Making a serious environmental difference doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or life-changing. The simplest, smallest changes can make a huge difference in the health of our oceans, air, and in the natural world that we love and cherish. Incorporating new habits into your day is easy as 1-2-3-4-5.
Many of these changes stem from the products we use each and every day. For instance, have you ever gone through your day to take count of all the disposable plastics you use (and perhaps aren’t able to recycle)? Have you ever thought through the amount of waste you create in daily habits? It’s certainly interesting – and necessary – to take stock of when trying to lessen your environmental impact!
What easy five steps can you take to make some environmental change?
- Stay away from plastic bags. While they may have the recycling symbol on them, the plastic bags that you get from the grocery store are hardly ever recycled. In fact, some studies say that only three percent of plastic bags actually make it to a recycling facility. While grocery stores give you the option to bring back your bags (most curbside recycling programs don’t accept them) the actual rate of return is very low. Save the hassle and avoid plastic bags all together; keep a reusable in the bottom of your purse for on-the-go shopping! Doing so will save these bags from landfills, reduce the energy needed to dispose of or recycle them, and reduce their presence on our beaches and in our oceans.
- Avoid plastic straws. They may seem small, but straws are actually a huge source of unnecessary ocean pollution. Because they’re small and seem insignificant, they’re hardly ever recycled, but they seriously add up to polluting our oceans. Always ask for a drink without the straw at restaurants and bars (oftentimes, even if they put them on your table and they stay unopened, restaurants won’t reuse them due to health precautions). If you’re a straw-loving soul, bring your own metal or glass one for guilt-free drinking.
- Find out how to get rid of the weird stuff. Do you know what to do with leftover paint? What about batteries? Light bulbs? An old mercury thermostat that you recently traded out for an electric, programmable one? These items can all be tricky to recycle, as 1) they typically aren’t collected in curbside recycling bins and 2) some of them contain harmful chemicals that can do damage even through our landfills. For instance, old thermostats and fluorescent lights contain mercury – a toxic chemical. Batteries are filled with a whole slew of reactive elements, and paint can be full of volatile organic compounds, which are dangerous for human health. Call or visit your town or city’s solid waste management website to get the specifics on how to properly and safely dispose of these uncommon items. Some retailers, in many states, collect and properly dispose of them for free!
- Be aware of microplastics and microfibers. Did you know that your beloved facial cleanser could actually contain hundreds of small plastic particles, otherwise known as microplastics? The small plastic pieces found in a wide array of soaps, shampoos, and cleaners may give your skin some solid exfoliation, but they’re also causing harm to the environment. Microplastics make their way through our drains and eventually into our oceans, where fish digest them. Not only can these microplastics negatively affect fish, we then eat the fish – and ingest the plastics with them. Avoid cleansers with microbeads on the label to avoid these negative effects. The same goes for microfibers – small fibers that come off of our clothes when we put them through the wash. Limit the number of times you wash your pieces (you don’t need to wash them after every single wear unless they’re particularly odorous – we promise!) and buy high quality clothing to lessen your impact.
- Practice environmental food purchasing. How many times have you purchased just a tad too many greens, cheese, or fruit, only to have it go bad before you get the chance to eat it? Believe us, we’ve been there. It’s difficult to correctly purchase for your portions, especially when you’re cooking from scratch or following a recipe that calls for specific measurements that the store doesn’t sell. One key way to limit your food waste is to make a list before you go to the grocery store – that way you know exactly how much you need and can get as close as possible. On top of this, utilize your freezer – it’s a super nifty tool for catching food before its expiration date.
Lessening your environmental impact is easy – you just need to change a few key purchasing habits and you’re on your way. How will you reduce waste and help the environment this month?