The World is so beautiful, isn’t it? Our Earth gives us water so that we can survive and gives us land so we have a place to survive. But if we are being honest with ourselves, Are we really doing the best we can to show gratitude? If you went to a friends house, would you make a mess and not clean it up? The earth has been around for far longer than we have and we will be long gone before the earth is, truly making us the visitors. As a global population, we should do our best to lessen the impact and foot print we leave behind us. So today I want to talk about practical and accessible ways to become more eco-conscious and have brought you a digestible list of 7 simple steps to live more sustainably!
Admittedly, I have not always been the best at sustainable living; I still have worlds of progress to make, but where I am right now is so much better than where I was even just 4 months ago. It’s not that I didn’t have an interest in being conscious of our environment, but with so many us, its easy to feel like your personal choices couldn’t possibly have a global impact. But, I’m here to tell you that they do. Your choices matter. I started this post during April — Earth Month — and decided I wanted to wait a while as I continued to experiment with additional earth friendly products and actively made changes in my own life. I think it’s easier to talk about this stuff and make suggestions when, from experience, I know that its very possible to initiate and sustain these changes. My I hope is that this empowers to know that you have the ability to make a difference in the world, and inspires you to makes the right choices.
Some Helpful Resources
Through quite a few media outlets I began to feel inspired to become more aware of the impact I was having on our global environment. There are endless amounts of sources out there to tell you how to be more “eco-friendly,” some being more helpful than others. Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RD, founder of The Well Essentials, has been a guest on many of my favorite podcasts discussing different ways to practice and improve sustainability. One of the things I loved most about the interviews, was the approach she takes in sharing the information: a kind, practical, non-judgemental way. She admits that she too once used ziplock bags and plastic cups and I think that’s so helpful: to see and know that someone who is now very environmentally conscious wasn’t always that way. It helps others see that it’s a very attainable change to make. I also love using the Environmental Working Group’s website. Here you can find so much information about the environment, eco friendly living and non toxic living.
Why Live More Sustainably?
The plastic usage and consumption in our world is unfathomably large. Many of the suggestions below are related to decreasing consumption and usage of plastic; it’s very easy to use plastic on multiple occasions through out the day, without even realizing it. Between bottles, bags, utensils, cups and take out containers, personal plastic usage can add up rather quickly. I don’t want to throw a laundry list of horrific facts at you, because you can look those up on the internet yourself. But I did want to share a few, the ones that really lit a fire in me to start seeking ways to live more sustainably.
- In 2015 it was reported that 8.3 million metric tons of plastic is ending up in the oceans per year, killing 100,000+ marine animals annually. Plastic straws being one of the major killers as it’s reported that in America alone 500 million plastic straws are used daily.
- This year National Geographic reported that 91% of plastic isn’t being recycled.
- Its estimated that Americans alone use 100 million single use grocery bags per year, which uses 12 million barrels of oil to produce, so aside from the refuse the plastic produces, it takes an immense amount of global resources to make that refuse.
- One plastic bag takes 500 years to decompose. So even that one plastic bag on the quick trip to Target does make a very long lasting impact. The plastic we use now will long outlive even our great great great grandchildren.
Pretty crazy, right? Trust me, I’ve been in the shoes of wanting to be oblivious to the impact that my daily choices have as just one citizen of the world. But all of us are just one person, and if we all make the choice as individuals to live more sustainably, then as a whole we create a big impact and will be doing better by the earth, and make sure our world is livable for centuries and centuries to come.
Don’t Feel Discouraged
My purpose here isn’t to make you feel guilty about using plastic or creating waste, but to empower and inspire you to think about and be mindful of your usage. Hopefully on your own you will decide to make even just one change this week or month, and then maybe another change a couple weeks later. Thus, I have listed out 7 Simple Actions to Improve Sustainability in a way for you to treat them as small tasks. Don’t find it necessary to go and do these all today or this week or even this month: strive to make just one simple change at a time until it becomes second nature. I have also included a printable short guide with the same 7 steps. Pin it, print it, use it as your phone background. Do whatever you must to see it and remember the impact you can have on the environment.
An important thing to remember is that it’s okay if your sustainability efforts are a slow work in progress. No one is expecting you to go out and replace all the plastic in your home overnight. Like in all things wellness, there is no reason to go from 0 to 100 at the snap of your fingers. Pick one change and stick with it and then when that becomes second nature, make another change. As long as your progressing towards healthier and sustainable living, you’re on the right track!
7 Steps to Living More Sustainably
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1. Use Reusable Shopping Bags
This is a big one. It was definitely something I was terrible about for years and years, until this spring. In March I decided to put an end to using grocery bags and have since remembered our bags every single time we go to the grocery store. If there was one change you made today, make it this. Vow to get a few reusable shopping bags and try to stop using the plastic ones. At first, I suggest leaving a set of the bags in each of your family’s cars. I found it effective to leave ours by our front door for the first few weeks so that they were visible to me as we left for the grocery store. Additionally I bought an adorable foldable Baggu bag to keep in my purse for last minute purchases. This is a simple but effective way to start having a positive impact on our earth. Life happens and sometimes we run to the store without our reusable bags, so if you do end up using a couple, I urge you to take them back to the store to recycle them — Walmart and Target have bag recycle bins at the front of their stores but sadly only 1 percent of plastic bags make it to the appropriate recycling bins while the rest end up in landfills or the ocean.
