read something here that resonated with you. Every little bit does add up to make a bigger environmental impact. Every little step you make personally will make you feel great about your progress! And the more you do it, the more you can look back over the years and see what you've changed!
What do you guys do for the environment? I would love to hear!
What do you wish you did more of?
Would you like to read more about quick and easy things you can do for the Earth in this space?
Looking for more ways to get the most out of 2016? "12 Quick Things to Start the New Year Off Organized," "12 Ways to Invest in Yourself This Year," "12 Ways to Travel More in 2016," and "12 Ways to Save More Money in 2016."