Forgot to mention!!
If you use the EarthHero links throughout this post, you can get an additional 10% off using code KAIT10. There are local artist links and other sustainable stores but EarthHero is the Amazon of sustainable e-commerce.
If you have decided this is the year YOU want to create less waste then let’s get started! It took me quite some time to get to where I am and I am still evolving. Below is a compiled list of 10 ideas to help you become more sustainable in 2021. A list to inspire gradual change. This list is not to be done in haste; it is meant to form steady change, long-term habits, and true impact.
I suggest tackling 1 goal per month then once that habit is formed you can add another. It might take more than 4 weeks to form some of these. I have also grouped multiple changes or product swaps that could be done together in 1 month. This is not meant to overwhelm you, just to get you excited and ready for some action. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out where to start.
While most of these can be done out of order, ‘Reduce’ is typically the best place to begin.
This is a really fun way to enter into becoming zero-waste or more sustainable. Use all those samples you have been hoarding! Anything that you have saved for a ‘special occasion’, it’s time to use it. Indulge in all your things. Use all of those half empty bottles under the sink, too.
If you don’t like or want something or have no use for it, find a friend who would like it. Lots of donations get tossed.
- Speaking of donations, SHOP at thrift stores and second hand retailers. Create the demand for items so donations ARE NOT tossed. If you don’t shop at them, then at the least only donate to small organizations in need. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and the like are FULL.
- Donate food to food banks or organizations sometimes set up a free box for the homeless, donate linens and blankets to animal shelters, and books to lending libraries…
*This should always be step 1, before we start getting MORE things we must deplete our stash.
I would recommend this being at the start of your journey, whatever month that might be.*
#2 Create a Sustainable bathroom
Choose 1, 3, or all 7 of these ideas to become more sustainable in your bathroom. These are mostly everyday swaps, things that will make a big impact but won’t be as hard to form habits around.
- Switch to a bamboo toothbrush and/or toothpaste tabs. Bite is my favorite and comes with a bamboo toothbrush.
- Switch to a safety razor; I like the Albatross butterfly razor you can find here and instead of shaving cream lather with a shaving soap bar, like the one from Badger.
- Switch to shampoo and conditioner bars! After trying many, including Lush, my favorite bars are from AspenKay. I also wash much less than I used to and ‘trained’ my hair so I don’t have to use dry shampoo.
- If you use dry shampoo, switch to a powder and forgo the aerosols.
- Switch to a silicone cup, or period underwear- there are even thongs now. I use the DivaCup and love it! It took 2 cycles to get comfortable using it, but I could never go back now.
- Ladies, the average woman uses 12,000 disposable pads, liners or tampons in their lifetime. And 50% of tampons are flushed.
- Switch your deodorant! Native Deodorant is better for you and NOW comes in a compostable tube. They are also a member of 1% for the planet. Another option I recommend is deodorant cream from Little Seed Farm and all their soaps!
- Qtip swaps.
- Switch to the all paper ones that can be composted
- Switch to Reel toilet paper. I tried Reel after being a Charmin Ultra Strong fan and I REALLY like Reel. It’s what I have stocked for when a friend comes over who isn’t going to dive into a bidet/reusable TP situation.
- I never tried ‘who gives a crap’ but my friend hated it.
#3 Do a Trash Audit
Figure out what kind of trash you accumulate. This will help you become more sustainable because you’ll finally know exactly WHAT it is you should focus on and where you can make impactful changes. Click here to learn more about how to do a trash audit. Then let the trash audit determine the next goal.
- The Trash Audit post is a quick read with a resource link to check the contaminates in your tap water! At the end of that post, it links back to here.
#4 Learn more about your recycling program
Is there a recycling center that better sorts the recyclables to ensure yours are properly contributing to the loop and not going to landfill? To become more sustainable we want to first reduce and refuse more “stuff”, we need to reuse and upcycle what we have… and finally recycle ‘trash’ that can be reused.
- Not all ‘recyclables’ are created equal- ie. glass and aluminum are the best; plastic (no matter the #) really isn’t recycle-friendly.
- In my county, I have to take the plastic ‘screens’ out of envelopes before I can recycle them as mixed paper, but I CAN recycle glossy paper. I also recycle food boxes as mixed paper NOT cardboard.
#5 Learn how to compost, where you can compost, or who will pick-up your compost
This was a big, uncomfortable step in my journey to become more sustainable. However, now I don’t think twice. I collect my compost in paper bags (recycled) and keep it in my fridge until I drop it off to a community garden.
