Waste-free living is simpler than you think…
This April, Eartheasy.com shared thirty days of tips on social media to help our readers eliminate waste from everyday living and tread more lightly on the planet. Together we celebrated the world’s largest environmental movement (Earth Day) and pledged to build a healthy, sustainable environment. We also worked to address climate change and protect the Earth for future generations. Here are those tips, gathered together in one place so you can keep using them all year long.
1. Ditch plastic grocery bags: Almost every grocery store offers reusable shopping bags for a small fee. You can also buy long-lasting, reusable bags that are hardwearing and easy to stow in your purse or car—so they’ll be there when you need them. Over its lifetime, a reusable shopping bag can save more than 1,000 plastic shopping bags from ending up in the landfill. Now that’s a lot of unnecessary plastic!
2. Stop using plastic straws: There are so many sipping options out there now, who needs plastic? Instead, trying using glass, metal, paper, or bamboo. You can even buy straw-cleaning bristle brushes to help you with quick clean-ups for your reusable straws.
3. Dispose of your disposable paper towel habit: Rags work just as well as disposable paper towels, and you can wash and reuse them. You can also try products like Skoy cloths, which are absorbent and easy to use. One Skoy cloth outlasts 15 rolls of paper towels—effective and inexpensive.
4. Grow your own food: You don’t need a huge yard or greenhouse to grow your own food. In fact, cultivating edibles can be as simple as growing a few herbs on your windowsill or joining a local community garden. Every item that you can grow at home reduces waste and decreases the amount of fossil fuels required to put food on your table. It also increases the nutrients in your diet, since your home-grown vegetables and herbs will be super fresh and packed with vitamins. Plus, if you have a patio, rooftop, or balcony, consider your options for gardening on concrete.
6. Reconsider plastic produce bags: Take the simple step of replacing disposable produce bags with reusable ones. Not only will you save money, you’ll reduce the amount of plastic in your home and on the planet.
7. Visit your local farmer’s market: If you have one available, stop by your local farmer’s market and see what you’ve been missing in the way of fresh food. There are many benefits to shopping at farmer’s markets, including eliminating food packaging, reducing food miles, and supporting your local community and small businesses. Stop by one this weekend and see what a difference local makes.
8. Rethink plastic water bottles: Did you know that Americans used an estimated 50 billion plastic water bottles last year? About 38 billion of those water bottles were trashed and not recycled. That is a huge waste of resources and money. Switching to a reusable water bottle will save hundreds of plastic water bottles from reaching the landfill every year. Or consider a LifeStraw Go bottle. That way you’ll never have to worry about finding great tasting, safe water—wherever you go.
9. Eat less meat: Cutting back on meat is not only good for your health, it’s good for the planet. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation! Try incorporating one meatless day a week to reduce your carbon footprint. You’ll be surprised how easy this is.
10. Opt for recyclable toothbrushes: How many toothbrushes do you use each year? What about every five years? Or over your entire lifetime? Unfortunately, all those plastic and electric toothbrushes often get tossed into trash bins or end up in landfills and oceans. To remedy this, replace your regular plastic toothbrush with a compostable one, like those made by the San Franciso-based company, Mable. Mable toothbrushes are bamboo with nylon, BPA-free bristles. Not only that, the packaging is 100% plastic free, so it’s not just the toothbrush that makes a positive impact.
11. Compost your food scraps: Unfortunately, one-third of all landfill waste is made up of compostable material. Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage! But what if you don’t have a yard or garden? Don’t worry: you don’t need either to compost. Try out our ideas for composting in an apartment or use your local composting program. Some farmer’s markets now have drop-off programs, too.
12. Wear natural fabrics: One of the world’s greatest culprits in environmental pollution is something we use everyday: our clothing. Avoid fashion waste by buying long-lasting, well-made clothing. Better yet, opt for sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, Tencel, hemp, and bamboo. These fabrics feel fantastic and come without a hefty environmental price tag.
13. Try a handkerchief: Once upon a time everyone used (or re-used) cloth handkerchiefs, which could simply be washed and used again. Try making your own reusable tissues out of cloths and rags. These are gentle on your nose and the earth!
14. Reduce your pet’s impact: You’re trying to reduce your waste, why shouldn’t your furry friend too? Try making your own pet food using natural ingredients. Or use biodegradable poop bags and opt for eco-friendly kitty litter, such as wood chips, sawdust, or even corn kernels. Together you and your pet can contribute to a greener future.
