Earth Day was this past weekend, so it’s a perfect time to explore ways to green up your life. Just as you take care of your body, and your home, we must take responsibility in taking care of our planet. We only have one home, and it is imperative to start showing the Earth some respect, and by each of us doing our part, even on a small scale, we are slowly halting, possibly even reversing some pretty intense damage we have done. I think that we are meant to exist on this planet in a symbiotic way. We use some resources that Earth provides for us to live, and in turn, we care for the Earth, and do our part in letting the Earth continue to grow and thrive. As a health coach, I remind my clients that their home environment plays a very vital role in our overall health and wellness, and a healthy environment also means your planet; the air we breathe, the ground we step on, the water we drink. So what can we possibly do to lighten the load, to live sustainably, to not add to the already growing problems that are threatening our planet? Read on for my top ten tips to get more sustainable in your everyday life:
1. Say no to plastic straws
Every single day in the United States, we use 500 million plastic straws. Thats enough straws to circle the Earth 2.5 times…and that’s just in ONE day! Each year, 1 million seabirds ,and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic straws. Plastic straws are one of the most common forms of garbage found in the oceans these days. Stopping your use of plastic straws is one of the easiest ways to be more environmentally conscious. If you head over to Amazon and search aluminum, bamboo, or glass straws, you will find a huge variety of options. How to remember to use your straws? You can keep one stashed in your purse, or if you know you are going out, just bring yours along. I keep a bag in my car of items such as reusable straws and utensils in case I am out and need something in a pinch. These are my favorite straws for smoothies, these are my favorite for any other beverage, water or juices for example.
2. Carry your reusables everywhere with you
I’m not perfect- I forget to grab my reusable grocery bags, or my coffee mug with me before I leave the house, it happens all the time. Try to come up with a system that works best for you so that you are always prepared! For myself, I keep my reusable grocery bags and produce bags in my car at all times. If I didn’t, I’d almost never bring them because I’d forget. For those times when you do forget though, ask for paper! Almost all grocery stores have a paper option. If I know I am going out, I bring my Hydroflask to go mug with me, just in case., or if I know I will definitely be at a coffeeshop or cafe, I set it out the night before so I don’t forget. I almost always carry my smaller Hydroflask water bottle with me, because I’m all about hydration, and I don’t want to have to buy a bottle when I am out. In terms of utensils, I keep my set of bamboo utensils in a bag in my car’s glove box. This way they are always there and ready to use.
3. Be a conscious consumer
I’m not talkin’ food here, I’m talking everything else that you buy. I should start off first by saying to buy less in general. The manufacturing of readily available goods from big chain stores use a lot of natural resources, including actually shipping the items to the stores. When possible, see if you can purchase items you want/need from small business, local stores, or even borrowing from your friend. Try thrifting. Be aware of where your goods come from, and the materials used to make it. Do your research, put your money in companies that align with your beliefs. My favorite company right now for sustainable goods? Check out the Wild Minimalist. A small company that is dedicated to helping you create a zero-waste, eco-friendly life. Their products are beautifully made, at reasonable prices, and include everything from market essentials, to zero-waste kits. They are a must in your journey to sustainability.
4. Go plant based (more often)
I’m a strong believer in the idea that we are all different and our bodies need different things to thrive. But if possible, try going plant based, or even try making a majority of your meals during the week plant based. Eating a vegan or vegetarian diet is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and lead the way towards a more sustainable, cleaner future. By choosing to not eat meat, you are essentially voting with your dollar to not support practices such as deforestation to clear land to raise cattle, the large usage of water to produce meat, and the release of methane and waste produced by the animals that contributes to greenhouse gases, and global warming. Looking for some plant based meals to try? I often post recipes on my Instagram, or here on my blog! Check them out!
