Earlier this week, I wrote about how I’ve been working to create as little waste as possible. As Earth Day approaches, I’m hoping this is something that others are thinking about, too. I know I mentioned many drastic things in my previous post, but not everybody is perfectly situated to make the lifestyle changes that I made.
Many people don’t have the time or money or energy to transition into a completely new lifestyle this way. However, I would like to request that you consider trying to make some of these smaller changes.
1. Bring your own bag
It just makes so much sense, and it’s so simple, once you train yourself to remember to keep them with you when you go out. You can buy one of the cloth bags from your local grocery store, or you can look for a thin one that folds up and fits easily into your pocket, like my green one that I carry everywhere.
2. Refuse straws
I thought this was going to be as easy as saying “no thank you” when the server offered straws after bringing out my drink, but it turns out that at many places, you need to ask in advance so that they don’t automatically put the straw in your drink.
This is another case of training yourself to also say “without a straw, please” when you place your drink order. If you do it enough times, it becomes habit. And if you get any weird reactions to your request, I find that it helps the server understand a little bit better when I simply explain, “I don’t like to waste single-use plastic.”
Bonus points if you share a photo of your straw-less drink on social media and use the hashtag #refusethestraw to spread awareness of how to stop plastic pollution.
3. Reduce meat intake
Eating animal products is one of the worst things for the environment, so while I’m not asking anybody to stop everything and go vegan, I would love to see more people considering doing a Meatless Monday or trying more vegan choices when eating out so that they can reduce the overall amount of animal products they consume. Beef is the worst culprit, so if you can adjust your diet to avoid or cut out red meat entirely, your body will thank you as well!
4. Use a reusable water bottle
If you live in a country where the tap water is safe to drink, there’s no reason to spend money on bottled water. I know so many people who swear by their Yetis, which is great, but honestly, I’ve been using a cheap IKEA thermos that was gifted to me for more than 3 years, and it does a great job keeping my water cold. This thing has traveled everywhere with me, from Disney World in Florida to Disneyland in Hong Kong. I never leave the house without it!
5. Use a reusable coffee cup
My Contigo travel mug is great for keeping liquids hot for several hours–those paper coffee cups at Starbucks and other chains actually contain plastic linings and can’t be recycled, so just give your reusable mug to the cashier, and you might be lucky enough at some coffee shops to get a discount for using your own travel mug.
This should be a last resort after you try to reduce your waste and reuse as many things as possible, because recycling is an expensive process, and many things can only be recycled a certain number of times. However, it’s better than sending your waste to be dumped in the middle of nature.
7. Consider the amount of waste you produce and try to pinpoint one thing you can reduce
Do you find yourself buying a lot of new clothing that you never wear? Consider thrifting instead! (If you’re an online shopper, check out ThredUp for some brand-name secondhand clothing options.) Do you throw away all your newspapers and plastic bottles? See if there’s a recycling center nearby that you can drop off your recyclables at once a week! Are you buying a lot of packaged junk food? See if you can make your own snacks out of ingredients that use less packaging! (I buy corn kernels in bulk and make popcorn on the stove.)
8. Speak up
Share a post on social media about something you’re doing to be more sustainable–maybe it’ll inspire other people. Let your local restaurant know that they would save money by offering straws only on request rather than adding them automatically to every drink. Contact a local lawmaker to see if they would consider banning plastic bags in your city or implementing a plastic bag tax. Go to events that promote environmental awareness and connect with others who have similar goals.
I would absolutely love to see more people making a conscious effort to live more sustainable lives. Our planet is amazing, and I think we should all try a little bit harder to keep it that way!
What are you doing to live sustainably? Are there any changes you’re going to make? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!