In honor of Earth Day on April 22, 2017, I will focus the posts this month on ways we can be better guardians of the amazing planet we inhabit. Earth day should be more than just a day, it should be every day! There are small, and large, steps we can make in our daily life to reduce our impact to the environment. Imagine just how impactful we can be if we all do our part!
My first post this month is about five ways you can reduce your waste and ecological footprint every day (and save money in the process!). We've all heard about the three R's, reduce, reuse, recycle, and know how important they are to cutting down the amount of trash we throw away. Recycling and reusing are very important but the best way to manage waste is by not producing it! These are five easy, cost efficient ways to reduce the amount of trash we produce every day.
1. Ditch Plastic Water Bottles
This one is so easy but so important. According to Ban the Bottle, Americans use around 50 BILLION plastic water bottles in one year alone! That is outrageous. And of those bottles, only around 23% were recycled! There are many reasons to break this habit of buying water in plastic bottles but knowing that around 38 billion a year are put in landfills, ocean, lakes and rivers should be enough. Add to that the amount of energy it takes to produce those bottles (enough to power around 190,000 homes according to the same website) and you realize just how much of a difference cutting them from your life would be.
To be honest, I have never been a big fan of buying water in a plastic bottle. It just didn't make any sense to me when I could carry my own water bottle and fill it for free. But since having kids, I have become even more obsessed with not using them. In fact, I get really mad at myself when I have forgotten my reusable bottle and have to buy one! My friends that see me often know that I am very rarely without my sturdy Hydro Flask water bottle and tease me about it being attached to me. But I love it! I fill it up every morning from my Brita, which I keep full of tap water and in the fridge, and then have cold, refreshing water to drink all day long! When I am out, I look for water fountains to refill it or ask at restaurants or coffee shops for a refill. It is such an easy fix that saves you money, gives you better quality water, and makes a lasting impact on trash reduction. There is really no excuse to keep buying them.
2. Cut Back Your Paper
Have you ever wondered why toilet paper rolls have that extra cardboard tube in the middle? Do they really need that? Well, it turns out that the answer is no! Scott Brand toilet paper has come out with a new way way to TP and it doesn't include the cardboard tube. Did you know that if you added up all the tubes that Americans use in a year it would fill up the Empire State Building TWICE?! I couldn't believe that. We have always recycled ours but many get thrown away. What a genius solution by Scott?! I have just discovered these but they will become the staple around my house. Try them out here with a discounted price from Amazon. Even better, put them on an Amazon subscription and you get to save yourself a trip to the store!
Another great way to cut back your paper use is to use cloth towels, napkins, and washcloths around your home. Look, I always keep paper towels around (I do have two kids and a dog!) but try to use dish towels or rags when ever I can. I heard that the average American uses 6 paper napkins a day! That is a lot of trees. Give them a switch and then wash them once a week in cold water with your regular laundry. By using cloth napkins instead of paper towels or paper napkins you will not only be saving trees but also saving money!
3. No Plastic Bags!
Does it feel like I am yelling this? No? Well, let me try again. NO PLASTIC BAGS!!! Guys, come on, it's 2017. We all know that plastic bags are bad, bad, bad. From the amount of energy they take to make to the animals choking on them in the ocean to the landfills overflowing with them, we all need to stop using plastic bags! Here in California, we voted to ban them in the 2016 election with stores instead offering cloth reusable ones or the customer paying 10 cents for paper or reusable plastic bag. I obviously voted for this ban! It is so easy to not use plastic bags once you break the habit of using them. We always keep cloth reusable bags in our cars and a lot of them in case I have forgotten to put some of them back in the car after the last grocery trip. I also keep a handy foldable ChicoBag in my purse for those quick trips into a store when you hadn't even planned on buying anything. It is my favorite little bag, stuffs down so small and actually holds quite a bit! Get one of these for your purse and then fill your car with some more and you will never need a plastic bag again! What about for the dog, you say? Well, they have biodegradable ones for that! What about for the kids lunches?? They have reusable, BPA-free containers for that! What about for the produce?? They don't need it and if you really insist on putting your lettuce in bags then get a reusable mesh one! See, easy ;)
4. Change Out Your Plastic Straws & Cutlery
Full disclosure: I used to buy big bags of plastic straws and give them to my kids like crazy. Oops. One day my friend told me about all the straws ending up in sea animals and that my young kids having plastic all the time was probably not a good idea. And then she told me about the awesome stainless steel ones that she used. Viola! A change was made. We now use those same stainless steel ones around the house and then try to avoid plastic ones when we are out. The same goes for our cutlery. I used to buy boxes of plastic cutlery, for parties, kids lunches, just to have around the house. Now I have a set of stainless steel ones that I use for the kids lunches or when we are camping. If I really need to have disposable ones, I buy the biodegradable and compostable ones. Easy changes that if we all did would really add up.
5. Buy in Bulk
Now this doesn't mean always shopping at Costco, although I do love a good trip to Costco. It also means checking out the grocery store bulk section. In that section you can often find nuts, oats, rice and all sorts of other grains that you can buy in bulk, many times for a lower price. Most health food stores have this option and even let you use your own container to take it home in. Then at home, I use Ball jars to hold smaller quantities in the pantry of whatever I bought, eliminating the need for extra packaging. So much stuff that we buy today is overly packaged, from food items to kids toys. If we takes step wherever we can to reduce that packaging, then we also take steps to reduce our waste. Every little bit helps.
What are your favorite tips to reduce waste in your home? Tell me all about them and try out mine! Together we can all do our part, however small, to make earth day every day.