15. Make your own cleaners: Today’s modern home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances. For many home-cleaning chores, you can make your own cleaning products with simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and water. See our non-toxic cleaning guide for more information and recipes.
16. Use earth-friendly feminine hygiene products: Almost 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons, and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year. Most contain plastic components, pesticide residues, and are whitened using a chlorine bleaching process that puts the environment at risk. Lighten your environmental footprint, save money, and avoid toxic shock syndrome with reusable menstrual products. Not only do menstrual cups and reusable cotton pads reduce the amount of garbage entering the landfill, they also avoid the harmful environmental impacts of bleached paper products and plastic production.
17. Recycle: By now most communities have curbside recycling programs, but there are always a few materials that municipal programs won’t accept. Take these items to your local recycling depot or avoid them in the first place. Buy chickpeas in bulk and eliminate that aluminum can!
18. Stop buying plastic wrap: Plain and simple, you don’t need it! Cover leftovers with plates, wax wraps, or silicone lids. Abeego wraps are great for wrapping up fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread, and sandwiches, or to cover dishes and leftovers. The fluid and air-resistant beeswax coating is easy to rinse and keeps food fresh.
19. Turn off junk mail: Nobody likes receiving junk mail, but it still accounts for the destruction of 100 million trees each year. Eliminating it is one of the easiest ways for us to preserve forests around the world. Contact your local post office and asked to be put on their ‘do not mail’ list. With this simple step you can save trees!
20. Conserve water: Consider recycling water from your sink or shower to use around the house for watering the plants or mopping the floors. Take shorter showers and don’t leave the faucet running when brushing your teeth or when washing dishes by hand. Simple changes towards conscious water use can go a long way!
21. Green your soap: Did you know that you can buy soap in the bulk food aisle at most grocery stores? No more pesky packaging!
22. Use LED light bulbs: LED light bulbs have revolutionized home energy efficiency. They last ten times longer than compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and far longer than incandescent lights, contain no mercury, and are more energy efficient! The next time a bulb burns out in your house, replace it with an LED.
23. Hang your laundry: When was the last time you hung your clothes on a clothesline to dry? You’d be saving tons of money and energy, plus clothes just seem to smell better when they dry in the fresh air. If you don’t have the option to line-dry your clothes, use dryer balls to drastically reduce drying time. Save money on your electricity bill and enjoy softer clothes, more absorbent towels, and a drying time of 25-50% less!
24. Avoid pre-packaged lunches: Packing a lunch or cooking at home eliminates buying pre-packaged food and creating unnecessary waste. Even if you’re buying your meal to go or want to take home leftovers from a restaurant, keep a reusable container on you for such an occasion. Say ‘goodbye’ to Zip-loc bags and leachy plastic food kits.
25. Buy more in bulk: Buying in bulk saves money and packaging. Plus, there are more items offered in bulk than ever before. Pasta, spices, coffee, dried fruit, and so much more! And don’t forget to use reusable bulk food bags when shopping in your bulk food aisle.
26. Go palm-oil free: This oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products such as baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents, and toothpaste. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area equivalent to the size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years. Make sure you always read labels and look for alternatives to palm oil.
27. Make your own toiletries: Many products we purchase for our daily beauty routines come in unnecessary plastic packaging and contain ingredients harmful to us and the planet. Try making your own products like deodorant, toothpaste, scrubs, and more using natural, unpackaged ingredients.
28. Replace disposable cutlery: Did you know that every single piece of plastic ever made still exists, and will continue to exist for the next 500 years (at least)? Plastic cutlery only takes seconds to leave the package, get used, and end up in the trash. Let’s change that! Always opt for compostable or reusable cutlery. There are many options now available.
29. Use reusable coffee cups: Every day, so many of us take away our coffee in a paper cup. Over 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown out each year…in Canada alone! The word ‘paper’ suggests that these cups can be easily recycled, but most are coated with a plastic resin, making that impossible. The next time you grab a cup of joe, sit in the café and enjoy it. Or bring a reusable mug if you need to take it and go.
30. Keep learning: Given that things are constantly changing, it’s important for us to keep learning. Read books, blogs, and articles to stay educated on new policies, technologies, and solutions. And don’t forget share what you know!