Saving the world is a daunting task, especially if you feel like you’re doing it all by yourself. It would be less hassle to just blend in and not even try to be a better human. It’s cheaper and definitely easier.
But then, “easy” is how the whole problem began. We all want an easy life.
I’ve never been a tree hugger unless it’s a palm tree and I’ve just landed on a tropical island. Even then, I would only be hugging it because I’m happy to be there, not really to save the planet.
We’ve always known that the way we abuse our resources is irresponsible. I guess I just never got serious about it until I learned some hard facts. The number one hard fact is that we suck as humans. But we don’t have to.
So I’m now on a mission. It’s a small one because I’m just one person but every one person could amount to so much more, collectively.
A couple of weeks ago I read an epic 18-minute article about one woman's journey to stop using plastic.
I delved into it with curiosity and came out of it pretty proud of myself because I realized that I’m already doing a great job of being nice to the planet. But after reading it, I took a good look around my tiny little condo to see what I use that contributes to an unhealthy environment.
I didn’t have to wander very far to realize it’s nearly impossible to avoid plastic.
Plastic is literally everywhere and we simply cannot avoid it. Our laundry detergent, dish soap, body lotion, and a billion other everyday items are packaged in it.
But what we can do is try consciously reducing our use of single-use plastics as much as possible. And it’s fairly simple to do, without having to go all rogue and inconvenient, like the woman in Edie’s article above. I have to hand it to her, she saves the world like a BOSS.
We can all be small heroes and make these immediate changes within our own space, and you’ll feel more proud of yourself. I promise.
Stop using plastic shopping bags
Yes, they’re convenient. You don’t have to put much thought into shopping because of plastic bags, but then you come home and store them as future trash bags. You probably line your bathroom trash bin with a plastic bag and throw nothing but Kleenex into it.
I used to do this and then one day I looked at what I was really doing. I was filling a non-biodegradable bag with biodegradable waste. Doesn’t make much sense, right?
Instead, go on Amazon and buy yourself a set of reusable shopping bags. For less than twenty bucks you can get five bags, keep them in your car and use them over and over. As for your trash bin? Use compostable bags if you’re only disposing Kleenex in the bathroom.
If 50 readers did this today, there would be 250 fewer plastic bags in the river tomorrow.
Stop using plastic produce bags
Same concept as the shopping bags but this one is worse because they have no purpose after shopping. Grocery stores provide those small plastic bags in the produce aisles for convenience, but these ones aren’t even useful after the fact. They all go into the garbage after shopping.
Go back on Amazon and buy mesh produce bags. They’re washable, reusable, and come in plenty of sizes. A pack of ten costs less than twenty dollars.
I’ve never felt so proud of myself as the first day I used mine. I was able to stand in the checkout line behind a woman who had seven different produce items bagged in seven plastic bags and secretly shun her. It was empowering.
If 50 readers did this today, there would be 250 fewer produce bags in the river tomorrow.
Stop using Ziploc food storage bags
Did you know you can buy beeswax food covers? They’re actually cotton sheets coated in beeswax, which makes them moldable to any shape. They come in various sizes and you can effectively wrap cut fruit and veggies in them, or cover and seal a plate or bowl.
Beeswax food wraps are washable and reusable, and also available on Amazon. No more Saran wrap and Ziploc baggies.
Use solid shampoo and conditioner bars
Depending on your hair type, this one might take a little more effort in finding the perfect combination that works for you. I have fine, curly hair so I’m very particular about what I’ll use.
Fortunately, stores like Lush give out free samples so you can try before you buy. If you happen to have a Lush in a mall near you, you can go in and get a free sample of anything they sell. If you don’t have a store near you, shopping is also available online.
It took me a few rounds of sampling before I found the perfect combo, and I have now eliminated plastic shampoo bottles from my home.
Lush also takes back any container they sell, for recycle and reuse.
If 50 companies took responsibility for their own packaging today, millions of us would be free of the burden they’ve cast down to us.
Image by K. Keller
Make your own moisturizer
This one is by far, my favorite because it smells amazing and works far better than weak body lotions that actually contain skin-drying alcohol.
Buy a glass mason jar with an airtight clamp and seal lid. You can get one for a couple of bucks at the dollar store and use it until the end of time because it’s glass.
Buy a big container of coconut oil and a big bag of sugar. If you like to smell pretty you can also pick up your favorite essential oil.
Melt a half cup of coconut oil into liquid, put in a few drops of your essential oil, then pour some sugar into it and mix until you have the consistency of a body scrub. Here’s an official recipe if you need one.
I use this mixture in the shower every day and not only does it fully moisturize my entire body, it exfoliates and I smell like dessert. Using this daily will eliminate your need for a plastic bottle of body lotion on your bathroom counter.
If 50 readers did this today, hundreds of our friends would get the benefit of smelling the treat that you are, each day. And 50 plastic bottles of lotion would remain unsold. Can you see the pattern yet?
Send your mail back
Bills, bills, bills. We all have plenty of them each month. Most billable services have an online billing option. Do the online opt-in and stop receiving paper bills.
Then, take it a step further with your mail and put a 'no junk mail' sign on your mailbox. If certain pieces of unwanted mail keep coming through, get aggressive and write “Return to Sender” or “Stop Sending” on the envelope and let the mailman do your dirty work.
Some companies are relentless with their paper versions of spam. Let’s hold them accountable and make them responsible for their footprint on the planet. If they still don’t stop sending, take it to social media and call them out in public for their junk mail tactics.
In my experience, nothing works like a little public shaming online.
Someone had to bring this up, so I’ll take one for the team. Women can’t avoid using feminine hygiene products but we can avoid using wasteful ones.
Rather than using tampons with a plastic rocket launcher that just ends up in the trash, use OB tampons. Just like their packaging says, it’s “Everything you need, nothing you don’t.”
It’s literally just a tampon.
Plus you get the added bonus of not sounding like you’re opening a bag of chips in a public washroom stall.
Trash your Keurig and Nescafe machines
I know you all like your designer coffee at the push of a button, but at what cost? All those plastic pods landing in the river every day?
Why not go back to the way things were and buy yourself a twenty-dollar regular coffee maker at Walmart? The kind that uses paper filters that go straight into the compost bin when your pot is finished brewing.
At the very least, if you’re too bougie to give up your Keurig then get the screen filter insert which allows you to use your own coffee grounds instead of a plastic pod.
I know, I know. There’s effort involved and it’s hard. Life is hard, muffin.
But not as hard as it will become if you need to plod ten miles to your nearest source of clean water in the future, because you didn’t take the steps now.
All these ideas I’ve listed are literally the simplest, yet very effective ways to reduce your own personal footprint. I’m not asking you to grow your own garden while living in Iceland. Just do a few small things.
I think mankind is far past the point where we can eliminate plastic altogether, it’s just not feasible anymore. But that one piece of plastic that goes in the garbage a minute after you use it? You have zero excuses to not stop using it.
You have options, so now it’s on you.
If 50 of you have read this, go ahead and share it. That’s how this works — the easy little things end up amounting to a much bigger impact.
My job here is done.