- Many counties offer curbside pick-up, private companies. Perhaps you can get with a neighbor and compost together.
- If you live in a permanent residence (apartment, condo, or house) there are many options to compost at home.
- More on compost here.
#6 Make your kitchen and/or laundry room more sustainable
REDUCE what you have first and then SWAP ‘em. Try 1, 4, or maybe all 12 of these ideas to become more sustainable in your kitchen and laundry room. This can also be split into 2 months- 1 for each room.
- Opt for aluminum foil instead of cling wrap. Or try bee’s wax wraps!
- Get silicone baggies instead of Ziplocks.
- Invest in glass containers or bento boxes for food storage.
- Buy produce fresh, not already chopped; Buy it without any plastic packaging and bring reusable produce bags.
- Save jars and shop in the bulk aisles. I have so many jars from sauces, jams, candles.. etc. PERFECT for the bulk aisles.
- Opt for better cleaning products. I know with COVID, Lysol and Clorox are the trusted brands. Mrs. Meyers even. I’d suggest as more vaccines role out and the more you become comfortable, to try switching to brands like Blueland, Dr. Bronners or even making your own. I use white vinegar and citrus peels diluted with water.
- Also, you can buy dish soap as a bar. Check on EarthHero for Castile dish soap. I cut mine into blocks.
- Switch to Dropps for laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. These come in a compostable box and are tabs that dissolve but are fully organic and made with essential oils. They smell great! Make sure you get the little baggy to prevent ‘oil’ like marks on clothes. Dropps can also be purchased on EarthHero.
- Another option is laundry strips, I have tried these which you can buy on Amazon.
- Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets!
- Hang clothes to dry. This prolongs the life of our clothes and uses far less energy. I have a metal over-the-door one. I am also a fan of the accordion drying rack for a more permanent fixture or if you have space, the self-standing bamboo collapsible kind is great!
- Use compostable dish brushes, I get mine from… you guessed it, EarthHero, get natural sponges, too- my friend grew loofah plants in MD and gave me natural sponges/dried loofah. I also recycle old clothes into rags.
- For instance a T-shirt that is beyond its life or badly stained will be cut and given new purpose. In fact, I have the softest, 100% cotton, tissues- better than Puffs plus lotion tissues.
- I recently upcycled a pair of Old Navy flannel pajama pants into reusable ‘napkins’ or ‘paper towels’. I cut the fabric into squares and sewed two panels together.
- Make it a point to use reusable grocery bags! I’ve not had any trouble using them throughout the Pandemic, if you do, then just leave them in your trunk and put the groceries back in the cart loosely and bag them at the car. Or bring a big box to put them in at the car.
- Make sure you let the cashier know you don’t need any plastic bags. Either hand over your reusable ones or ask them to put the items back in the cart ‘as-is’.
- If you’re uncomfortable at first, then use the self check-out.
- Swap your commercial brand PLASTIC garbage bag for one that’s better for our planet, here are two to try:
- Evolution bags are made of recycled plastic; they close the loop. They’re also a 1% for the planet company.
- Biobag, made from a resin from GMO-free crops. It is certified compostable and rapidly composts within commercial and municipal composting compounds. This bag to be used for both trash and compost waste.
- Metal reusable straws. Get a collapsible one for on-the-go, too. If you can taste the metal, try a bamboo one. If you insist, silicone or plastic reusable ones are still better than the alternative.
- Be ballsy and make a stance, when you are out in public ordering a drink say “I would like a (insert drink) without a straw please”.
- If you’re not a ‘straw guy’ skip this. If you are, IT’S ESSENTIAL.
#7 Eat more sustainably
Plant a garden. Support local farms and buy produce, herbs, and even dairy/meat at the farmer’s markets. You can also join a local co-op or, at the least, shop at one.
- I also encourage you to try a more plant based diet. It’s better for our body’s AND better for the environment. For more details, I posted about it here. Essentially I went from Meatless Monday to eventually only having meat on Monday. I went from eating meat 6 days a week to once a week.
- Now, I might have meat 2 times per month, if that. This is substantial to decrease CO2 emissions as it creates less demand for land needed for meat production; less deforestation. Eat plants, save the rainforest!
- Even a 1 or 2 days sans meat is a large impact if you otherwise eat it daily.
- Try oat milk! And if you like chocolate milk give Ripple a try, it’s delicious and made of pea protein.
- If you switch from dairy to plant based, try to avoid almond milk and almond products altogether. They are not sustainable and have negatively affected the bee population which is essential to human life.
