Start Small

Originally published on Jan. 30, 2018

Now that you understand WHY you want to live a waste-conscious lifestyle and you've realized the harmful impacts of trash on the world around us, our health and the future; you're ready for practical steps towards reducing your negative environmental impact!

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The first things I can do to reduce my impact:

  • Refuse plastic grocery bags. Carry things if you have to. Bring a backpack, a tote bag, a gym bag. Turn a t-shirt into a grocery bag.

  • Avoid plastic as though it were the plague. Try to find fruit and vegetables that are bag free (those pesky little mesh plastic bags are particularly harmful for our sea friends like turtles who get trapped in them), and don't bag your fruits and vegetables in the plastic bags that are out in stores. Try to find alternative package like cardboard boxes, glass jars OR reusable plastic jars/bins with screw tops. If it can be washed and re-used for years to come, it's not going straight into a landfill.

  • Try to buy meat that is free-range, grass-fed, etc. Or, stop buying meat if that becomes too expensive. If possible, only buy meat from a local butcher (they will let you bring your own containers too). When considering environmental sustainability, it's more than just the package it comes in. Meat production is terrible for the environment, and our health.

  • Buy your eggs in recyclable or compostable containers, not styrofoam. Unless you have a farmer's market where you can buy loose eggs, or access to chickens, this is the best way.

  • Bring your own bottle/mug! You don't need a fancy cool water bottle or a bomb hot to-go cup to do this (you can get one, if you want). But, if money is a barrier/remember you're trying to buy less, grab an old glass bottle from a prior kombucha or iced tea as your reusable bottle and throw an old ceramic mug in your bag for when you grab a hot drink.

  • Utilize the bulk sections! A lot of stores with bulk sections will allow you to bring your own jars, just go to customer service and have them weigh the empty jars (make sure they're clean and dry), then fill up your jars and record the PLU #'s of the items on your phone (no paper). You can get *so many things* in a bulk section: rice, oats, quinoa, sugar, flour, corn starch, snacks, trail mix, nuts, chocolates, candies, dried fruit, plantain chips, etc.

  • Embrace your crafty side! Instead of just buying what you need, try to source it or make it yourself. This applies to cooking too, make things from scratch! It's very rewarding.

  • Bring re-usable containers with you! Everyone probably owns old jars, or tupperware. Bring these in your bag. Be prepared to take your leftovers home in them, or pack your lunch in them to go.

  • Decline plastic utensils! Just bring one fork and one knife from your house in your bag. Wash and replace after use.

  • Decline plastic straws! You can either choose to drink without a straw, or find some bamboo or metal straws.

  • Buy less stuff! Try to buy less stuff, think about what you're buying through the lens of "do I really need this?"

If you do some, or all of these things, you will massively reduce your impact and positively impact the world around you! This wasn't a complete list of all the things you could do, but this will definitely aide you as you move forward in your waste-conscious journey.

If you start doing some or all of these things, you will begin to get some weird looks or unusual comments. Take that as an opportunity to explain WHY you're doing what you're doing, maybe you'll inspire someone to do it too!

It's also helpful to start thinking:

"I don't need this"

"I can wait for this"

"I don't care what I look like when I do this" 

You are a bold and capable person, and you're doing the right thing! Don't let awkwardness or discomfort prevent you from pursuing your own convictions. 

Emily McCollister