2. Stainless Steel Straws
I’m going to go after the second worst (possibly equally worse) plastic item, straws. This week Starbucks announced that they we’re doing away with plastic straws which is such a positive global change to make. A fairly cost effective change is to order stainless steel reusable straws. While there are also plastic reusable straws I recommend the stainless steel not only for eco-friendly purposes, but also health reasons. I wont dive into the ill effects of plastic containers and products today, however, I have just now been inspired to share that in the near future. Stainless steel straws are also incredibly easy to clean and won’t harbor bacteria. I found my set of 8 on amazon for just 10 dollars here, and it included a cleaning brush!
3. Eliminate/Decrease Single-Use Food Storage and Containers
Rather than using ziplock bags or plastic wrap, there are many different reusable food storage options. Glass containers are my favorite, as they store literally anything from leftovers to chopped prepared foods to dried goods. Again, while not he main subject here, I highly recommend using glass containers over plastic containers. Finding a set of varied sizes is great so that you can use them for different sized items. Stasher bags are also helpful as they are a silicone replacement of ziplock bags, coming in all sizes, I love using these for taking snacks to work or storing leftover veggies. Another recent change I made was purchasing a variety pack of Bees Wraps. I can’t rave enough about how awesome these are. Made from cotton, jojoba, beeswax and they can be use in lieu of plastic wrap or tinfoil. They are easily hand washable and reusable for up to a year. All of these items can be a bit of a hit to the wallet if bought in bulk, thus I recommend this as a continual work in progress change. Maybe add a new glass container or stasher bag to your grocery cart this week, then another next week. You can also scout sales for glass container sets, which is usually more cost effective than buying one at a time. Bonus, stasher bags and glass containers are both freezer and microwave friendly!
4. Eliminate Usage of Single Use Bottles and Cups
Single use bottled water is an immense contributor to our global plastic refuse. I understand that in some places of the world, this is there only access to clean drinking water. For many of us however, clean drinking water is very accessible. I suggest getting some type of water filter, whether its a sink attachment, a tank/pitcher or is built into your fridge, there are ways to filter your tap water that fit most budgets. Next I suggest buying a reusable water bottle that can be toted everywhere. I love Healthy Human Life bottles as they are leak proof, insulated and perfect for carrying around throughout my day. Plus, you can think of the bottle as an accessory, these days they come in so many cool shapes and sizes. Additionally, I like to tote a mason jar or travel coffee mug with me when heading to a coffee shop or juice and smoothie bar! Starbucks, privately owned businesses and many health food cafés are usually very willing to cooperate. I’ve only had my mason jar turned away once!
5. Decrease Food Waste
This is something i’ve really been working on lately. I suggest trying meal planning and writing lists for the grocery store to ensure you’re only getting what you need. Another option, is to go to the grocery store more frequently and only buy the items you need for a few days at a time. This was my method in college and it worked rather well, but with a busy work schedule its more practical for me to go to the store once a week and just stock up. If you’re going once week or even once every two weeks, list writing is essential in helping yourself avoid food waste. Something you can do if you did get too much of something? Freeze it. I’ve started freezing vegetables that I can’t use before they go bad, that way they can easily be added to a soup or recipe later on. You can also do this with the ends of your vegetables such as celery and carrots, and the use them to make
homemade soup stock. Freezing leftovers is another way to decrease food waste.
6. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
This is a no-brainer. you really really really should properly dispose of your recyclable plastic, glass, and metals whenever possible! If you’re looking for convenience, sign up for your city’s paid refuse and/or recycling collection, otherwise save up those empties and head to your local recycling center. This is something we are working on improving ourselves. It can seem daunting to figure out whats recyclable and what isn’t. Look up your city’s waste management department for information on what is and isn’t recyclable in your town. The less ending up in the landfills, the better.
7. Eliminate Usage of Plastic Produce Bags
There is a plastic bag double whammy in the grocery world. In addition to the grocery bags, we also use produce bags. At first, I just stopped using a bag all together for my produce, but then became rather disgusted by the idea of what the produce was touching in the grocery basket. Thus,I bought reusable mesh produce bags that are light enough to not trip up the scale and translucent enough for the cashier to read the item number. These are great for both the regular grocer store, and also for the farmer’s market!
Be the Change
Again, you may be questioning: Am I really going to make a difference as one person? The answer is a big YES. Change has to start somewhere and when you make the commitment to become more eco-conscious you may inspire the people around you to do the same, and then they hopefully inspire the ones around them and so on. Don’t wait for change, BE the change. Be an inspiration to your family, friends and neighbors or the stranger behind you in line at the grocery store who might stop and think or say “I should start using my reusable bags.” And yes, that actually happened, and it made me beam with joy inside to know that the impact I made that day wasn’t only on the environment, but to another person.