It can feel impossible to stall the tide on the massive amounts of waste we’ve accumulated on our planet. (Here’s a list of sobering facts, just to set the tone.) It’s a giant macro problem, too big for any one citizen to solve. Should we even try?
Trick question. Of course!
While climate change can’t be pinned on any single cause, a helpful way to view at it as an amalgamation of many people choosing to make many seemingly innocuous decisions over a period of time. The invention of plastic, drive-thru windows, and same-day shipping, for example, tempts all of us with the ease of convenience over sacrifice. Why do [ fill-in-the-blank ] when buying [ fill-in-the-blank ] is so much easier?
It’s a valid point, but sooner rather than later, “easier” will catch up to us. Climate change is a mindset we’re up against in addition to the very real science. The good news is that we can work to counteract negative habits with a slow, steady progression of making the slightly harder choice.
The below are 20 switches that anyone can make right now to help break the cycle of convenience that’s so quickly degrading our planet. Whether you’re overwhelmed by going green or just need a few back-pocket tips to inspire a friend, take heart! Adopting even one suggestion from this list means you’ll be doing more than most.
1. Use reusable beeswax wrap for fruits, veggies, cheese, and leftovers instead of buying roll after roll of plastic wrap that just ends up in the bin.
2. Skip the plastic produce bags at the grocery store and put your produce directly into your cart (or canvas shopping bag). You’ll wash it anyway when you get home.
3. Choose a bamboo toothbrush. Plastic toothbrushes take 400 years to decompose, which means every single plastic toothbrush that’s ever been used and thrown away is still out there. Bamboo is naturally biodegradable and antimicrobial.
4. Try a menstrual cup. Get comfortable with your body and discover the waste-free freedom that comes from using a menstrual cup in place of disposable tampons and liners. Tip: it’s normal if it takes a several tries to get the right fit. Don’t be discouraged!
5. Save tissue and packing paper from online shopping hauls. Reuse it as wrapping paper.
6. Experiment with different shampoo bars until you find one that you love. Reuse the ones you don’t as soap or body wash.
7. Invest in a reusable straight razor. Your shaving game will instantly elevate.
8. Cut cosmetic sponges and pads in half to get twice the use out of them. Or go the extra mile and invest in washable ones instead.
9. Hide your paper towels. If you can’t bring yourself to ditch them completely, then switch to using cleaning rags and hide the roll “just in case” in a cupboard.
10. Buy the sad plants. Give the left behind ones a chance. Buy the discounted flowers or plants at big box stores to replant at home or in your neighborhood.
11. Say no to the plastic straw. Because honestly, do you really need it?
12. Switch to plastic-free toilet paper. Companies like this one make it easy to buy environmentally-conscious toilet paper (meaning it’s not wrapped in plastic film) with the added benefit of building toilets for those in need around the world.
13. Recycle the right way. Aspirational recycling — throwing anything in the recycle bin assuming it’ll be properly sorted late — is ruining the industry. Take 10 minutes and brush up on what really gets recycled.
14. Use cold water for your laundry. It’s estimated that almost 90 percent of the energy used by your washing machine goes toward heating up the water.
15. It’s not just for power outages. Light beeswax candles and forgo electricity for an evening. (And on that note, use recycled cardboard matches over a butane lighter.)
16. Did you know your contacts are recyclable? You can recycle lenses along with blister packs and top foils for free through this program.
17. Decline the bag when shopping. Many boutiques and department stores love to embellish a purchase with what is essentially a fully-wrapped gift. While lovely, it’s also unnecessary.
18. Unsubscribe from physical junk mail lists. Here are six ways to do it.
19. Green-ify your pets. Opt for biodegradable waste bags or make your own kitty litter.
20. Start reading. If you don’t know the why, you’ll be less likely to try. There is an abundance of eco-conscious reading materials out there, so pick the topic that most interests you, whether it’s how plastic was developed or curbing overconsumption, and simply start there.
Bonus points for checking a returnable book out from your local library.