I’ve been trying to be more conscientious lately about the amount of trash I’m producing these days, particularly plastic. After watching Blue Planet II, I can’t stop thinking about how devastating the impact of human consumption has been on our oceans and the planet at large. I’ve always been a low-level environmentalist, even in 7th grade when me and a few other girls led a campaign to try to get our school to stop using styrofoam trays at lunch.
I am far from perfect, but like a lot of you I’m searching for ways to do my part to show a little respect to the millions of species we share the planet with, not to mention future generations of humans who will have to save us from ourselves. Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to reduce, reuse, recycle and save a little money in the long run while I’m at it.
Bring Your Own Bag – A change most of us have probably already made is to bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store, but just in case you haven’t made the switch yet, I can assure you that there are plenty of options for bags that fold up to practically nothing and are very lightweight so that you can keep one in your handbag at all times. And if you do forget and absolutely have to get a plastic shopping bag, consider how it can be reused or recycled before you get rid of it.
Real Towels, Not Paper– I recently bought a cheap pack of microfiber cloths to beef up my kitchen towel collection, and I’ve made a conscientious effort to use them where before I might have used paper towels. Without thinking, I’d wipe down the counters and put the mess in the trash. My kitchen bin would be full of something that absolutely did not need to be there. I will, however, be more conscientious in the future about the material my towels are made from. I’ve recently learned that every time you wash clothes and towels containing synthetic materials, they release microplastics into the water which can be toxic to marine life.
Make Recycling Simple– We recently bought new bins so that we can easily separate recyclables from our regular trash. We have one for mixed recycling that’s collected by the council, one for glass, which we have to haul down to the corner, and one for regular trash. We also have a small food waste bin which is recycled by our council as well. I’ve noticed that our trash does fill up more slowly as we’re now recycling more, but of course, the ultimate goal is not to put anything in any of those bins to begin with.
Waste-Free Period– This may seem a little personal, but I recently bought a menstrual cup, and though it took a bit f getting used to, it wasn’t nearly as gross as I thought it would be, which is what kept me from making the switch sooner. I mean, if there’s one thing you just want to throw away after you use it, it’s feminine hygiene products. But tampons and pads are almost always individually wrapped in plastic, not to mention the plastic applicators many brands use. I had already switched to non-applicator tampons to reduce waste, but I’ve gone all the way, and I don’t regret it.
Top Your Cans– We feed our dog half a can of wet dog food every day, and for weeks we were using plastic wrap to cover the can to save the rest for the next day. Finally, we bought some silicone can toppers that we can reuse. It’s just like a lid for a can, so not only are we avoiding throwing out a bit of plastic, we can also reduce our food waste by saving food for the next day any time we only use half a can of something.
Waste-Free Facial Cleansing– For ages I was using disposable face wipes, and throwing one or two away every day when I took my makeup off at the end of the day. I felt bad about that, so I switched to products that I squeezed onto a cotton pad. Then I was throwing a couple of those out every day. It was less, but it was still wasteful. I’ve now bought reusable makeup remover pads, and I just wash the used ones with my delicates once a week and use them over and over. No more trash when I wash my face.
Sustainable Dental – Toothbrushes are definitely a big part of that floating mass of garbage in the ocean. I’ve recently switched to a bamboo toothbrush in the hopes that it won’t last for all of eternity and will decrease my carbon footprint.
Waste Reduction Goals– There are still a few products I hope to add to our home over the coming months to decrease waste even more. I definitely want to replace plastic wrap with beeswax wrap. I’ve also put off buying silicone baking mats for ages because I thought they were too expensive, but I’m sure I’ve spent enough on parchment paper over the year to buy a dozen silicone mats.
Like I said, I’m not perfect. I’m just trying to slowly make little changes that are kinder to the Earth without living in a teepee. If you have other ideas or techniques for reducing waste that have worked for you, please do share them in the comments. All we can do is our best, but I assure you, creating less waste is totally awesome.