A Beginner's Guide to Eco-Friendly Living
It has been almost a year since I decided to make some big changes in my life; I said bye-bye to fast fashion, cleaned up my beauty routine and focused on finding sustainable alternatives in different aspects of my life. I've learned so much since then; 1. I've realized being more eco-conscious is not a change that happens overnight, 2. It is a journey that is ever-evolving and there is always more to learn and 3. A little direction is crucial since it can be very overwhelming to start such a journey. That last one I learnt from friends, family and my peers who've tiredly expressed "Where would I even start?". Well, this one is for you, dear friends. If you're ready to make some changes to reduce your eco-footprint, albeit small- what better time to do it than on Earth Day, a day we should show Mother Earth some extra love and appreciation? Remember, some of these habits we've been doing all of our lives, so don't get discouraged when some changes don't happen overnight. Just make each day an improvement from the day before and you'll be well on your way to a more sustainable future!
1. Invest in a Reusable Coffee Cup
One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop using disposable coffee cups, 50 billion of which end up in landfill per year (!!!). Instead, invest in a reusable cup like this barista-standard one from Keepcup that you can keep in your bag or car and whip out when you're ready for your caffeine fix. If you do forget it, do like the Europeans do and ask for your coffee in a mug to enjoy at the cafe. Slow down and take a 10 minute break to actually enjoy your coffee- you deserve it!
2. Bring your own food to work
Not only does this mean you will not add more throw-away containers and plastic utensils from your to-go lunch to the trash, being organized and food prepping your lunches will also cut back on food waste in your household. Americans throw away nearly $165 billion worth of food waste every year which equates to 35 million tons. By planning out your lunch menu for the week and preparing the meals accordingly, you could throw out a lot less food per week. Invest in good tupperware and get prepping!
3. Say no to plastic straws
Disposable plastic straws are not recyclable, so 500 million of them per day often end up in landfills or our oceans. 500 million per day. It's one of the top 10 marine debris items contributing to our massive plastic pollution problem and we have to get a hold on it. The simplest solution? When you order a water, cocktail or iced coffee- say no to the straw. However, if your drinking experience is made more pleasurable through straws, you can always purchase their reusable counterparts like these great stainless steel ones.
4. Start buying secondhand
Fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world with Americans throwing out 13 million tons of textiles per year. In our throw-away culture, shopping second-hand is a great way to reuse and reduce textile waste that otherwise ends up in landfill. If something doesn't fit or look quite right, see how you can alter it to give it new life.
5. Give your beauty cabinet a sustainable makeover
Replace your hair and toothbrushes with biodegradable bamboo alternatives. Buy a cute handkerchief instead of using tissues. Reduce the waste that occurs from taking off your makeup by ditching the makeup remover wipes + cotton pads and replacing them with microfiber pads, like these ones I got off Etsy. Invest in a safety razor the next time you run out of disposable ones. Opt for applicator-free tampons or even better, try out the menstrual cup. Lastly, get crafty with DIY whether it's making your own toothpaste or deodorant!
6. Use a Beeswax wrap to store and preserve your food
A few great companies make these reusable food wraps made out of beeswax that can be used to save and store your fruits, vegetables, cheeses and even breads. In addition to being more eco-friendly, the beeswax allows your food to breathe which keeps it fresher longer.
7. Stock up on reusable shopping bags
I hoard reusable shopping bags. I leave about 10-15 of them, including these adorable french net bags, in my car at all times so everytime I hit the shops, I can avoid the unnecessary amount of plastic bags used to transport my groceries home. If you forget your bags, opt for paper instead so at least they can be recycled. It's an effortless yet responsible choice to make for something you do so frequently!
8. Limit your usage of Paper Towels
I didn't realize how frequently I used paper towels until I started having friends over to my new place. Every time there was a mess or a spill, paper towels would be there to save the day. Only, once I started to look into the damage that occurs to make paper towels, it didn't seem like the hero anymore. To make just one ton of paper towels, approximately 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted. To cut the usage my first trick was to hide them from plain sight. If they aren't as accessible, I found I used way less of them. My second trick was to purchase some multi-purpose swedish dish towels. Not only can they replace your paper towels, they can also replace your kitchen sponges!
9. Consider public transport
Reduce your carbon footprint by opting for the bus, subway or train whenever you can- especially when you live in a city and have easy access. Additionally, carpool with a friend or get outside and ride your bike to work.
10. Donate or volunteer your time to earth friendly organizations
Get out and support the non-profit organizations that do good for the Earth. 1% for the Planet is a great resource that vets the organizations that are doing important work for the environment, in terms of climate, food, land, pollution, wildlife and water. It's inspiring to see all the non-profits paving the way towards a better future and it's a great way to get involved!
11. Make your Laundry Room More Eco-Friendly
Next time you do your laundry, be conscious of the following changes you can make: wash your clothes in cold water since a large amount of energy is required to heat the water in your washing machine. Use eco-friendly laundry detergents or soap nuts, which can be composted once they are used up. Skip the dryer, which omits tons of carbon dioxide per year and hang your clothes out to dry instead. If you do use the dryer, opt for wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets which have cancer-causing chemicals and neurotoxins. Cora Ball is also another great product to add to your dryer, as it collects the micro-fibers (which believe it or not, can include plastic!) from your clothes so they don't end up entering the drains of our washing machines and consequently, our waterways.
12. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
The world's plastic use is out of control with humans buying a million plastic bottles per minute, globally. Though the bottles are recyclable, 91% of plastics do not end up getting recycled, instead ending up in our oceans and landfill where they take 400 years to decompose. Do your part and buy a reusable water bottle, like this BPA-free glass and silicone one from bkr. It's both chic and mindful and actually encourages me to drink more water.