Late last year, the City of Cleveland started issuing fines on incorrect recycling. As I read through the recycling guidelines, I realized that I had been recycling all wrong, and not only that, but a lot of what I thought was recycled actually isn’t!
A little context – improper recycling leads to contamination, which means that you’re really messing up the process and reducing your positive environmental impact if you’re doing it wrong. The other part of the equation is that countries like China, who used to take our waste, just don’t want “foreign garbage” anymore. The New York Times published a series of pieces highlighting the issue, and the more I read about it, the more I realized that number one way to make an impact is to reduce your single-use waste.
How many of us drive up or order ahead at Starbucks each day, or get takeout, or use cotton pads to remove our makeup? We are all doing it because we never have any time and love convenience, and yet if we all make some very simple tweaks, together we can make a dent in the amount of single-use waste that we’re creating that ends up in landfills.
Don’t buy water unless you absolutely HAVE to. One of my pet peeves is that stadiums and concert venues will only allow you to take in a factory sealed water bottle rather than being more like airports and only allowing an empty water bottle that you can then refill once you’ve cleared security checks. That situation aside, carry your own water bottle wherever possible. There are plenty of leak-proof stylish options available at a variety of price points, so explore them at your local store and grab one.
Where possible, glass or metal >plastic. I recently read a story that suggested that the chemicals in plastic, even the bpa free variety, can throw female hormones out of whack and cause weight gain. Whether that’s true or not, it’s generally a good idea to slowly switch to metal or glass food or beverage storage over plastic. I really like using metal “tifffin” containers for my desk lunches, and Healthy Human water bottles and travel mugs. And of course, while you’re at it, just say NO! to plastic straws.
Take your lunch to work. Not only will you reduce food waste, but you will also save money and eat better! You can also buy silverware from a thrift shop to keep at your desk so you’re not using plastic forks and spoons. If you do eat lunch out, eat in rather than grabbing takeout so you can reduce packaging.
Using cotton pads to take off your makeup every night? Consider switching to old fashioned wash cloths. Using paper towels and paper napkins in your kitchen? Consider switching to cloth. Now, you will need to toss these in the wash and use a new one each day, but you can just throw them in with your regular laundry and be ready to go! If you want to be even more eco friendly, consider buying vintage napkins.
Switch to bar soap from shower gel (plastic containers), or at the very least, change to biodegradable shower gel brands (natural ingredients). If you’re going the bar soap route, Lush has some really great options (including shampoo and conditioner) and REVIVAL Body Care also has bath and body products with either minimal packaging or glass packaging.
Speaking of beauty, consider cancelling your monthly beauty box subscription. This was a tough one for me because I absolutely LOVED my PLAY! By Sephora box, but all those tiny little plastic container that barely contain enough product for just a handful of uses? So wasteful!
Plant a garden. This is the perfect time to start a garden if you’re planting from seed. Simple things like picking your own herbs and greens mean that you don’t have to use single-use produce bags, and your food has a tiny carbon footprint since its not traveling miles to get to you!
Take advantage of your local farmers markets or community supported agriculture. Again, the closer you are to your food source, and the more local and seasonal you eat, the better. Not only are you helping the environment by not needing the food to move thousands of miles, but your food can be harvested closer to sale, making it even more delicious!!
Shop local where you can, and carry your own bags so you can say pass on the plastic! I also really like these produce bags instead of plastic ones you get at the grocery store. I love Amazon Prime, and while you can absolutely recycle the cardboard and the plastic air pillows (at your grocery store), you’re supporting local businesses and local employment when you shop local.
Be more thoughtful about your consumption in general. Online shopping has made it so easy to buy on impulse, and so often we end up with so many things that we don’t even truly want, let alone need. I’m not saying don’t buy things - I’m saying buy quality things that really mean something to you, or at the very least, spark joy (as Marie Kondo would say).
This has been my guiding philosophy as I’ve created Capsule collections for Bombay Taxi Boutique this year - classic, beautiful, high quality pieces in limited editions. I only want to bring you pieces I love, with the hope that you love them too.
All these tips and tricks above aren’t particularly difficult, but they do require some effort and advance planning. And while I get that this may not be possible all the time, even if we do a few of these things more often than not, we can make a difference to the amount of waste we generate.
Do you have little tips and tricks that you’re using to reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact? I would love to hear them in the comment section below!