This piece is part of our New Year’s series, Adapt or Perish. As 2017 unfolds, we here at Earthix will highlight the truly innovative, helpful, hopeful, and compassionate organizations, ideas, and individuals making a seriously positive impact on our planet.
With plastic and one-use materials everywhere we look, it might seem impossible to make any tangible positive impact on our planet. Feeling like you have to change everything all at once can make any change seem daunting, so instead, we’ve come up with 6 easy ways to make small changes with a big impact. Here are our suggestions:
1. Compost at home
In the U.S., about 33 million tons of food ends up in landfills. For the longest time, I didn’t understand how disposing of food in a landfill was any different than throwing food away in your garden/compost. Then I learned that when food is trapped in bags within the landfill, it doesn’t properly break down. Instead, it creates rampant amounts of methane, which is 21 times more potent than C02. According to Waste & Resources Action Programme, every ton of food wasted results in 3.8 TONS of greenhouse gas emissions.
Start simply collecting your food scraps in your kitchen. There is a multitude of different countertop composting bins available for purchase, or you can repurpose old plastic grocery bags to start immediately collecting your scraps while you figure out what to do.
If you have a yard, learning to compost at home can be really fun! Many communities even provide free composting classes. If you live in an apartment, creating a worm bin (which does not smell and efficiently breaks down scraps) is a cheap, fun way to see nature at work! Many local, community gardens are open to accepting food scraps from their neighbors. Contact your city to see how to get in touch with your community gardens so that your scraps can go to great use making soil locally. You can also ask a friend who composts if you can contribute your own scraps to their pile.
If none of those options work, simply collect your scraps in the repurposed plastic produce bag and store in your freezer. Once your bag is full, go for a stroll and dispose of the waste by dumping out the contents of the bag in a wooded or dirt area out of the way of city-life. Of course, this probably isn’t the most recommended strategy, but your scraps will still break down naturally and contribute to making healthier soil!
Composting is a really simple, rewarding way to decrease your footprint. You’ll be amazed once you start collecting your scraps to see just how much food waste was filling up your trash can!
2. Use a reusable water bottle
I’m always surprised to see people still purchasing plastic water bottles every day. Purchasing a reusable water bottle and refilling throughout the day is super easy and keeps plastic out of our oceans! Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, and only a tiny percentage of those even made it to the recycle. There are so many great companies that sell beautiful reusable bottles that are eco-friendly, different sizes, and suitable for all different lifestyles. Take your water bottle with you everywhere and inspire others to do the same! It’s actually more convenient to always have your own rather than having to rely on places to purchase new plastic water bottles each day.
3. Keep your own mug in your car
My boss is always laughing at me because every day I bring my coffee to work in a tall mug with about 50 of the same picture of my friend and I plastered all over it. It’s quite the conversation starter. I used to always forget to bring a mug or thermos to my local market, which resulted in using tons of disposable cups and creating mass amounts of waste.
Carry Your Cup found that if you buy just one cup of coffee/tea in a disposable cup every day, you create up to 23 lbs of waste in one year–and that’s just from one habit. I now completely avoid the issue by keeping a mug in my car 24/7. I drive to work, use my mug to get coffee, wash it at work, and put it in my car at the end of the day. The trick is to never bring it back into your house!
Disposable coffee cups are one of the most wasted items on the planet. It’s something most people use every single day for less than 20 minutes, and yet they stick around, polluting our landfills, oceans, and rivers for ages.
One of our favorite reusable cups comes from Keep Cup, an awesome company that makes stylish and reusable “to go” cups.
PROMO CODE: Enter EARTHIX15 at checkout for 15% off your order (excluding their limited Star Wars collection). We recommend the glass and cork, but choose whatever best fits your style!
4. Bring your own reusable tote bags and produce bags
With more and more cities banning the use of plastic grocery bags, the time is upon us to invest in a few reusable totes for groceries. You can find these at the checkout of every grocery store, or you can conveniently order packs of reusable bags off of Amazon.
While reusable totes are becoming more mainstream, many people don’t know that you can bring your own bags for smaller produce items, as well. You don’t have to use the small plastic bags for your greens, cucumbers, etc. There are so many great options for more sustainable produce bags, including these handmade nylon bags, this 3-piece set of organic cotton bags, these green mesh bags, or check out this beautiful, handcrafted bundle made by fellow vegan The Zero Waste Girl on Etsy.
If you want an awesome, full set of various sized grocery/produce bags, this farmers market bundle is on sale right now which makes for an amazing deal and great starter kit.
5. Use bamboo to-go utensils
You can positively impact our environment simply by being prepared with your own to-go utensils. According to EcoWatch, 50% of the plastics we use, we throw away after using them once. Plastic to-go utensils account for a huge amount of this waste and can be easily avoided. Bamboo is an incredibly sustainable, quickly-replenished resource that is all natural and makes for great utensils. You can purchase a plethora of bamboo utensil kits on Etsy that come with everything you need conveniently wrapped in a carrying case. These fit easily into a backpack or purse for convenient use whenever you decide to get take out or eat on the go.
6. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
Something as simple as switching to a bamboo toothbrush can make an enormous impact on our planet. It’s estimated that over 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes are thrown away each year. The worst part is that none of the components that make up a typical toothbrush are biodegradable, which means long after humans have fled to Planet B, our toothbrushes will live on. Bamboo is an extremely sustainable resource, and there are tons of great options out there depending on price and your style preferences! Here are just a few suggestions:
Bonus points for making your own toothpaste!
Here’s our recipe that we absolutely love:
Combine 2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil (if your coconut oil is hardened, heat in the microwave for just a few seconds, until soft enough to stir) with 3 tbsp baking soda. Add 15 drops peppermint essential oil for a minty flavor (or try cinnamon or wild orange!), and a few drops tea tree oil for antiseptic qualities. If you prefer a sweet version, add Stevia to taste. Stir all together and put in a reusable glass jar. Say goodbye to plastic toothbrush bottles!
Remember, even making one small change starting today can keep (literally) tons of waste out of our landfills. We encourage you to try all five of our suggestions and let us know what you learn and discover. As always, please share with your friends, and let us know what little tricks you use yourself to lessen your footprint each day.