How many times over the past year have you felt that twinge of guilt when you took that plastic straw for your soda, or when you tossed all those Type 6 takeout cartons in the trash? OK, so you don’t really have to count, but I’m guessing the answer is probably a lot.
Despite what we may hear on the news, 74 percent of all Americans are concerned about the environment and the harm we’re doing to our fragile planet, but far fewer, one in five, say that they’re willing to make an effort all the time. That’s the hard part: a lot of us care deeply, but feel unsure of what changes to make, what impact it will have, and can even feel a little powerless. While the majority of us are never going to head on out on the Rainbow Warrior (the Greenpeace boat) to purge the ocean of all of its plastic, there are still so many things we can do closer to home that can go a long way in the environmental stakes.
As an eco-conscious, glass-straw carrier myself, I know that although I make strides in some areas, I could do better in others. The point is: none of us are perfect, but that shouldn’t discourage us from doing the things we can. And thanks to the ingenuity of amazing entrepreneurs, start-ups, and fascinating innovations, there are now so many cool and cute options for us to really show our planet the love. Here are 10 ways to live a greener life:
1. Transporting Liquids
The easiest place to start is of course in things you do on a daily basis, like drinking water, tea, coffee, or juice. Up to 38 million plastic bottles end up in landfills in America each year, and up to 91 percent never actually get recycled. There are also concerns now about BPAs and plastic particles leaching into the water itself. The solution? Opt for a water filter on your faucet, or drink bottled water out that has glass packaging. Invest in a glass water bottle for drinking on-the-go, and it’s one easy step toward reducing plastic waste. My personal favorite is Glacce for its crystal infusion, or BKR for their super cute colors and handy size range.
And for coffee and tea, the same applies. Many hot beverage cups aren’t recyclable, so for your morning caffeine fix, invest in a reusable cup. Some coffee spots even offer a discount for this, so bonus points for that.
2. Reusable Wipes
Removing makeup, wiping down household surfaces, cleaning up spills — these are all daily activities that create landfill waste. We’re all addicted to the ease of disposable wipes and towels, but if it doesn’t need to be single use, then it really shouldn’t be. We’ve increasingly become a generation who relies heavily on disposable items to save time and cut down on hassle.
Making the transition to reusable rounds, pads, and cloths really only takes a little bit of an adjustment, and it can have a positive impact on waste and our wallets. For makeup, making the switch from disposable to organic cotton rounds is simple with brands like Urban Oreganics. They come with a mini laundry bag so you can keep them contained in the washer and dryer.
For household wipes, many of us, myself included, will go through a roll of kitchen towel a week. Using a reusable cloth like a roll of Bambooee is a great option since each organic bamboo sheet can be washed up to 100 times (so it saves money, too). For every roll bought, Bambooee works with a tree-planting partner to help rehabilitate environments across the globe.
3. Laundry Service
With all the reusable cloths you’ll be using, getting your laundry game on point environmentally is key, too. Laundry detergents are notorious for sending dyes, chlorines, phosphates, and phthalates into the environment. Making the switch to clean detergents such as Seventh Generation, Method or Mrs. Meyers is an easy change. If you choose a non-scented one, you can always pop a few drops of your favorite essential oil in with your wash.
And don’t forget dryer sheets — again, these innocuous-looking sheets contain unpleasant chemicals, and after they’re used, the sheets themselves go into landfill. Wool dryer balls are great — try Molly Suds 3 Wool Dryer Balls. A pack of three can last up to three years, and they soften and prevent static just like regular dryer sheets.
4. Clothing Subscriptions
Unfortunately for us style-lovers, fashion is one of the world’s most polluting industries. From toxic chemicals and dyes to textile waste, it’s clear that the fashion industry has a massive clean-up job to do. As consumers, it’s super tempting to go for low-cost clothing, frequently in a bid to keep our looks fresh and current. To meet this growing demand for fast fashion, there’s been a huge rise in clothing subscription services, which offer a monthly revolving clothing service so you wear, enjoy, and then return. By borrowing the garments, you get to keep your look fresh and new each month, and if there’s something you love, you can buy and love forever. Le Tote is well worth a try for this.
5. Shop Smart
If subscription services aren’t your thing, or you want to supplement your style, forget fast fashion and choose fashion that’s sourced sustainably and ethically. There’s still a long way to go in the industry, but many clothing brands are turning toward transparency and sourcing more environmentally responsibly. Vote with your wallet on this and opt for brands such as Everlane, who aside from being generally transparent on their factories, are pioneering the world’s cleanest denim factory; Patagonia, one of the earliest defenders of environmental ethics in activewear; and Reformation, which uses sustainable fabrics made in the U.S., and pays employees living wages.
6. Green Beauty
Much like its fashionable counterpart, the beauty industry is big on chemicals, packaging waste, and unethical practices. Switching to green and clean beauty can be better for you and the environment. Now, it’s becoming so much easier and exciting to do with the rise of specialist retailers such as Credo and Beauty Counter, along brands like Tata Harper, Linné and Town & Anchor.
7. Say No To Single Use Plastics
Straws have carried the spotlight for having a bad reputation in plastic, but our focus should be on a more general, single-use plastic audit of our day-to-day lives. Lids, cartons, cotton buds, toothbrushes — the list can be pretty long, so try to tackle one thing at a time.
First step if you haven’t already: get in on the glass or metal straw game — Strawsome has a great selection. Think about your toothbrush, too; they’re replaced often and sit for in a landfill for decades. Bogobrush is a great option for this, as you can choose from a recycled plastic brush, or a plant-based bioplastic brush that’s compostable after use. We’ve all seen that heart-wrenching National Geographic snap of the seahorse wrapped around a cotton bud, so just making the simple switch to bamboo buds — which are biodegradable — could make all the difference. Try The Bamboo Brush Society for this.
8. Composting Food
Composting is such a great way to put nutrients directly back into the earth. If you don’t have a backyard where you can create your own compost, you can use compost pick-up services in your local area (which will convert your food waste into compost for you), get your own DIY indoor compost bin, or see if there’s an opportunity to create a communal apartment block compost bin. Use the compost for your own plants and watch them thrive.
9. Go Biodegradable
One of the biggest sticking points for those reluctant to go green is thinking you’ll have to give up modern conveniences. Thankfully, that’s not the case if you do your homework.
There are many new companies catering to our needs in more environmentally-responsible ways. Take coffee pods for example. While making coffee at home does reduce wastage on disposable cups, unfortunately, coffee pods take between 150-500 years to decompose — so it’s reducing waste in one area, then making more in another. The solution? Biodegradable coffee pods like those made by Woken. Getting your daily caffeine fix, supporting small businesses, not creating any waste? It’s a win-win situation.
Convenience is king when we’re time-pressed, meal-prepping our lunches, or packaging leftovers. Luckily, some great brands have taken that into account with packaging that’s environmentally sound. Aside from glass containers, Bee’s Wrap has come up with an alternative to plastic wrap that’s compostable. For an alternative to ziplock bags, Lunch Skins offers a fun mix of snack packs and bags, and donates proceeds from each order to help fight plastic pollution in our oceans.
This list might seem a lot, but just starting out with a few simple switches can make a difference. And ultimately, it’s worth it in the long-run.