As an environmentalist, I’m always working on finding ways to make less of an impact to our Earth. After all, this is our only home, and once it’s gone, there might not be a way to bring it back. Before anyone brings it up, this post isn’t about climate change. Whether you believe in it or not, this isn’t about that. It’s about the oceans full of trash, forests being cut down, and animals dying and going extinct because of our messy habits – that’s a fact and not up for debate. We as a species are slowly learning to be more environmentally conscious, but when the large majority still don’t care, it’s not quick enough.
I’m sure we’ve all been taught the “3 Rs” in school, right? Reduce, reuse, recycle. Personally, I like using the 6 Rs. Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, repair, and rot. Below, I’ve made a list of ways to put those 6 Rs into effect and in doing so, lessen your impact. They will not only help the environment, but most of them will even save you money!
Get rid of freezer bags, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, and tin foil:
When I first started doing this, I continued using what I had. As I ran out, I simply didn’t buy more. It was difficult at first, especially since I wasn’t sure where I was going to put my leftovers with a lack of proper amount of containers, but I soon got into a routine of planning my meals based around the few containers I had until I was able to buy more.
Replace plastic bags and tin foil with containers:
Directly related to the above, is containers. Without those four things, you will need somewhere to store your food. Glass is preferred, but plastic is still acceptable because they still last many years. If buying plastic containers, make sure to get ones that are recyclable, and get ones that are a thicker plastic instead of thin and flimsy. They will last much longer. Also, ensure that they are BPA free, and can be used in the freezer as well. As for me, I have to resort to plastic containers, because anything other than that ends up falling and breaking at some point in time (I’m looking at you, cats). Even though I have mostly taught them to stay off the counters now, they are like any animal (or human!) and will sometimes do against what I say. So, plastic containers it is.
Buy a reusable water bottle:
If you have a habit of hauling water around, or like to get coffee (or any drink), get a reusable water bottle. Most coffee shops will accept your own cup/bottle, and it will pay off money-wise because you won’t be buying bottled water.
Drink from the tap:
This one is basic. If your tap water is safe to drink, stop buying bottled water. I know first-hand how weird some tap water can taste, but if that’s your issue, buy a water filter. I got mine on clearance for only $3 (usual price around here was about $15). There’s the issue of the filters being thrown out after they get old, but it’s still much less waste than the amount of the one-use water bottles.
Fix leaking taps:
At the time of writing this, I have a leaking tap. It leaks enough that in a day, it completely fills up and overflows a large water bucket we use to water our livestock (a handheld bucket, not a trough!). If you can’t fix a leaky tap right away, collect the water and find a use for it if you can. Even though most of our planet is water, drinkable water is only 1% of it, and a finite resource.
Don’t have the water constantly running when hand washing dishes, brushing teeth, or washing hands:
Only have the water on when you’re actually using it! For example, wet your toothbrush, turn off the tap, brush teeth, then turn the tap back on to rinse your toothbrush and mouth.
Buy reusable straws:
There’s many options online, the best (in my opinion) being stainless steel. Unlike other alternative straws such as paper, they won’t break down. These will last many, many years if they’re properly taken of, and therefore will keep a huge amount of plastic straws out of the landfill.
Buy fabric shopping bags, or make your own:
They’re reusable, and they’re great! Just remember to wash them regularly, and remember to keep them in your vehicle so you don’t get all the way to the grocery store before sighing in exasperation when you realize you forgot them (I’ve had this issue, and living half an hour away from the grocery store means I can’t just go back and grab them).
Buy a bidet:
A bidet is a great way to cut down on the amount of toilet paper you buy, and you can easily stop buying toilet paper altogether. No more worrying about having to stock up on toilet paper when the zombie apocalypse arrives! Although, then you’ll have to worry about running water…
Buy an epilator:
This one is exciting to me. I’ve always disliked the idea of shaving with razors because it only lasts a day before I’m no longer smooth. I didn’t want to wax either because it would be no different than razors regarding the waste aspect. Then, not that long ago, I heard of these things called epilators! They’re handheld machines that have a rotating bit at the tip which is made up of a bunch of tweezers. It works phenomenally! I had read they were supposed to be incredibly painful, but (for me, anyway), it never reached more than maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10. They are a decent cost upfront ($50 – $100 on average over here), but it will pay off in the long run, and it is reusable for many years.
Repair instead of throwing away:
If a piece of clothing gets a rip, or an appliance breaks down, repair it instead of throwing it away and getting a new one.
OTHER WAYS TO HELP:
Get bills sent to your email:
Instead of having bills sent to you by snail mail, sign up to have them sent to you online. This saves paper, ink, and the gas to deliver it.
Buy reusable produce bags:
This one worried me for a bit. There were fabric shopping bags, but no one had thought to make fabric produce bags?! What nonsense is that! Well, I was wrong. A quick Google search stemmed my worries. Buying and using fabric produce bags will not only cut down on the plastic ones, but it will also mean less pre-bagged vegetables are being bought (assuming you buy the loose vegetables with your fabric bags).
Buy in bulk:
This one will require more money in general and might not save you anything. I did a few price checks at one point, and with the food items I checked, the bulk items were way more expensive per gram than the cheapest prepackaged version. Even when I checked at an actual bulk store (not just the bulk section of the grocery store). This was definitely disappointing to find out. But who knows; maybe I just got unlucky with the few prices I checked, and the majority are actually cheaper than prepackaged. Regardless, if you’re able to afford to do this, please do!
Composting your fruit and vegetable scraps is a really easy way to lessen the amount of stuff going to the landfill. Keep an empty container below the sink (like an ice cream pail, for example), and empty it outside in a designated area when it gets full. If you’re a gardener, the compost will help your plants! Alternatively, if you have livestock (like chickens or pigs or example), most of your scraps can be given to them. Just do some research first to make sure whatever you want to give them is safe for them to eat.
This is a huge one, but very easy to do. There have been times when I have heard people (even family members!) say that they don’t recycle; that it’s too much work, or where they live doesn’t get recyclables picked up so they just don’t bother. Whenever I hear somebody say something like that, it just makes me feel exasperated. Recycling is very easy. You finish using the item, rinse it (which might not even be necessary for your recycling centre), then drop it in the blue bin. As for not having recyclables picked up, that’s no excuse. I live in the country where I don’t get garbage or recyclables picked up. The landfill (where the recycling place is, too) is about two miles away, and it’s not much of an effort to bring both there. Even if your own recycling place is a bit farther away, it’s worth it when it can cut down the amount of your waste going to the dump by half or more. Also, this can even make you money if you return some items in for a refund, such as pop cans or milk cartons.
As I always like to say, vote with your money. Demand continues supply, so if there’s no demand, there’s no supply. By refusing one-use plastics and other things like that, manufacturers of those items will either go out of business or be forced to be more environmentally conscious. Even if you don’t care about the environment (which you should!), maybe having a bit of extra money in your pocket will help motivate you to make these changes.
If you can think of anything to add to this list, feel free to give suggestions!