There is no doubt that our planet is suffering due to the rapidly growing human population and lack of structure and limitations around waste management in many places around the world. Plastic is being found literally everywhere we look (microplastics) and landfills are getting out of control, contaminating water, releasing methane gas into the air, and destroying the land around them.
So many of us are asking the same question... What can we do?
As a part of our mission to protect and preserve the planet, we can all take the first step by starting with ourselves. It doesn’t take much effort to move towards a more waste-free lifestyle and it actually feels good to use less and be more mindful of our choices and their impact on the environment.
1. BUY REUSABLE PRODUCTS
Most of us have already caught on to the two most obvious ways we can utilize reusable products: Water bottles and reusable grocery/shopping bags. (Being seen in public with a plastic bottle or grocery bag is borderline embarrassing and banned in some countries) But there are many other clever ways we can integrate reusable items into our daily routines…
Cloth or netted vegetable sacks (found online or can easily be made from old clothing), Reusable drinking straws - plastic straws are some of the worst contributors to the one-time-use plastic problem! Glass, metal, and bamboo straws are some of our favourites. Reusable storage containers for leftovers and meal prepping or beeswax wraps as a natural alternative to plastic wraps are also great.
2. SHOP LOCAL
The best way you can help to support your local economy is to shop local. Find organic farmer’s markets in your area, look for natural grocery stores and check where the food you buy is actually coming from. Not only is this reducing your footprint by considering the journey imported food is taking to get to you, but you are strengthening your community as well. Also, buying reduced priced food items that risk being thrown out and wasted is a pretty clear win win situation. Pay less, waste less. Yay.
3. BUY IN BULK
We are seeing more and more grocers offering bulk items like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, coffee, tea, flour, baking powders, rice, pastas, beans, etc. Instead of buying a new plastic wrapped package of spaghetti each time you make it, know your staple recipes and buy them in bulk. Get extra points for bringing your own container.
It sounds obvious and almost ridiculous to have to point this one out but the reality is, many people out there are still not recycling. Do your research and find the places in your area that will also take things that don’t qualify for normal recycling but could still be reused or need to be disposed of properly. (batteries, electronics, etc.)
5. BUY SECOND HAND
This could also be considered recycling but I’m putting it in it’s own category because it is one of my favourite ways to shop. Some people could easily see this type of shopping as a time consuming chore, but I see it as treasure hunting. Once you have your capsule wardrobe dialed in, buying second hand from vintage shops, charity shops, thrift stores, garage sales, etc. is the best way to find those one of a kind gems that no one else has (anymore). It’s where you score pieces that have that worn in, pre-loved vibe that so many designers try so hard to pull off but just can’t. And if the size or cut is less than ideal, you can easily take it to a tailor to have it adjusted or layer pieces to bring some zest to a pre-existing outfit. Plus the prices are typically a tiny fraction of the price you would originally pay. See more ways to make the best of second hand shopping here.
For most people, the majority of waste in their home likely comes from food scraps. While many businesses in the Food and Beverage Industry are composting, many people at home are not. The food waste is then going to landfills where it’s unable to decay properly and produces methane, a greenhouse gas. So by composting, you are minimizing those toxic emissions that are going into the environment and affecting your community. Is it really that complicated to set up a compost system to decompose organic material? We found this list of 7 Easy Steps to Composting to help us understand how simple it actually is. And for those who don’t have the capacity to make them at home, look for other solutions like bringing your food scraps to a local garden or compost nearby.
7. USE WHAT YOU HAVE
In a society driven by consumption, it seems that a lot of products end up being thrown out before they are fully finished. If you pay attention to how long certain things actually last (toothpaste, moisturizers, soaps, etc) you can better plan on how often you will need to buy them instead of getting new things out of habit before the perfectly good items are done. Also buying in bulk when it comes to hand/dish soaps, detergents, etc. will minimize the plastic packaging that will be wasted as well. It all goes back to the same question, where will all this stuff go?
8. CHOOSE NATURAL MATERIALS
This goes for everything from natural eco-friendly textiles to cookware and home decor. Rather than buying plastic or metal things, consider what natural alternatives may be available. Wooden cooking and cleaning utensils, loose leaf tea, natural candles in glass jars, natural air fresheners like homemade potpourri are just a few ideas.
9. GO VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN
Removing animal products from your diet is one of the most impactful ways you can reduce your waste in the bigger picture. Since animal agriculture is a leading contributor to global greenhouse emissions (more than all of the transportation on earth combined), replacing meat with plant based protein is a direct way you can help the planet. Besides the emissions, the animal agriculture industry is responsible for the destruction of wildlife, deforestation, overfishing and depleting our water sources. Luckily, we have options...countless amazing vegetarian and vegan recipes, restaurants, and meat alternatives in grocery stores are making it more simple than ever to make the switch.
10. AVOID DISPOSABLE ITEMS
This goes along with the first item on our list - Buy Reusable Products, but we had to circle it back to the end because avoiding disposable items is one of the smartest and sexiest ways you can play your part in helping fight the good fight against plastic waste. Buying a takeaway coffee in a cup that will last 20 minutes with a plastic lid that will last forever is not attractive. Eating ice cream with a plastic spoon is not cute. And cutting your salad with a plastic knife and fork in a styrofoam container that takes 1 million years to decompose is definitely not a good look.
We can all do better and help others to be better too. Although it may not be possible to avoid plastic and follow these guidelines 100% of the time, being aware of your impact and keeping the people close to you accountable is a step towards seeing the swift change our planet needs.