Happy Earth Day! Earth Day is one of my favorite holidays, a day when we all (hopefully) think a little bit more about Mother Earth and what we can do to protect her. While it’s a great day, with organized beach clean ups and community garden planting parties, it’s important to think about what we can do on the other 364 days of the year to make an impact.
Like so much in life, when we’re trying to make a change, it’s all about forming new habits. Sure, when I started using reusable shopping bags 10+ years ago, I often forgot. So, I kept the bags in the front seat as a reminder - setting up a reminder when forming a new habit is key. And then, the habit was formed, and every time I go to the store I remember to grab the bags from the back seat. It takes about 21 days, or 21 times of doing something to form a new habit.
It can be easy to think that my little family of 3 doesn’t make an impact with these earth friendly choices. But, with recycling and composting alone, I know we are keeping a lot out of landfills, so that is a major win! When we know better, we do better. The more we talk about these small changes with friends, the impact becomes much greater.
It’s hard to make any change or shift when you’re in a frantic, stressed place. Practicing meditation, meditation in motion (being in the present moment when you’re cooking, going for a walk, or grocery shopping), or just ensuring you have 5 minutes of quiet every day to drink a cup of tea, is essential. There is no way you’re going to remember to toss your banana peel in the compost if you’re worried about what happened at work yesterday, or thinking about what you’re going to do on Saturday.
Check to see if your city or town has curbside composting - more and more towns are offering this service. If not, get a composting bin for your yard! We throw all veggie peels and ends (the ones we don’t save for broth), coffee grinds, crushed egg shells, paper towels plus so much more. Here’s a great article on 100 Things You Can Compost. We do not compost meat, fish, bones. This is a great compost bin, but consider buying it locally!
Plain and simple, just do it. I feel strongly about this one, there is no excuse not to recycle. It’s important to be educated about what can and can’t go in the recycling - so take the 10 minutes to learn, Mother Earth will thank you. A few things you can’t recycle (therefore, try not to use them!) - plastic straws, bubble wrap or bubble mailers, containers with a lot of food or liquid, plastic bags (these get stuck in the machines!). Here’s a great post on what you can/can’t recycle.
3. Use LED Bulbs.
Using less electricity reduces energy consumption. Unless your energy comes from a renewable source, any reduction in energy use helps the environment. Like a lot of people, we switched over our "normal" lights to LED. We were surprised to find affordable LED options for our specialty bulbs as well. Switching over the track lighting in our kitchen and the bathroom bulbs reduced our electricity bill (consumption) by over $15/month. The bulbs paid for themselves in around a month and a half and last way longer than the old ones.
4. Support B Corps.
We try to limit the amount of shopping we do (a work in progress for me), but when we do shop, we try hard to support B Corps. What is a B Corp? B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit “B Lab” to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B corps are mission based companies, with the belief that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. There are over 2,000 certified B Corps in the world, some of our favorites - Athleta, Beautycounter, Cabot, Danone, Etsy, Honest Co, Preserve Products, Seventh Generation, plus so many more!
5. Purchase Reef Safe Sunscreen.
Use sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate and 4MBC. These four ingredients have been linked to killing coral reef systems. Many people are using sunscreen with these ingredients, unaware that once rinsed off our bodies, they both effect the DNA of the coral, and can bleach it. Coral reefs are dying at alarming rates, so let’s do our part. A few reef safe brands - Beautycounter (my favorite sunscreen and the no.1 reason I chose to partner with the company), Goddess Garden & Badger (all three of these are B Corps).
6. Switch to Beeswrap and Reusable Plastic Bags.
Beeswrap is a reusable food wrap, which replaces plastic wrap. We started using it a few months ago and have been happy with it. There are many brands of reusable bags, check out these cloth ones, and these silicone ones. The only problem is neither the cloth bags or the wrap are clear, so you can’t see what’s in them. We’ve wasted a little food this way, so just try to remember what you put in the bags or what is under the wrap!
7. Don’t Buy Water.
A serious way to decrease plastic in your life is by taking the pledge not to buy plastic water bottles. Even though these bottles can (and must!) be recycled, it takes precious resources to make, transport, and then to be recycled. Get yourself a stainless or glass water bottle, and create the habit of bringing it with you. We only drink filtered water, and have been using a Berkey Water Filter for 5 years. I will write a full post on this soon, but after 6 months of research we landed on this, and love it - plus, we’ve only replaced the filters one time in 5 years! One of the best investments we've made.
8. Shop Local.
When you can, shop from your local farmer. This is not just a good choice because your carrots have less “food miles,” but you’re also supporting the farmer and their family, buying food that is more nutrient dense, delicious, and in season. We’ve recently started a “no books from Amazon” promise in our home. Sure we buy plenty from Amazon, but we’ve taken a stance to purchase all books from our local bookstore. We’re both supporting our local store that we want to stay in business, and we’re reducing our carbon footprint.
9. Bring Your Own Bag.
Get a few that you always keep in your car and leave them by the door after shopping so you remember to put them back in your car! Reusable bags aren’t just for the grocery store, bring them with you when you’re shopping for anything. I keep a few of these in my purse at all times, they’re compact but fit a lot.
10. Use Glass or Stainless Steel Straws.
Americans alone use 500 Million drinking straws every day. 500 MILLION. Straws, which are considered “single use plastic” are not recyclable. To boot, 80-90% of marine debris is made from plastic. JUST SAY NO to plastic straws, and invest in stainless steel or glass straws.
Ok, take a deep breath! If you're feeling overwhelmed, consider this a year or two long checklist that you'll slowly work on. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you make a change, what matters is that you consistently are making changes! We're by no means perfect, but it's always a work in progress. Remember, progress not perfection!