My goal in 2019 was to work towards living a more sustainable life but it can be hard to know where to start. I wanted to share what I've been working on in case it inspires anyone else - every bit we do helps!
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."
1. I stopped eating meat.
Ok so, this might not be that easy for everyone. But, meat (and other animal products) is arguably the best thing you can avoid to help the planet - even if it's only a few nights a week. And that's how I got started this year. I made it my goal to have certain days where I ate plant-based meals (a.k.a Meatless Mondays).
As of August this year I've been able to cut meat out altogether and become vegetarian. I've also made it a goal of mine to avoid as many animal products as possible in the future. But - that's not going to be everyone's goal. And that's ok. Simply reducing the amount of meat consumed in a week can have a huge impact (your body will thank you too!).
2. I said no to plastic bags more often.
This one honestly may have been one of the hardest things on my list. Simply because you buy the awesome reusable bag and then you forget it at home... sigh.
I've had to be way more conscious of having reusable shopping and produce bags on hand and it's not always been easy. The thing that works for me (if I'm diligent) is keeping them everywhere. I have some in my car, some at home, I try to keep one at my work desk, and sometimes have them folded up in my purse. That means that in most cases, I have no excuse to say yes to a plastic bag. Did you know that the world uses an estimated 4 trillion plastic bags each year? It's time to ditch them.
My produce bags are from the wonderful ladies at Pure North Studios!
3. I'm more conscious of my clothing choices.
One of the first things I worked on this year was Marie Kondo-ing my closet. I cleared it out not once, not twice, but three times (and counting!) this year in an attempt to rid myself of all the excess I had. In this process I created a few goals:
Have somewhat of a capsule wardrobe (which is turning your closet into a small collection of useful clothing), rather than buying into fast-fashion trends that go out of style each season.
Always opt for a second-hand piece over something new and always ask myself "Do I even need this?".
If I have to buy something new I want to focus on sustainable/ethical brands and stay away from polyester and other unsustainable materials (seriously though, it's nearly impossible - take a look at some popular clothing stores and try to find something not made of polyester!).
4. I stopped buying paper towels.
Rather than throwing a piece of paper out into the garbage after every spill, mess, or clean up happening in my house, I opted to switch to plain old towels. Sure I end up doing a bit more laundry than before but it means a lot less single-use products ending up in the landfill.
Mine are from Farm Girl Design.
5. I switched to toilet paper made from bamboo to save some trees.
Did you know that bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth? That means it's a great alternative to using regular trees for paper products! I started using bamboo toilet paper this year, which is soft, strong, and can be purchased wrapped in paper instead of plastic. It does the exact same job but I feel a lot better about using it.
6. I started being more conscious of food packaging.
Hipsters were on to something when they started using mason jars for everything. Once my plastic bag stash was used up, I invested in some glass jars and reusable food-storage bags to store things in.
I also started paying more attention to what was already in my kitchen so that I could repurpose it. Turns out, you don't have to spend a lot to get a collection of glass jars - right now I have an old salsa and pesto jar waiting to be filled that came right out of my fridge.
7. I started shopping at bulk stores more often.
You know those glass jars I was just talking about? There are lots of great bulk stores (my fave being Zero Waste Bulk) that let you bring your own container to fill up instead of using plastic bags. That means more food in my home that isn't being purchased with plastic packaging (or really any packaging at all).
8. I said goodbye to bottled hand soap.
Look, I loved delicious-smelling foaming hand soap from Bath & Bodyworks as much as the next person. But when I thought about how much soap I go through, especially during cold/flu season, it was hard to not also think about all the plastic that went along with it. Plus, those little cleaning beads that feel nice on the skin actually just end up adding more microplastics to our water.
I've bought my bars from Wunderbar - the owner Viktorya was actually kind enough to leave my orders out of plastic packaging!
9. I started using beeswax wraps and ditched cling wrap.
Cling wrap is my worst nightmare. It doesn't stick right half the time and I end up sticking it to itself more than anything. Enter beeswax wraps (or the vegan alternative). I've not only saved my sanity but I'll be able to wash and reuse them for a whole year. AND! I've noticed they keep my produce nicer for longer. Win, win!
10. I stopped buying makeup wipes and cotton rounds.
There are an estimated 20 million single-use wipes used every day in the U.S. alone. I switched to reusable cotton rounds that are machine washable and some micellar water. I'm looking into plastic-free versions of makeup remover as well - hit me up if you have a fave!
These rounds are also from Farm Girl Design.
11. I can't compost - but I can repurpose & reuse.
Most vegetable scraps are likely either used in compost or they end up in the landfill. And since I'm not allowed to compost in my apartment building the latter is more true for me. That's why I love saving my vegetable scraps and turning them into homemade vegetable broth. It gives them a second life before they've left my home and I get delicious food out of it.
Making vegetable broth is seriously one of the easiest things ever (and that's coming from someone who can't even make an over-easy egg). You just save all your vegetable scraps in the freezer until you have about 4 cups worth and then throw them in a pot with some water. The best items to save are onions (skin and all), carrots, and celery. This is the recipe I use as a guide - but depending on what scraps you've saved up you may want to adjust it.
The moral of this isn't really that vegetable broth is great (which it is), but that you can repurpose/reuse items in your home, no matter how insignificant they seem at first, and give them a second (or third, or fourth) life.