- There are many delicious meat alternatives, too! MorningStar Chorizo, Beyond sausage patties, Earth Grown ‘zesty italian’ meatless meatballs… the list goes on. And a grilled Portobello as a burger!
- I make exceptions to eat meat on special occasions and holidays; I look forward to having crabs 1 night when I am in MD this summer. Otherwise, I don’t miss or crave meat.
#8 Become more sustainable when giving
While we are on the topic of Holidays, make it a point to stop buying gifts for people and special occasions. Buy experiences instead! Especially as we see the World begin to open back up, people need experiences more than objects; with the exception of those whose love language is ‘gifts’.
Take their love language into consideration:
- Acts of Service- get them a tune up for their car, a hair appointment, or manicure- something they would do anyway. MAKE THEM DINNER.
- Touch- get them a massage, manicure/pedicure, or a lush blanket/robe. HUG THEM, be close!
- Quality time- give them your undivided attention. Plan a day to be off your devices and in the moment, it doesn’t have to be expensive but it does need to be thoughtful. CAMPING or a GETAWAY.
- Words of Affirmation- write them a sentimental card/note or maybe book them a virtual show for an inspirational speech …I am not good at this one. DEFINITELY WRITE IN THE CARD.
- And for gifts- make sure it is absolutely thoughtful and it will be loved; for these people gifts are EVERYTHING and if you’re careless not only will it be waste, it will also be insulting. NO GIFTCARDS.
- If you ARE doing objects/gifts then make them consumable. Handmade soaps, their favorite cookies/chocolates, house plants, soy candles with wood wicks *check out* @boldbuffalocandleco on Instagram or Sincerely Sarah Jane on Etsy– support local.
#9 Create a shortcut to the Smile Amazon browser for your phone
If you rely on Amazon to make your life easy make sure you are checking out from the Smile browser so a percentage of your purchases ACTUALLY contribute to an organization of your choosing. The Amazon App will not support your Smile charity. This only helps you become more sustainable if you pick a sustainable organization fighting Climate Change, check out this list for some examples.
- You can also become more sustainable with HOW you shop on Amazon with these 5 tips!
- Shop local when you can! Amazon is not our only option, let’s support our local communities and vote with our dollar. Amazon is a backup when we can’t find a better option.
- The sustainability ‘Amazon’ of sites is EarthHero. This link will always get you 5% off your total!
#10 Be less-wasteful during Holidays
And Finally, this December… and for all the Holidays of 2022, be conscious of the single-use plastic and non-recyclable gift wrap. I save boxes from packages to reuse either for sending gifts to friends, or as a way to package the less-structured item to wrap. I tend to wrap more than I bag.
- Save gift bags and bows though, you can reuse them!
- Use plain colored compostable paper and then decorate it with stamps (using natural ink). OR you can find recyclable gift-wrapping paper to use.
- The shiny paper with foil, even as polka-dots, CANNOT be recycled. Try to avoid that one.
- If you’re an artist, making wrapping paper can be fun! My mom makes my wrapping paper for every gift she gives me now. She has painted, used stamps, and sometimes just uses the paper bag from the retailer with pretty recyclable tissue paper.
- Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween create a lot of waste from all the individual wrapped candies and unnecessary items. Try to be more mindful while still creating a special day! Look for candies wrapped in foil and make sure not to liter! Get 1 basket and 1 bucket (or pillow case) to use year after year for the respective holiday.
Cheers to your journey! We are all part of a larger collective. Thank you for committing to living better for the planet.
The above list are ways to become more sustainable through waste management. They are ways to consume less and produce less waste overall. In turn, this also creates fewer emissions from production and less waste in resources. Inherently, for example, by eating more plant based we save rainforests which helps to fight CO2 from entering our atmosphere.
Anyway, this post is way longer than I intended. I hope some of the above goals can get you started and help you become a better consumer; less wasteful and more sustainable. I know it’s a lot, but take it one step at a time. This might be the farthest you are willing to go or maybe it’s just the toe dip you need before you dive head first! Maybe you will be using reusable toilet paper in a year, or riding a bike instead of driving your car to work. Don’t try to figure that part out just yet, it will come naturally as you begin to disassemble the American conditioning we are all continuously exposed to. And finally, be kind as you evolve, it is a process and we all make mistakes. I am still evolving regularly.
Our goal is to create zero waste, and 10,000 of us doing that imperfectly makes a far greater impact than 100… 500… even 1,000 people doing it ‘perfectly’.
I find myself getting more involved in climate changing organizations, be it volunteering or writing to our reps. I am currently involved in 3 different organizations monthly. Just another way to stay accountable!