5. Switch up your house cleaners
House cleaners can host a nasty array of crazy chemicals that can get into our environment, namely our water supply, as well as our air supply. Not to mention these chemicals are also not so great for our bodies either. Today, there are tons of companies out there that make really clean household cleaners, which is amazing. When you are going to purchase a “green” cleaner, check out the ingredients, as you would with your food. If each and every ingredient is something you recognize, and can pronounce, or is derived from a plant, you should feel good knowing it’s safe. Or, if you want to save money, you can do like we do in our house, use white vinegar as an all purpose cleaner. If you hate the smell, add some lime or lemon essential oils to it. The smell dissipates after only a few minutes, it cleans as well as any other household store bought cleaner, and you will save tons by making your own at home. I have a baby, and four animals, I like knowing that if I ever left the door open to our linen closet, or the cupboard under our sink was left open, that I never have to worry about them getting into something toxic. One less thing to stress about.
6. Get into composting
I will admit, this is much easier if you have a yard. But even if you don’t, or live in a city like my friend Anne, you can collect your compost, and bring it to your local farmers market if they do a compost collection! I love composting because it significantly reduces the amount of garbage we accumulate, the garbage doesn’t smell, I feel less guilty if some greens turn before I get to eat them, and it all goes back into my garden, where I grow more food. Besides composting veggie odds and ends, also consider composting items you may have just thrown out, such as toilet paper rolls, paper towels, sometimes food packaging is compostable, as well as some paper to-go mugs, paper to-go food containers, old newspapers, coffee grinds, egg shells, and even this amazing phone case (which everyone should go and buy!).
7. Recycle your electronics
Instead of simply throwing out your old cell phones, laptops, computers, iPods, DVD players, TVs, etc, consider gathering everything to bring to an electronic specific recycling event. Check in with your town or city to see if they have an electronic recycling day/event, or find a location where you can drop off your electronics to be recycled. In addition to recycling electronics once you are through with them, also remember to unplug items when you are not using them! Even when turned off, they pull a lot of energy that can be saved by simply unplugging. And good for your health too, as unplugging helps lighten the load of positive ions in the air.
8. Go for organic fertilizers
If you have a yard, or a garden, opt for natural fertilizers vs. chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers leach into the water supply, (which gets into our drinking water), as well as our rivers, streams, and oceans. They sell a variety of fertilizers made from organic materials, and even consider making your own compost to use to create nutrient dense soil without the harm. In addition to this, buy organic vegetables and fruit when you can. By doing this you are supporting organic farming methods, rather than chemical laden conventional farming.
9. Rethink your laundry routine
The standard laundry routine uses a TON of water, and the items we most often use as cleaners are terrible for aquatic life, and our water supply. As something that we have to do though (can’t have smelly clothes) there is always an option to make it more environmentally friendly. To start, most of us do laundry almost everyday. Aim to cut back on this, more often than not, (with the exception of underwear or workout clothes), we can get a second wear out of clothing, especially pants, or sweaters. I aim to do laundry once or twice a week. It cuts back on water usage for laundry, and electricity for drying. Sure, there are more clothes if I do it all at once rather than a little bit at a time, but it is so worth it for reducing my impact on the environment. Second, use cold water! By switching and using cold water rather than hot or warm water, you reduce your carbon footprint by almost 350 pounds. Third, if possible, use a front loading washing machine. They use significantly less water than a top loading machine. Last, be really conscious of your laundry detergent. Most detergents (even the natural ones) contain ingredients that are super harmful to aquatic life, namely, breaking down the mucus layer on their skin that protects them from bacteria and parasites. Look for a detergent that is sulfate free. A couple other tips-white vinegar is a natural fabric softener, add a dose to your next load for softer clothes. Borax will help take the odors out of workout clothes, adding a 1/2 cup to your next load will take it right out!
10. Spend some money to save you more in the future
Last but not least, in order to start living more sustainably, you need to invest upfront, to save you money in the long run. What do I mean by that? Investing in reusable straws, bags, produce bags, coffee mugs, or water bottles means you will spend less in general when you are out. Think: not having to buy water in bottles, getting money taken off your grocery bill for bringing your own bags, not having to buy cleaning products, saving money on electricity, and the most rewarding fact of all-you can rest easy knowing you are doing your part to help create a more sustainable Earth, to ensure the future of the planet for future generations, and to know you are helping to promote good health for yourself, and the planet.
Happy Earth Day!